Hands-On Review: Apple’s New MacBook Pro M3 Offers Refined Design, Blazing Speeds

As an avid MacBook user, I was eager to get my hands on the latest MacBook Pro powered by Apple’s new M3 chip. After spending over a day with the 14-inch model, it’s clear Apple has another winner with impressive speed boosts and thoughtful design refinements.

The MacBook Pro lineup now comes in 14-inch or 16-inch sizes, both flaunting the same iconic flat-edge aesthetic introduced. My review unit was the base 14-inch model with M3 Max 36GB RAM, 1TB SSD.

Visually, the new MacBook Pro is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor. But Apple has functionally enhanced the hardware in subtle ways.

The base model finally gains an HDMI port and SD card reader, both glaring omissions before. While still limited to two Thunderbolt ports, closing this connectivity gap is welcome.

Apple also touts improved smudge and stain resistance for the anodized aluminum chassis. After over a day of heavy use, the Matte Black finish still looks brand new, fingerprints wipe off effortlessly.

The black bezels and keyboard match the Space Grey color perfectly. Apple even updated the MagSafe cable to black for a more cohesive look, only gripe is the white power adapter, an odd style clash.

The keyboard offers snappy responsiveness and comfortable key travel, inverted-T arrow key arrangement introduced with the present across the lineup now. While the overall design remains familiar, the keyboard layout no longer includes the TouchBar, change unifies the user input experience across the Pro laptop lineup.

Apple’s industry-leading Force Touch trackpad feels perfectly dialed regarding sensitivity and haptics. Gestures like swiping between Spaces are intuitive, massive surface makes the compact 14-inch footprint more usable.

m3-macbook-pro

Display: Still Stunningly Vibrant

14-inch Liquid Retina XDR display looks just as stellar as it did in previous generations, at 3024×1964 resolution, images and videos appear phenomenally sharp.

Vibrant colors and inky blacks bring content to life thanks to mini-LED backlighting. Off-axis viewing angles remain excellent as well. 600 nits SDR brightness and 1,600 nits peak brightness provides ample headroom for comfortable use in brighter environments.

The adaptive 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate enables buttery visuals when scrolling web pages or documents, while not the highest resolution panel compared to some Windows rivals, it hits a sweet spot between sharpness and scaling.

m3-macbook-pro

Performance: Blazingly Fast with M3 Max

Powered by an 14-core CPU and 30-core GPU, my MacBook Pro review unit felt speedy and responsive for daily workflow, apps open instantly, and browsing dozens of Chrome tabs is smooth.

In benchmarks, M3 Max posts a multi-core score of 21,084. For comparison, M1 Pro scored 1700/12200. So a modest per-core uplift, but more cores in the M3 Max makes the multi-core gap significant.

I did notice occasional stutters in Pixelmator Pro working with dozens of 24M RAW images, but otherwise, Lightroom edits, 4K video exports, and 20+ browser tabs posed no issue. The fan would audibly spin up during heavy exporting, but not to a distracting degree.

The GPU gains should really shine for video editors, 3D artists, and games. Hardcore gaming still demands a dedicated PC, but the M3 closes the gap.

Despite the performance leap, Apple estimates the same outstanding battery life – up to 17 hours wireless web browsing or 20 hours video playback.

In real-world use, I consistently clocked 8-10 hours doing a mix of browsing, Office apps, streaming video, and other productivity work before needing to recharge. Easily got through a full workday away from an outlet.

MacBook Pro battery life continues impressing me given the power inside, efficiency of Apple Silicon really shines through here, balancing CPU/GPU speed with all-day endurance.

MacBook Pro showcases all the refinements in macOS Sonoma like the customizable Start Page and built-in Weather app. I especially like the new Continuity Camera feature that uses iPhone as a webcam for Mac.

Stage Manager is an intriguing addition as well, allowing nested resizable windows. It aims to simplify juggling multiple apps, though I found it a bit clumsy in practice on the MacBook’s 14-inch display.

macOS Sonoma also brings welcomed iOS-style widgets to Notification Center and the redesigned System Preferences app, a major step towards UI consistency across Apple’s ecosystems.

For productivity, Safari Shared Tab Groups are handy for collaborating in real-time. Passkeys replace passwords with biometrics-secured authentication. And with Handoff, tasks seamlessly flow between devices.

Bottom Line

With blistering M3 performance packed into a refined and durable chassis, complete with all the ports professionals need, the latest MacBook Pro is an easy recommendation for power users. macOS Sonoma’s additions also shine on Apple’s premier laptop.

Pricing remains premium, but the combination of top-tier speed, amazing battery life, and best-in-class software in the MacBook Pro is hard to rival. For those clinging to Intel models, the new M3 series chips make this a tempting upgrade.

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Max Hyland
Max Hyland
Long form contributor Apple iPhone, iPad, watch reviews, opinion, editorial

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