Thursday, July 25, 2024

MacBook Pro 14-Inch (M3 Max) Review: Superpowered!

Scary Fast — Apple’s invite for the October Mac event hid a spoiler for its new MacBook Pro range in plain sight. The event saw a new M3 family of chips alongside all-new MacBook Pro and iMac models. In the last few weeks, we have been reviewing the 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max chip to see how it can handle some extreme workflows, and we can say that it’s an absolute beast. Honestly, the idea of this review was to see where exactly the MacBook Pro with M3 Max sweats while handling multiple complex tasks, and we are happily disappointed. But, in this review, we will also talk about who should opt for the M3, M3 Pro or M3 Max-based laptop — after all, these are some of the most expensive laptops available in India. While there are multiple SKU options, the new MacBook Pro lineup can justify their price comfortably. 

This year, Apple has tried to tap into different target audiences — students, entrepreneurs, creators, or even a combination of all three with its baseline M3 chip — next, coders, creative artists, and researchers with M3 Pro. The top-of-the-line M3 Max pushes the boundary further and is an ideal machine for AI developers, 3D artists, and video editors. The best part is that Apple, for the first time, aggressively marketed gaming for its latest MacBook line, which we will also dive into sometime.

As someone who purchased the first-generation Apple silicon, which still functions flawlessly, the M3 Max resembles a car with bullet train speeds. Enough of drum roles; let’s get started with this review. 


MacBook Pro 14-Inch Review: Price in India and Specifications

The MacBook Pro 14-inch model price in India starts at Rs. 1,69,900 for the M3 chip model with basic configurations of 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 8GB unified memory, and 512GB SSD storage. The M3 Pro baseline variant is available at Rs. 1,99,900 and offers an 11-core CPU, 14-core GPU, 18GB unified memory, and 512GB SSD storage. For the 14-inch Pro model, the M3 Max variant starts at Rs. 3,19,900. It’s also worth noting that the MacBook Pro 14-inch comes in Space Grey and Silver colours in M3 baseline trims, while the all-new Space Black is exclusive to M3 Pro and M3 Max trims along with Silver.

Our review unit has an M3 Max chip with a 16-core CPU, 40-core GPU, 16-core Neural engine, 128GB unified memory, and 8TB SSD storage — priced at Rs. 6,89,900. 

macbook pro 14 g360 review2 MacBook Pro 14-inch Design


MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Max)

Display: 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with 3024×1964 pixels up to 1600 nits peak brightness (HDR) and 120Hz refresh rate
Processor: Up to 16-core CPU with 12 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, up to 40-core GPU, 16-core Neural engine
Operating System: macOS Sonoma
Memory: 18GB to 128GB unified memory
Storage: 512GB SSD to 8TB SSD (M3 Max)
Dimensions and weight: 312.6×221.2×15.5mm, 1.62 kilogram
Webcam: 1080p FaceTime HD camera
Speaker setup: a 6-speaker sound system with Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio support
Keyboard: Backlit Magic Keyboard with Touch ID
Connectivity: Wi-FI 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.3
Ports: 3 Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C), HDMI port and SDXC slot
Battery and charger: 72.4 watt-hour battery with 96W USB-C power adapter, MagSafe 3 charging port

MacBook Pro 14-Inch Review: Design and display

Back in Black! After some gap, Apple re-introduced a dark shade in the Pro lineup, and the finish in the MacBook Pro is gorgeous. Soon after the launch, many Mac enthusiasts were happy to see Space Black back in the lineup as Apple has had a long history of dark colourways going back as far back as the 1990s. Interestingly, the Space Black colour on the Pro looks different depending on the light conditions, but for those who are Black colour fans, there is a slight disappointment as this one is more Grey than Black. But most people familiar with Apple’s colour ways may already know that. 

macbook pro 14 g360 review4 MacBook Pro 14-inch Design


The chamfered edges on the laptop express premium-ness, while the company’s anodisation finish helps reduce fingerprints during daily use. However, more can be done as we saw the palm rest area picking up some smudges alongside the sides of the keyboard. However, it’s worth pointing out that it is better than the previous-gen MacBook Pros. By its solid looks, the Macbook Pro gives the impression that it’s a laptop built to last, and we don’t doubt that.

Apple claims that the enclosure is created from a custom alloy that uses 100 recycled aluminium, and no doubt, this material is incredibly durable. This way, Apple contributes to its goal of carbon-neutral products by 2030.

