MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review: The new king of MacBooks

The MacBook Pro 16-inch widens the gap between itself and Windows PCs

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023)
(Image: © Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

Faster and more powerful, Apple has once again lived up to its hype and created a system that outpaces everything else on the market with the MacBook Pro 16.


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    Excellent overall performance

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    Good gaming performance

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    Bright colorful display

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    Great battery life

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    Super comfy keyboard

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    Explemary audio quality


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    Expensive for a base model

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    No Face ID

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    Annoying notch

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MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) specs

Price: $3,499 starting, $3,999 as reviewed
CPU/GPU: M3 (14-core CPU, 30-core GPU, 16-core Neural engine or 16-core CPU, 40-core GPU, 16-core Neural engine)
RAM: 36 to 128GB
Storage: 1TB to 8TB
Display: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3456 x 2234 pixels, 254ppi)
Battery: 100Wh (18:05)
Dimensions: 14 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 4.8 pounds

Stop me if you’ve heard this one (especially from me), but Apple has crowned the new king of MacBooks. Yeah, I know. But it’s true. Apple once again lived up to its hype and created a system that outpaces everything else on the market. It didn’t mess with what’s a near flawless equation –– the Magic keyboard is still a delight to type on, the Liquid Retina XDR display is still one of the brightest around, the audio quality is still excellent. 

In fact, the only thing you’ll find different about the MacBook Pro 16 is the new Space Black colorway and the addition of Apple’s newest silicon, the M3 Max. And while one of these changes is cool in a quaint sort of way, the other is a radical game changer that pushes the MacBook further from the clutches of its Windows PC competitors in most aspects. I say most because while Apple Silicon has come a long way in terms of gaming performance, it still has a ways to go before it can go toe-to-toe with some of its biggest rivals in the space. 

But for now, I’ll take that Dynamic Caching, ray tracing and mesh shading thank you very much. 

Together with its M3 Max chip, the MacBook Pro 16 is the new king of the castle for professionals be they content creators, AI innovators, data scientists, architects and even gamers (to a certain degree). It can handle any and everything you can throw at it with aplomb. 

But the real question is can consumers handle the $3,999 ($3,499 starting) price that Apple is throwing at consumers?

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 Max pricing and configurations

Max isn’t just a callout for the new M3 chip. It’s also a hint to the hit your budget will be taking. I’m reviewing the $3,999.99 configuration which has a 16-core M3 Max processor (4 efficiency cores, 12 performance cores) with 48GB of unified memory, a 16-core Neural Engine, 1TB SSD, a 40-core graphics chip and a 16.2-inch, 3456 x 2234 Liquid Retina XDR display. 

The $3,499.99 base model drops the specs down to a 14-core M3 Max (4 efficiency cores, 10 performance cores) CPU, 36GB unified memory, 16-core Neural Engine, 1TB SSD, a 30-core graphics chip and a 16.2-inch, 3456 x 2234 Liquid Retina XDR display.

Still too pricey? Might be time to check out the M3 Pro base model which costs $2,499.99 and 12-core M3 Pro (6 performance cores and 6 efficiency cores) processor, 18GB of unified memory, a 16-core Neural Engine, 512GB SSD, an 18-core GPU and a 16.2-inch, 3456 x 2234 Liquid Retina XDR display.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 Max design

I wish you could have seen my face light up when I heard the phrase new color and how quickly it fell when it was Space Black. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Space Black is an ugly color, far from it. The recycled aluminum enclosure is just as pretty as its Space Gray and Silver counterparts. It’s just when I see the bright colorways of the iMac and I’m stuck playing with safe, “office-friendly” hues, I get jealous. 

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

But a new color is a new color, and as I stated, the MacBook Pro 16 is pretty, gorgeous even. The shiny apple logo will never fail to catch your eye, especially in the center of that lovely recycled metal lid. The aluminum has a slight texture when you rub your fingers over it. That’s most likely due to what Apple calls a breakthrough chemistry used to create the color. The process forms an anodization seal, which greatly reduces fingerprints.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

Opening the laptop, the only thing darker than the palm rest is the keyboard which rests in a inky black anodized aluminum housing. Directly beneath you’ll find the gigantic Force Touch TrackPad just waiting to be caressed.

