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M3. How does it perform?

Another year has passed and another M Apple we get. There have been lots of noise about the new M3 Macs and there is a lot of anxiety among Apple-lovers.

We would like to get down to the specs important to video editors, speed test and compare the numbers to those of the previous M generations. Ultimately, we all want to see if M3 is really about performance improvements or just a scheduled upgrade.

Special M numbers for video editors

As we mentioned many times there are a few things you should be looking at when selecting a computer, that it mainly aimed at post-production type of work. The specs you want to check for M Macs include:

  • Number of CPU cores
  • Base frequency or clock speed
  • Cache (especially L2 and L3)
  • Number of GPU cores
  • GPU processing power
  • Unified memory
  • Memory bandwidth

So, let’s get down to these numbers for each M-Mac.

Apple M hardware evolution

M1 → M2 → M3
 M1M2M3
Number of CPU cores888
Number of GPU cores7 or 88 or 108 or 10
CPU clock speed3.2 GHz3.49 GHz4.05 GHz
Unified memory8 GB or 16 GB8 GB, 16 GB or 24 GB8 GB, 16 GB or 24 GB
Memory bandwidth68.25 GB/s100 GB/s100 GB/s
L2 cache12 MB16 MB16 MB
L3 cache8 MB8 MB8 MB (no official data, estimated size*)

M1 Pro → M2 Pro → M3 Pro
 M1 ProM2 ProM3 Pro
Number of CPU cores8 or 1010 or 1211 or 12
Number of GPU cores14 or 1616 or 1914 or 18
CPU clock speed3.2 GHz3.4 GHz4.05 GHz
Unified memory16 GB or 32 GB16 GB or 32 GB18 GB or 36 GB
Memory bandwidth200 GB/s200 GB/s150 GB/s
L2 cache24 MB32 MB16 MB
L3 cache24 MB24 MB12 MB (no official data, estimated size*)


M1 Max → M2 Max → M3 Max

 M1 MaxM2 MaxM3 Max
Number of CPU cores101214 / 16
Number of GPU cores24 or 3230 or 3830 or 40
CPU clock speed3.2 GHz4.05 GHz4.05 GHz
Unified memory32 or 64 GB32, 64 or 96 GB36, 96 GB / 48, 64 or 128 GB
Memory bandwidth400 GB/s400 GB/s300 GB/s / 400 GB/s
L2 cache24 MB32 MB32 MB
L3 cache48 MB48 MB48 MB (no official data, estimated size*)

*Apple has not provided data on L3 cache in M3 generation computers. However, it’s a very important number for Neat Video’s performance and video editing in general. We have to look at L3 cache as it can help CPU/GPU get required data from memory faster even in this integrated configuration.

As you can see some numbers have slightly increased since the last upgrade, like the numbers of CPU and GPU cores, base frequency/clock speed, and unified memory. While others stayed the same or even dropped. The latter isn’t a good sign at all.

M3 Max configuration with 300GB/s memory bandwidth and M3 Pro with 150 GB/s look especially worrying. In addition, M3 Pro has also lost in L2 cache with the drop from 32 MB in M2 Pro to only 16 MB. For us, those two can say only one thing: the speed will go down on both FullHD and 4K clips on M3 Pro.

NeatBench results

Let’s see how M3 computers are performing compared to their predecessors. All the tests were run using NeatBench working with FullHD and 4K frame sizes.

FullHD video

 CPU coresGPU coresCPU speed (FPS)GPU speed (FPS)CPU+GPU speed (FPS)
M family     
Apple M18814815.2
Apple M281015.11118.2
Apple M3810n/a*n/a*n/a*
Pro family     
Apple M1 Pro101622.520.632.7
Apple M2 Pro12192724.235.8
Apple M3 Pro121824.317.428.7
Max family     
Apple M1 Max103222.736.535.1
Apple M2 Max123823.942.535.7
Apple M3 Max (14 cores)14303630.846.6
Apple M3 Max (16 cores)164041.135.450.6

n/a* - if you happen to have M3 or M2 Pro, please run the NeatBench speed test: open Terminal and run the following commands one after another:
cd ~/Desktop
./NeatBench5 1920x1080
./NeatBench5 3840x2160
Please send us the results for both FullHD and 4K.

4K video

As this frame size is four times larger the speed of processing time is expected to be also much slower.

 CPU coresGPU coresCPU speed (FPS)GPU speed (FPS)CPU+GPU speed (FPS)
M family     
Apple M1883.51.93.7
Apple M2810n/a*n/a*4.5
Apple M3810n/a*n/a*n/a*
Pro family     
Apple M1 Pro10165.65.08.3
Apple M2 Pro12196.45.69.1
Apple M3 Pro12186.04.37.2
Max family     
Apple M1 Max10325.810.711.7
Apple M2 Max12386.511.812.1
Apple M3 Max (14 cores)14309.38.012.4
Apple M3 Max (16 cores)164010.39.313.9

n/a* - if you happen to have M3 or M2 Pro, please run the NeatBench speed test: open Terminal and run the following commands one after another:
cd ~/Desktop
./NeatBench5 1920x1080
./NeatBench5 3840x2160
Please send us the results for both FullHD and 4K.

Speed change from M2 to M3

If you calculate relative NeatBench speed changes between Apple M2 and M3 generations, the figures for FullHD clips will look like this:

 NeatBench FullHD performance increase
M2 to M3n/a*
M2 Pro to M3 Pro-20%
M2 Max to M3 Max20%


For 4K clips, the speed test shows more modest numbers and the difference in the performance of the two Mac generations is less pronounced. Have a look at these numbers:

 NeatBench 4K performance increase
M2 to M3n/a*
M2 Pro to M3 Pro-20%
M2 Max to M3 Max15%

n/a* - if you happen to have M3 or M2 Pro, please run the NeatBench speed test: open Terminal and run the following commands one after another:
cd ~/Desktop
./NeatBench5 1920x1080
./NeatBench5 3840x2160
Please send us the results for both FullHD and 4K.
 

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Conclusions

Yes, M3 generally gets things done quicker than M2 and M1, but not all of them. And that is something you should keep in mind. These days Apple as well as most other laptop manufacturers aim at making their computers lighter, slimmer, and energy-savvy (read: lasting longer on battery). Performance often comes as a secondary factor, with the needs of video editors working with 4K and 8K on laptops not necessarily considered as a priority.

M3 Max has received a much faster CPU compared to M2 Max. It allows this laptop to outperform its predecessor even though the GPU block got significantly slower compared to M2 Max.

M3 Pro… Well, it turned out to be a worse model compared to M2 Pro. It just got downgraded in too many dimensions: bandwidth, L3 cache, the number of GPU cores, etc. All of that has made this laptop deliver lower frame rates in every possible test we have run. All modes (CPU, GPU and CPU+GPU) now work slower than we saw in M2 Pro.

Having said all that, we’d like to note that the industry is slowly evolving towards enabling video professionals to get more work done on the go. Yes, we are still far from the times when laptops start performing as fast as desktops. However, even now you can often remove video noise and flicker with the help of Neat Video on a laptop either in real time (for FullHD clips) or with minimum disruption (for 4K clips).

Should you upgrade to M3? Well, that depends on what computer you have at the moment, how much video editing you do and how much work you have to do on the go. If you are after a laptop, then M3 Max is definitely worth considering. However, look at the other manufacturers as well. Apple is not the only way.