If you are a prosumer these days, the biggest reason to upgrade to a new machine has to be to save time and thus money while still running high-end workloads. Faster performance is a prerequisite as just getting a fancy pro-grade computer, especially if you are eyeing a desktop-grade laptop, isn’t enough.
The story has definitely moved beyond the specs. The new way to look at computers is whether they can handle high-end creative apps and AI workloads. That’s why I want to bring attention to the new 16-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max. This is a desktop-class laptop that is not only portable and reliable but also capable of handling real-world AI-powered workloads.
If you are serious about upgrading to a new MacBook Pro, my review might help you simplify your decision to upgrade to a new pro-grade computer.
Design and aesthetics
The new 16-inch MacBook Pro (M3 Max) isn’t any different in design from the previous-generation model that came out earlier this year, the one with M2 Max. However, there is the new “Space Black” colour scheme which reminds you of the old-school 2006 polycarbonate MacBook and the original PowerBook line of the ’90s. I was a big fan of all-black Mac notebooks so it is good to see Apple giving homage to its past.
The unit I have for review is space black… in fact, a darker shade of grey than black. It can look different at times – depending on the light in the room. Apple says they have used a new anodisation process that makes the Space Black colour more fingerprint-resistant, and my testing shows the same.
I will be honest with you, the 16-inch MacBook Pro isn’t for everyone. Yes, it looks really nice and sleek; it is well-built, thanks to the aluminum chassis which makes the device premium and sturdy. But it is a bit heavy for most people unless you are someone who spends most of your time working from home or in the office. It is a big computer with a bigger power brick and doesn’t fit in a regular laptop sleeve or plane seat tray.
Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. If you are a content creator, a photographer, or a filmmaker, you can still travel with a 16-inch MacBook Pro and get the work done. This way, not only do you save time but you are also able to meet deadlines. The support for the SD card reader is great news for creators who will be able to quickly transfer their photos and videos from the card to the Mac.
Display and audio
The MacBook Pro M3 Max has the best display on a laptop. Period. It’s a 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with a resolution of 3,456 x 2,234 pixels and a dynamic refresh rate of 120 Hz. It also offers peak brightness at 1600 cd/m² in HDR mode.
It’s incredibly bright, colourful, and everything looks ultra-smooth on the display. It feels good whenever I open the laptop and start my day. This is the kind of display you would expect on a pro-grade laptop, clearly designed to spot the minutest details, especially if you are editing a video.
Yes, there’s a notch, and that’s where Apple hides the MacBook Pro’s new 1080p webcam. The notch is not annoying and the webcam is better than in the previous generation. You know it’s there, but you completely forget its presence soon after. The onboard sound — there are six speakers, to be exact — on the MacBook Pro is excellent too. Music sounds rich and full, as do podcasts, streaming movies, and TV shows.
Keyboard and trackpad
Apple chose to use a scissor-switch keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro. I, as a MacBook user who has used most (if not all) Macs in recent months, am familiar with the keyboard. The keys have plenty of travel, and there’s a hefty kickback felt with each keypress, translating to a snappy experience. The keyboard is also backlit. The left and right sides of the keyboard are flanked with speaker grilles.
There is also a Touch ID sensor built into the last key on the right side of this row. The fingerprint sensor is easy to set up and was quick to respond, in my testing, for unlocking and authenticating purchases. As for the trackpad below it, it is well-sized for a 16-inch laptop and responsive.
Performance and battery
One of the biggest changes inside the updated 16-inch MacBook Pro is the new M3 Max processor, which is a part of the newly launched M3 family. The key differences between the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips are in the number of CPU and GPU cores and the ratio of performance to efficiency of CPU cores.
The unit Apple sent me for review had a 16-core CPU, 40-core GPU, 48GB unified memory, and 1TB storage. This model has a street price of Rs 3,99,900. For testing, I did a variety of tasks and ran high-end creative apps and AI workloads, from ChatGPT, Dall.E to Adobe Firefly… you name it. I also rendered videos shot in 4K.
