Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2023)
The new, lower-price, entry-level model of the MacBook Pro 14 baffles me. I get that $1,999 — the price of the configuration we tested — is kind of high, but now it just seems like a heavier MacBook Air 13 with an HDR screen. I like the MacBook Pro 14, but you’re probably better off paying less and getting an Air or stepping up to $1,999 for a model with the M3 Pro and at least 18GB RAM.
As configured, the MacBook Pro 14 isn’t powerful enough do anything really but play back HDR content. In other words, there’s really no “pro” in the cheapest model, any more than the M3 iMac is for pros. It’s a price-performance configuration, and one that only an enterprise buyer who doesn’t have to use it could love.
Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, late 2023)
|Price as reviewed||$1,999, £2,099, AU$3,299|
|Display||14.2-inch 3,024×1,964 254ppi 14:9/16:10 aspect ratio; 500 nits SDR, 1,600 nits HDR; 120Hz|
|CPU||3.2GHz Apple M3 8 cores (4P/4E)|
|Graphics||Apple M3 integrated 10 cores|
|Storage||1TB Apple SSD AP1024Z, SD card slot|
|Ports||2 x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 3.5mm audio|
|Networking||Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.3|
|Operating system||MacOS Sonoma 14.1|
The design is more or less unchanged since the 2021 model; the difference is mainly in the port selection, which is determined by the base level of the chip. An M3 processor means only two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports and only one high-res external monitor in addition to the built-in screen.
The two USB-C port limit won’t be a huge drawback for everyone, especially if you only carry it between docking station locations. But if you need to work in airports, coffee shops or other locations with limited outlet access, having all the charging options (ports and the MagSafe power connector) on one side may pose a problem for you. In my case, for instance, I needed to connect the analog headset jack to another system on my left side, but also needed to connect it to a power outlet on the far right. That left it stuck in the middle of my desk because I was unable to move it out of my way.
The good news is that as long as you charge it regularly, you don’t have to worry about the battery dying. It lasted about 18 hours during testing, which is impressive. Apple touted the increased battery life of 15 to 22 hours, depending upon what you’re doing — but that’s only for the M3 model. Our 18 hours as tested fell right in the middle. The M3 Pro model has the same battery but draws more power, and thus the battery life will be unchanged from before, or 12 to 18 hours. Still, pretty good.
The screen is essentially the same as that of the MacBook Pro 16, which is excellent — bright and accurate — for everyday use, content creation and gaming. (I didn’t test it separately, though, if you want specifics I suggest looking at that review.) It’s OK for playing new Metal-and-M3-GPU optimized games; Lies of P actually ran pretty well, but the optimized games use MetalFX automatic upscaling technology and the screen is small so it’s easy to get playable frame rates and still look shiny. But despite offering a friendlier gaming environment, Apple still doesn’t have a lot of games from the more prolific platforms.
I think some aspects of the configuration’s performance are memory bound; in other words, too little memory may hold it back because of the unified memory architecture. Apple has improved the graphics optimization so that it doesn’t under- or over-allocate GPU resources, but if you’ve only got 8GB UMA memory there’s really no headroom for the CPU and GPU to share the memory if you’re slamming them both. This may explain some of the unexpected performance differences between the MacBook Pro 14 (16GB) with the iMac (48GB) given that they have the same processor.
Otherwise, even the M3 model is an improvement over the Intel-based MacBook Pros, if only because we’ve noticed that between the several generations of updated MacOS versions, the fact that the Intel chips were old when Apple incorporated them and the overhead of enterprise security and its applications, they’re beginning to slog and the battery life pales. Corporate buyers, I’m talking to you. If you’ve already got an M series processor in your current system, you’ll need to spend more to get the performance boost you’re looking for.
Configurations of test systems
|Apple iMac (2023)||Apple macOS Sonoma 14.1; Apple M3 (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU); 24GB unified memory; 1TB SSD|
|Apple Mac Studio (2023)||MacOS Ventura 13.4 or Sonoma 14.1; Apple M2 Max (12-core CPU, 38-core GPU); 64GB RAM; 2TB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Pro 14 (late 2023)||Apple macOS Sonoma 14.1; Apple M3 (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU); 16GB unified memory; 1TB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Pro 16 (early 2023)||Apple MacOS Ventura 13.2 or Sonoma 14.1; Apple M2 Pro (12 CPU cores, 19 GPU cores); 32GB LPDDR5 RAM; 1TB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Pro 16 (late 2023)||Apple macOS Sonoma 14.1; Apple M3 Max (16-core CPU, 20-core GPU); 48GB unified memory; 1TB SSD|