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Apple M3 vs M2 Comparison: Latest Chip Upgrades Across MacBook Models


The Apple M3 offers a significant leap over the last-generation M2 processor offering a superior CPU and GPU performance, a newer fabrication process and a bunch of other improvements. Here is a detailed comparison between Apple M3 vs M2.

- Updated: 1st Dec 2023, 14:46 IST
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    Apple M3 vs M2 Comparison
    • 1. Apple M3 vs M2: Pricing and Availability
    • 2. Apple M3 vs M2: CPU: Incremental Upgrades
    • 3. Apple M3 vs M2: GPU: A Big Leap Forward
    • 4. Neural Engine and Media Engine: Custom Engines for AI and Video

At the ‘Scary Fast’ Apple event on Halloween eve, Apple unveiled its latest innovations, introducing the M3 chipsets alongside new MacBook Pro models and a 24-inch iMac. Manufactured on TSMC’s 3nm process, these chipsets boast a potential performance increase of up to 60% in select applications.

These powerful processors are designed to elevate the performance and user experience across the MacBook Pro models. However, a critical examination is warranted to determine whether the M3 chipsets live up to Apple’s claims and justify an upgrade from existing MacBooks equipped with M1 and M2 chipsets.  In this article, we will delve into the key differences and improvements offered by the Apple M3 chips compared to its predecessor, M2 chips.

Also Read: Is The 2020 M1 MacBook Air Still A Worthy Buy In 2023?

Apple M3 vs M2 Comparison

1. Apple M3 vs M2: Pricing and Availability

Currently, the M3 chipset is exclusively featured in two devices: the 24-inch iMac (Starting from ₹1,34,900) and the 14-inch MacBook Pro (Starting from ₹1,69,900). Notably, the 14-inch MacBook Pro, equipped with the M3 chipset, is set to replace the 13-inch MacBook Pro featuring the M2 chipset.

Apple typically adopts a phased approach when introducing new chips, refraining from an immediate across-the-board update for its entire Mac lineup. Nevertheless, there is anticipation that the M3 chipset will gradually extend its presence across the company’s diverse product range.

Apple Macbook Pro M3

Apple also introduced a new Space Black colour for the MacBook Pros, which is exclusive to M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook and not available on the Base Model M3 MacBook Pro. It is worth noting that Apple continues to offer devices featuring the M2 chipset, including the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air, the Mac mini, and other models.

Also Read: Why Should You Choose Apple MacBook Air Over Any Laptop?

2. Apple M3 vs M2: CPU: Incremental Upgrades

The Apple M3 has undergone notable architectural enhancements this year, adopting TSMC’s 3nm process node, similar to the Apple A17 Pro. Consequently, the base Apple M3 chipset incorporates approximately 25 billion transistors, the M3 Pro boasts 37 billion transistors, and the M3 Max impressively integrates 92 billion transistors.

Apple M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max

In terms of CPU configuration, the base M3 chip features 8 CPU cores, the M3 Pro incorporates 11 or 12 CPU cores, and the M3 Max offers an option of up to 14 or 16 CPU cores. The M3 family introduces advanced high-performance and efficient cores, with Apple asserting that the high-performance core on the M3 chipset is 15% faster than the M2’s equivalent, and the efficiency core on the M3 achieves a 30% improvement over the M2’s efficiency cores.

Noteworthy is the restructuring of the CPU cluster in the M3 Pro, deviating from the 8P+4E configuration in the M2 Pro to an equal 6P+6E core distribution.

The base M3 chip, with 8 CPU cores, adopts a 4P+4E cluster design, while the M3 Max, featuring 16 cores, employs a 12P+4E cluster design. Consequently, in multi-threaded workloads, the Apple M3 demonstrates a modest upgrade over the M2. During the presentation, Apple predominantly compared the M3 with its three-year-old M1 chipset, neglecting to highlight the M3’s performance relative to the M2.

