MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro, 2023) hands-on: Back in (Space) Black

 MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023).
MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023).

The new MacBook Pro 16-inch is here to show that it's what's on the inside that counts. Like its M2 Pro and M2 Max-powered predecessor, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023), the latest gargantuan Pro laptop keeps its old design but packs a speedier processor: either the M3 Pro or M3 Max chip. While that might sound anti-climatic, the new Apple silicon promises to deliver significant performance gains over all M-series MacBooks.

I recently got some hands-on time with the new MacBook Pro 16-inch. Not only did I get to check out the awesome new Space Gray color that prevents fingerprints, but I even got to see a handful of modern graphically demanding games running on the new machine. Even if this looks exactly like the 16-inch MacBook Pro I reviewed back in January of this year, its performance will no doubt make it one of the best MacBooks you can buy... even if the price is a premium.

I'll have a full review of the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro, 2023) for you soon. For now, here is an early look at the new Apple laptop.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro, 2023): Specs

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro, 2023): Design and display

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023)
MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023)

The new MacBook Pro 16-inch features the same sturdy, squared-off aluminum chassis as its predecessors. It's also the same size and weight, coming in at 14.01 x 9.77 x 0.66 inches and 4.7 pounds (4.8 for the M3 Max model). You'll also find the same port selection as before, namely three Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports, an HDMI port, a MagSafe charging port, a headphone jack and an SD memory card slot.

As before, the 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display has super thin bezels that allow you to see more of the screen. Before you ask, no, the notch in the top center of the screen hasn't gone away — neither is it a Dynamic Island as the internet got way too excited about earlier this week. But as I've said before, I don't mind the notch on 16-inch MacBook Pros, since the overall screen size makes the notch appear smaller.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023)
MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023)

Speaking about the display, it looks just as stunning on the new 16-inch laptop as before. It's bright, colorful and runs silky smooth thanks to its 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate. Our lab tests will reveal what this display can do, but given how it's the same display featured on its predecessors, we expect similar excellent results.

The last thing worth mentioning is the new Space Black color. Yes, it looks incredible, but the best part is that the finish has an anodization seal that reduces fingerprints. This isn't just marketing bluster as I experienced this myself when I checked out the device. The few fingerprints I could leave on the lid disappeared in seconds or were barely visible. I probably shouldn't get as excited about a new color as I am, but it's really impressive stuff.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro, 2023): Performance

M3, M3 Pro and M3 Ultra
M3, M3 Pro and M3 Ultra

We can't judge performance until we've put the new MacBook Pro 16-inch through our series of performance tests. But if Apple's claims are true, then we could see some stunning results thanks to the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips powering this monster notebook.

The M3’s CPU is receiving improvements over previous M-series chips. Apple says the performance cores are up to 30% faster than Apple M1, while efficiency cores are up to 50% faster. The M3 line will apparently have the same multi-core performance as M1 but use as little as half the power — up to 35% more performance at peak power, according to Apple.

The M3 Pro chip has 37 billion transistors and an 18-core GPU that’s up to 40% faster than M1 Pro. This chip has a 12-core CPU (6 performance, 6 efficiency) that can deliver up to 30% faster single-threaded performance over M1 Pro. M3 Pro has up to 36GB of unified memory.

M3 Family
M3 Family

As for the M3 Max, it packs 92 billion transistors, up to a 40-core GPU that’s 50% faster than M1 Max and a 16-core CPU (12 performance, 4 efficiency) that’s up to 80% faster than M1 Max. On top of that, this processor can support up to 128GB of unified memory --- which is absolutely insane! But if you're a video editor who works with 8K videos, that mind-boggling amount of memory will serve you well.

The new M3 chips have an enhanced Neural Engine meant to accelerate machine learning (ML) models This Neural Engine is up to 60% faster than in the M1 series, says Apple. M3 processors also have an advanced media engine that provides hardware acceleration for video codecs like H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW. The media engine also supports AV1 decoding, which is a first for Mac.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro, 2023): Graphics and gaming

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023)
MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023)

The M3 lineup has an enhanced GPU containing a new feature called Dynamic Caching. This allocates the use of local memory in hardware in real time and only uses the exact amount of memory needed for specific tasks. According to Apple, this feature is an industry first and will increase the performance of demanding applications and video games.

Hardware-accelerated ray tracing makes its debut on Mac thanks to the new M3 chips. The new GPU also brings hardware-accelerated mesh shading to Mac. This should all result in higher-quality graphics with more accurate lighting and detailed environments. Apple says the M3 GPU delivers the same performance as M1 at half the power — up to 65% more performance at its peak.

During a previous Mac gaming event, I got to check out Layers of Fear running on a 16-inch MacBook Pro sporting an M2 Max chip. Its graphical fidelity impressed me then, but I was blown away seeing the same title on an M3 machine. The ray-traced reflections I saw in mirrors and puddles made the horror game feel more frightening. Baldur's Gate 3 and Lies of P also looked and ran phenomenally on M3 with impressive amounts of detail in textures.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro, 2023): Battery life

The MacBook Pro 16-inch I reviewed earlier this year has the longest-lasting battery of any laptop we've tested, clocking in at an epic 18 hours and 56 minutes. If what Apple says about the new laptop is true, it will also have more than all-day battery life.

According to Apple, MacBook Pros kitted with M3 Pro and M3 Max chips have up to 18 hours of Apple TV app movie playback and up to 12 hours of wireless web surfing. Configurations featuring an M3 Pro with an 11-core CPU come with a 70W USB-C power adapter, while a 96W adapter comes with models packing M3 Pro with a 12-core CPU or with the M3 Max. You can update to this adapter if you bought a model with an M3 Pro with 11 CPU cores. The 96W adapter features fast charging.

Space Black versions of the MacBook Pro come with a matching MagSafe power cable, which is a nice touch.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023): Outlook

The 16-inch MacBook Pros with M-series chip have consistently been among my favorite laptops, and the M3 Pro and M3 Max-driven notebooks look set to continue that trend. Not only do we get the same sleek modern design we've come to love, but we're also getting a fetching new color and a potentially massive boost in performance. Stay tuned for our full review!

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