You Don’t Need to Buy a Desktop to Get the Most Power in a Mac AnymoreReading Time: 3 minutes
If you’re looking for pure power at the best price, you’ll want a MacBook.
These days, we have the luxury of choice when it comes to computers, especially Macs: If all you do is light work, internet browsing, and content consumption, you don’t have to spend much at all for a very capable Mac. On the flip side, if your job or hobbies are demanding, there’s a Mac out there that can fill your processing power needs, with the only limit being your budget.
For those looking for pure power, the traditional advice has been to go for a desktop machine. Laptops can be work horses, and Apple has proven that with its M-series MacBook Pros. But only the Mac Studio and Mac Pro have the M2 Ultra, a combination of two M2 Max chips, which potentially doubles the performance you’d expect from an M2 Max machine.
It makes sense why desktops have long been the way to go for the ultimate computing experience: Desktops, by definition, live on your desk (or at least in one stationary position), perpetually plugged into power. As such, you can outfit a desktop with things that wouldn’t be practical for a laptop, such as larger cooling fans, larger CPUs and GPUs, and additional memory.
Laptops, on the other hand, need to be portable. That means they’re built inside a smaller casing, which limits the size of the hardware considerably. Plus, you need to think about both battery size and battery life: A battery that’s too small won’t last long, and even a capable battery will lose energy quickly if the hardware is too demanding. It’s a delicate balance, and one that has moved hardcore users towards desktops.
Apple’s latest MacBook Pro might just change that for Apple users, however. As part of its ‘Scary Fast’ event on Monday, the company revealed three new M-series chips for the MacBook Pro: M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max. Apple made great claims about the performance of M3, particularly the larger M3 Pro and M3 Max chips, but mostly in comparison to the M1 line. Apple says the M3 Max’s GPU is 50% faster than M1 Max’s, while the CPU is 80% faster. That’s a big improvement in just two years.
While these laptops seem to be the most powerful Apple has ever made, professionals still might be swayed to pick up an M2 Ultra Mac Studio or Mac Pro. After all, a desktop is as good as it gets in Mac world, right? So if you need the best of the best, you’d think you’d need to forgo the laptops entirely. Not so much.
As reported by MacRumors, the first benchmarks for the 16-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max have surfaced on Geekbench. What the results show are astonishing: The highest single-core score recorded was 3151, while the highest multi-core score was 21,084. Geekbench lists the average single-core score on M2 Ultra on Mac Pro as 2760, and on Mac Studio as either 2767 or 2803, depending on the model. Multi-core scores on the Mac Pro average 21,182, and 21,316 on the Mac Studio.
The results show that the M3 Max is faster than the M2 Ultra in single-core performance, and just about as fast as some M2 Ultra chips in multi-core. The Mac Studio with M2 Ultra ekes out the M3 Max by a couple hundred points, which isn’t nothing, but it doesn’t feel like much of an advantage when you factor in other considerations.
For one, a MacBook Pro is portable. You can pick up the laptop and take that power wherever you like (for up to 22 hours if Apple is to be believed), while the desktop Mac needs to, well, sit on your desktop. Plus, there’s the question of price: The M3 Max MacBook Pro starts at $3,499, while the M2 Ultra Mac Studio starts at $3,999. You save $500, plus your computer comes with a built-in screen, keyboard, and trackpad. The Studio requires you to have those extras already, or to spend the money to get them. (If you want even more power, there’s an even beefier M3 Max configuration that adds two cores to the CPU and 10 cores to the GPU. That brings the MacBook Pro up to the same $3,999 as the Studio, but, again, you save in other ways.) The Mac Pro starts at a whopping $6,999, but for it, you get a computer tower with expandable slots, so it’s a bit of a different story.
Unless you need that level of customization and versatility, it seems like Apple has done something special with M3 Max. $3,499 is still a very expensive computer, but when you consider the combination of huge power and convenience, it’s pretty cool to see desktop-class performance in such a portable form factor.
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