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M3 Apple silicon has a BIG problem!

I’m betting there are a few headaches at Apple Park…

Apple silicon Macs

3 years ago Apple changed the rules for what we had come to accept as the norm – as the rules. But has Apple silicon turned out to be a massive problem for them?

I have three Macs in my studio which span the history of Apple silicon story so far – an M1 Max MacBook Pro an M2 MacBook Air and the new M3 iMac.

The numbers on the page and the specs make for interesting enough reading but how they relate to real-world performance – that is the acid test.

Just a thought…

When I started to edit videos for my YouTube channel I came from working on a 2015 Intel iMac. That Mac had a 4 GHz quad-core i7 processor, 32 GB of DDR3 storage and 1 TB of flash storage and was a great machine – for its time.

The 5K display is still brilliant to this day. There are a few signs of wear now but in fairness, it’s nearly 9 years old and has done a lot of work and seen a lot of action. But there has been something that’s been bugging me…

We know just how committed Apple is to sustainability so I have a question I’d like to run past you…where did Target Display Mode go? As soon as the M1 chips came along Apple discontinued support for Target Display mode.

I made a video about the new iMac last week and what came out of it was that there are people who still love that large 27-inch display. But just because the internals are now slowing up it means we have all these gorgeous Macs that could end up in landfills rather than being used alongside Mac minis, Mac Studios or even Mac Pro’s – it was just a thought…

Hopefully, you’re enjoying this story  -  if you wanted to say ‘thank you’, the best way is simply to clap, highlight and get involved in the comments. And my promise to you…If you get in touch I will answer! So clap, highlight and comment away…

Specs

Let’s look at how Apple silicon has come on.

Starting with the M1 Max MacBook Pro that I’ve been using since April 2022. With taxes, it cost a whopping £4300 but you know what it was worth every penny as I’ve used it every day and it’s coped brilliantly as my demands on it have grown.

That M1 Max MacBook has a 10-core CPU made up of 8 performance cores & 2 efficiency cores a 32-core GPU and a 16-core Neural engine.

My M2 base-level MacBook Air has an 8-core CPU split evenly between the performance and efficiency cores an 8-core GPU and a 16-core Neural engine.

In theory, at least, the only changes between my M2 MacBook Air and M3 iMac are that the M3 chip is now on the 3-nanometer architecture, it has Dynamic caching and ray tracing for gamers.

The funny thing is, because I bought the base models M2 and M3 Macs it means my iPhone 15 Pro Max has the same amount of storage and is almost as well spec’d with a 6-core CPU, 6-core GPU and the same 16-core Neural engine as those two Macs. That’s the kind of power that Apple silicon is capable of. We are living in great times…

Put to the test

So we’ve seen how they look on paper – but how do they fare in the real world?

I decided to put the M1 Max MacBook and M3 iMac to the test. I used a large video file – it’s 20 minutes long and 1.2 GB. I popped them into Premiere Pro, marked the in and out points and then I rendered & exported the same file on both Macs to see how far the M series of chips has come since M1 and how this entry-level machine compares against the mighty £4500 M1 Max.

The M1 Max rendered the file in 3 minutes 15 seconds whereas the M3 iMac took just over a minute longer at 4 minutes 28 seconds -0 okay so far that was pretty much what I was expecting. But when it came to exporting – wow!

The M3 iMac took 10 minutes 51 seconds to export the 4 GB mp4 file but the M1 Max took 14 minutes 02 seconds. That is how fast these M series chips are progressing and have come – in just three years. My guess is I’ve just found out what Dynamic caching is all about then! There is no other explanation.

Apart from complex multi-layered Photoshop documents, this test is about as much stress as I put my Macs through. Ok, it gets a bit tougher when I use various plugins and After Effects etc, but in essence, this is how I use my Macs every week and should give you a fair idea of what these Macs are like to use…in real life.

It will be interesting to check out an M3 Max in a Mac mini and put that through a similar test – and when Apple release it I’ll be sure to get one and test it out.

Apple silicon has problems

Earlier on I mentioned that Apple may have shot themselves in the foot with Apple silicon. I know they plan and predict everything down to the finest detail but could they, even the mighty Apple have predicted just how good this generation of Macs was going to become?

I think Apple is facing a massive problem. Look at my M1 Max MacBook Pro. Having spent over £4000 less than two years ago, would I seriously consider trading up and spending another small fortune to only save a few minutes? Having seen the results of my test I guess an M3 Max could save me some time – but that was a 20-minute file – and I never export a video that long and even so, I only export about once a week anyway. There is not enough of a saving to make it worth my while. The M1 Max MacBook is still fast.

So the problem they have is how do they convince us to change. The massive jump in power and performance we saw coming from Intel to Apple silicon – that kind of improvement only comes once in a generation. Surely everything from now on is only going to be iterative and have relatively minor improvements.

Right now I’m guessing there is a bit of head-scratching going on at Apple Park – how can they tame the beast they’ve created?

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