Apple’s latest laptops come in two sizes, 14-inch and 16-inch. This is a review of the 14-inch MacBook Pro, powered by the latest Apple M3 Max processor. You can buy the 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M3 Pro chip if you prefer, or even the original M3, which is more affordable but less powerful. Note that the larger 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with a choice of M3 Pro and M3 Max chips, but not the M3.
I’m testing the MacBook Pro just announced by Apple on October 30th.
Apple MacBook Pro 14 inch specifications
Processor: Apple M3, M3 Pro or M3 Max (tested model: M3 Max) | Display: 14.2-inch, LED-backlit, native resolution 3,024 x 1,964, brightness 600 nits, peak HDR brightness 1,600 nits | RAM: 8/18/36GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB Also only 8TB M3 Max | Dimensions: 12.31 x 8.71 x 0.61 inches | Weight: 3.4-3.6 lbs | Colors: Silver, Space Gray (M3 only), Space Black (M3 Pro, M3 Max only).
1. Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch: Design and display
Apple updated its laptop design for its business models two years ago, replacing the tapered edges with a flat lid and cliff-edge sides. Unsurprisingly, the design hasn’t changed since then, except for one detail: a new color, which we’ll get to in a moment.
The look of the MacBook Pro is formidable: businesslike and classy, with a finish that turns heads. Even if it didn’t have the Apple logo in the middle, color-matched to the rest of the lid, the immediately obvious build quality would make you think it’s an Apple product.
Absent since the redesign is the legendary MacBook Pro that sat below the screen, perhaps because the bezels around the screen were shrunk at that point. It’s still billed as a professional model, but now it’s positioned at the bottom of the machine.
As always with a Mac laptop, the lid and stand are perfectly balanced, so you can open it by lifting it with one finger—on many machines this would see the laptop stand lift up with you. It’s details like this that keep Mac users coming back.
So is the keyboard, which Apple calls the Magic Keyboard. There’s no real magic, you understand, but the typing experience is very engaging, thanks to a soft shape that draws your fingers to the center of each key, a firm fit that doesn’t wobble under the touch, and decent travel (1mm). It also has a sensitive and reliable Touch ID sensor on the power button to the right of the top row of keys.
The trackpad is also easy to use because it is very large, supports multi-touch gestures and responds to different levels of pressure.
The new design element is the extra color, space black. It’s the first black laptop since the black MacBook, which was discontinued in 2008. It looks great. It’s a deep, almost-but-not-quite matte black with a special bonus when you touch it: no fingerprints. I mean, look closely and you can see a little something, but it’s almost nothing compared to, say, the midnight finish on the MacBook Air.
It means that the MacBook Pro more or less maintains its pristine appearance no matter how much you touch it. It looks great, but note that you only get it if you chip up to the M3 Pro or M3 Max: 14-inch MacBook Pro models with the base M3 processor only come in silver or space gray.
The screen hasn’t changed from the previous 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, but it’s really great, full of detail and high contrast. This is thanks to Liquid Retina XDR, an LCD display with miniLEDs behind the LCD screen for refined local dimming.
The screen also features dynamic refresh rates to ensure smooth motion when content demands it, or save battery life when you have something that isn’t moving on screen.
It still has a cutout at the top of the screen where the 1080p camera nestles, but this causes little to no problems at any point. And that means the laptop’s bezels are very thin.
2. Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch: Performance
A new processor promises dramatic improvements and faster speeds. There are three here and while the M3 is certainly faster than its predecessors M1 and M2, and which I’ve tested on the new iMac, we’ve reviewed it here).
But things get properly spicy when you step up to the M3 Pro and M3 Max, which I tested for this review. This chip is very much aimed at creatives and professionals who use extremely demanding programs for extended periods of time. Apple has installed a cooling system in the MacBook Pro, something the MacBook Air lacks, to keep those programs running for longer. You really have to work hard to hear this fan in action: for most people most of the time, they just won’t ask.
One of the main purposes of all this power is that it saves time on the most complex workflows, which is especially important for creatives, who want to get stuck into tedious, slow tasks for as little time as possible.
A program like Final Cut Pro is a good example of how things that might be difficult to do can be achieved for nothing. Final Cut Pro has a feature called Smart Conform that can help if you need to take footage in landscape orientation and convert it to portrait orientation without losing the meaning of the content. The M3 Max, and indeed the M3, can make this change to multiple files in a matter of seconds.
The M3 Max can do a lot more than the M3, of course, and indeed seems to do everything faster than any Mac laptop I’ve ever used.
Let’s remember that there are still many people using Macs and M1 Macs with an Intel processor, as well as M2s. Everyone will find this new laptop very quickly, but the older your Apple computer, the bigger the wow factor.
If you’re not a demanding creative (I mean demanding in the sense that you need a powerful computer, not one that flocks when it fails), then should you really be buying a MacBook Pro?
The way I see it, there’s no such thing as a computer that’s too fast, no matter what you use it for. And the more power you have under your laptop’s belt now, the longer it can last, so as programs get more intensive or you start gaming more, the headroom your processor has will still give you room to grow .
3. Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch: Battery life
The other thing that changed without any recognition when Apple switched from Intel chips to its own silicon is battery life. It took off to such an extent that for a working day, you never had to carry an electric brick with you. That’s still the case now, and the latest MacBook Pros have matched the models’ excellent battery life with the previous generation of processors. With the M2 Pro or M2 Max, Apple claimed battery life of up to 18 hours of movie playback, its own way of measuring battery life, although it also says you can be online for 12 hours.
Interestingly, if you have the more affordable M3 chip, this laptop will last even longer, up to 22 hours in this video measurement and 15 hours of wireless web browsing.
The larger 16-inch MacBook Pro manages more, unsurprisingly.
Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch: Verdict
The MacBook Pro is a very powerful machine. If you’re considering buying one to upgrade from the M1 or Intel model, don’t hesitate. It’s the same price as the M2 Pro and M2 Max models from a few days ago, and in some cases there are better storage spaces or other configurations.
And then there’s the M3, base model. Sure, it’s nowhere near as fast and has just 8GB of RAM at the most affordable level, but it’s still a big hit. And the price, while not as low as the 13-inch MacBook Pro on offer, is much less than a 14-inch MacBook Pro ever was ($400 less), with a bigger, better screen than the 13-inch managed, better connections and MagSafe charging. And no Touch Bar.
The truth is, though, that if you can benefit from the speed of a MacBook Pro, it’s the M3 Pro or M3 Max that should get your attention. These are mighty powerful laptops, outperforming most if not all of the competition. And, unlike some of the recently announced processors, Apple’s processors are available right now.