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2023 MacBook Pro M3 Max: Recommended Models and Accessories

Please buy your gear at B&H Photo and OWC/ using any link from this site.
Consult with Lloyd, to design a complete system for photography or similar including backup and data safety

MPG tested both the 14-inch and 16-inch models Apple 2023 MacBook Pro M3 Max 128GB /4TB, model Z1AU002AK and model Z1AF001AN. See all Apple MacBook Pro M3 Max.

Consult with Lloyd to design a complete system for photography or similar including backup and data safety.

2023 MacBook Pro M3 Max

Incredible performance from the 2023 Mac Pro M2 Ultra!

Executive summary

  • Realistic performance gains of M3 Max vs M2 Max are typically around 10%.
  • Realistic performance gains of M3 Max vs M1 Max are typically in the 15% to 25% range, but can be greater in specific cases.
  • M3 Max is typically 10% faster than M2 Ultra, dropping to 80% of the speed of M2 Ultra when all CPU and/or GPU cores are used. Some exceptions are seen.
  • The M2 Ultra 60 GPU cores outrun the 40 of the M3 Max chip most of the time, but not always—software plays a decisive role*.
  • One test disappoints badly: Photoshop (java) scripting is subject to some peculiar overhead, throttling performance heavily. Intel machines are still top of the heap here.
  • Not tested: the 76 core GPU option. In the best case this could increase performance by 25% for GPU-intensive tasks.

* Increased overhead and/or contention, see Gunther's law of computational scalability.

Which model?

This work is not free; it is very time consuming with no direct reward. I need your support. Thank you for buying your Macs and other gear at B&H Photo, which provided the machine for testing. Subscribing to my photographic publications is another way to help support work like this—consider that AppleCare alone is $350 on $4000 to $7000 machine.

I deem the fan noise excessive, at least for my workflow. Wait for a Mac Studio M3 Max (or Ultra) unless you must have a laptop, as it will be a far better cooled device.

It is hard to go wrong with a 4TB SSD and 40 GPU cores. Spend more on an 8TB SSD only if this is a primary machine and/or you do huge projects out and about.

View: current Mac wishlist and all current OWC wishlists.

B&H Photo Payboo pays sale tax for most states.

CLICK TO VIEW: Recommended Storage,etc

CLICK TO VIEW: MacBook Pro M3 Max Configurations, Accessories

Getting a deal

As this was written, M1 Max models were still being discounted at savings up to $2100 on maxed-out models. For the true power user, fastest is best regardless of cost, but for those of us with a budget, saving that kind of money particularly on a secondary computer might make a lot of sense, which is why I (MPG Lloyd) bought the M1 Max back in spring 2023.

Backup, peripherals, etc

Budget for peripherals. Also for AppleCare, given the pathetic 1-year warranty.

Memory UpgradesExternal SSDInternal SSDExternal StorageHard DrivesPort ExpansionCables


Everyone should have an absolute minimum of two backups drives and preferably four: two always-attached, and two offsite. Single drives are best for offsite backup (separable and multiply redundant on power supply).

The OWC Thunderbay 4 makes an excellent “always attached” backup unit for Time Machine and clones spread across its 4 drives (use the drives individually, not RAID).

See the OWC storage wishlist.

Primary storage

Most photographers are going to need large storage like the OWC Thunderbay 4 or OWC Thunderbay 8.

See the OWC storage wishlist.

OWC Thunderblade Thunderbolt SSD

Blazing fast, up to 32TB.


√ No more slow and noisy hard drives!

Port expansion

To attach Mini DisplayPort display, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is best.

See the OWC port expansion wishlist.

See also OWC Offers Dual DisplayPort and dual HDMI Adapter for Thunderbolt 3 Macs or PCs.

CLICK TO VIEW: Recommended Storage,etc

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