Apple’s new M3-powered Macs aim to leapfrog Windows once more

Apple has announced its most advanced computer chipsets ever, claiming they are the first ever personal computer chips built using a 3nm process – one-upping the announcement last week of Qualcomm’s 4nm chips for Windows computers. The Apple M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chipsets were launched alongside a new iMac desktop computer and MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch models. The iMac looks identical to the 2021 redesigned colourful M1 version, but now has the faster M3 processor.

The more powerful – and expensive – MacBook Pros now come in a stealthy space black colour, too. Apple usually brings out a new colour when it unveils new products so people buying it can show the world they have the latest Apple gadget.

You will need deep pockets though, with the top-spec 16-inch MacBook Pro running up at £7,299. 

At a late-night announcement in the US on 30 October dubbed ‘Scary Fast’ in reference to being the night before Halloween and also the speed of its new Macs, Apple spent time comparing the M3 chips to the M1 chips it first showed off in 2020 – suggesting the gains are more noticeable over the three-year-old M1 than the newer M2 chip, which was used in the last MacBook Pro only back in January.

Apple claims the M3 chip is 2.5 times faster than the M1, with CPU performance up 30 percent and efficiency up 50 percent, which should show when doing big tasks such as video and photo editing. There’s also a new media engine with support for AV1 decode, which will allow higher quality video streaming from all your favourite streaming apps.

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“With 3-nanometer technology, a next-generation GPU architecture, a higher-performance CPU, faster Neural Engine, and support for even more unified memory, M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max are the most advanced chips ever built for a personal computer,” said Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies.

Qualcomm last week thought its new Snapdragon processors could beat the now-old M2 Max chip for speed, but Apple could well have leapfrogged its Windows competitor again with the M3 family – which important are all available to pre-order today. Windows PCs with the Snapdragon X Elite chip aren’t shipping till well into 2024.

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A new GPU that handles graphics now has what Apple calls Dynamic Caching, which picks the level of memory needed in real time, so only the exact amount needed is used. Apple claims this an “industry first” that will increase performance for pro apps and games.

The M3 chips also allow Macs to better render shading in graphics apps such as Photoshop, and also improve ray tracing, for more accurate shadow and reflections in high-end games. The Mac has always lost out to the Windows PC when it comes to running high-end games but this implies Apple is finally trying to change that – also shown in the iPhone 15 Pro’s ability to run high-end console quality games such as Resident Evil with the phone’s own 3nm chip, the A17 Pro.

Apple also said the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max have an improved Neural Engine to improve the Mac’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities, with the engine 60 percent faster than in older M1 Macs.

The M3 Macs don’t come cheap though. The cheapest new MacBook Pro is the 14-inch with M3 and costs £1,699, while the most affordable laptop with the M3 Max is £3,299, which can be specced up to an even more expensive version. The M3 Max allows support for up to a crazy 128GB RAM – that’s memory, not storage.

The 24-inch iMac with M3 chip costs £1,399 and is the most affordable way to get an M3 Mac. At that price you can only pick from four different colours, while a £1,599 or £1,799 version gets you more USB ports and gigabit Ethernet speeds, and a keyboard with a Touch ID button – all things missing from the cheapest model.

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