Apple has announced new Macs, including laptops and an all-in-one computer.
Some journalists have already gone hands-on with the new products at a behind-closed-doors event. Here is the verdict of one reporter.
There was a lot on show: a new iMac, both 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, and a fetching new Space Black colour option that has to be seen to be appreciated.
Key to it all was the Apple M3 processor, the latest chip using the company’s designs. It is the world’s first PC processor using what’s called a 3-nanometre fabrication process, which just means the transistors are tiny – you can fit 2 million of them into the thickness of a human hair. In turn, this yields improved power efficiency.
For the first time ever, Apple announced not one but three chips at the same time: M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max, the latter two reserved for its most expensive Pro laptops, which would normally be released months after the basic M3.
As well as higher speeds this time around, the M3 also adds new graphical processing. Macs aren’t typically seen as gaming machines, but that could change with this kind of power and the Apple Game Porting Toolkit, announced in June.
It makes turning PC games into Mac-compatible ones much easier.
Geeky terms like hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh tracing were thrown around, but it comes down to support for improved shadows, reflections and lighting seen in games like Alan Wake 2, currently only available for PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles.
New hardware and goodbye to one model
Apple released new versions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro but the smaller 13-inch model has been retired. It had an older design and was the last model with a touch bar above the keyboard.
It simplifies the range: two Pro and two MacBook Air sizes, but the Air has not been updated yet.
The 24-inch iMac has been refreshed for the first time in over two years. It still comes in the same seven colours, but now its processor has leapfrogged from M1 to M3. Even though most users would not have found it a slow machine, it got a very big speed increase nonetheless.
Fast, faster, fastest
Apple talks big about its three new chips, saying they are the most advanced ever found in a personal computer. You can expect 30 per cent higher performance than the M1 chip Apple released a little under three years ago.
Tech specifications are impressive too. The M3 has 5 billion more transistors than the M2 and is 65 per cent faster than the M1 for graphics performance.
We saw the new MacBooks sail through demonstrations of power-hungry applications. In video editing program Final Cut Pro, again on the iMac, multiple streams of landscape-orientation video were intelligently reformatted to an upright format (suitable for TikTok) in a matter of seconds.
Demos on the MacBook Pro of 3D programs were similarly smooth and very fast indeed, and a graphically advanced game demo looked immersive and detailed, without taxing the processor so hard the Pro’s fan was required.
The new MacBook Pro colour
For the first time since the black plastic MacBooks of 2006 and 2008, there’s a black Apple laptop. But where the old models had a matt finish, this is something else.
The Space Black finish here is shiny without being brash, and is quite the head-turner. What’s more, the new anodised finish does not, I can confirm, pick up fingerprints at all. Expect this colour to fly off the shelves.
Availability and pricing
The new hardware is all available to order immediately and will be available from November 7. The pricing structure is a bit different this time around too.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at £1,699, down from £2,149. However, we get lower specs at the bottom end to fill the hole left by the departing MacBook Pro 13.
That means 8GB RAM instead of 16GB, and the M3 processor rather than punchier M3 Pro. The most affordable 14-inch MacBook Pros are not available in the new Space Black finish either, just Silver or Space Grey.
Apple’s MacBook Pro 14-inch with M2 Pro chip costs £2,099, rising to £6,999 if you max out all the options.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at £2,599, with Pro processor and 16GB RAM, jumping to £7,299 when fully tricked out. iMac prices are unchanged, starting at £1,299.
When will the M3 iMacs and MacBook Pros go on sale?
The only laptop not updated was the MacBook Air, which has the M2 processor at its heart.
This is not entirely surprising: the 13-inch model has been around for 16 months but the new 15-incher is only four months old.
I think we should expect the Air to be updated in the coming months, perhaps as soon as next spring. But it’s not a pro device and, as a dedicated Air user, I’ve never found it anything less than fast and effective.
The new processor, if it lives up to its billing, is remarkable at the M3 level and astonishing in the M3 Pro and M3 Max versions.
The benefits of the iMac and MacBook Pro are bound to be impressive. The new MacBook Pro colour is fantastic, and the price cuts for some products are welcome.
Although the MacBook Air hasn’t seen the M3 love yet, it’s still capable. In short, if you’re thinking of getting an Apple computer, there’s never been a better time.