Skip to main content

Here’s why people are raising concerns about the M3 Pro MacBook Pro

The 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max chip seen from behind.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

I published my review of the M3 Max MacBook Pro earlier this week, and suffice it to say, I was pretty impressed. I’m fond of the Space Black color, and the GPU performance in particular blew me away.

But one configuration of the new MacBook Pro went a bit more under the radar — the M3 Pro model. Apple wasn’t keen on sending this exact unit out to reviewers, instead leading with its much stronger foot, the M3 Max. And while the M3 Max and Pro were a bit closer in performance in the M2 generation, this time around, it seems as if there’s more of a disparity.

There are two eyebrow-raising specs in regard to the M3 Pro. First, the core counts have been changed, reconfiguring what the M2 Pro used. This time around, the 12-core M3 Pro has six performance cores and six efficiency cores, whereas the M2 Pro had eight performance cores and four efficiency cores. It also has a reduced memory bandwidth, down from 200 GB per second to 150 GB per second.

But the real controversy around memory is around capacity. Apple has begun selling the base configuration with 8GB instead of 16GB of RAM, which alone has caused its own minor backlash. To make things worse, Apple has publicly defended the decision in an interview, claiming 8GB of its unified memory is equivalent to 16GB on comparable machines. Independent testers have already proved this wrong, of course, showing how 8GB of RAM can severely limit performance. One test showed that with 20 Chrome tabs open, Adobe Lightroom Classic was 79% slower at completing a media export when it only had 8GB of RAM to work with. That’s not surprising, but it shows why it can feel misleading for Apple to even offer an 8GB version of a “Pro” laptop.

There are more concerns than just memory, though. The first actual performance leak revealed some early Geekbench scores that came out last weekend, showing some very disappointing results. They showed a single-core score of 3,035 and a multi-core score of 15,173, which YouTuber Vadim Yuryev notes is practically equivalent to the performance of the M2 Max. Compared to the results of my own MacBook Pro, that’s 28% slower than what I got with the M3 Max.

Of course, this doesn’t address graphics, which are where the biggest gains in the M3 generation are. So, I think you’d still see an improvement going from the M2 Max to the M3 Pro. But it’s still not a good look.

The keyboard, speakers, and trackpad of the MacBook Pro.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

One of the first thorough reviews of the M3 Pro came out from Ars Technica on Thursday and confirmed a lot of the initial concerns. The M3 Pro is clearly an improvement over the M2 Pro and M3, but doesn’t compare quite as well to the Max model. Whereas the M2 Pro used to be almost too overpowered to make sense in the lineup, even causing some awkward positioning to chips in the previous generation, the M3 Pro is a much more modest improvement over the base configuration. This review does show the M3 Pro being only 13% faster than the M2 Pro (in the Mac mini) for graphics in the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme benchmark.

All the while, prices have remained the same. So, while the M3 Pro does its job in the lineup, it seems to be there primarily to push people up to the more expensive M3 Max. If nothing else, it certainly guarantees that Apple is making more off M3 Pro buyers.

None of this means that you should necessarily avoid the M3 Pro MacBook Pro altogether. For some, it may be just enough performance at just the right price. But I think it’s becoming an increasingly small demographic compared to the M3 or M3 Max models.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Larsen
Senior Editor, Computing
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
The MacBook Pro M3 doesn’t have a memory problem — it has a pricing problem
The MacBook Pro open on a table in front of a couch.

Apple just upset everyone, claiming that the 8GB of Unified Memory available in the base MacBook Pro M3 is "probably analogous to 16GB on other systems."

The MacBook Pro M3 has already come under fire for only including 8GB of Unified Memory in its base configuration, which runs $1,600. MacWorld recently ran a story criticizing the 8GB of memory in the MacBook Pro M3, saying, "If 8GB will be a bottleneck for many today, imagine the performance of that non-upgradeable laptop in a few years’ time."

Read more
5 things you should never do with your MacBook
Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air placed on a desk.

All of Apple’s best MacBooks are well-known for their superb build quality and remarkable longevity. But that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible, and there are plenty of things you can do to a MacBook that will significantly shorten its lifespan.

If you want to avoid ruining your Apple laptop and having to shell out for an expensive repair or replacement, you should be sure to avoid doing any of the things listed in this article. Steer clear of them and you’ll enjoy years of great usage out of your device, with far fewer hitches along the way.
Don’t let temps get too hot

Read more
Apple’s M3 Max appears to keep up with Intel’s top desktop CPU
Apple revealing the M3 Max processor.

The first benchmarks of Apple's M3 Max processor just leaked, and it looks like it's going to be one speedy chip. Found in the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, the M3 Max pushes the capabilities of Apple silicon to new heights -- so much so that it can keep up with Intel's best desktop processor, all the while consuming far less power.

The exciting results come from a Geekbench 6 test. The chip listed under Apple M3 Max scored 2,943 in single-core and 21,084 in multi-core tests, respectively. Those are numbers that used to be pretty unreachable for a thin and light laptop just a couple of years ago, but they're comparable to Apple's M2 Ultra found in the latest Mac Pro (21,182 multi-core) and Mac Studio (21.316 multi-core).

Read more