As always, the MacBook Pro is among a handful of laptops that one can open (the lid) or close with a finger. The closing snap is satisfying and a cherry on the cake in regular use. At 1.62 kilograms and over 15mm, the laptop is neither light nor thin, but you can live with all that firepower. It took us a few days to adjust to MacBook Pro 14-inch from the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro, which is 12.5mm thin and around 1.5 kilograms, which was our daily driver earlier.

The Magic keyboard is excellent for professionals like writers or coders typing, while the trackpad is responsive and large enough for precise cursor movements and multi-touch gestures. In fact, we are typing this review on the MacBook Pro, and it’s an enjoyable experience. Apart from typing, the keyboard is also apt for gaming, though if you’re into hardcore gaming, you may rely on wireless controllers.

macbook pro 14 g360 review3 MacBook Pro 14-inch Display


Coming to the display, the 14-inch MacBook Pro isn’t a giant leap from the MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro model. However, enhancements like SDR content now appear brighter on the laptop. In numbers, the new Pro model brightness is 600 nits max for SDR content — up from 500 nits in the last iteration. It’s not very noticeable in everyday use, but it’s still a bump. The display is smooth and crisp, and the text is sharp and bright under light conditions. If you end up working out of any location, be it an open cafe or the cab’s rear seat, then the MacBook Pro 14-inch model should be a good fit. The laptop is excellent for multimedia as it packs a stunning display.

The notch is the only place where the MacBook Pro 14-inch still looked stuck in the old generation. It sits right in the middle, staring at you, and the big black spot on the screen doesn’t go well. We would have preferred it if Apple brought the iPhone Pro model’s Dynamic Island-like treatment to the MacBook Pro line. But I guess we will have to wait a few more years for that change. If you ask if the display notch on the Mac is a deal breaker, we would say not because it serves its purpose to full use. One feature we missed on the MacBook Pro 14-inch is the touchscreen support. It would have given it an edge.

The Touch ID is quick and works flawlessly. The laptop packs enough connectivity ports, and the FaceTime camera offers good clarity on video calls. 

Overall, the MacBook Pro 14-inch is a great laptop for people on the go and who cannot compromise on the display part. The MacBook Pro 14-inch packs one of the best displays in the 14-inch form factor we have reviewed lately. 

macbook pro 14 g360 review5 MacBook Pro 14-inch Keyboard


MacBook Pro 14-Inch Review: Performance and gaming

With the new M3 line of chips, Apple has aimed to deliver performance without sacrificing portability. With enhanced capabilities like handling 8K video edits and more serious gaming, the all-new MacBook Pro models enable nearly impossible workflows on a device with this form factor. 

Coming to real-world performance, the M3 Max can handle tasks much more smoothly than the M1 and M2 (on the MacBook Air 15-inch), which we used for our reference to compare the MacBook Pro with the M3 Max for this review. From launching apps to multitasking, the MacBook Pro is snappy. Since we enabled unlocking your Mac with your Apple Watch feature, we could get going on the laptop as soon as we opened the lid, which was also cool, considering that every time we used this feature, heads were turning. 

macbook pro 14 g360 review8 MacBook Pro 14-inch Ports


We had an absolute blast playing titles like Baldur’s Gate 3, Metro Exodus, Lies of P and Divinity: Original Sin 2 on the MacBook Pro. I’m not a huge gaming fan, but ever since I watched Baldur’s Gate 3 during the Apple Mac event, I wanted to try my hands on this title. I noted the maximum and minimum FPS I could record during the gameplay in the chart below. 

gaming tests sheet g360 MacBook Pro 14-inch Gaming Test sheet


Undoubtedly, the Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch is my favourite laptop with a 14-inch screen size for gaming. Notably, the fans remained silent for almost the entire review period except when we ran Baldur’s Gate 3 and simultaneously started a project on Final Cut Pro. However, most people won’t have this sort of testing scenario. And at the start, this review was to find out when exactly M3 Max got stressed. 

The built-in fingerprint scanner is quick and comes in handy in everyday tasks. However, the fingerprint sensor is quick, but considering the MacBook Pro comes with a hefty price, Face ID unlock could have been a good addition — enhancing the overall utility factor.

