The MacBook Pro M3: A Critical Analysis of Performance and Value 🍎💻

The MacBook Pro M3: A Critical Analysis of Performance and Value 🍎💻

Part 1: Introduction – The hype and misleading information around Apple’s latest MacBook Pro models featuring the new M3 chip

As an Apple fan myself, I was intrigued to hear an alternative viewpoint that challenges the overwhelmingly positive coverage of these new laptops. Let’s raise some thought-provoking points about whether these shiny new MacBooks truly deliver the revolutionary performance gains and value proposition that Apple promises.

In this lengthy blog post, split into multiple parts for easier reading, I’ll provide a comprehensive breakdown of the post’s key arguments. Strap in for a potentially controversial hot take on the new MacBook Pros!


TL;DR: Critical Analysis of Apple’s M3 MacBook Pros

  • Overhyped Performance: Apple’s claims of significant performance gains with the M3 chip are seen as exaggerated, with real-world usage not matching the benchmark results.
  • Incremental Upgrades: The transition from M2 to M3 chips offers only modest improvements, which may not justify the cost of upgrading for many users.
  • Premium Pricing: The new MacBook Pros come with a significant price increase, raising questions about their value for money.
  • Model-by-Model Value: A detailed comparison of the 14-inch and 16-inch models shows that the price increase may not be worth the relatively small spec bumps.
  • Diminishing Returns: Each new MacBook generation seems to offer smaller performance gains for a higher price, leading to a poor value equation over time.
  • Professional Users: Certain professionals, like developers and designers, might find the M3’s performance improvements beneficial for their specific workflows.
  • Alternatives to Upgrading: Users are advised to consider sticking with M2 or M1 MacBooks or exploring powerful Windows laptops for better value.
  • Final Verdict for Pro Users: High-end M3 configurations may be worthwhile for power users who need the latest technology and can fully utilize the performance gains.
  • Advice for Mainstream Users: The majority of users may not find the M3 upgrades to be cost-effective, given the high prices and incremental improvements.
  • Recommendations: Most should consider holding onto their current M1 or M2 MacBooks, switching to Windows for better value, or waiting for the next-gen M4 chip for potentially more significant upgrades.


Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 8 seconds. Contains 1628 words


Overpromising Performance Gains

Let’s discover some of Apple’s lofty claims about the performance leap with the M3 chip compared to the previous M2 model. It suggests Apple is overpromising on benchmarks that don’t reflect real-world usage.

“Apple does this every single year. They’ll show you benchmarks where there’s an absolutely massive increase… But then, when you look at real-world tests, the gains are much smaller.”

These misleading benchmarks set unrealistic expectations that could lead to buyers’ remorse. I tend to agree that benchmarks often focus on maximum theoretical performance, not sustained real-world speeds.



Part 2: Underdelivering on Value

In Part 1, we looked at how Apple may be overpromising on the performance gains of the M3 chip in a bid to generate hype. Let’s also tackle whether the new MacBook Pro models deliver enough additional value to justify upgrading from previous versions or even switching from Windows.


Minimal Year-on-Year Improvements

While Apple made more significant leaps with the M1 and M2 chips, the improvements from M2 to M3 are quite incremental.

“The M3 is not bad, but it’s not as big of an upgrade as the M1 or M2 were over Intel. The M3 is more of a standard, incremental upgrade.”

While Apple touts up to 20% CPU and 30% GPU gains on paper, most real-world use cases outside of benchmarking software will struggle to realise performance differences substantial enough to feel like a worthy upgrade.


Steep Premium Pricing

Now let’s call out the notably higher pricing of the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros:

“They raised the pricing on it pretty significantly. You’re easily spending $500 more than the equivalent spec last year.”

When you combine the minimal performance gains with much costlier pricing, you have laptops that potentially underdeliver on value, especially for most mainstream users.


“For a lot of people, you are just spending way too much money on diminishing returns.”


In Part 3, we’ll examine his specific value comparisons between the M2 and M3 models to illustrate this point further.



Part 3: Granular Value Comparison – Are Upgrades Worth it?

So far, we’ve questioned Apple’s performance claims for the M3 chip and suggested the new MacBook Pros deliver relatively little extra value versus their still very capable M2 predecessors.

Let’s now break things down model by model to scrutinise whether specific upgrades seem worthwhile.

14-inch vs 16 MacBook Pro


14-inch MacBook Pro

  • Base M2 model with 8-core CPU/10-core GPU vs. M3 with 12-core CPU/19-core GPU
  • M2 pricing started at $1999 vs. the new $2199 M3 starting price.
  • $200 more for +4 CPU cores or +9 GPU cores on paper.
  • But as we’ve discussed, real-world gains will be less substantial.


16-inch MacBook Pro

  • Base M2 model with 10-core CPU/16-core GPU vs. new entry M3 12-core CPU/19-core GPU.
  • M2 pricing started at $2499, vs. the new $2799 M3 base price.
  • $300 more gets you +2 CPU cores or +3 GPU cores.
  • It is very tough to justify that price bump for such a modest spec increase.


