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Apple M3 chips widen gap with Intel

Apple M3 chips widen gap with Intel
Apple's M3 chip family.

Apple's 'Scary Fast' launch event was remarkable on a number of counts.

Let's start with the most trivial remark: It was the first live streamed Apple launch to take place during New Zealand working hours. We've been trained to associate a live Apple launch with sleep deprivation. Being alert throughout is a new experience.

Not trivial, but hardly important: It was short, sharp and to the point. At least in relative terms.

Apple got through the announcement in 30 minutes. It could have been shorter, we don't need to be reminded of the role MacBooks play in our lives.

And the dense technical dive from Johny Srouji would have been lost on the majority of viewers. Yet Apple didn't overstay its welcome on what was, in effect, a long TV commercial.

An embedded iPhone 15 Pro Max promotion

Far from trivial, but not the most important aspect of the launch: It was all shot on an iPhone 15 Pro Max. Yet the launch looked like any other expensive marketing video from a major corporation. That is some advertisement for the new phone. Sure, it would have been done by professionals and, yet, there would have been studio editing, but wow.

The main purpose of the launch was to promote Apple's newest MacBook Pro models built around the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips. These use 3 nanometre technology [1] and they are fast.

Apple's base M3 chip has up to an eight-core CPU and up to a 10-core GPU. It supports 24GB of unified memory.

The M3 Pro chip has up to a 12-core CPU, up to a 18-core GPU and can support 36GB of unified memory. The M3 Max chip has up to a 16-core CPU, up to a 40-core GPU and, if you need it, can support 128GB of unified memory.

Raw performance

What that means in terms of raw performance is that the basic M3 MacBook Pro model is 60 per cent faster than the same model with an M1 chip. The new MacBook Pros are up to 11 times faster than the Intel-based models.

Which means the new MacBook Pros will be significantly faster than even the most swept-up workstation class Windows laptops.

Another remarkable aspect of the launch is that the new base model 14-inch MacBook Pro will sell in New Zealand for NZ$3199, which compares favourably with the NZ$3699 price of the model it replaces.

There is also an M3-based iMac for Apple desktop users. Apple dropped the 21.5 and 27 inch screen models, which may disappoint some potential buyers, moving instead to a 24 inch screen. Prices start at NZ$2500.

  1. Does anyone else find it odd that a US company measures chips in nanometres and screens in inches? ↩︎