Apple MacBook Pro 16 with M3 Max forces PC makers to reset and restart, again
Alongside benchmark resetting performance, a familiar design but with a new colour and staggering spec customisation options that define a category
Just about a year on, it is time again for the inevitable. Another step forward for the Apple MacBook Pro 16. It’s been twice in a year, this time around, which itself is a conflict against the routine. Clearly the M3 couldn’t wait, and unleashed its been. After all, an all-round step forward from the M2 series that itself set performance and battery stamina benchmark, worrying everything in the Windows PC ecosystem. Perhaps we aren’t charmed anymore by serious spec upgrades. Could it be Apple’s precision with resetting performance reference points, with every Apple Silicon generation? Maybe.
The Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch with M3 chip options, isn’t an iterative update. It is a broader transition, a development that’ll undoubtedly have Intel, AMD and an entire ecosystem of Windows laptop makers, incredibly worried. Again. The flagship for this generation is the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch with the M3 Max chip. It is the fastest among a troika that too has M3 and M3 Pro. It does cost a significant outlay too, with the base price for an M3 Max spec-ed machine, a mind-numbing ₹3,49,900. For a broader picture, the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch with M3 is priced ₹2,49,900 onwards.
For that money, you’ll get colossal specs too. Apple India Online Store’s customise your Mac option illustrates a clear picture. Your choice between a 14-core CPU and 30-core GPU or a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU options of the Apple M3 Max chip (without getting into geek-speak, more means even greater performance). While 36GB memory is itself a really high starting spec, this can be swapped for as much as 128GB RAM. There’s up to 8TB SSD, or solid-state-drive, too. To quell curiosity, we customised this to the limit (including an 8TB SSD, though that’d be really rapacious for most), and the price tag reads an enormous ₹7,19,900. Things indeed are serious, and Apple isn’t playing around with a machine as powerful as this.
While we’ve experienced generations of MacBook Pro 16-inch over the years, continuity in design still retains a freshness that isn’t easy to hold. The only real visual difference between this and the early 2023 models (or even the 2021 model, for that matter) is the new Space Black colour. A genuinely darker colourway in a MacBook, a sharp contrast to the silver. Space Grey was the darkest a Mac went, in the past few years. This colour will not be easy to maintain, particularly if caring for a piece of technology, doesn’t come naturally to you. Refinements in anodization help reduce smudges to an extent, but that’s about it. Keep a cleaning cloth handy, that’d be our recommendation.
It is nigh impossible to make the MacBook Pro 16-inch with the M3 Max chip, struggle for breath. Even with gaming, and that’s exactly the direction Apple is looking in with the M3 chips and beyond. Not just the number of cores for the processor and graphics. Dynamic caching, an industry first, will allow software to determine memory allocation for each app or game in real-time, instead of working predefined minimum or maximum allocation. The new GPU also adds Mesh shading and Ray Tracing. While I do not have a direct comparison with a MacBook with the M2 Max chip for benchmarks to illustrate a generational forward step, improvements are clear nonetheless. This is around 3 times faster with a Geekbench benchmark test, for instance, than the most powerful Intel Core i9 and Core i7 powered laptops we’ve tested in the past few months.
The idea isn’t to confuse you (that’s why we purposefully stay away from benchmark scores as comparators), but illustrate how far ahead an Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch with the M3 Max is ahead of Intel and AMD’s silicon. That translates into tangible improvements in experience, even when this behemoth is being used for more mundane tasks, such as a laptop at work. On a lighter note, finally a laptop that meets Google Chrome’s real-world usable spec requirements! Switch to gaming, which Apple insists you’ll get a chance to do more, and it is astonishing for well the M3 Max’s processing and graphics handles gameplay at the highest detailing settings. We can hope more gaming titles on the App Store for Macs soon, with Apple Arcade primed to get into its stride.
Though that’s only really when any sort of strain is hinted at, as the cooling fans work their hardest. And these can get quite loud. We must refer to the automatic power mode switching too. It is attentive and responsive enough to immediately make a switch to the high-power settings when it detects a synthetic benchmark test or a game loading. That’s also a cue for the fans to be ready for some extra work.
So much power must mean battery life will struggle with compromise? On the contrary, we tested the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch with the M3 Max deliver close to 19 hours on a charge, at 70% brightness level (manually set; auto settings turned off for accuracy) with two 8-hour workdays (and the multitasking involving overloaded web browsers and documents that comes with it), and rest of the time taken up with video streaming, taking advantage of a gorgeous display. Screen brightness, particularly for one of this size, will have a bearing on stamina. It’s around 15 hours of similar usage at 100% and almost 21 hours when dropped down to a more comfortable 30%.
The takeaway here is, you aren’t compromising battery stamina and can still leave the adapter at home as you step forward for a day at work, despite the luxurious comfort of a 16.2-inch screen. That makes it portable, as much as it is a desktop replacement. Not just the M3 Max spec, but the MacBook Pro 16-inch in general, all things form factor considered. Mind you, it is 2.16kg or thereabouts, and you’d like to keep your backpack time to a minimum during commute.
Speaking of this Liquid Retina XDR canvas, not much has changed except non-HDR content now has a peak brightness of 600-nits as against 500-nits from the previous generation. This remains one of the most accurate displays in the computing space with wide colour (P3).
The question really is, who needs all this power and performance in a laptop? Important to make one thing clear from the outset – an Apple M3 Max chip only really makes genuine sense for a gamer making early bets on Apple’s intent for the ecosystem, or anyone with “pro” workloads such as a video editor who puts a premium on the minutes shaved off for task completion. And money, no bar.
This may be the point of some complication, but if raw performance is still an important enough criteria but not the M3 Max ballpark, even the M3 Pro machines could make perfect sense. While saving you some money.
All this while, there is absolutely no denying the fact that Apple has indeed reset the benchmark. The very best of a laptop as you interface with the physical being that is the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch. Under the hood, nothing else matching the M3 Max and its performance as well as battery stamina, all in a wholesome perspective. This is reaffirmation of a path Apple chose when it closed the Intel chapter a few years ago, a decision that stands validated. Yet again.