Apple M3 Max CPU flexes muscles and embarrasses M2 Ultra in battle of the benchmarks

MacBook Pro 16-inch M3
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s new M3 chips have been the talk of silicon town (population: a whole lot of chips) since they were revealed in refreshed MacBooks (and a new iMac 2023), and now we’ve got some fresh benchmark scores for the SoCs – this time for the M3 Max, excitingly.

We’ve already seen Geekbench results for the vanilla M3 chip, and now there are scores for the M3 Max – which shows it’s pretty much equivalent to the outgoing M2 UItra.

Indeed, according to a Geekbench 6 score provided by leaker Michael Burkhardt on X (formerly Twitter), the M3 Max is actually a touch faster – to the tune of 3% – than the M2 Ultra, hitting 21,890 for multi-core. (Hat tip to Wccftech here).

We should be cautious around this score, though, as we aren’t told where it comes from, or which version of the M3 Max is benchmarked – we can presume it’s the beefier one, though. There are 14-core and 16-core versions, so we’re guessing it must be the latter.

What backs this up, though, is that other Geekbench 6 results paint a similar picture, like these flagged by another well-known Apple leaker on X, Luke Miani.

These show multi-core results of around the 21,000 mark, so that’s more level with the M2 Ultra than slightly overtaking it. So, the overall gist is that the M3 Max is equivalent to the M2 Ultra.

As mentioned at the outset, there are other new Geekbench 6 benchmarks floating around for the base M3 chip which show much the same results we reported on yesterday, bearing out Apple’s claim for the new SoC being 20% faster than the plain M2. Those leaks also show us the clock speed of 4.05GHz for the M3, a fairly big leap from 3.5GHz for the M2, and part of the gains will come from cranking up those clocks, of course.

Analysis: A result to be ‘core-ful’ around (ahem)

Why are these M3 Max benchmarks a big deal? Well, remember that the Ultra model is the top spec, foot to the absolute floor version of Apple’s SoCs, and the M2 Ultra has 24-cores (16 performance cores plus 8 efficiency). Compare that to the M3 Max which has 16-cores (or maybe this is even the 14-core version – we don’t know for sure), and you can see why it’s impressive that the new M3 variant can beat out the old top dog.

That said, we have to be very wary of drawing anything like firm conclusions from a single benchmark tool, when other benchmarks may tell a somewhat different story. We need a varied landscape of these results (and real-world performance, compared to synthetic benchmarks, can be a different matter, as ever).

This hasn’t stopped excited chatter about the M3 Max online in light of this, though, as you can imagine. And furthermore, whispers about how powerful the M3 Ultra could be when it emerges…

Tim Cook needs some way to stoke flagging Mac sales, and the M3 looks like an enticing part of the puzzle in terms of persuading folks to choose Apple when they buy a new laptop.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).