Apple’s ‘Scary Fast’ event has delivered us into the M3 chip era, bringing with it the M3 MacBook Pro and an M3 iMac.
This was a major product announcement for Apple that has, once again, taken us into unprecedented territory in terms of 3-nanometer chips. But whilst Scary Fast finally ended weeks of speculation about product announcements, and anxiety that nothing was coming at all, it did still leave us asking; was that it?!
But we’ve got to make sense of it all somehow. So let’s take a look at the Scary Fast announcements that dazzled and those that disappointed, ranked from worst to best.
7. No M3 MacBook Air
This was the major disappointment of the Scary Fast event.
We got new M3 MacBooks, a ridiculously powerful M3 Max chip and snazzy new M3 iMac colours, but we didn’t get an M3 MacBook Air. And it makes absolutely no sense.
Now, this may sound like me whining, but not including the MacBook Air in this round of updates hurts Apple’s pocket and its customers. The M1 MacBook Air was Apple’s highest-selling laptop in 2022, outselling the M2 MacBook Pro. This was because the M1 MacBook Air was an extremely capable machine, suitable for the majority of everyday users, and available at a cheaper price than a MacBook Pro.
And it still is a highly relevant laptop. Even this M3 announcement hasn’t killed off the M1 MacBook Air.
You could argue that Apple is happy to let the older generations of the MacBook Air roll on because they’re still performing well, but why not give consumers the choice? People like MacBook Airs, they offer bang for your buck, so give us an M3 version sharpish!
6. Lightning Connectors Still Exist
Honestly, the only answer to this is to scream why? Why Apple, have you kept a now-defunct feature as part of a new round of updates?!
It smacks of Apple’s fading embers of stubbornness after being forced to change a piece of technology that they invented. It has been clear for years now that Apple needed to shift to USB-C whether they liked it or not, and yet they are still releasing the Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad with Lightning connectors.
There is nothing good about this and actively inconveniences consumers. Big thumbs down.
5. M3 Pro and M3 Max chip pricing
The M3 Pro and M3 Max chips, the latter especially, are mind-blowing. The fact that they allow up to 128GB of unified memory alone is a ridiculous thing to contemplate. The M3 Max has 93 billion transistors with a 40-core GPU that makes it up to 50% faster than its M1 cousin. A 16-core CPU also makes it 80% faster than an M1 Max or so Apple says.
At this point, the numbers are almost pointless. Basically, the upgraded M3 Pro and particularly the M3 Max chips are on another planet in terms of performance, there for those who truly need it.
So why this low down in the list? Well, it’s the price. At $3,199 (£3,299) for a base level 14-inch M3 Max MacBook Pro, you are paying $100 more than the same M2 version, although you are getting 1TB of storage. But it starts to get really silly after this.
It’s another $300 (£300) for the 16-core CPU M3 Max MacBook Pro and if you want a 16-inch M3 Max MacBook Pro, you’ll be shelling out $3,499 (£3,599) minimum. Mark’s specc’d out 14-inch M3 Max MacBook Pro (yes, only 14-inch!) has cost him a heart attack inducing $4,299 (£4,199)!!
Look, these M3 chips are great. But for anyone speccing them up, I doff my cap in simultaneous admiration of your financial situation…and in mourning for your financial situation.
4. Goodbye Touch Bar
With the death of the M2 MacBooks, Apple has also decided to quietly dispose of the Touch Bar. It was a Marmite product, some liked it, some hated it, and to be honest, I think most who have one are indifferent towards it.
That’s why this announcement is in the middle of this list. I don’t think many people will be sad to see Touch Bar go, neither will many be passionately cheering on its demise (although, whilst writing this article alone, I have accidentally changed the volume twice!).
All-in-all, an insignificant end to an insignificant bit of tech.
3. 16-inch M3 MacBook Pro
Undeniably, the 16-inch M3 MacBook Pro is a beastly laptop. But it has some weird changes from the M2 version.
The 16-inch M3 MacBook Pro (18-core GPU) has one less GPU core than the M2 version. Why? Nobody is really sure, perhaps Apple just thinks it doesn’t really make a difference. And that is true for most users, they won’t notice having one less GPU core.
But it still makes little sense. You’re paying more for the 16-inch M3 MacBook Pro than the new M2 Pro MacBook was worth, but getting less GPU. Apple could have just, you know, included that extra core but, whatever! It’s not a big deal.
2. 24-inch iMac
We’re getting to the really good stuff now. The iMac has been Apple’s forgotten child for over two years now since the M1 iMac was released, watching the M2 generation pass by with a mournful look.
But cry no more dear 24-inc iMac, you are now part of the M3 chip club!
Now, this isn’t a hugely beefy upgrade. The base model M1 iMac came with an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 8GB of memory and 256GB storage. The base level 24-inch M3 iMac has exactly the same specifications, but of course the new M3 chip.
This base model M3 iMac costs $1,299 (£1,399), or you can upgrade to the 10-core GPU for an extra $200 (£200). I think that the base model price is pretty reasonable considering it was the same for an M1 iMac.
What I’m not so sure about is if this iMac will be the best choice for any sizeable number of people. It needed an upgrade, don’t get me wrong. Those who edit videos or deal with heavy music work will very much welcome the new 24-inch M3 iMac.
But there are better options out there for the rest of us…
1. 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro
Yes, I think the biggest win for Apple from Scary Fast was perhaps the least exciting on the face of it; the base-level 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro.
Whilst it lacks the immense 14-core GPU of the M3 Pro version, and the quite ridiculous 30-core GPU of the M3 Max, the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro is pitched at the right level for most laptop users.
It has an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU which is the same as the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro as well as 8GB of unified memory, but comes with a significantly better Liquid Retina display and a nifty HDMI port, removing the need for annoying adapters.
The big factor though, the price, is what really impresses. A base model 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro will set you back $1,599 (£1,699). That is $100 cheaper than the M2 MacBook it replaces. Unlike the 16-inch M3 MacBook Pro, you really are getting more for your money here
If I was going to recommend buying any bit of M3-powered tech, it would be the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro.
Overall, I think we can say that Apple’s Scary Fast event just about lived up to the hype, but only just.
The new M3 chips are a mind-boggling step into the future enabled by 3nm technology. But the MacBooks they power soon get out of hand in terms of price once you start adding things on. When you start maxing out at $7,199 (£7,299.00) for a laptop without Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, you know things have gone too far.
But there is redemption in the welcome affordability and power of the base model 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro. Apple has put some real thought into this and thankfully came out the other side with a truly excellent offering for the average consumer. Oh, and a new M3 iMac is great if that’s your kind of thing!
Do you agree with this ranking? Let me know below!