M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro review 3 months later: Peak Mac with best-in-class performance

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in Current Mac Hardware

It's been three months since Apple launched its top-of-the-line 16-inch MacBook Pro with the new M3 Max processor. Let's revisit it to see how it's held up and if it really is "scary fast."

Apple's new 16-inch MacBook Pro on a table with peripherals plugged in
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review



While we test all Apple devices, our daily driver and productivity workhorse has been the MacBook Pro line. At the tail end of 2023, we upgraded our M2 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro to the new M3 Max version.

Before diving in to how the 2023 16-inch MacBook Pro has held up to our workflow, let's revisit the specs.

M3 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch review three months later: Specs



The late 2023 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros can come with an M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max processor on the inside. We've been using the aforementioned M3 Max since the first day of availability.

Our model was kitted-out with a 16-inch core CPU, 40-core GPU, and 64GB of memory.



Compared to the last generation, the late-2023 MacBook Pros moved from a 12-core max CPU to a 16-core and from a 38-core GPU to a 40-core max.

Memory now maxes out at 128GB up from the previous 96GB Max, but we still chose the 64GB option. It was only a $200 upgrade to go from 32GB to the 64GB configuration, but an additional $800 to move up to the 128GB.

Apple's memory prices are still exorbitant and 64GB was enough on our last-gen machine. So far, it's been a good capacity on this machine as well.

The left-side ports on the 16-inch MacBook Pro including MagSafe 3, Thunderbolt, and a headphone jack
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: Left-side ports



As for ports, there is nothing new to see here year-over-year. It's the same selection and layout as we had before. MagSafe 3, dual Thunderbolt, and a headphone jack are on the left and an SDXC card reader, solo Thunderbolt port, and an HDMI port are on the right.

For wireless connectivity, we're looking at Bluetooth 5.3 and Wi-Fi 6E.

The display is (nearly) the same with a slight boost in brightness. It's a 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion variable refresh rates up to 120Hz.

Glare on the 16-inch MacBook Pro's display
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: The new display is brighter to help with bright environments



Typical brightness has increased from 600 nits to 800 nits. It's not a monumental jump by any means, but when your desk could be anywhere in the sun -- including outside -- any increase is welcomed.

It seems to cut through the glare just a bit better than its predecessor, though nothing will counteract full sunlight.

The silver MacBook Pro versus the Space Black MacBook Pro
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: Silver versus Space Black



Finally, the new model comes in a Space Black color for the M3 Pro and M3 Max models alongside silver. The M3 version still has a Space Gray color in the lineup.

M3 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch review three months later: Revisiting the performance



We dove deeply into the performance in our initial review, but to recap at a high-level, the new M3 Max scored 3,209 on Geekbench's single-core test and 21,202 on the multi-core.

M3 Max Geekbench single-core results
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: M3 Max Geekbench single-core results



That's a substantial leap in performance over the M2 Max that was no slouch. The M2 Max scored 2,755 and 21,101 respectively under those same tests.

M3 Max Geekbench multi-core results
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: M3 Max Geekbench multi-core results



Graphically speaking, on the Geekbench OpenGL and Metal tests, the M3 Max earned 155,991 and 92,004. The M2 Max came in at 135,839 and 84,794.

M3 Max Geekbench GPU results
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: M3 Max Geekbench GPU results



It's still a far cry from the 219,609 Metal score and 127,999 OpenGL score that the M2 Ultra chip fetches in the Mac Pro but it has far more than the 40 GPU cores you can configure the M3 Max with.

M3 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch review three months later: Putting it to use



Using the M3 Max MacBook Pro has been a dream. It feels like the Mac in its truest form.

Opening apps is near-instant. Safari is fluid and smooth. Despite opening in excess of 80 tabs in Safari and having more than a dozen other apps running simultaneously, the Mac never seems to falter.

Exporting a video from Apple Final Cut Pro
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: Exporting a video in Final Cut Pro



Video exports are as fast as they've ever been. It takes us less than two minutes to export a 4K 13-minute video.

The M2 Max was already an exceptional chip, but like many aspects of this Mac, the M3 Max is a little bit better.

We've been fans of the new Space Black finish, which is worth revisiting. It's held up surprisingly well with so much use.

