Apple replaced the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an entry-level 14-inch model powered by the base M3 chip, and it sits right below the 14-inch M3 Pro MacBook Pro in Apple’s lineup. However, to buy the right MacBook Pro for your needs, you need to learn the differences between these two models.
The Price Difference
There’s a fairly decent price gap between the two 14-inch MacBook Pro models despite being similar-looking machines. The M3 MacBook Pro starts at $1,599. That model includes the base M3 chip with an 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory, and a 512GB SSD.
The M3 Pro 14-inch model, on the other hand, starts at $1,999 and includes the M3 Pro chip, featuring an 11-core CPU and a 14-core GPU. It also comes with 18GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.
For $1,599, you get much of what the higher-end MacBook Pro models offer, such as an excellent Liquid Retina XDR display with a ProMotion-enabled 120Hz refresh rate, a wide port selection, and solid battery life. Thankfully, the M3 Pro model starts at the same price as the previous generation, and you still get a lot of pro-level performance for the price.
M3 vs. M3 Pro Chip
The most significant difference between the two 14-inch MacBook Pro models is the Apple silicon chips they use. The M3 variant only comes in one configuration: the 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU variant we mentioned earlier. It supports up to 24GB of memory, just like the previous M2 chip.
Meanwhile, the M3 Pro offers up to a 12-core CPU and an 18-core GPU while offering up to 36GB of RAM, 12GB more than the regular M3 chip. Both the M3 and M3 Pro chips also include a 16-core Neural Engine, but the M3 Pro has more memory bandwidth (150GB/s vs 100GB/s).
When it comes to external display support, the M3 chip, despite being more powerful than the M2 processor, is still limited to supporting only one display at up to 6K resolution. However, the M3 Pro allows you to connect your MacBook Pro to two external monitors at up to 6K, letting you expand your workspace further. You can even attach the M3 Pro 14-inch MacBook Pro to one 8K display.
While the standard M3 chip offers plenty of power for regular computing tasks and then some, the M3 Pro has considerably more headroom for those who need the extra performance, and the chip provides better external display support.
Aside from using different Apple silicon chips, there are other notable differences in the hardware between the two 14-inch MacBook Pro models. For starters, the M3 Pro MacBook Pro gets a new color: Space Black. It undoubtedly gives the laptop a more stealthy look, which many pro users will enjoy. The M3 MacBook Pro, on the other hand, still features Space Gray.
Additionally, there’s a slight difference in the port selection. The entry-level M3 MacBook Pro features only two USB-C ports instead of three. Plus, unlike the higher-end models, these USB-C ports only support Thunderbolt 3 speeds instead of Thunderbolt 4.
Lastly, the base M3 14-inch MacBook Pro has only one cooling fan, compared to two on the M3 Pro MacBook Pro. This isn’t a big deal, considering the M3 chip won’t draw as much power as the M3 Pro.
Use Cases for Each Model
With the differences we discussed above, both in price and hardware, the two 14-inch MacBook Pro models are clearly for different sets of users. At $1,599, the M3 MacBook Pro is an excellent option for casual users who want the MacBook Pro’s impressive display and additional ports without spending a whopping $2,000 on a laptop.
However, if you require more power for demanding workflows such as video editing or graphic design, the M3 Pro model offers more headroom in terms of performance, cooling, and external display support. All in all, you should lean more towards the higher-end MacBook Pro if you plan to use it for creative work.
Buy the Right MacBook Pro for Your Needs
Choosing between the M3 and M3 Pro MacBook Pro models entirely depends on what you need to get done with your laptop. If you’re someone who performs basic tasks but wants a superior display and more ports than what the MacBook Air models offer, the M3 MacBook Pro is an excellent choice.
However, if you rely on your laptop to get professional work done, the extra horsepower in the M3 Pro model might be worth the additional cost.