Earlier this week, Apple unveiled the M3 series, which includes the new M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips. These new chips, designed for Mac, offer significant performance improvements while maintaining long battery life and efficiency. In fact, for the first time, it seems that Apple is committed to bringing AAA gaming to the Mac. Here are the details.
Apple is the only company currently shipping products featuring 3nm (TSMC N3B) chips, and this is a significant development in terms of power efficiency. A 3nm chip (not the actual transistor size) consumes less power compared to a processor fabricated using a 4/5nm process. Another advantage of the M3 is that it’s a monolithic chip, where a single slab of silicon has all the components like CPU, GPU, and NPU etched into it, reducing latency and power consumption.
In contrast, Intel is considering a chiplet-based design for its upcoming Meteor Lake mobile processors. This approach helps with manufacturing costs, allowing the company to choose different manufacturing processes for the CPU, GPU, and I/O die. This is how Apple claims up to 22 hours of video playback or 15 hours of wireless web browsing on these new Macs. The new high-performance M3 Max boasts a staggering 97 billion transistors, making it one of the densest Arm chips. Similarly, the M3 and the M3 Pro have transistor densities of 25 billion and 37 billion, respectively.
Giant performance leap over M1
The performance cores on the M3 processor are 15% and 30% faster than the M2 and M1 chips, respectively. Similarly, the efficiency cores are 30% and 50% faster than the M2 and M1 chips. This time, Apple has slightly reconfigured the P/E cores. The new M3 has 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, the M3 Pro has up to 6 performance cores and 6 efficiency cores, and lastly, the M3 Max has 12 performance cores and four efficiency cores.
While the M3 and the M3 Max are clear upgrades over their predecessors, the M3 Pro has actually lost two performance cores. The M2 Pro, for comparison, came with 8 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores. Not only that, the M3 Pro also comes with a slightly slower memory bus controller (150GB/s) compared to the 200GB/s controller on the M2 Pro chip. The M3 and the M3 Max still have 100GB/s and 400GB/s memory controllers, just like their predecessors. The M3 can support up to 24 GB of low-power DDR5 RAM, the M3 Pro supports up to 36 GB LPDDR5 memory, and the M3 Max can support up to 128 GB of LPDDR5 RAM.
If you only consider the core count, the M3 chip does look similar to the M2 chip with an 8-core CPU and a 10-core CPU. However, despite the similar core count, the new M3 chip offers up to a 15% performance gain while consuming less power. The same goes for the M3 Pro and the M3 Max chips.
In fact, the most exciting chip among the three is the M3 Max, offering up to an 18-core CPU and a 40-core GPU. However, it does come at a cost, as a Mac with the M3 Max costs almost twice as much as a Mac with an M3 chip. These chips also have a 16-core neural engine, which aids in AI-related tasks.
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Apple’s new M3 series of processors features a new GPU built on a brand-new architecture, which now includes hardware-accelerated ray tracing, rasterization, and dynamic memory allocation support. Ray tracing and rasterization enhance graphics fidelity, and dynamic memory allocation ensures that the GPU always receives the right amount of memory to complete a task.
The M3 Max can support up to four external displays, the M3 Pro can support up to two external displays, and the M3 can power only one external display.
Not only is Apple upgrading the hardware, but the company is also collaborating with prominent studios to port popular AAA titles to Macs. As a result, games like Lies of P, Layer of Fear 2023, Firmament, Baldur’s Gate 3, and Resident Evil Village will be available on the Mac App Store.