Apple undoubtedly changed the game when it switched from Intel to its own chips back in 2020 but the upgrade from M1 to M2 wasn’t that huge of a leap. The jump to M3 is expected to be a bigger one in terms of performance improvements, and it’s just around the corner.
Apple’s first M3 Macs are rumored for launch sometime next year, including two laptops and one iconic desktop machine. But beyond that, we’ll see the entire Mac lineup updated to use the new silicon from 2024 onwards.
There’s still a lot we don’t know for certain, but the M3 leaks have been surprisingly plentiful in recent weeks — based on those, here’s what we know about Apple’s M3 chips so far.
Apple M3: The headlines
- What is it? Apple’s next line of chips that will upgrade existing M2-powered devices.
- When can we expect it? The first M3 chips are expected to arrive in new Macs in October 2023.
- Which devices will get M3? Eventually, all of them but the first will likely be the 24-inch iMac, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and 13-inch MacBook Air.
Apple M3: What is it?
The Apple M3 chip is the next generation of Apple silicon that will power Macs and iPads moving forward. Apple announced the M1 series of chips in late 2020 and kicked off the transition away from the Intel chips that were used in Macs at the time.
Since then we’ve seen the M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 chips arrive before the M2 debuted in 2022. Like the M1 that came before it, the M2 then received the M2 Pro, M2 Max, and even an M2 Ultra version.
With that in mind, it’s a given that we will see M3 Pro, M3 Max, and M3 Ultra versions of the M3 line arrive at some point, but they aren’t all expected to make an appearance until 2024.
Apple M3: Versions and specifications
The first chip that we expect Apple to announce will of course be the base model M3 and it’s expected to be similar to the M2 chip that is already available. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman shared details of what the entire lineup is likely to entail, including core counts for each one.
Based on Gurman’s information we can expect the M3 to have eight CPU cores with a further 10 GPU cores included. Speeds aren’t yet known, but four of those CPU cores are expected to be performance ones with the remaining four handling low-power tasks.
Next, we have the M3 Pro. Gurman believes that the base configuration M3 Pro will have 12 CPU cores (six performance and six efficiency) and 18 GPU cores. It’s thought that Apple is working on a high-end configuration of that chip that will increase the core counts to 14 CPU cores (eight performance and six efficiency) and 20 GPU cores, however.
Next, M3 Max. That chip is set to begin with 16 (12 performance and four efficiency) and 32 GPU cores with an optional configuration of 16 CPU cores (12 performance and four efficiency) and 40 GPU cores.
Finally, the range-topping M3 Ultra is set to come with a huge number of cores, even in the base configuration. That’ll come with 32 CPU cores (24 performance and eight efficiency) and 64 GPU cores while the top-end configuration will max out at 32 CPU cores (24 performance and eight efficiency) and 80 GPU cores.
It isn’t thought that we will get the fabled Extreme version, but if we do it’ll basically be two M3 Ultras in a single package. There have so far been no rumors to suggest that will happen, however.
The new M3 series of chips will be the first of their kind built on TSMC’s 3nm manufacturing process, similar to that of the iPhone 15 Pro’s A17. While that doesn’t mean improved performance on its own, it should allow the chips to use less power and generate less heat as a result — two things that can allow more cores and increased speeds to be offered without negatively impacting battery life or spinning up fans.
Apple M3: Which Macs and iPads will get it?
If the rumors turn out to be true we can expect Apple to announce new 13-inch MacBook Pro and 13-inch MacBook Air laptops with M3 chips sometime next year. An updated 24-inch iMac with the same M3 chip is also a probability since the all-in-one machine skipped the M2 entirely and is due for a refresh. A future M3 Mac mini will likely arrive, too, as will an updated 15-inch MacBook Air.
Beyond that, updated 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips are expected to debut in 2024, while updated Mac Studio hardware will likely get M3 Max and M3 Ultra chips. Whether or not an updated Mac Pro will get M3 Ultra silicon is anyone’s guess given Apple’s unknown stance on that particular computer.
Over on the iPad side, things are less clear. The main rumors we’ve heard to date revolve around the OLED iPad Pro, a tablet that is likely to use the M3 chip alongside a big display upgrade that is tipped to make this the biggest refresh to that lineup in some time.
Apple M3: What comes next?
It’s a bit early to look beyond the M3 family of chips just yet, but we can safely assume that M4 will arrive at some point. Apple is said to already be working on those chips, with M4 and M5 being tested internally. We may see M4 in 2024, but time will tell.
For now, all the best Macs are set to have M3 variants inside although it could be some months before we see that M3 Ultra make an appearance. With question marks remaining over whether the Mac Pro will get a new iteration at a time when the Mac Studio is perhaps the better option for most people, questions remain about what Apple’s range-topping Macs will look like this time next year.