The New M3 MacBook Pro: One Photographer's View After 3 Days

The New M3 MacBook Pro: One Photographer's View After 3 Days

The 2023 MacBook Pro is the latest evolution of Apple's iconic pro laptop lineup. The 2023 redesign brings some major changes, including the new M3 family of Apple silicon chips, a refined design now available in Space Black, and an upgraded display, camera, and connectivity. In this review, we take a deep dive into the latest model and its powerful features.


The 2023 MacBook Pro comes with the following options and features:

  • Available in 14-inch and 16-inch sizes
  • New M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max Apple silicon chips
    • M3 has 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
    • M3 Pro options include:
      • 11-core CPU, 14-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
      • 12-core CPU, 18-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
      • 14-core CPU, 30-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
    • M3 Max options include:
      • 14-core CPU, 30-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine (with more performance cores than comparable M3 Pro configuration)
      • 16-core CPU, 40-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
  • M3 Max features Dynamic Caching, two video encode engines, two ProRes engines, and AV1 decode
  • 8 GB, 16 GB, 18 GB, 24 GB, 32 GB, 36 GB, 48 GB, 64 GB, 96 GB, or 128 GB unified memory (options depend on chip configuration)
  • 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, or 8 TB SSD storage
  • Liquid Retina XDR display
    • 14-inch is 3,024 x 1,964 resolution
    • 16-inch is 3,456 x 2,234 resolution
    • Pro Motion 120 Hz variable refresh rate
    • 1,600 nits peak brightness 
    • 1,000 nits sustained brightness
    • P3 Wide Color Gamut
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
  • Two or Three Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • Six Spatial Sound Speakers
  • Three mics with directional beamforming
  • Full-size backlit Magic Keyboard with Touch ID
  • Force Touch trackpad
  • HDMI, SDXC card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • MagSafe 3 charging port
  • Bluetooth 5.3 wireless technology
  • 140 W, 96 W, or 70 W USB-C power adapter with Magsafe 3
  • Available in Silver and Space Gray (14-inch) or Silver and Space Black (16-inch)
  • Weight: 4.8 lb / 2.2 kg (16-inch) or 3.6 lbs / 1.6 kg (14-inch)
  • Battery life: 18 hours (14-inch) or 22 hours (16-inch)
  • Starts at $1,599 for 14-inch model and $2,499 for 16-inch model


The Space Black finish looks really good. 

The 2023 MacBook Pro retains the refined and minimalist aesthetic that the lineup is known for, with a 100% recycled all-aluminum unibody enclosure that looks sharp and feels rugged. The 16-inch model I reviewed weighs 4.7 pounds, which is good for a 16-inch laptop. Even with the larger screen size, it remains highly portable. New for this year is a Space Black color option, which has a strikingly sleek look and feel. The Space Black finish is a deep, dark black that looks professional and shows very few fingerprints, thanks to what Apples says is a "breakthrough chemistry that forms an anodization seal.: After seeing it, I can say it's a gorgeous new color that helps the MacBook Pro stand out while still retaining its understated and modern elegance. If you're looking for a pro-level laptop that can be easily slipped into a bag and taken anywhere, the new MacBook Pro delivers that portability.

Chip, RAM, and Performance

The 2023 MacBook Pro I reviewed is equipped with the new M3 Max chip, which features a 16-core CPU and a beastly 40-core GPU. It also has 48 GB of superfast unified memory. I appreciated that I wasn't reviewing the highest-level configuration, as not everyone will purchase the top models, so it's good to see what the middle configurations can do. Nonetheless, this hardware enables some seriously impressive performance perfect for demanding creative workflows. Apple says: "the 14‑inch MacBook Pro with M3 is up to 60 percent faster than the 13‑inch MacBook Pro with M1... Render performance in Final Cut Pro is up to 7.4x faster than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Core i7... and Filter and function performance in Adobe Photoshop is up to 3x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro." For those interested in benchmark numbers, the M3 series chips generally score 15-20% better on Cinebench tests than their equivalent M2 counterparts. The one exception is the M3 Max, which absolutely blows the M2 Max out of the water with a 57% improvement in multicore score. 

Real-world use reflects these benchmark improvements. I edited 8K video footage with tons of effects, and the MacBook Pro handled it flawlessly. Scrubbing the timeline and previewing edits were smooth as butter. Export times were remarkably fast. Compared to older machines which would struggle with this workload, the M3 Max chews through heavy video projects with ease.

The same power extends to tasks like mathematical modeling, complex geoprocessing and meteorological analysis, large Photoshop edits, and more. GPU-accelerated effects saw major speed boosts. Simply put, the M3 Max provides desktop-class performance in a slim, portable form factor, which should please creatives who need power wherever they are. 


