M3 chips: what does Apple actually bring to them?
November 1, 2023

M3 chips: what does Apple actually bring to them?

The new, third generation of Apple processors, or M3 chips, contain, as before, three categories: M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max models. They power the newly introduced 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro computers, among others, and the entry-level is also found in the new 24″ iMac device.

The biggest improvement they bring is their GPU components, which aim to improve the performance of professional applications and gaming. They support hardware-accelerated RayTracing, but also Mesh shading effects, which is the first time that Apple silicon has such a thing. M3 chips are also the first processors of the Cupertino company created in the 3 nm production process, which represents the first implementation of this technology in personal computers.

The base category of third-generation processors has an eight-core CPU with one cluster of four high-performance cores and another with four energy-efficient cores. The GPU part has a new architecture and 10 cores and is said to be 65 percent faster than the M1 chip when it comes to graphics. The M3 chip supports up to 24 GB of RAM, or, as Apple says, unified memory.

The next, M3 Pro variant has a twelve-core CPU, where six cores are designated for high performance (P) and the other six are energy efficient (E) cores. It is supported by an even stronger GPU arrangement with as many as 18 cores, which, the company claims, is 40 percent faster than the M1 Pro chip, and has a capacity for up to 36 GB of combined memory.

The best of its generation, the M3 Max chip has 16 CPU cores of which 12 are P-cores and only 4 are E-cores. It has support for up to 128GB of RAM and features a 40-core GPU. This chipset is 50 percent faster than the same M1 generation model, while the graphics itself is reportedly an incredible 80 percent better in performance, given that the M2 Max was 30 percent faster than its predecessor last year.

Support for RayTracing lighting effects means that the M3 chips have managed to achieve features that Nvidia, AMD and Arm GPUs already have, seen on consoles, PCs and Windows laptops. Hardware-accelerated Mesh Shading enables developers to enhance complex scenes in GPU-intensive games and applications.

The Apple M3 silicon also has a Dynamic Caching function that allocates exactly the memory needed for the GPU. The company points out that this feature is an industry debut, and that developers will like it because they don't have to deal with it, which is transparent and automatic progress.

In addition to the mentioned features, all M3 chips have an improved Neural Engine, which helps accelerate machine learning models, however, the capabilities in the form of numbers in this segment are not listed.

Energy efficiency should be high for all three members of the third generation of Apple chips, precisely thanks to the 3 nm production process, which corresponds to the A17 Pro platform for the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro Max phones.

During its Scary Fast event, which showcased the chips as well as some of the devices they power, Apple compared the performance of the M3's CPU and GPU capabilities to an Intel Core i7 1360P processor that has an entry-level Iris Xe graphics chip, claiming it delivers the same performance at only 25 percent of the energy used.

Some of the devices powered by these chips are already available for pre-order, while those with M3 Max processors will become available later in November.