MagSafe 3 cable connected to the Space Black MacBook Pro
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: Space Black MagSafe 3 port



After three months of heavy daily use, there are no wear marks on the palm rests and it resists oil incredibly well. Since it's dark, it can still show dust, but it looks much nicer than the Midnight finish on the MacBook Air.

More importantly, it hasn't seemed to flake off around the ports. That was also a problem with the Midnight colorway and a concern here, too.

In our opinion, it is a little better than the Space Gray color, even if it isn't a true black.

SD card reader on the MacBook Pro
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: SD card reader



Similarly, the SD card reader holds us up. SD isn't the fastest medium, and even though Apple didn't provide the fastest reader possible, it will always be slow when transferring large files.

M3 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch review three months later: Looking to the future



It feels as if the Mac is having a moment right now. After a series of rough missteps, Apple is back on the right track.

For years we saw MacBooks plagued by keyboard issues, a drought of ports, and the love or hate Touch Bar. Those are all issues of the past.

There are no lingering keyboard reliability issues and we also saw the return of a wide variety of ports. This happened a few models back, but we're still reaping the benefits today.

Typing on the keyboard of the new MacBook Pro
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: Using the new MacBook Pro



The processors are now better than ever and the M3 series has pushed the limits of the power Apple can fit into a portable machine.

We're also on the precipice of new technology to push the Mac even further.

In January we saw the launch of Wi-Fi 7 that promises 4.8X the data speeds as Wi-Fi 6e. There's also Thunderbolt 5 coming with support for up to 120Gbps of data (up from 80Gbps), 240W of charging, and support for more external displays.

There's no guarantee we're getting those in a Mac in late 2024, but it's these technologies that now need to keep up with the excellent hardware Apple has created.

The new MacBook Pro sitting on a table
M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: Apple's latest laptop sitting on a table



As for right now, we're loving the 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Max and the sleek Space Black color. There weren't monumental changes over the prior model, but lots of small changes make it just a little bit better.

M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro review three months later: Pros

  • M3 Max is incredibly fast

  • Higher tier memory option available

  • Space Black color holds up well to oil and chips

  • Battery life is enough for standard workday

  • Peak Mac performance

M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro review three months later: Cons

  • Upgrade prices still hit your wallet hard

  • Space Black isn't quite dark enough

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro long-term review: Where to buy



Deals are in effect now on Apple's latest MacBook Pro, with savings of up to $350 off in our M3 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch Price Guide.

With coupon code APINSIDER, you can save triple digits on every configuration at Apple Authorized Reseller Adorama in addition to $80 off AppleCare.

You can also easily compare prices on every set of specs in the Price Guide from retailers like Amazon, B&H and Best Buy. The AppleInsider Deals Team covers the best MacBook Pro deals throughout the week, highlighting discounts on both current and closeout models as well.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    This is the best notebook apple has made so far in every way. 

    M3 max at 40 core GPU is insanity. 

    The only negative for me is the space black color. 

    Went to the Apple Store shortly after it came out to see what color suited, and was completely underwhelmed. Reminded me of my girlfriend’s old Toshiba. The silver in the other hand is timeless and looks the most “apple.” Something about that appearance and resembling a raw piece of aluminum milled into a computer. Has such a premium look. The black just looks basic and plain. 

    But I hear many like it, so there’s subjectivity. 

    Ended up not purchasing m3 yet. Got something to tide me over until the m4 max/ultra. If a new 32” iMac materializes, that’s what I’ll ge with a companion 15” MacBook Air. If not, an m4 max MacBook Pro wil have to do. 
    jeffharris
  • Reply 2 of 13
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,093member
    My M2 MBP is the best laptop I’ve ever owned.  I love the space grey finish more than the black.  Not sure why that gets all the attention.

    it has me excited to see what Apple does with the chips in the next few years when I’m ready to retire my 2020 iMac.  
    tcadams429secondkox2williamlondonjeffharris
  • Reply 3 of 13
    Same. I actually have the M1 Pro, and it blows my old laptop out of the water!  And yes to retiring the 2020 iMac. Even with upgraded Ram, it’s still slower than my M1 

    sflocal said:
    My M2 MBP is the best laptop I’ve ever owned.  I love the space grey finish more than the black.  Not sure why that gets all the attention.

    it has me excited to see what Apple does with the chips in the next few years when I’m ready to retire my 2020 iMac.  

    edited February 21 9secondkox2
  • Reply 4 of 13
    High Apple memory prices may be due, in part, to extensive memory testing at the memory supplier to weed out bad or unreliable memory.  Apple may also specify a low die defect level that rules out many memory chips on the wafer.  I was once responsible for worldwide memory quality for a major computer manufacturer and we took the same approach.  

