M3 MacBook Pro 14-inch review: Why you should buy this Apple laptop

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M3 MacBook Pro 14-inch review: Why you should buy this Apple laptop

The new M3 14-inch MacBook Pro — now the cheapest Pro you can get — murdered the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but no one is shedding a tear.

Before Apple launched the brand-spankin’ new MacBook Pro at the spooky “Scary Fast” livestream on Oct. 30 – the night before Halloween — the most affordable Pro was once the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the last-generation M2 chip.

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro launched during the ‘Scary Fast’ livestream.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

However, it was the black sheep among the MacBook family. It was a “Pro” laptop, but it had more attractive siblings, including the 15-inch MacBook Air, which also sports the M2 chip. In other words, the performance of the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 15-inch MacBook Air were pretty similar.

Plus, the 15-inch MacBook Air came with a larger display and didn’t feature the controversial Touch Bar, so why bother with the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro?

The 13-inch MacBook Pro was the awkward child, so Apple nixed it (and it ain’t comin’ back), replacing it with the new M3 14-inch MacBook Pro featured in this review.

M3 MacBook Pro 14-inch: Price

The 14-inch MacBook Pro Apple sent Mashable is costs $1,999 and comes with the following specs:

  • 8-core CPU
  • 10-core GPU
  • 16GB of RAM
  • 1TB SSD

If that’s too pricey for you, the cheapest configuration has a price tag of $1,599, but you’ll have to downgrade the RAM and storage to 8GB and 512GB, respectively.

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro

The M3 14-inch MacBook Pro has a stunning 3024 x 1964-pixel mini-LED display.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Have money to blow? A maxed-out 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro – equipped with 24GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD storage, a 96W USB-C power adapter, and pre-installed Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro – will set you back $3,098.98.

What I love about the M3 14-inch MacBook Pro

I’ve been a PC fanatic all my life – until this year when I ditched it for a Mac. As a laptop reviewer, I’ve seen MacBooks leave Windows laptops in the dust, particularly when it comes to battery life.

MacBooks have been killing it when it comes to power efficiency — and the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro is no different.

Two-day battery life

We ran the PCMark 10 battery benchmark on the MacBook Pro, but because this software isn’t compatible with macOS, we launched it on Parallels, an app that lets you run Windows on Mac. The MacBook Pro lasted nearly 17 hours on a single charge (see battery life section for our exact recorded runtime).

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro on a table

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro has incredible endurance
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Despite Parallels’ battery-draining presence, the MacBook Pro still managed to surpass our longest-lasting Windows laptop this year, which only survived for a measly 9 hours and 2 minutes. And that was the $5,000 HP Spectre Fold – yikes!

Apple’s speakers still sound immaculate

I see why the MacBook Pro is highly recommended for music producers, podcast hosts, and other audio-focused professionals.

I fired up the Spotify app to test its six-speaker array with force-cancelling woofers. I launched the “Hot Hits USA” playlist on the homepage, which played Jack Harlow’s “Lovin’ On Me” tune.

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro on a table

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro continues to sound angelic.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

After rolling my eyes at yet another sampled song topping the charts (where is the originality these days?), the Dolby Atmos-tuned audio system soothed me with its high-fidelity hypnosis. Harlow’s braggadocious flow and charismatic delivery were perfectly captured as the infectious melody tickled my ears with honeyed fullness.

Even when I turned the volume to the max, there was very little distortion. The MacBook Pro arguably has the best set of speakers on the laptop market.

14 inches is ‘just right’

In the Goldilocks and The Three Bears fairytale, a young, home-intruding girl (i.e., Goldilocks) breaks into a cottage and finds pleasure in discovering things that are “just right” after testing variants that are either too excessive or underwhelming for her taste.

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro on a table on lock screen

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro is ‘just right.’
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

If Goldilocks were to stumble upon three MacBook Pro models, 13-inch, 14-inch, and 16-inch configurations, she would wave the 13-inch and 16-inch models away before grabbing the 14-inch variant and saying, “This one is juuuust right!”

The 13-inch model is too cramped, but ideal as a travel companion. The 16-inch model is spacious and powerful, but not the most portable. The 14-inch model, on the other hand, has the best of both worlds. It’s lightweight enough to be a travel buddy, but large enough that it doesn’t look like a toy computer.

‘Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke’ design

The M3 14-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t look nor feel much different from my daily driver: the M2 Pro 14-inch MacBook Pro. It still has that snappy, clicky, 78-key Magic keyboard – featuring an auto backlight – that sends my fingers dancing across the deck like a breakdancing b-boy.

It felt so close to home that I ditched my M2 Pro 14-inch MacBook Pro and wrote this entire review – yes every single letter – with the M3 14-inch MacBook Pro instead. How would I describe my experience? Familiar, but faster.

