Apple M2 vs M3 chip: What are the differences?

Apple M2 vs M3 chip What are the differences
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Release Date
Chip Manufacturing Process
CPU Cores – Speed
GPU Cores - Graphics Performance
NPU - Apple Neural Engine
RAM - Memory Capacity
Battery Life
Final Thoughts
Apple Devices with M2 and M3 Chips


With the continuous advancement of technology, Apple has launched a new generation of processors - the M3 chip. Which is expected to enhance the experience of the Mac product line. As an upgraded version of the M2 chip, Apple claims that the M3 chip has significant improvements in performance and functionality. Let's look at the main differences between the two chips - M2 vs M3.


Release Date

The Apple M2 chip was announced on July 8, 2022, debuting in the latest models of MacBook Air M2 and 13-inch MacBook Pro M2.

The Apple M3 series processors were first released at the "Scary Fast" conference on October 31, 2023.


Chip Manufacturing Process

The M2 chip uses 5nm process technology, while the M3 chip utilizes the industry-leading 3nm process technology for the first time, which is more advanced than the M2 process. Adopting the 3nm process enables the M3 chip to allow more transistors to be packed into a smaller space. The M3 chip has 25 billion transistors, which is 5 billion more than the M2 chip, representing a 25% increase in transistor count. This means that the M3 chip can run more efficiently when processing tasks, provide faster speeds and a smoother experience, and can better balance power consumption and performance compared to the M2 chip.


CPU Cores – Speed

The M2 and M3 chips offer an 8-core CPU, consisting of 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores.  

The M2 Pro and M2 Max chips feature a 12-core CPU with 8 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores.

The M3 Pro chip has a 12-core CPU made up of 6 performance cores and 6 efficiency cores.  

The M3 Max chip provides a 16-core CPU with 12 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores.

The number of cores in a CPU is one of the key factors that affect processor speed. The more cores there are, the more tasks the CPU can handle at the same time. In other words, if you are looking for a device with higher efficiency and speed when comparing M2 vs M3 chips or M2 Pro vs M3 Pro, you need to choose a chip with a higher number of cores like the M3 Max.


Both the M2 and M3 have 8 CPU cores, but the maximum CPU frequency has increased from 3.49GHz in M2 to 4.05GHz in M3.Generally speaking, under the same energy consumption, the higher the frequency of the CPU, the faster the processing speed. This is one of the main reasons why the CPU performance of M3 series chips is 15% higher than that of M2 series chips.


According to Apple’s benchmarks, it can be seen that the CPU efficiency of the M3 series chips is 30% higher than the M2 series and 50% higher than the M1 series chips. The CPU performance of M3 series chips is 15% faster than M2 series chips and 30% faster than M1 series chips.This means that whether performing daily operations, multitasking or running complex applications, the M3 chip in devices like the M3 MacBook provides faster and more efficient response compared to the M2 MacBook.


GPU Cores - Graphics Performance


In terms of the number of GPU cores, there is not much difference between M3 and M2.Both the M2 and M3 have 10 cores, and the M3 Max chip has 40 GPU cores - just 2 more than the M2 Max. The core count of M3 Pro is reduced to 18, which is one less than M2 Pro. The key to the upgrade of the M3 chip on the GPU is the introduction of a new dynamic cache function, which optimizes the memory allocation and utilization of the GPU, improves the performance of professional applications and games, and improves the efficiency of the GPU. Apple officially claims that the M3 series offers up to a 15% improvement in graphics processing power compared to the M2 series. This has great benefits for graphics-intensive tasks such as image editing, 3D rendering and games. The powerful graphics processing capabilities of the M3 chip will bring more realistic and smooth picture effects, allowing users to enjoy a more shocking and immersive visual experience. In addition, the M3 chip also supports AV1 image decoding, which can efficiently play streaming media services.


NPU - Apple Neural Engine


The neural network engine of M3 series chips is 15% faster than that of M2 series chips. It is worth mentioning that compared with M1 series chips, the neural network engine in M3 series chips can bring up to 60% speed increase, making AI and The speed of machine learning reaches new highs.


RAM - Memory Capacity

Another major difference between the M2 and M3 chips is the amount of memory they support. A larger memory capacity directly allows the computer to handle a greater number and complexity of tasks simultaneously.

The M2 chip supports 24GB of memory capacity; the M2 Pro supports 32GB;while the M2 Max can support up to 96GB of memory.

On the other hand, the M3 chip supports 24GB of memory; the M3 Pro supports 36GB; and the M3 Max can support up to a staggering 128GB of memory capacity.

Except for the base M3 chip which still maintains 24GB like the M2 chip, both M3 Pro and M3 Max support larger memory capacities than the previous generation.This means the M3 chip will be able to better handle more demanding complex tasks and professional applications compared to M2 chip devices.


Battery Life

About battery life, there is never a single definitive answer, as it depends on how you use your MacBook and which specific MacBook model you are using. Apple claims that the new MacBook Pro models with the M3 chip offer "the longest battery life ever on a Mac." The extended M3 chip battery life is another factor that attracts many users to upgrade from M2 to M3.

MacBook Pro battery life comparison

From the table, it can be seen that in the same configuration, devices using the M3 series chips do have slightly better battery life compared to those using the M2 series chips. Specifically, with the M3 chip, the 14-inch MacBook Pro can last up to 22 hours when watching Apple TV app movies and up to 15 hours for web browsing. Battery life is improved by 4 hours of video playback time and 5 hours of web browsing time compared to the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the previous generation M2 Pro or M2 Max chip.


Final Thoughts

Overall, whether it's multi-core CPU performance, GPU rendering capabilities, professional application processing capabilities, or battery life, the M3 chip offers noticeable improvements over the M2 chip. For content creators, gamers, and users with high-performance demands comparing the M3 vs M2 chip, the M3 chip is undoubtedly a more powerful choice. However, for most users, the performance of M2 chip devices like the M2 MacBook Air/Pro may already be sufficient. M1 VS M3 chip, M3 still has obvious improvement. Users of devices using M1 series chips can consider updating their devices.


Apple Devices with M2 and M3 Chips

The following devices currently use Apple’s M2 chip:

MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022)

MacBook Pro 14- and 16-inch featuring the M2 Pro and M2 Max (Announced Jan 17, 2023)

Mac mini (M2, 2023)  

iPad Pro 12.9-inch (6th Generation)  

iPad Pro 11-inch (4th Generation)  


The following devices currently use Apple’s M3 chip:

MacBook Air (13-inch, M3, 2024)

MacBook Air (15-inch, M3, 2024)

iMac (24-inch, M3, 2023)

MacBook Pro (14-inch, M3, 2023)

MacBook Pro 14- and 16-inch featuring the M3 Pro and M3 Max (Announced Oct 31, 2023)