Apple recently introduced new MacBook Pro laptops powered by the M3 processor. On the surface, nothing else has changed. The new machine sports the same high-quality, minimalist design (but with a striking new Space Black color), the same stunning mini-LED display, and the same exceptional keyboard and touchpad.
You might be tempted to think that choosing a new MacBook Pro will be as easy as the previous generation. If so, think again. New machines have several important pitfalls that require careful consideration. I list five here.
Apple Silicon just got a lot more confusing
The number of processors has increased with the new MacBook Pros, which alone has made things more complicated. For starters, Apple has discontinued the 13-inch MacBook Pro and replaced it with a new MacBook Pro 14 running the base M3 processor. In previous generations, only the Pro and Max versions were available on the MacBook Pro.
That means you need to consider a new 8-core CPU/10-core M3 GPU, starting at $1,599. That’s more expensive than the now-defunct 13-inch MacBook Pro, meaning the entry-level machine in the range is more expensive. It’s worth it, considering you get a much better display and higher quality sound.
In addition to adding the base M3, the MacBook Pro 14 again offers an M3 Pro with fewer cores. Specifically, you can get an 11-core CPU/14-core M3 Pro GPU, while the MacBook Pro 16 starts with a 12-core CPU/18-core M3 Pro GPU. Both models can reach a 16-core CPU/40-core M3 Max GPU.
What’s even more confusing is that the 12-core M3 Pro has six performance cores and six efficiency cores, while the M2 Pro equivalent had eight performance cores and four efficiency cores. And the memory bandwidth increased from 200 GB/s to 150 GB/s. It is therefore unlikely that this version of the M3 Pro will benefit from the same performance increases as the others.
Be careful if you want to run multiple monitors
The MacBook Air running the M2 processor is limited to a single external model. The same was true with the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro 14 was capable of running two external displays with the M2 Pro chip and four external displays with the M2 Max chip.
With the introduction of the MacBook Pro 14 M3, this same limitation now applies to this range as well. The M3 is also limited to a single external display.
So, if you need two or more screens with your MacBook Pro 14, at least without resorting to tricks that can cause more problems, you should make sure to choose an M3 Pro or M3 Max model.
Be careful with memory
Another change made with the introduction of the M3 base to the MacBook Pro is the amount of base memory you can purchase. For $1,599, you get an 8-core CPU/10-core M3 GPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The base SSD no longer uses slower NAND storage, so there’s no performance penalty. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that, contrary to Apple’s official position, 8GB of RAM does indeed appear to be a bottleneck. You get a minimum of 18GB of RAM with the M3 Pro and M3 Max versions, which is a much better proposition.
Worse yet, the price to upgrade to 16GB of RAM is $200, bringing the price to $1,799. The base MacBook Pro 14 with an 11-core CPU/14-core M3 Pro GPU with 18GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD costs $1,999. That means you’re only saving $200 on a laptop that will likely be much slower.
If your budget is extremely tight and your workflow doesn’t need more than 8GB of RAM, it might make sense to save $400 between the base M3 and M3 Pro models of the MacBook Pro 14. But if you need more RAM, so it’s hard to argue that the base M3 Pro isn’t worth the extra $200.
Finally, while the base M3 maxes out at 24GB of RAM, the M3 Pro and M3 Max can now handle up to 128GB. If you need more than 24GB of RAM, then you’ll have to bypass the M3 basic. Of course, if you need that much RAM, you’re probably a power user who will benefit from the faster speeds of the more powerful processors.
Fewer ports are not the best look
New MacBook Pros have always had three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, a full-size SD card reader, and a MagSafe 3 power connector. You don’t have to worry about connectivity, no matter which model you have. you choose.
But now there is a catch. The base MacBook Pro 14 M3 only has two Thunderbolt 4 ports to go along with the rest of the connections. This might not matter to most people, but if you need the extra Thunderbolt 4 port, you’ll need to upgrade your setup.
If battery life really matters
If you value battery life over pure performance or chassis size, then there’s another factor to consider. The MacBook Pro 16 has always had better battery life than the 14-inch model, thanks to a 100 watt-hour battery compared to a 72 watt-hour battery. We’re talking 22 hours versus 18 hours, which means the MacBook Pro 14 still has excellent battery life, even if it’s not as spectacular as its big brother.
The base M3 processor, however, being slower and having fewer cores, is more efficient overall. This means that even though the base MacBook Pro 14 M3 has a slightly smaller battery with just 70 watt hours, Apple says it will get the same 22 hours as the 16-inch model. This makes the slower MacBook Pro 14 a great option for someone who values both battery life and portability over pure performance.