The 14 x 9.7 x 0.7-inch weighs a solid 4.8 pounds. That’s lighter than the Dell XPS 17 (5.4 pounds, 14.7 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches) and the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i (4.9 pounds, 14.3 x 9.6 x 0.7 inches). At 4 pounds, the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra (14 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches) feels like feather light. 

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 security

One day, you’ll have the ability to unlock your MacBook Pro via Face ID. Today, unfortunately, is not that day. That doesn’t mean your MacBook is totally defenseless. Outside of some new security via macOS Sonoma (more on that later), you have TouchID by way of the fingerprint scanner embedded in the power button.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 ports

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

It’s not port-heavy, nor is it port-light. With its trio of Thunderbolt 4 ports, SDXC card reader, headphone jack, HDMI and proprietary MagSafe 3 port, you have enough to hook up a couple of monitors. Everything else, you’ll need a dongle adapter or one of the devices found on our best USB-C docks page. 

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 display

The MacBook Pro 16’s 16.2-inch, 3456 x 2234 Liquid Retina XDR display isn’t the most vivid panel out there, but it’s definitely one of the brightest. Despite what some might label as lackluster, personally, I found myself transfixed by the Pro 16’s screen whether I was fighting my way through dank interior of the mind flayer ship in Baldur's Gate or watching the alluring shimmy of the titular garment in the trailer for “Pretty Red Dress.”

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

I saw every ruby colored bead and sequin on the dress in a close up shot. And despite the cooler tones, none of the actors’ skin looked ashy or washed out.

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DCI-P3 color gamut
DCI-P3 color gamut percentage
MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max81.8%
Dell XPS 1780.5%
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i111.2%
Samsung Galaxy Book 4 Ultra86.2%

Our lab testers learned the MacBook’s screen only reproduces 81.8% of the DCI-P3 color gamut which falls below the 97.2% premium laptop average. The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra was only slightly better at 86.2% while the Slim Pro 9i reached 111.2%. The XPS 17 was the brightest of the bunch at 133.7%.

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Display brightness
MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max560 nits
Dell XPS 17523 nits
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i637 nits
Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra509 nits

Averaging 560 nits, the MacBook Pro 16’s screen is plenty bright, making the 434-nit average as well as Galaxy Book 3 (509 nits) and XPS 17 (523 nits) look dim by comparison. But the Lenovo was the clear winner with an average of 637 nits.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 audio

Six speakers, four force-cancelling woofers and two tweeters equals clear, loud audio from the MacBook Pro 16. No matter what I listened to, I got a spacious soundstage with clean highs, mids and lows even on distorted background vocals on the intro of Lucky Daye’s “Over.” That didn’t take away from the crisp twang of the guitar that eventually gave way to some punchy 808s paired with the now airy background vocals. All of which made way for the vocalist’s plaintive tenor asking for the final closure to the relationship.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 keyboard and trackpad

Apple was right to call it magic. The MacBook Pro 16’s Magic keyboard offers large bouncy keys with firm feedback. I hit 84 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test, a much better result than my typical 70 wpm. And as I look down on my work-issued MacBook’s Touch Bar that I can count on one hand the times I’ve used it, I wish I could swap it out for the infinitely more useful full Function row. It’s here that you’ll find buttons for Spotlight, Dictation and Do Not Disturb along with media and display brightness keys. 

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

In an attempt to multitask, I brought the Pro 16 downstairs while my boyfriend and I watched the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie. The keyboard’s backlighting was bright enough that I could read the keys in the dark. 

The 6.3 x 3.9-inch Force Touch trackpad is undeniably huge, but doesn’t hinder my typing in the least. Multitouch gestures such as pinch-zoom, two-finger scroll and three-finger flick worked quickly and seamlessly.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 performance

Targeting professional content creators, data scientists, architects or any with a hunger for ridiculous amounts of power, the M3 Max is for you. According to Apple, the heavy hitter of its new M3-series chips will bring an 80% CPU speed increase compared to the M1 Max and about 44% faster than the M2 Max. 

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

There was no stopping the M3 Max with its 48GB of unified memory as I gleefully launched 100 tabs in Google Chrome with a mix of spreadsheets, slideshows and documents from work along with several news sites, videos and some social media for good measure. I even played Baldur’s Gate 3 looking for some type of slowdown, but no dice.