The power button is located on the top-right corner of the keyboard and it doubles as a fingerprint scanner – or, as Apple calls it, “Touch ID.”

I was slightly disappointed that Apple reserved the Space Black variant – a luxe fingerprint-resistant chassis – for its M3 Pro and M3 Max Pro models. But to be fair, the 100% recycled aluminum enclosure on this laptop doesn’t attract too many fingerprints either. However, you’ll still find finger oils lingering on the keycaps.

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro keyboard

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro makes your finger oils look quite conspicuous.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

I’m still not a fan of the notch, but I’ve grown indifferent to it in the same way that a pearls-clutching mother has no choice but to get used to the unsightly new tattoo on her son’s arm.

This MacBook’s got muscle

The processor inside this 14-inch MacBook Pro is the M3 chip.

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro on a table

The MacBook Pro is powerful AF.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

According to Apple, the M3 is the “industry’s first’‘ 3-nanometer chip – an upgrade from its last-generation 5-nanometer chips. But what does that mean? Well, in layman’s terms, the M3 now has smaller transistors (the switches that control the flow of electric current that allow the CPU to perform logical functions), which means Apple can cram in more processing power into a single die.

The M3 has 25 billion transistors – five billion more than the M2.

Apple boasts that the M3’s performance is up to 15 percent faster than the M2. Is that true? See our Geekbench section for the answer.

What’s ‘eh’ about the M3 14-inch MacBook Pro?

MacBooks aren’t known for their I/O generosity, so you may need to rely on some dongles to support some peripherals with older ports.

Scant on legacy ports

On one hand, I love that the 14-inch MacBook Pro still has a headphone jack. Plus, there’s an SD card slot and an HDMI port. The former makes it easy for me to access pictures and videos from my camera while the latter lets me mirror the screen to a TV.

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro ports

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro ports could be more generous.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

However, in typical Apple fashion, there’s no USB-A port. This isn’t a bad thing. Apple is a future-first company, so why would it have one? However, it’d be nice if I could stick some of my old USB-A flash drives into it without searching for a dongle.

The M3 14-inch MacBook Pro comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, but if you want three ports – and you want them to be faster (i.e., Thunderbolt 4) – you’ll have to upgrade to the M3 Pro. (The M3 14-inch MacBook Pro only supports a single display, but the M3 Pro and M3 Max variants can support at least two.)

What do I dislike about the M3 14-inch MacBook Pro?

I couldn’t find a single thing I dislike about the MacBook Pro – until I perused through the 14-inch MacBook Pro’s Apple Store “buy” page.

More memory would be nice

The entry-level M3 14-inch MacBook Pro should offer more RAM.

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro lid

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro lid.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

It starts at 8GB of memory, and with a starting price of $1,599, 16GB should be the base model.

More colors, please

The 14-inch MacBook Pro only comes in Space Gray and Silver.

When will the varying hues of stone and rubble end?

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro battery life

The M3 14-inch MacBook Pro lasted 16 hours and 23 minutes.

No need to bring your charging cable with you to school or work – you can leave it home.

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro Geekbench score

On Geekbench 6, which tests for CPU performance, the M3 notched a multi-core score of 11,998. Compare this to the M2 chip inside the 15-inch MacBook Air, which only reached a score of 10,146. This is actually better than Apple’s claim of a 15% uptick; the M3 chip outperforms the M2 chip by 18%.

M3 14-inch MacBook Pro webcam

The 14-inch MacBook Pro has a 1080p webcam, which is OK. It renders colors well, but it’s not the sharpest.

Webcam on M3 14-inch MacBook Pro

A photo taken on the webcam on M3 14-inch MacBook Pro.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon/Mashable

Fortunately, the Apple ecosystem has a Continuity Camera feature that lets you use your iPhone as a webcam on your MacBook.

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro

You can use your iPhone for video calls instead of the built-in 1080p webcam.
Credit: Apple

All need is a MagSafe iPhone mount, like this Stouchi model from Amazon, and you can attach your iPhone to your MacBook for your videoconferencing needs.

Final thoughts

No, the M3 14-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t have any staggering upgrades per se, but according to our testing, it has a significant performance jump over the M2. This translates to an uptick in performance, whether you’re diving into photo retouching, video editing, and other tasks.

Plus, for the first time, MacBook Pro comes with hardware accelerated ray-tracing, which means the graphics featured in games, particularly reflections and shadows, should look more realistic. And they’re splashed across the laptop’s striking 3024 x 1964-pixel mini-LED display.

Keep in mind that there are rumors that an updated Air, equipped with an M3 chip, is coming next year. If the Air’s thin-and-light, fanless design is sufficient for your workflow, it may be worth the wait. However, if this Pro meets your needs as a creator, go for it.

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