Diminishing Returns Analysis

As you can see, Apple’s premium pricing for modest specification bumps results in a poor value equation. Unless you really need every last drop of performance, it’s harder to justify these upgrades with each new generation.

To quantify that diminishing returns concept:

  • The M1 chip brought drastic speed gains over Intel.
  • The M2 provided significant boosts over the M1.
  • But the M3 only brings moderate improvements over the M2.

Yet Apple’s price hikes grow with every generation. So you end up paying more each year for smaller and smaller performance gains.

In Part 4, we’ll dig deeper into whether pro users like developers, designers, and video editors should consider upgrading.



Part 4: Who Should Consider Upgrading to M3 MacBook Pros?

In the previous parts, I’ve laid out a case for the diminishing value proposition of upgrading to the new M3-powered MacBook Pros. However, there are certain pro-user groups who may still benefit from splurging on Apple’s latest and greatest laptops.



For developers, especially those working in Xcode and relying on compile speeds, the moderate CPU and GPU bumps of the M3 chip could add up to meaningful time savings that justify the upgrade costs. The base 16-inch M3 model with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, in particular, looks like an enticing upgrade over its M2 counterpart for developers. The extra $300 spent could pay dividends in productivity.


Designers & Video Editors

Graphics professionals dealing with large media files in Photoshop, Illustrator, or video editing software could also see workflow enhancements from the beefier M3 chip options. I’m specifically calling out the high-end 16-inch model with a 12-core CPU and massive 38-core GPU as an example where the M3 delivers enough firepower to appeal to demanding creative pros. But that elite configuration comes at a staggering $3999 price tag!


Scientists & Data Analysts

Number crunchers running complex simulations, machine learning models, or statistical analyses may also appreciate the best-in-class power efficiency and performance of the M3 silicon. Particularly if shaving seconds or minutes off data processing jobs results in major time savings.

In Part 5, we’ll dig into some alternative laptop options for MacBook shoppers questioning the value of upgrading to M3.



Part 5: Alternatives to Overpriced Upgrades

I’ve presented a lot of evidence suggesting marginal performance gains and steep pricing make upgrading to the latest M3 MacBook Pros questionable for many users. But what are some alternative options if you agree with that value assessment?


Stick with M2 (or even M1) MacBooks

Seeing as Apple will likely support M2 and M1 chips for 3-5 more years with macOS updates, one solid choice is to simply stick with your current-generation MacBook, perhaps even snagging deals on discounted older models. Unless you explicitly need the moderate performance bumps of the M3, why overhaul your entire workflow to switch laptops when current M-series models already blitz Intel ones on speed?

“If you have an M2, I would not upgrade. And if you have an M1, unless you really need a new laptop, I would not upgrade either.”


Switch to Windows?

If you’re open to abandoning macOS for Windows, you can get considerably more performance for the same money from premium Windows laptops.

Dell XPS 15 and Razer Blade 15

For example, for creative pros, powerful mobile workstations like the Dell XPS 15 or Razer Blade 15 offer similar specs and performance to M3 MacBook Pros for $1000+ less!

And while Windows lags behind Macs for creative software optimisation today, that gap is narrowing. So for many users, sacrificing some Apple ecosystem integration for better-value hardware could make sense.

In the final part 6, I’ll share some closing thoughts and recommendations on the new M3 MacBook Pros.



Part 6: Final Verdict – Who Are the M3 MacBooks For?

Apple's performance For the new M3 MacBook Pro

We’ve covered a lot of ground-breaking and challenging aspects of Apple’s M3 MacBook Pro lineup. Let’s bring things to a close with some final recommendations on who these laptops do and don’t make sense for.


Developers & Other Pro Users

For professional power users like developers, designers, and scientists, the moderate performance gains of premium high-end M3 configurations can drive enough productivity perks to merit upgrades. But only if you truly need the cutting edge, have a budget to spare, and will actually utilise most of that power in your daily workloads.


Mainstream & Budget-Conscious Users

However, for more mainstream home and office users without such intensive computing demands, it’s tougher to justify these incremental upgrades at Apple’s lofty pricing. You’ll likely never tap into the full potential of the M3 in typical productivity, web browsing, and entertainment usage. And face diminishing returns from a value perspective.


Final Recommendations

  • If you’re on M1 or M2 Gen, only upgrade if you explicitly need more computing power.
  • Consider switching to Windows instead for better value.
  • Wait for the next-gen M4 chip, likely in 2024, for more dramatic improvements.
  • For most users, buying discounted M2 models makes more financial sense.


So in summary, while the new MacBook Pros are impressive technical achievements packing cutting-edge Apple silicon, misleading marketing hype and ultra-premium pricing severely limit their overall value proposition for many shoppers.

I hope you’ve found this lengthy critical analysis insightful. Please share any thoughts or feedback on my perspective in the comments below!