Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3 Max) Long-Term Review: The Best Got Better
May 1, 2024 Andrew Cheng

I’ve been using the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the fast M3 Max chip for the past five months as my daily driver. Before that, I was using the previous generation M2 Max model, and for the most part, switching to the newer MacBook Pro…doesn’t feel all that different.

But once I fire up more intensive tasks to push the powerful M3 Max chip to its limits, that’s when the latest MacBook Pro shows its true appeal. There’s no denying that it is the fastest, most well-equipped MacBook Pro to date, and it even brings tangible improvements over the M2 Max chip.

While I personally wouldn’t recommend those on the M2 model to upgrade to the M3 MacBook Pro, there really is no better time to upgrade from an older MacBook. Whether you’re still on an Intel-based MacBook (or even M1), the latest MacBook Pro offers a ton of performance under the hood…with a matching price tag.

But hey, the new MacBook Pro does come in a new Space Black colourway, which is a nice icing on the cake.

Since performance is the main appeal of the new M3 Max MacBook Pro – at least, in comparison to its direct predecessor – let’s talk about that first. Both the M3 Max and M2 Max models I’m testing here are sporting the highest-end configuration of the respective chips; the M3 Max has 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU, while the M2 Max features 12-core CPU and 38-core GPU.

To add further context to the test results, I’m throwing in the new 15-inch MacBook Air as well with the M3 chip (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU). All three laptops are put through a series of benchmark tests on Geekbench 6 and Cinebench 2024, but it’s worth noting that Cinebench’s GPU test couldn’t be run on the M3 MacBook Air. Nonetheless, here are the benchmark results:

Geekbench 6MacBook Pro 14 (M3 Max)MacBook Pro 14 (M2 Max)MacBook Air 15 (M3)
CPU (multi core)21,53515,20812,037
CPU (single core) 3,2332,7033,124
GPU (Metal)157,374142,41448,051
GPU (OpenCL)93,91182,42430,595
Cinebench 2024MacBook Pro 14 (M3 Max)MacBook Pro 14 (M2 Max)MacBook Air 15 (M3)
CPU (Multi Core)1,4271,058632
CPU (Single Core)141122140

Naturally, the M3 Max has a noticeable lead over the other two chips in all benchmark tests. Surprisingly enough, the M3 chip in the 15-inch MacBook Air even outperforms the M2 Max in Cinebench 2024’s CPU single core test. This can be attributed to the fact that the M3 has a higher clock speed of 4.1GHz in single core testing against the M2 Max’s 3.5GHz clock speed.

Another interesting figure to note is the sheer difference in GPU performance between the M3 Max and M2 Max in Cinebench; I ran the test several times just to be sure the numbers are correct. Now, even though the M3 Max’s GPU got a score that’s double that of the M2 Max’s, the former is not exactly “twice as fast.” After all, the difference between the GPU performance of the two chips isn’t as vast in Geekbench 6’s test results.

I also enjoy gaming on the M3 Max MacBook Pro quite a bit. Whether it’s Death Stranding or Resident Evil 4, both games run incredibly well on the laptop at maxed out graphics settings. Evidently, the MacBook Pro is capable of AAA gaming. As an avid gamer myself, I really, really hope more game studios start developing their games for macOS.

Beyond sheer performance, another new feature of the M3 MacBook Pro is the Space Black colour option. Despite what the name suggests, it’s more of a very dark grey shade, so some folks may think it’s not quite “black” enough. Personally, I am not bothered by this, and I actually like how the new colour…feels?

Let me explain. What makes the Space Black colour different from other finishes is an “anodisation seal” that is meant to reduce fingerprints on the chassis; this particular treatment is also found on the Midnight colourway of the new M3 MacBook Air. Besides eliminating fingerprints – which it does quite well throughout my time with the laptop – the anodisation seal also has a nice tackiness to it. This allows me to get a better grip on the laptop, so I’m definitely a fan of how the new colour feels and looks, how ever weird that may sound.

What else that is new with the M3 MacBook Pro 14? Well, there’s the larger 72.4Wh battery compared to the M2 model’s 70Wh cell, though the quoted battery life remains the same at up to 18 hours. After using the M3 model as my daily driver over the past five months, I do think it has largely the same battery life as its predecessor, which is to say it is excellent.

Depending on how heavy my workload is on any given workday, I can effortlessly get a full day (or two) worth of use out of the M3 MacBook Pro. It is absolutely not an exaggeration to say that there are no Windows laptops that can match the incredible battery life of the MacBook Pro, and it feels great to not have to worry about running out of battery even when I forgot to charge up the laptop for the day.

Another difference between the M3 and M2 MacBook Pro models that is worth highlighting is the display; the M3 model can actually display brighter SDR content. More specifically, it is brighter by 20% – 600 nits versus 500 nits – though it’s not exactly easy to pick up on the difference at a glance.

Nonetheless, the M3 MacBook Pro still has a stunning, bright and vibrant 14.2-inch 3024 x 1964 Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED display. To me, the mini-LED panel of the MacBook Pro is very much comparable to an OLED screen. Not only does it have deep, dark blacks, colours are also well-calibrated for a pleasant viewing experience. There’s no noticeable backlight bleed either, which speaks volume to Apple’s exceptional quality control.

What about the notch at the top of the screen? Well, it may look jarring at first, but I honestly don’t notice it at all in everyday use.

As much as I thoroughly enjoy using the M3 MacBook Pro as my daily driver for quite some time now, there is one aspect of the high-end laptop that could give potential owners pause: the steep asking price. This particular configuration of the 14-inch MacBook Pro, for example, comes with the aforementioned highest-end M3 Max chip with 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU, 64GB of unified memory, and a 2TB SSD for a grand total of RM19,199.

Granted, while this M3 Max configuration is close to the RM20,000 mark, the laptop actually starts at RM7,499, thanks to the addition of a new, more affordable base model with the standard M3 chip, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD. Yes, this is still quite a high asking price, but it’s not like the MacBook Pro is an outlier; other premium laptops in the market now also sit at the same price point.

What differentiates the M3 MacBook Pro from the competition is the sheer performance of the M3 chips – especially the M3 Max – not to mention class-leading battery life and solid build quality. The only area where I think the MacBook Pro falls short of Windows laptops is in regards to gaming; Windows is simply the default platform for avid gamers. It is for this very reason that I am thrilled more renowned developers are porting their games to macOS.

Of course, this shortcoming wouldn’t even matter to users that don’t even need a laptop to fulfill their gaming needs. For such users, especially creative professionals who need the performance of the M3 chips, the latest MacBook Pro is a mighty good option that is worth every single penny.

With that in mind, the M3 MacBook Pro is the latest recipient of our Nextrift Recommends badge. The badge is our way of endorsing a particular product for its unique appeal, refinement, or even just sheer value for money. While the MacBook Pro is a costly product, you’d be hard-pressed to find another premium laptop that has a similar feature set, especially when it comes to delivering so much performance in a compact 14-inch form factor.

The MacBook Pro has always been widely considered to be one of the best productivity laptops in the market. And with the M3 refresh, the best really has gotten even better, and I’m excited to see what Apple has in store for the next update to the MacBook Pro lineup.