Apple’s M-series chips have been a game changer for MacBooks, bringing impressive performance and efficiency gains. The first generation M1 chip transformed Apple’s laptop lineup in 2020, and the M2 chip built on that foundation in 2022. Now in 2023, rumors are heating up around the next generation M3 chip and when we can expect to see it in new MacBook models.
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There have been conflicting reports on when exactly we’ll see the first M3 MacBook hit the market. Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted we wouldn’t see M3 Macs until 2024. However, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has a strong track record on Apple leaks, said we could see M3 Macs as early as October 2023.
Gurman speculates that Apple may announce M3 MacBook Pro models around October, which lines up with their typical fall event timeline. Meanwhile, Kuo believes Apple will stick with M2 chips for Macs released in 2023, with the M3 not coming until 2024.
At this point, Gurman’s prediction seems more likely, given Apple’s pattern of updating the M-series chips every two years. The M1 was released in late 2020, the M2 in mid-2022, making an M3 launch in late 2023 feasible. However, Apple’s plans could easily change given the complexities of chip development and supply chain constraints.
The M3 chip is expected to utilize an enhanced version of TSMC’s 3nm chip manufacturing process, compared to the 5nm process used for the M1 and M2. The smaller 3nm transistors allow for improved performance and power efficiency.
Early reports suggested the M3 chip could have up to 12 CPU cores, made up of 8 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores, an upgrade from the 8-core design on the M2. However, a more recent rumor points to the standard M3 again having 8 total cores (4 high-performance, 4 high-efficiency). The M3 Pro and Max would then scale up to 12 cores.
On the GPU side, reports indicate the M3 chip could get up to 19 graphics cores, a sizeable upgrade over the 10 cores in the M2. This should translate to a noticeable graphics performance boost for gaming, video editing, 3D graphics, and other GPU-intensive tasks.
Other expected improvements include increased memory bandwidth and faster, more efficient LPDDR5 RAM. The M2 Pro and Max chips also added media engines to accelerate video encoding/decoding and image processing, which we should see trickle down to the standard M3 as well.
While we’ll have to wait for real-world testing, early M3 performance estimates suggest it should handily outpace the already speedy M2 chip.
According to Apple leaker ShrimpApplePro, Geekbench testing indicates the M3 scoring approximately 5% higher on single-core performance versus the M2’s MacBook Air. Multi-core performance sees a more sizeable boost of around 20%. The caveat is these benchmarks do not represent real-world usage, but it gives an idea of the performance trajectory.
The M3’s advantages in transistors, manufacturing process, cores, memory, and media engines should compound to deliver performance that feels noticeably snappier than the M2 across both CPU and GPU tasks. Exact speeds will depend on the specific M3 model (standard, Pro, Max etc), but Apple is clearly aiming to widen the gap with rival PC chips like Intel’s 12th Gen Core series.
Power efficiency is another area where the M3 should build on the excellent energy usage of the M1 and M2. The 3nm manufacturing process will play a key role here, allowing for the same or better performance at lower power draw. That translated to huge battery life gains when the M1 first launched, and early reports suggest the M3 will deliver even longer run times.
MacBook Models Receiving the M3 First
Right now, reports indicate three MacBook models are likely to be the first updated with the M3 chip:
- 13-inch MacBook Air – The current M2 MacBook Air just launched in mid-2022, but Apple often updates the lower-tier Air with new chips first. The M3 would offer nice performance gains.
- 13-inch MacBook Pro – Similarly, the 2022 13-inch Pro with M2 chip is primed for an M3 update later this year. The four Thunderbolt ports and Touch Bar make it easily identifiable from the Air.
- 24-inch iMac – The 24-inch iMac got a welcome redesign in early 2021 with M1, making it a prime candidate for an M3 refresh in 2023. The all-in-one would benefit greatly from the added performance.
Notably, reports suggest the higher-end 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models will retain M2 Pro/Max chips into 2024 before transitioning to M3 Pro/Max. This staggered rollout allows Apple to focus on its lower-power chips first.
The 2023 MacBook Air and 13-inch Pro are expected to have largely the same external design as their M2 counterparts, with the key changes happening internally. But we could see tweaks like additional color options, which Apple has done in the past in between major redesigns.
What About the Rest of the M3 Lineup?
Most reports indicate the standard M3 chip will debut first, likely suitable for lower-power systems like the MacBook Air and 13-inch Pro. Following that, Apple would then roll out variations like the M3 Pro, M3 Max, and possibly even an M3 Ultra for its high-end MacBook Pros and Mac desktops.
Leaker Dylandkt has suggested the full M3 lineup could look like this:
- M3 (8 CPU cores / up to 19 GPU cores)
- M3 Pro (12 CPU cores / up to 38 GPU cores)
- M3 Max (12 CPU cores / up to 76 GPU cores)
- M3 Ultra (20 CPU cores / up to 152 GPU cores)
This follows the same pattern as the M1 Pro/Max and M1 Ultra models designed for systems like the Mac Studio that need maximum performance.
The M3 Pro and Max chips would bring the same benefits as the standard M3 but scaled up for Apple’s pro laptops and desktops. The M3 Ultra would push even further, aimed at users like developers, video editors and 3D animators running complex creative apps.
Why the M3 Matters
With each new generation of Apple silicon, Macs become more capable, more efficient, and more attractive compared to Windows PCs. The expected improvements with the M3 chip put Apple solidly on track towards its goal of transitioning all Macs to Apple silicon within the next few years.
The M3 also stands to widen Apple’s lead in areas like power efficiency, where MacBooks already enjoy a sizable advantage over Windows laptops. And impressive GPU gains could help make Macs more competitive for gaming and other graphics-intensive tasks typically seen as Windows’ domain.
For everyday users, the M3 promises snappier performance, instant wake, better battery life, and support for up to four external displays on pro models. And Apple is said to be prepping a new external display to pair with M3 Macs as well.
While questions remain around exact launch timing and specs, the M3 chip represents an exciting step in Apple silicon’s evolution. M3 MacBook stand to once again raise the bar for both Apple and the broader PC market. Within the next year, we should get a much closer look at the performance gains the M3 will actually deliver.
The expected launch of M3 MacBook models in late 2023 or 2024 promises to deliver noticeable speed boosts thanks to upgrades like an improved 3nm chip fabrication process, more CPU and GPU cores, and extra memory bandwidth. Apple looks to be continuing their rapid pace of Silicon innovation and execution.
While the M2 is already extremely fast, the M3 aims to widen Apple’s lead over competing PC chips. Areas like power efficiency, graphics performance, and support for external displays also stand to see enhancements. The M3 chip should give creatives, developers, and power users even more reason to choose MacBooks over Windows laptops.
Of course, Apple’s plans could change, and we won’t know precisely what the M3 delivers until official details emerge. But if early rumors and benchmarks prove accurate, the next generation of Apple Silicon for Macs is shaping up to be an exciting one. For now, the M2 provides state-of-the-art speed and efficiency – but the M3 and its variations are looming on the horizon, poised to take Apples Silicon success even further.