    Memory errors can result from weak or defective bits.  A memory error may not matter for photo editing or web browsing but if the computer is used for scientific or precise technical calculations, memory quality is important.  

    Apple used to offer ECC (error corrected) memory in its most powerful computers.  In the absence of ECC memory, I will pay Apple’s higher memory prices every time.  I’m paying for quality.  
    Xedjeffharrisloquituram8449
  • Reply 5 of 13
    How quiet is the M3 Max processor in normal use and under intensive operations?  Does it hit the thermal limit quickly?  Thanks!
    jeffharrisbengt77
  • Reply 6 of 13
    Perfect timing!

    I finally got sick of my 2019 i9 MacBook Pro, 32GB RAM, slowing down to a nearly frozen crawl every day. 
    Restarts, clearing RAM, quitting Safari have been temporary fixes. 
    Been struggling with running out of space on my 2TB SSD, constantly offloading files.

    Ordered a 16” MBP M3 Max, 16‑core CPU, 40‑core GPU with 128GB RAM and 4TB SSD! 
    SILVER! A black MacBook Pro just seems kind of sacrilegious.
    Getting it NEXT WEEK!

    Looked GeekBench speed comparisons and the M3 max is something like a solid 4x the speed on everything.
    It ought to be able to whip Vectorworks into submission.

    — Just got an email… Out for delivery! 
    edited February 22 netrox
  • Reply 7 of 13
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,419member
    Perfect timing!

    I finally got sick of my 2019 i9 MacBook Pro, 32GB RAM, slowing down to a nearly frozen crawl every day. 
    Restarts, clearing RAM, quitting Safari have been temporary fixes. 
    Been struggling with running out of space on my 2TB SSD, constantly offloading files.

    Ordered a 16” MBP M3 Max, 16‑core CPU, 40‑core GPU with 128GB RAM and 4TB SSD! 
    SILVER! A black MacBook Pro just seems kind of sacrilegious.
    Getting it NEXT WEEK!

    Looked GeekBench speed comparisons and the M3 max is something like a solid 4x the speed on everything.
    It ought to be able to whip Vectorworks into submission.

    — Just got an email… Out for delivery! 

    You'll love it. I had 2019 Intel laptop. I hated it. It was so hot and ran only few hours on battery. I decided to trade in for M2 MacBook Air with 16GB RAM and OMG! The difference is day and night! It runs all day. It is cool to touch. It is much faster in everything than the old MacBook Pro despite lacking the Pro features. I would imagine that I'd be ectastic with M3 Max if I needed that much power. 

    Apple did the right thing to move to its own silicon chips. 



    williamlondonjeffharris
  • Reply 8 of 13
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,277member
    jagrahax said:
    High Apple memory prices may be due, in part, to extensive memory testing at the memory supplier to weed out bad or unreliable memory.  Apple may also specify a low die defect level that rules out many memory chips on the wafer.  I was once responsible for worldwide memory quality for a major computer manufacturer and we took the same approach.  

    Memory errors can result from weak or defective bits.  A memory error may not matter for photo editing or web browsing but if the computer is used for scientific or precise technical calculations, memory quality is important.  

    Apple used to offer ECC (error corrected) memory in its most powerful computers.  In the absence of ECC memory, I will pay Apple’s higher memory prices every time.  I’m paying for quality.  
    I hope this is true but I’d like independent verification. 
  • Reply 9 of 13
    netrox said:
    Perfect timing!

    I finally got sick of my 2019 i9 MacBook Pro, 

    Ordered a 16” MBP M3 Max, 16‑core CPU, 40‑core GPU with 128GB RAM and 4TB SSD! .

    — Just got an email… Out for delivery! 

    You'll love it. I had 2019 Intel laptop. I hated it. It was so hot and ran only few hours on battery. I decided to trade in for M2 MacBook Air with 16GB RAM and OMG! The difference is day and night! It runs all day. It is cool to touch. It is much faster in everything than the old MacBook Pro despite lacking the Pro features. I would imagine that I'd be ectastic with M3 Max if I needed that much power. 

