Apple finally announced the new family of M3 chips during its “Scary Fast” event on Halloween night. After the revelation of Snapdragon X Elite, a direct competition to Apple’s M-series silicon, Apple has responded quickly to the market. But is the Apple M3 a groundbreaking chipset and does it provide a meaningful upgrade over the Apple M2?
In this article, we compared the Apple M3 vs M2 in terms of CPU, GPU, memory bandwidth, neural engine and more. So let’s not waste any time and see the performance difference between Apple M3 and Apple M2.
Apple M3 vs M2: Specifications Comparison
|Apple M3||Apple M2|
|Manufacturing process||TSMC’s 3nm||TSMC’s 5nm|
|Transistors||25 billion (M3)
37 trillion (M3 Pro)
92 billion (M3 Max)
|20 billion (M2)
40 billion (M2 Pro)
67 billion (M2 maximum)
134 billion (M2 Ultra)
|CPU Nuclei||Up to 8, 12 and 16 cores||Maximum 8, 12, 12 and 24 cores|
|GPU cores||Up to 10, 18 and 40 cores||Up to 10, 19, 38 and 76 cores|
|Frequency (max.)||Up to 3.8 GHz (probably)||3.49 GHz to 3.7 GHz|
|TDP||Not yet known||23W to 60W|
|Neural engine||Up to 16 cores (improved, 15% faster)||Up to 16 and 32 cores;
15.8 TOPS and 31.6 TOPS
|Unified memory (RAM)||Up to 24 GB, 36 GB and 128 GB||Up to 24 GB, 32 GB, 96 GB and 192 GB|
|Memory bandwidth||100GBps (M3)
150GBps (M3 Pro)
300 GBps (14-core CPU M3 Max)
400 GBps (16-core CPU M3 Max)
200GBps (M2 Pro)
400GBps (M2 Max)
800GBps (M2 Ultra)
|Maximum 10, 18 and 40 cores||LPDDR5 (probably)||LPDDR5|
CPU: is 3nm better?
Starting with the CPU, the Apple M3 has seen architectural improvements this year and is built on the likes of TSMC 3nm process node, just like the Apple A17 Pro. As a result, the base Apple M3 chipset is nearby 25 billion transistorsthe M3 Pro has 37 billion transistors and the M3 Max has 92 billion transistors.
Furthermore, Apple has included 8 CPU cores on the M3 base chip, 11 or 12 CPU cores on the M3 Pro, and the M3 Max has an option of up to 14 or 16 CPU cores.
The Apple M3 chip family also brings newer, powerful and efficient cores. According to Apple, the powerful core is the new one The M3 chipset is 15% faster than the powerful M2 core. And the efficiency core on Apple M3 is 30% faster than the efficiency cores of M2. However, Apple has restructured the CPU cluster and reduced the number of performance cores in M3 Pro.
Unlike Apple M2 Pro, which had 8 high-performance cores and 4 efficiency cores (8P+4E), the new M3 Pro has an equal split with 6P+6E cores.
The base M3 chip with 8 CPU cores has a 4P+4E cluster design, and the 16-core M3 Max has a 12P+4E cluster design. For multi-threaded workloads, the Apple M3 is the same not a major upgrade over the M2. During the presentation, Apple mainly compared the M3 to its three-year-old M1 chipset and failed to demonstrate the M3’s prowess against the M2.
Last year at the launch of M2, Apple said that M2 is 18% faster than M1. And now Apple says M3 can deliver 35% better performance than M1 at peak power, meaning M3’s CPU is about 17% better than M2’s. During the presentation, Apple concluded that the 8-core CPU is on the M3 up to 20% faster than M2.
Well, it all depends on which M3 variant you choose and what kind of core cluster design it has. CPU performance can vary greatly based on cluster design. Overall, I’d say the CPU upgrade on the Apple M3 was decent at best over the M2. However, if you come from the M1, the Apple M3 is a clear upgrade.
GPU has been a major focus on the Apple M3 this year. It is developed based on next generation architecture and support many professional level functions. The Apple M3 starts with a 10-core GPU and goes all the way up to 40 GPU cores on the M3 Max. The M3 comes with 10 GPU cores, the M3 Pro packs in 14 and 18 GPU cores, and the M3 Max has 30 and 40 GPU cores.
It supports features such as hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing for an unparalleled gaming experience with impressive lighting and a powerful reflection system. The Apple M3 GPU also supports HW-accelerated Mesh shading for processing complex geometric designs. It can help render incredibly complex visual scenes in graphics-intensive games and programs.
The most notable change Apple has made to the Apple M3 GPU is Dynamic caching. This technology allows the chipset to allocate system-level memory to hardware in real time. Moreover, it can allocate the exact amount of memory, increasing performance and efficiency.
The company states that the M3 has a 10-core GPU up to 20% faster than M2 GPU. And the M3 Pro’s 18-core GPU is about 10% faster than the M2 Pro’s GPU. When it comes to the 40-core GPU on the M3 Max, it is 20% faster than the GPU of M2 Max. All told, the GPU improvement over the M3 is around 10% to 20%. The company also claims that the next-generation M3 GPU will deliver 65% better performance than the M1 GPU. Additionally, the Apple M3 GPU matches the performance of the M1 GPU with half the power, which is great from an efficiency standpoint.
Unified Memory downgrade
In terms of memory, Apple hasn’t changed much on the M3. In terms of memory, things even seem to have deteriorated. Apple appears to be using the same LPDDR5 Unified memory. The base M3 has a memory bandwidth of 100 GBps, the same as the M2 memory speed. But Apple surprisingly did just that reduced memory bandwidth to 150 GBps for the M3 Pro. The M2 Pro’s memory can go up to 200 GBps. It is likely that Apple is using a 192-bit memory bus instead of a 256-bit bus, which was used on the M2.
There is also some differentiation in memory bandwidth for the Apple M3 Max. M3 Max with a 14-core CPU has a memory bandwidth of 300GBps while last year’s M2 Max can deliver speeds of up to 400 GBps. Only if you get the top-end M3 Max with a 16-core CPU will you get a memory bandwidth of 400 GBps. It feels like an unnecessary exercise by Apple to force people to buy the top model. Apple should not have cut back on memory bandwidth based on different models.
In addition, the company has a 128 GB Unified memory option with M3 For the first time. Previously it was limited to 96 GB on M2 Max. You can get memory up to 192 GB, but only with M2 Ultra. It means you can now use even larger AI models on your MacBook without any problems.
Apple has improved the Neural Engine on the M3 it is 15% faster than the neural motor of M2. However, it still uses 16 cores and hasn’t revealed the TOPS figure for the M3. Compared to M1, the Neural Engine is about 60% faster, which is great. However, the Neural Engine’s performance is almost on par when it comes to M2.
The Media Engine hasn’t seen many upgrades either, except this one is now included AV1 decoding support. You can stream AV1 encoded videos on streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube, which should translate to better battery life. And there’s the usual support for H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW video codecs.
What is our verdict on Apple M3: yes or no?
The Apple M3 appears to be quite an upgrade over the M2. It delivers moderate upgrades in CPU and GPU and has actually regressed in memory. The Neural Engine is also more or less the same, but you can now get the 128GB option to run large AI models locally. The Media Engine is also the same, except for AV1 decoding. There have been no groundbreaking improvements, as we noted in our earlier article comparison between Apple M2 and M1.
To be fair, the Apple M3 isn’t a monumental upgrade, and if you’re using an M2-powered Mac, you can skip it without a doubt. For M1 users, however, the new thing is M3 MacBook perhaps a tempting proposition.