Apple is working on its most powerful MacBook chip yet, the M3 Max - but don’t expect to see it this year

An imagined mock-up of a potential Apple M3 Logo
(Image credit: Apple / Future)

Apple is already testing the high-end variant of its upcoming M3 chip: the M3 Max, which will feature in high-end Mac products like the next-gen MacBook Pro.

As reported by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple leaker extraordinaire, a third-party Mac developer found references to the chip in Apple’s test logs. The M3 Max will reportedly feature a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU, the former of which will feature 12 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores.

It’s a significant step up in CPU terms from the previous M2 Max chip, which offered 8 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores. The GPU only gains two cores over its M2 predecessor, but it’s unlikely that’ll be a sticking point for users; Apple’s silicon already offers impressive graphical capabilities for creative workloads.

The new chip will supposedly be manufactured on a new 3nm process, which should offer both performance and power-efficiency advantages over TSMC’s 5nm process, which was used for the M2 series of chips.

The latest and greatest MacBook?

Although we don’t have exact details of the device in which Apple is allegedly testing the M3 Max, it’s apparently an unreleased MacBook model codenamed ‘J514’. This aligns with a previous leak detailing a 14-inch MacBook Pro with the same codename.

Interestingly, the leak shows that the J514 machine uses 48GB of RAM, though the current-gen MacBook Pro can carry up to 96GB, so it’s likely this test machine isn’t the most high-end configuration that will be available.

Although Gurman has previously claimed we’ll see M3 devices this year, I wouldn’t expect this model to be part of the initial lineup; chances are we’ll first see Mac products bearing the standard M3 chip, most probably a new MacBook Air, before the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips arrive. Naturally, we can expect an M3 Ultra (which is likely to essentially be two M3 Max chips sandwiched together to make one ultimate frankenprocessor) to arrive in professional-grade Mac products later in 2024.

Apple’s MacBook Pro line has long cemented itself as worthy of standing among the best laptops - and M3 promises to be faster and more powerful than anything before it. For many - myself included - M2 was impressive but not quite the generational leap we’d have liked to see. Will M3 deliver? We’ll have to wait and see…

Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.