    Apple did the right thing to move to its own silicon chips. 
    Battery life on my 2019 Intel MBP is less than 2 hours. Granted, it’s usually plugged into my CalDigit TS3+..
    I do 2D/3D CAD and photoshop work, so I need the horsepower.

    Migration Assistant is doing it’s thing now…
  • Reply 10 of 13
    How quiet is the M3 Max processor in normal use and under intensive operations?  Does it hit the thermal limit quickly?  Thanks!
    That's what I want to know as well. I am waiting for the M3 Mac Studios to come out, but the wait is proving to be quite long. I might buy an M3 Max MacBook Pro instead, if the new Mac Studios aren't introduced next month. But I want a silent machine; I don't want to hear it. If that rules out a MacBook Pro, then I would really like to know that before deciding which way to go.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    jagrahax said:
    High Apple memory prices may be due, in part, to extensive memory testing at the memory supplier to weed out bad or unreliable memory.  Apple may also specify a low die defect level that rules out many memory chips on the wafer.  I was once responsible for worldwide memory quality for a major computer manufacturer and we took the same approach.  

    Memory errors can result from weak or defective bits.  A memory error may not matter for photo editing or web browsing but if the computer is used for scientific or precise technical calculations, memory quality is important.  

    Apple used to offer ECC (error corrected) memory in its most powerful computers.  In the absence of ECC memory, I will pay Apple’s higher memory prices every time.  I’m paying for quality.  
    Your comment is total BS.  Apple used regular off the shelf memory chips by suppliers like Hynix, etc.  Apple for decades has had a ridiculous markup and they still do, even worse on their SSDs.  Now you are stuck with the Apple Tax and getting ripped off on memory and SSDs.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 13
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,322moderator
    bengt77 said:
    How quiet is the M3 Max processor in normal use and under intensive operations?  Does it hit the thermal limit quickly?  Thanks!
    That's what I want to know as well. I am waiting for the M3 Mac Studios to come out, but the wait is proving to be quite long. I might buy an M3 Max MacBook Pro instead, if the new Mac Studios aren't introduced next month. But I want a silent machine; I don't want to hear it. If that rules out a MacBook Pro, then I would really like to know that before deciding which way to go.
    It depends on what's being run on it and for how long. Intensive CPU processes tend to never push the fan noise up but things like game engines can hit the CPU and GPU continually so the fan noise can ramp up:



    At 1:50, the PC is running the fans loud all the time but the Macs are silent. At 6:55 when there's a scene running at 200FPS, the fans ramp up. But this doesn't need to be running at 200FPS, if the game engine is capped at 60FPS, the Macs will run near silently all the time. Sometimes the rendering is at Retina resolution too where it can be set lower.

    Video encoding with Handbrake for hours is silent, code compilation is silent, 3D rendering is silent. Game engine uncapped has fan noise, capped is silent.

    There's a test here looping 225 audio tracks at 4:40 while screen recording:



    It's really uncommon for the fans to spin up on M-series Macs, it's only if the chip is maxed out for a while.

    The Pro chips run cooler than Max so if noise level is more important than performance, consider the lower power chip and the 16" runs cooler than the 14".
    am8449
  • Reply 13 of 13
    How quiet is the M3 Max processor in normal use and under intensive operations?  Does it hit the thermal limit quickly?  Thanks!
    I've only had my M3, 16/40, 128GB RAM a few days, so haven't really pushed it. .
    Did a bunch of 3D rendering with Vectorworks yesterday.
    I had one page from a design develoment set with 10 viewports showing different 3D angles of different rooms in an apartment, with plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, some furniture, rather complicated windows and a few textures.

    With my 2019 Intel MacBook Pro 2.4Ghz, 32GB RAM, it was taking 10+ minutes to render all the viewports. With my MBP M3, 128GB RAM it was less than 2 minutes. 
    The things quiet and cool.

    One interesting thing I discovered. I have a 2018 27" Viewsonic VP2771 IPS monitor.
    Its specs say it's a 2K monitor
     (2560 x 1440), but the M3 can drive it at 4K and also 3 different resolutions between them! I was stunned. Nice bonus!
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