All Pro models come with an SSD configurable in five capacities: 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, or 8 TB. I would recommend most people opt for at least a TB, particularly if you spend a lot of time on the road or work with large amounts of photos and video. In terms of speed, it's extremely fast and will keep up with whatever you throw at it. 


The cooling system on the new MacBook Pro is quite effective given its slim design. Despite packing the potent M3 Max chip, the fans almost never spin up significantly during normal use. Thanks to the excellent efficiency of Apple's silicon, light tasks like web browsing, email, and basic photo edits won't push the chips hard enough to require high levels of active cooling. Even during moderately intensive use like some video editing, I didn't hear the fans come on. It's only when really hammering the components for sustained periods that you'll notice the fans kick in strongly to keep temperatures in check. Even then, the fans are quite quiet compared to traditional laptops. The thermal system dissipates heat quietly and efficiently when needed. But the reality is the M3 series of chips are powerful enough that this laptop rarely breaks a sweat, allowing it to run cool and quiet the vast majority of the time.


The Liquid Retina XDR display on the new MacBook Pro is simply stunning. It features mini-LED backlighting with a whopping 1,600 nits peak brightness and 1,000 nits sustained full-screen brightness. That enables remarkable high dynamic range capabilities, with inky blacks, vibrant colors, and incredible contrast. Shadow details are perfectly visible even in dark scenes and highlights gleam without blowing out, which is excellent news for those who like to push their edits. I'm a fan of the 500-nit screen on my M2 MacBook Air, but the upgrade here is notable. 

The display is absolutely beautiful.

The panel also covers the wide P3 color gamut, displaying a good range of colors for editing work. Apple has integrated ProMotion technology as well, allowing refresh rates up to 120 Hz for smoother motion clarity and improved battery life when fast refresh rates aren't needed. Everything on this screen looks fluid and crisp. The combination of extreme brightness, contrast, and variable refresh rates make this the best laptop display I've ever seen. Whether viewing content or creating it, the Liquid Retina XDR screen provides an unparalleled visual experience. Even just working on everyday tasks, everything looks vibrant and lifelike. As someone who regularly switches between a MacBook Air, a Windows laptop, two desktop displays, and this Pro model, it's impressive how far and above the Liquid Retina XDR display is.


The MacBook Pro comes with a Full HD 1080p FaceTime HD camera combined with ISP and the Neural Engine in the M3 Pro and M3 Max for computationally enhanced video quality. In practice, image quality is crisp and looks good in a variety of lighting conditions. 

Battery and Charging

Apple Silicon has been lauded for providing impressive battery life thanks to its high levels of efficiency, and that continues here. The 14-inch model comes with a 72.4 Wh battery rated for 18 hours of life, while the 16-inch model features a 100 Wh battery rated for 22 hours. In practice, I found these estimates to be right in line with my normal usage patterns, which normally include heavy browsing (including video playback), Photoshop work, meteorology analysis, and music production. I was highly impressed with the MacBook Pro's ability to just keep going and going. It is a great feeling to be able to drop it in my bag on even the longest days and known that I don't need to worry about being near an outlet. 

Of course, every laptop needs to be charged eventually, and the fast-charge capability is always nice to have. Fast charge allows you to add 50% to the battery in 30 minutes, and that's great for when I forget to charge it up, as it means I can plug it in while I get ready for work in the morning, and it'll be ready to last all day by the time I head out the door. Though the MacBook Pro can be charged over USB-C, having MagSafe is always nice, and it has saved me several times over the years, particularly in a house with several dogs and cats running around!

Ports and Connectivity

The M3 MacBook Pro comes with:

  • SDXC card slot

  • HDMI port

  • 3.5 mm headphone jack

  • MagSafe 3 port

  • Two or Three Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports with support for:
    • Charging
    • DisplayPort
    • Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40 Gb/s)
    • USB 4 (up to 40 Gb/s)

The 14-inch M3 model comes with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, while the M3 Pro and M3 Max and all 16-inch models come with three Thunderbolt 4 ports. Those looking to have their MacBook Pro pull double duty by using it at their desk will be pleased to see the following external display support (in tandem with the internal display): 


  • One external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz

M3 Pro

  • Up to two external displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt, or one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60 Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 4K resolution at 144 Hz over HDMI
  • One external display supported at 8K resolution at 60 Hz or one external display at 4K resolution at 240 Hz over HDMI

M3 Max

  • Up to four external displays: Up to three external displays with 6K resolution at 60 Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 4K resolution at 144 Hz over HDMI
  • Up to three external displays: Up to two external displays with 6K resolution at 60 Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 8K resolution at 60 Hz or one external display with 4K resolution at 240 Hz over HDMI

The Pro and Max models certainly have the horsepower to handle those extra displays, and as someone who always appreciates more screen real estate, I certainly enjoyed those capabilities, using up to three (including the built-in) displays at once. It made it much easier for me to work on particularly complex projects. The Wi-Fi 6E connection is plenty speedy, and I had no problem maxing out my 1 Gbps symmetrical internet service. Having a built-in SD slot is always appreciated as a creative, and the versatility of Thunderbolt 4 means I can drop a hub in my bag and have any other ports I need covered. 

