Apple has continued to support its awkward vision of an entry-level MacBook Pro, yet consumers would be far better off with a MacBook Air. Will the M3 MacBook Pro make a difference, or will it remain a clumsy and inelegant solution?
When Tim Cook and his team debuted the M1 Apple Silicon chipset for Mac, it did so with a MacBook Air, macMini, and MacBook Pro. In terms of selling the change from Intel-based to ARM-based silicon, keeping the same portfolio made marketing sense.
Yet the increased performance, endurance, and potential of the M1 meant that the M1 MacBook Air vastly outperformed even high-end Intel chipsets. The MacBook Air was more than enough MacBook for consumers. The slight performance uplift achieved by the MacBook Pro—which was little more than an M1 MacBook Air with a cooling fan—came with a significant price premium.
Perhaps that made sense for a few months, but once the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pro laptops arrived, there was a simple answer if you needed professional power. The answer for everyone else—and the vast majority of consumers—was the capable MacBook Air.
With the launch of the M2, Apple continued with its awkward low-end MacBook Pro, now made even more awkward due to the increased performance of the M2 chipset.
We now have the M3 chipset. Apple’s decision to launch only “Pro” models during Q4 of 2023 means that the low-powered M3 MacBook Pro is the entry-level MacBook for the new chipset. It will remain that way until late March 2024, when the M3 technology will reach the MacBook Air.
It’s hard to recommend the M3 MacBook Pro knowing what is coming. Putting aside the ridiculous notion that 8 GB of RAM is acceptable in a laptop costing $1,599, the effective entry-level model is $1,799. Undoubtedly, the M3 MacBook Pro will offer more performance than the M3 MacBook Air. Historically, this has been around 15 to 20 percent above the baseline Air, and the baseline M3 will have significantly more potential than the M1 and M2.
Perhaps the only notable change is Apple moving this MacBook Pro towards the same design language as the more powerful MacBook Pro. A 14-inch screen has replaced the 13-inch screen. The extra real estate will be welcomed, but a 15-inch version of the M2 MacBook Air, and Apple is expected to release a 15-inch M3 MacBook Air in March alongside the consumer favourite 13-inch model.
If you want to spend more money on more power, the M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pro models are the best choice. If you want a larger screen than the standard 13-inch, the 15-inch MacBook Air will be the best option. If you want a snappy laptop running macOS, you can’t go wrong with the standard 13-inch MacBook Air.
The key argument for the M3 MacBook Pro might be that it’s here now, and March is still some time away. And if that’s the case, you’d be better off checking Apple’s refurb store and picking up the base MacBook Pro with the M2 Pro chipset, which has more power, screen, and potential than Apple’s awkward M3 MacBook Pro.