Apple M3 chip — everything you need to know

Apple M3
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple M3 chips are here to assert Apple’s dominance in the computing world. 

This new processor line consisting of the M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max chips are the first personal computer processors utilizing TSMC’s 3nm process. Because of that and other enhancements, these are the most powerful slices of Apple silicon yet.

The new chips boast improved computing and graphical performance over their predecessors. This includes an updated GPU that’s better suited for video editing and gaming. The chips should also be much faster and consume less battery despite their extra power. Based on what we’ve seen, Apple M3 already makes the unreleased Snapdragon X Elite chip seem dated in comparison.

Without further delay, here’s everything we know about Apple’s M3 chips.

Apple M3 chip specs: M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max 

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Row 0 - Cell 0 M3 M3 Pro M3 Max
CPU8 cores 12 cores 16 cores
GPU10 cores 18 cores 40 cores
Memory Up to 24GB Up to 36GB Up to 128GB

Apple M3 chip: Release date and price

The first Macs packing M3 processors are now available to pre-order from Apple’s website and will start shipping on November 7.

You’ll find the entry-level M3 chip in the iMac 2023 ($1,299) and new 14-inch MacBook Pro ($1,599). Apple is also offering a 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Pro at $1,999 and a 16-inch MacBook Pro starting at $2,499. We don’t yet know how much MacBook Pros with the M3 Max chip will cost.

Apple M3 chip: Performance

The M3’s CPU is receiving improvements over previous M-series chips. Apple says the performance cores are up to 30% faster than M1, while efficiency cores are up to 50% faster. The M3 line will apparently have the same multi-core performance as M1 but use as little as half the power — up to 35% more performance at peak power, according to Apple.

The entry-level M3 chip features 25 billion transistors. This chip has a 10-core GPU that’s 65% faster than M1 for graphics performance, claims Apple. It also features an 8-core CPU (4 performance, 4 efficiency) that’s 35% faster than M1 for computing performance. The base M3 supports up to 24GB of unified memory.

Next is the M3 Pro chip, which has 37 billion transistors and an 18-core GPU that’s up to 40% faster than M1 Pro. This chip has a 12-core CPU (6 performance, 6 efficiency) that can deliver up to 30% faster single-threaded performance over M1 Pro. M3 Pro has up to 36GB of unified memory.

Lastly, we have the monstrous M3 Max. This processor contains 92 billion transistors, a 40-core GPU that’s 50% faster than M1 Max and a 16-core CPU (12 performance, 4 efficiency) that’s up to 80% faster than M1 Max. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, this processor can support up to 128GB of unified memory. The M3 Max should handle demanding tasks like video editing and video games without breaking a sweat.

The new M3 chips have an enhanced Neural Engine meant to accelerate machine learning (ML) models This Neural Engine is up to 60% faster than in the M1 series, says Apple. M3 processors also have an advanced media engine that provides hardware acceleration for video codecs like H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW. The media engine also supports AV1 decoding, which is a first for Mac.

Apple M3 chip: New features

The M3 lineup has an enhanced GPU containing a new feature called Dynamic Caching. This allocates the use of local memory in hardware in real time and only uses the exact amount of memory needed for specific tasks. According to Apple, this feature is an industry first and will increase the performance of demanding applications and video games.

Hardware-accelerated ray tracing makes its debut on Mac thanks to the new M3 chips. The new GPU also brings hardware-accelerated mesh shading to Mac. This should all result in higher-quality graphics with more accurate lighting and detailed environments. Apple says the M3 GPU delivers the same performance as M1 at half the power — up to 65% more performance at its peak.

How do these numbers translate into the real world? During a press briefing, we got an early look at the upcoming Myst remake on the iMac 2023 — which sports the same M3 chip as the new 14-inch MacBook Pro. The graphics were impressive thanks to the hardware-accelerated ray tracing. We were able to make out intricate shadows of a boat floating through the water as the camera panned out. The lighting effects bouncing off the wet dock were also realistic.

Apple M3 chip: Outlook 

We’ll be reviewing all of the new M3-powered Macs soon, so it won’t be long until we find out if these machines offer a significant improvement over M1 and M2 chips. But based on Apple’s claims, the M3 line could deliver mind-blowing performance to make even the best Windows laptops and best computers tremble in fear.

We’ll update this page with more information about Apple M3 chips so be sure to check back for more!

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.