In the previous M2 launch, Apple asserted an 18% improvement over the M1. Now, the claim is that the M3 can deliver a 35% enhancement in performance over the M1 at peak power, translating to a CPU performance approximately 17% superior to the M2. Notably, Apple concluded that the 8-core CPU on the M3 is up to 20% faster than the M2.

Apple M3 vs M2 CPU Performance

The efficacy of the CPU upgrade on the Apple M3 is contingent on the chosen variant and its core cluster design, with performance outcomes being significantly influenced by this factor. In summary, while the CPU upgrade on the Apple M3 is commendable, particularly for those transitioning from the M1, its improvement over the M2 is moderate at best.

Apple seems to have reduced the memory bandwidth for the base models and mid-tier models to 150 GBPS for M3 Pro (compared to 200 GBPS for M2 Pro) and 300 GBPS for M3 Max (compared to 200 GBPS for M2 Max). The Apple M3 now comes with a slick 128GB Unified memory option. With the M2 Max, we were living in the memory lane with a 96GB limit. If you wanted to go big, you had to roll with the M2 Ultra to snag that sweet 192GB.

3. Apple M3 vs M2: GPU: A Big Leap Forward

Alright, buckle up, folks! We’ve got some serious GPU gossip about the Apple M3, and let me tell you, it’s like they’ve sprinkled some magic tech dust on it or something.

So, the Apple M3 is strutting its stuff with a 10-core GPU, and if that’s not enough for you, the M3 Max goes all the way up to 40 GPU cores. With the M3 lineup there are – 10 cores for the standard, 14 and 18 for the Pro, and a whopping 30 and 40 for the Max. It’s like they’re saying, “You get a GPU core, and you get a GPU core – everybody gets a GPU core”

Apple M3 vs M2 GPU Performance

Now, let’s talk features. Brace yourself for some serious gaming vibes because the M3 supports hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing. That means gaming on Mac is going to be a thing. And if you’re into complex geometric designs, the M3 has got your back with Hardware-accelerated Mesh shading. Because of this, rendering visual scenes in graphics-heavy games is going to be bliss.

The real star of the show is actually “Dynamic Caching”. This lets the M3 flex its muscles by allocating system-level memory in real-time. Resulting major boost in performance.

Apple M3 GPU performance

The M3’s 10-core GPU is giving the M2 a run for its money, claiming to be 20% faster. The M3 Pro’s 18-core GPU has also got a 10% speed boost over the M2 Pro. And if you’re planning for the M3 Max with its 40-core GPU, you can expect 20% performance raise over the M2 Max. In the grand scheme of things Apple’s claiming, the M3’s GPU is strutting its stuff with a 10-20% improvement over M2, and a whopping 65% better performance compared to the OG M1 GPU.

Also interestingly, The M3 GPU matches the performance of the M1 GPU at half the power. It’s like having killer performance while draining half of the battery percentages.

Also Read: MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Quick Comparison

4. Neural Engine and Media Engine: Custom Engines for AI and Video

Neural Engine and Media Engine Apple M3

Apple has given the Neural Engine on the M3 a turbo boost – it’s strutting around 15% faster than its M2 counterpart still rolling with the trusty 16 cores, keeping it classy.

Against the M1, the M3’s Neural Engine has got a 60% speed increase. Picture it like the M3 wearing a cape, zooming past the M1 like, “Catch me if you can!” But when it comes to the M2, it’s like they’re in a friendly race, almost neck and neck.

The Media Engine has got AV1 decoding support. Now you can stream those AV1-encoded videos on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, and it might even give your battery a little boost. And yes the H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW video codecs are still on the list.

Also Read: Which Apple Macbook Pro Should You Buy?


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Highlights of the Story

  • The newest Apple M3 is a significant upgrade over the M2
  • M3 comes with a new 3nm fabrication process and a bunch of more upgrades
  • Here is a detailed comparison of Apple m3 vs M2

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