Keyboard and Trackpad

The MacBook Pro comes with a 78-key (U.S.) or 79-key (ISO) backlit Magic keyboard, including 12 full-height function keys and 4 arrow keys, Touch ID, and an ambient light sensor. Typing is comfortable, with good key travel and feedback. The ambient light sensor does an excellent job of controlling the keyboard brightness automatically. I first encountered Touch ID on a laptop on my MacBook Air, and it has been a great convenience for quickly logging in and completing purchases. 

The Force Touch trackpad is large, versatile, and accurate, allowing for the standard Multi-Touch gestures as well as pressure-sensitive drawing. It's comfortable to use, responds precisely, and also has excellent palm rejection. 


The six-speaker sound system delivers excellent audio quality. The four woofers provide surprisingly impactful bass, while the two tweeters produce crisp highs and clear mids. Voices come through naturally in music and movies. There is noticeable depth and power for a laptop audio system, and support for Spatial Audio is always nice to have. Overall, the speakers provide a surprisingly full and immersive listening experience given the slim design. Music sounds balanced with nice stereo separation, and dialogue in videos remains clear and understandable at higher volumes. While serious audiophiles may still prefer external speakers, for a built-in laptop system, Apple has designed an impressive audio setup that will meet the needs of most users. The MacBook Pro speakers sound great for everyday listening and multimedia consumption. The best compliment I can give the system is that I no longer have to carry a dedicated speaker for demostrating pieces in my many of my music classes; the built-in speakers are loud enough and of a good enough fidelity to do the job. The three-microphone array with directional beamforming works impressively well too, making it easy to be heard clearly in most any environment.

What I Liked

  • Apple chips continue to provide industry-leading performance per watt
  • M3 chips are extremely capable of handling intense workloads
  • Sleek, durable design now available in attractie space black
  • Stunning Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED display
  • Very battery life of up to 22 hours
  • Excellent 6-speaker sound system
  • Three-microphone array with directional beamforming
  • Good selection of ports including SD, HDMI, and Thunderbolt 4
  • Quiet, even under heavy loads
  • Great trackpad and keyboard
  • MagSafe 3

What I Didn't Like

  • On models with two Thunderbolt ports (14-inch base M3 configurations), both Thunderbolt ports are on one side


The 2023 MacBook Pro represents continued refinement of an already impressive platform and serves, in my opinion, as the standard for professional laptops. The new M3 chips offer excellent performance, especially for graphics-intensive workflows. The mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display looks incredible with its impressive levels of brightness, contrast, and variable refresh rate. Other features, like the 1080p webcam that leverages computational improvements, Spatial Audio speakers, and fast charging are great additions. While not cheap at the upper configurations, there’s no denying the 16-inch MacBook Pro is an absolute powerhouse, cramming desktop-level performance into a highly portable chassis. That being said, the lower configurations will handily tackle the needs of the majority of creatives for years to come. For those working on the go, it’s hard to beat this combination of power, display quality, and battery life. The 2023 model refines an already excellent pro laptop line and is easy to highly recommend for those who need cutting-edge performance. You can purchase the M3 MacBook Pro here.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I'm jealous Apple sends you these early but won't send me one because I live in Puerto Rico! But, I just got an email saying my M3 Max will show up in just 3 days. My M1 Pro Macbook Pro is still working flawlessly so I'm not sure why I'm so excited for the upgrade, but I am.

What configuration did you order?

14 inch, unbinned M3 Max, 48 RAM, 1TB

I am looking forward to see a review. ;)

Isn't the unbinned M3 Max only available with 64GB minimum? What was your exact CPU and config?

I'm more interested in when a future Mac Studio is going to be announced. The Mac pro's aren't what I need for travelling.

You prefer traveling with a Mac Studio than a Macbook?

I don't edit in the field. I carry a small laptop simply to do backups and review photos taken during the day. Something as powerful and expensive as the Mac Pro simply isn't needed.

i've placed an order for an M3 Max MacBook Pro however i noted a few months ago that the HDR display of the previous 14" and 16" M2's seemed to render videos differently from the SDR (i believe P3) display of the 13" MacBook Pro. photos looked identical. i was told that the HDR function or setting could not be shut off.

And the price of the 48GB model being tested is....?