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Geekbench 6 results
Mutli-core score
MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max20,863
Dell XPS 1713,214
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i8,351
Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra12,405

The MacBook Pro 16 kept up the pressure during Geekbench 6 where it put up 20,863, crushing the 8,241 premium laptop average. The XPS 17 (Intel Core i7-13700H CPU) came in at a distant second with 13,214, followed by the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra (12,405, Intel Core i7-13700H CPU) and the Slim Pro 9i (8,351, Intel Core i9-13905H CPU).

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

During the Handbrake test, the MacBook Pro took 2 minutes and 36 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p obliterating the 7:51 category average. The competition didn’t stand a chance. The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra completed the task in 5:26 with the XPS 17 finishing in 5:10 with the Slim Pro 9i finishing second in 4:35.

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Handbrake (Video transcoding)
Time (min:sec)
MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max2:36
Dell XPS 175:10
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i4:35
Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra5:26

Running the Adobe Photoshop test, the MacBook Pro 16 pulled a score of 1,357 topping the 1,110 average and the MacBook Pro M2 Max 1,218. 

On the File Transfer test, the MacBook Pro 16’s 1TB SSD put up some blistering read and write speeds, nailing down a 5,039.7 megabytes per second read score and a 6,272.5MBps write speed. Both results are better than the 4,751.6/4,497.6MBps.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 gaming and graphics

And now for gaming. And trust me, I know that Mac is not a gamer’s paradise, but Apple is working to change that. The company claims that the new GPUs is 50% faster than the M1 Max which is impressive of course, but I wish they gave some direct answers for the M2 Max. But don’t worry, I’ll try to add some of those numbers here. 

But first, some gaming. I made my way through my new addiction Baldur’s Gate, exploring and fighting my way through the mind flayers’ ship. After a few successful die roles, I built a party of four and narrowly escaped the clutches of death. My human ranger’s pink and purple locs looked great as did my silver-and-green armor. And the reddish-pink mind flayers looked appropriately wet and viscous. I did notice some weird banding issues with my character’s skin. Despite that, I noted that the frame rates never fell below 60 fps and often rose above 119 fps. 

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

When we ran the Sid Meier’s Civilization VI benchmark, the MacBook Pro 16 obtained 56 fps at 1200p, eking past the 53-fps premium laptop average, but not the M2 Max’s 58 fps. With their discrete graphics, all of the Windows PCs beat the MacBooks hand over fist. The Samsung and Lenovo with their Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPUs scored 95 and 124 fps, respectively. While the Dell’s RTX 4070 GPU got 122 fps. 

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Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (1920 x 1200)
1920 x 1200
MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max56 fps
Dell XPS 17122 fps
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i124fps*
Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra95 fps

The MacBook’s frame rate stayed pretty consistent after switching to native resolution, turning in 57 fps, skipping past the 47-fps category average. However, it couldn’t keep pace with any of the PCs as the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra, Slim Pro 9i and XPS 17 delivered 92, 95 and 79 fps, respectively. The M2 Max MacBook Pro 16 produced 59 fps.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider test, the MacBook reached 119 fps (1200p) stomping through the 81-fps average as well as the scores put up by the Dell (87 fps) and Samsung (54 fps). At native resolution, the MacBook Pro 16 dropped to 47 fps keeping the XPS 17 and Galaxy Book 3 Ultra (both 24 fps) and the 34-fps category average. 

During the Borderlands benchmark the MacBook produced 57 fps (1200p) which is above our 30-fps playability threshold, but still below the 68-fps average. The XPS 17 blew this test away with 77 fps. 

We saw the MacBook Pro 16 post an impressive 13,359 on 3DMark Time Spy Extreme, topping the 6,422 and the XPS 17 (4,473).

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 battery life

The MacBook Pro 16’s battery life sits right in the sweet spot of Apple’s claim (22 hours of video playback or 15 hours of web browsing). It lasted 18 hours and 5 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness). That’s great, but it’s 51 minutes behind the M2 Max (18:56). But that’s still better than any of the Windows laptops (XPS 17: 9:06, Galaxy Book 3 Ultra: 9:03, Slim Pro 9i: 6:12) and even the premium laptop average (10:37). 