The best part about the MacBook Pro is it doesn’t hide all the firepower under the hood but has a package that has a powerful speaker and a vibrant screen to match consumers’ lighter demands, like multimedia consumption. The MacBook Pro 14-inch laptop packs the best speakers on a laptop of this size we have reviewed. Period.

benchmark sheet g360 MacBook Pro 14-inch Benchmark sheet


We ran some synthetic benchmark tests to see how well the MacBook Pro M3 Max fares, and we were blown away by the results. Interestingly, we repeated these tests on battery power, and to our surprise, these figures stayed almost identical even on battery power — that tells you enough about the powerhouse M3 range. 

We also ran some CPU-based benchmark tests like the Handbrake video encoding test, and the MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 Max recorded a score of 4.85, just behind the 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Max model of 4.52. We found similar results on the MP4 encode test (1080p 30), where the M3 Max-powered 14-inch MacBook Pro was only behind its bigger sibling, the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

In fact, hat tip to the Max Tech YouTube channel that compared 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max models. The comparison showed that the 16-inch model is a better choice for creators as its performance doesn’t dip when compared to 14-inch models.

Talking about the connectivity ports, the MacBook Pro offers enough options — three Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI, an SDXC slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack. For charging, the laptop houses MagSafe, which means you can use all your Thunderbolt ports, which is a good thing. 

macbook pro 14 g360 review7 MacBook Pro 14-inch Connectivity


At the beginning of this review, we pointed out that Apple this year has tried to tap into different target audiences like students, creators, and more. The best part is the new M3 line has something for all such consumers. While for students who want to have good graphics for handling projects and running intensive games, the M3 or M3 Pro is pretty capable. For the creator community, the M3 Max offers a one-stop solution, and not many laptops in the market can match it. 

MacBook Pro 14-Inch Review: Battery

Since the company shifted to Apple Silicon, Macs have been rated as incredible in terms of performance, but another department that has shown remarkable efficiency is the battery. When it launched, the MacBook Air M1 showed excellent battery backup, setting a benchmark for laptops. With the M3 Max, Apple looks to set the bar higher for the competition. We tested the battery prowess of the MacBook Pro in our video loop test; below is the result. The MacBook Pro (14-inch) beats all other 14-inch laptops hands down with its battery efficiency.

battery test sheet g360 MacBook Pro 14-inch Battery Test


The 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 Max lasted almost two days with light to medium tasks like typing emails and stories, editing articles, browsing websites for research, editing images on Photoshop, watching YouTube videos, minor edits video on Adobe Premiere Pro, and streaming shows on OTT platforms. With a mix of gaming, the MacBook Pro offered close to a full day of usage, with other tasks remaining almost identical, which is impressive.

With video editing thrown into the mix, things did get interesting. With Final Cut Pro used on the machine for a couple of hours, the overall battery dropped to around 9 hours. Mind you, the usage involved everyday tasks and a couple of hours of gaming on titles like Baldur’s Gate 3, Lies of P and more. The way MacBook Pro deliver battery output is still impressive by a considerable margin. Of course, in case you think you need more, there’s the MacBook Pro 16-inch with M3 Max on offer as well.

macbook pro 14 g360 review6 MacBook Pro 14-inch Charger


MacBook Pro 14-Inch Review: Verdict

The all-new MacBook Pro has everything that a power user would need for everyday tasks — a high-end desktop-grade performance, outstanding battery life, a best-in-class display in this size, and, to top it off, solid looks. The sheer raw power that M3 Max features makes it ideal for AI developers, 3D artists, gamers, and video content professionals. Anyone not falling in that category can either go M3 Pro if they have the budget or choose an M3 — if the everyday tasks don’t require intensive workflows. 

During the review, we realised that the MacBook Pro with M3 Max is great for working with demanding content across a variety of workflows, such as making intricate 3D models and SketchUp faster than before. 

The bottom line is if you’re looking for a laptop with multitasking, minor video edits, and casual gaming as the top priority, then the M3 chip-powered MacBook Pro with 8GB unified memory should be good, and it starts at Rs. 1,69,900. If the M3 Pro would fit your requirements, then the MacBook Pro 14-inch starts at Rs. 1,99,900. To compare, the M3 Max model with baseline specs of 14-core CPU, 30-core GPU, 36GB unified memory, and 1B SSD storage starts at Rs. 3,19,900. 

The MacBook Pro with M3 Max is the most Pro laptop Apple has ever built and is a mighty machine for power users. Its performance outclasses any other competition in the current laptop market.

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