I may not be the target audience for a laptop like this, and I get that. My regular workload mostly consists of writing, emailing, WhatsApp, editing images, browsing the web, and researching. Unsurprisingly, websites loaded fast, and even when running multiple apps at the same time, there was no stuttering. The laptop was silent.
Truth be told, I can only push the 16-inch MacBook Pro to a certain extent, and it applies to other users as well. Over the past three years, Apple’s Macs with its own silicon have gained a high level of performance that many professional users rely on for graphics-intensive tasks. However, the M3-powered Macs – especially the 16-inch MacBook Pro – offer GPU graphics upgrades and include hardware-accelerated mesh shading, faster 3D rendering, and ray tracing. That’s a leap from what Intel-powered Macs used to deliver in the past. If you use AI features in Photoshop and compare it to the performance achieved by the M3 Max MacBook Pro compared to older Macs, you will feel the difference. After all, AI features in popular pro-type programmes and apps do put a huge strain on a computer’s performance and can slow down even the fastest laptops available on the market.
Another strong aspect of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is gaming. Currently, Apple is clearly positioning its high-end MacBook Pros as gaming machines. In fact, Apple provided reviewers, like us, with the opportunity to test Apple Silicon-compatible games such as Baldur’s Gate 3 and Lies of P, along with Sony’s DualSense wireless controller. I downloaded Baldur’s Gate 3, an open-world fantasy role-playing video game from Steam, and played for hours. A game like this showcases the potential of gaming on Macs, and I couldn’t agree more. Having said that, there are still only a handful of AAA games available for Macs. Macs possess both the hardware and software to make gaming possible, and now it’s up to developers to determine how serious they are about bringing their games to the Mac platform. As a gamer, I’d like to see more AAA games on Macs.
The M3 Max-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro will impress you, whether you are a coder, software engineer, developer, filmmaker, or a video game artist or someone working in a company like OpenAI. As I said earlier, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is a great machine for creating new things instead of consuming content — for that, a MacBook Air will suffice. Given the AI age we are in, Apple also needs to optimise its silicon for Large Language Models (LLMs) so that its machines can handle next-generation AI-intensive workloads.
Not just the performance, the 16-inch MacBook Pro also impresses with its battery life. I started my day at 8:30 am with 100 per cent battery, and at 5:30 pm when I packed up, I still had juice left to watch a full-length Bollywood movie and browse through the web for a couple of hours. I am serious. I rarely think about charging the 16-inch MacBook Pro on most of my workdays. Obviously, power-intensive tasks like video editing and gaming will drain the battery much faster, but you’ll still be able to get work done without a power adapter.
Should you buy Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro (M3 Max)?
Well, it depends. I see the 16-inch MacBook Pro as a desktop computer in a portable form factor, something I can carry with me and do productivity-focused tasks on the go. A device like the MacBook Pro can really change your idea of a pro-grade notebook, and I am saying it with confidence. If you’ve been sticking to an Intel-powered MacBook Pro for long and are planning to replace it with a Mac, I think you should get yourself a 16-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max. And in case you already have a MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon, there is no need to replace it unless you want a bigger 16-inch model with a more powerful processor for heavy-intensive tasks.
16-inch MacBook Pro (M3 Max) Specifications
Processor| 14-core CPU, 16-core CPU
Graphics|30-core GPU, 40-core GPU
RAM|36GB, 48GB, 64GB, 96GB, 128GB
Storage|1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB
Display|Liquid Retina XDR, 120Hz refresh rate, 1,600 nits peak brightness
Ports| 3 USB 4 / Thunderbolt 3 ports MagSafe 3 charging port, HDMI port (up to 8K resolution), SDXC card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity|Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
Battery|Up to 18 hours of battery life (22 hours for base-level M3 configuration)
Audio|Six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers
Webcam|1080p FaceTime HD camera
Dimensions and Weight|16-inch model: 0.66 (height) x 14.01 (width) 9.77 (depth) inches\2.17 kg