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Battery life results
Time (hours:mins)
MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max18:05
Dell XPS 179:06
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i6:12
Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra9:03

The 140W USB-C Power Adapter that ships with the MacBook Pro 16 enables the laptop to achieve 50% charge in 30 minutes.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 heat

Despite all the heavy-duty work and play you’ll throw the MacBook Pro 16’s way, it will stay relatively cool. During our testing, the touchpad measured 76 degrees Fahrenheit, while the center of the keyboard hit 81 degrees. The notebook’s undercarriage was only a degree hotter at 82 degrees. 

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 webcam

Between the MacBook Pro 16 and 14 these are some of the best webcams I’ve seen to date. Both shooters brilliantly captured my orange hoodie as well as the pink, green, and blue in my locs. The shadow outline left by my braid looked crisp as did the wispy hairs in my eyebrows. And I definitely appreciated the bokeh effect for when it’s time to hop on a conference call. 

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re looking for an even better webcam, take a look at our best webcams page. 

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M3 software

So long Ventura, it was fun while it lasted. And while the sun sets on one operating system, it rises on another. Say hello to macOS Sonoma and with it a host of new features, some more useful than others such as the ability to add websites as apps to your dock from Safari. Not necessarily useful, but definitely eye-catching are the beautiful new screensavers made up of slow-motion videos of stunning locations from around the world. 

Widgets are a lot more functional and Sonoma really leans into it allowing for greater interaction letting you work directly in widgets such as creating reminders or to-do lists. And while there are specific use case widgets (music, podcasts, stocks, etc.), you can also bring over your iPhone widgets. And best of all, when you’re not using them, they’ll go translucent, allowing you to better interact with whatever it is that you are actually using. 

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

As many of us are doing some form of remote or hybrid work, Apple has baked a lot of video conferencing features right into Sonoma. For instance, video feed controls are no longer located inside the Control Centre. You can instead find them in a dropdown on the menu bar for much easier access. I like the Studio Lighting filters as they help you put your best face forward across a host of video conferencing apps.  If you use your Mac’s built-in webcam or Continuity Camera, you can have some fun with new 3D effects. It’s a little cheesy, but something about forming a heart with my hands to generate red heart emojis appear in the camera feed makes me smile. 

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) review

(Image credit: Future)

I’m a big security fan, so I’m glad to see that Sonoma has some enhanced features such as Private Browsing locks for Safari which keeps your tabs protected when you’re not in front of your device, locking them down via Face ID, Touch ID, or device password. Want to share a pic without giving an app access to your entire gallery? An embedded photo picker lets you pick photos to share within the app’s experience, without sharing your entire library. And if an app does want more access, you’ll see details of how many and which photos will be shared. 

This just a small taste of what you can expect from Sonoma, but it’s definitely got a little something for everyone.

The MacBook Pro 14 ships with a one-year limited warranty and 90 days of complementary tech support. See how Apple fared during our annual Tech Support Showdown

Bottom Line

How is it that the MacBook Pro 16 gets better every year? It didn’t make any changes to the design outside of a funky, more fingerprint resistant new color, which is a cool trick in itself. The display, keyboard and speakers and hell even the port offering remains the same. But let’s be real, this is really an Apple silicon party and the M3 Max is deserving of all the praise. In terms of overall performance, it has no peers, not even from its fellow MacBooks. Although, the battery life could have been a bit longer for this to be an unequivocal win. 

The other place Apple needs to focus is gaming. Don’t get me wrong, Apple is making leaps and bounds in the space, because if you had told me I’d be playing Baldur’s Gate 3 or Lies of P on a Mac, I would have laughed in your face and told you to put down the drugs. But here I am, playing and having a blast. But I want those frame rates that I see on Windows PC with their discrete GPUs and Mac fans need them. How long must they tolerate being trolled because ApPlE dOeSn’T gAme? I want the M4 chips to fully put that narrative to bed. But for now, I’m happy to try most of the dialogue options in Baldur’s Gate 3.

Overall, the MacBook Pro 16 is the laptop for Mac fans that need every bit of power they can squeeze from its svelte factor. But be warned, Apple is going to squeeze every single cent it can get from your wallet. But for a laptop this awesome, it’s a relatively fair exchange. 

Sherri L. Smith
Editor in Chief

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.