Apple Strives to Stay on Top with M3 Processor Family for Macs

Nov. 10, 2023
Check out the new M3 family of Mac processors in this installment of the Products of the Week.

Apple is upping the ante in the world of laptop chips, rolling out its new M3 family of Mac processors as it attempts to stay a step ahead of the fast-growing competition from AMD, Intel, Qualcomm, and other rivals.

The Silicon Valley giant recently unveiled its forthcoming 14- and 16-in. MacBook Pro laptops and its 24-in. Mac desktop along with the three chips powering them—the base M3 and the M3 Pro and M3 Max.

Apple said M3 is the first family of processors for laptops and desktops to be fabricated on a 3-nm node, which is currently the most advanced process technology, bringing better performance and new features to the fore while enabling longer battery life. That gives the Arm-compatible chips more transistors to throw at everything from general-purpose computing to the machine-learning features that are becoming more prominent in PCs.

The M3 family is set to usher in sizable improvements across the board. Apple explained that it re-engineered the GPU inside the M3 chips, all of which have the same monolithic system-on-chip (SoC) architecture. A faster CPU for general-purpose computing, an enhanced NPU for AI workloads, and a new media engine are also under the hood of the M3 family, which brings additional high-bandwidth memory into the mix as well.

Apple executives touted the M3 family as a significant upgrade over M1-powered Mac laptops. But the company is rolling out the M3 in a more crowded competitive PC landscape, so how it makes out remains to be seen. So far, the company has only released internal benchmarks for the M3 chips, and, while competitors compare themselves to the M2, most of Apple’s marketing has compared the M3 to the first-generation M1. Deep technical specifications are also scarce.

The launch of Apple's M3 lineup comes after Qualcomm unveiled its upcoming Snapdragon Elite X. Fabricated on a 4-nm process node, the chip features the first custom Arm-compatible core called Oryan based on innovations from Nuvia, a startup founded by former top chip designers from Apple. Qualcomm said the PC-focused SoC will provide 50% higher multicore performance than Apple's M2 when it hits the market in mid-2024.

Even so, the M3 lineup shows how far Apple’s homegrown silicon has come since the 2020 debut of the M1. In this gallery, we review the new family, its capabilities, and how it differs from Apple's other Mac chips.

Check out the previous Products of the Week gallery here.

You can also visit the Products of the Week archives here.

Comments

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Electronic Design, create an account today!