M3 Max MacBook Pro gaming is 'amazing,' but it's probably not enough to make gamers buy it

MacBook Pro showing Steam
(Image credit: iMore)

Apple recently announced the updated 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with a whole new line of chips. Starting with the M3, the new laptops can also be configured to ship with the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips inside. The latter, as you'd expect, is the most capable of the three and according to one review, it's quite the gaming powerhouse.

As well it should be. The M3 Max comes with a 30-core GPU attached to a 14-core CPU in its base configuration, but it's likely the model given to this particular reviewer was the upgraded one. That means it has a 16-core CPU and a GPU with a whopping 40 cores. That's a lot.

But while we're told that 4K gaming on this thing is "amazing," the same old Mac gaming problems remain. And no number of GPU or CPU cores is going to fix that, meaning gamers are probably still going to overlook the M3 Max MacBook Pro no matter how capable it might be.

All the performance

The review in question was by YouTuber Marques Brownlee for his hugely popular MKBHD channel. It isn't a hugely long one, running for less than 10 minutes. But it gives us all the highlights that you'd expect from such a thing — the Space Black color isn't as black as it could be, and the machine is incredibly fast. No surprises there.

Brownlee also took us on a whistle-stop tour of the MacBook Pro's gaming capabilities, noting that he'd been playing Lies of P on what is clearly Apple's best Mac to see how it ran. The result? "Amazing." Brownlee was playing in 4K with plenty of graphics quality settings ramped up and the game does indeed look great.

But for once, the Mac's performance isn't the problem here. There was once a time when buying an Apple laptop almost guaranteed that you wouldn't be playing a game on it. Integrated Intel GPUs were bad, and adding a discrete one meant paying a lot more and then dealing with the terrible battery life it brought with it. Today, things are different.

Sure, the M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro isn't cheap, although the 14-inch model can be had for less. Starting at $3,499 the big aircraft carrier of a laptop is a costly option, no doubt. But you get performance for days and a machine that looks like it costs $3,499. But is it a gaming laptop?

Where are the LEDs?

Razer Blade 16

(Image credit: Razer)

No, it isn't.

Over in the gaming world, you'll find laptops that cost even more than the M3 Max MacBook Pro, but they have some key things going for them — real gaming GPUs, and a gaming library that's second to none.

An example? The Razer Blade 16 costs $3,599 at its starting price point. It has the same size SSD and essentially the same amount of RAM as Apple's base M3 Max model, but has the Intel Core i9-13950HX CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4080 GPU. Both of those things will make the Razer a very capable gaming laptop. And it has LEDs — everyone knows gamers love those.

And then, there's the library.

Sure, Apple's trying its best to get games into the App Store and sure, Steam's on the Mac now. But not all games are available to play on Apple's computers and if they are, there's no guarantee they're optimized for them. Contrast that with the PC where you just know the hit new game will make an appearance and the choice is easy.

Would I buy the Razer? I wouldn't, I'd get the MacBook Pro all day long. As would creatives working in video and photo apps that make use of every little core the M3 Max has to offer. But gamers? For people willing to spend around $3,500 on a laptop to play games with, it makes sense to go where the games are. And that's Windows.

And no number of GPU cores in the M3 Max or beyond will change that.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • FFR
    That might change as more and more AAA games are released over the next year.
  • seonline
    This article is spot on. I wish Apple would work with Steam to a newer better version of Steam for Mac. If they could incorporate the Apple Developer Game Toolkit to automatically modify how the games are installed and handled, possibly incorporating wine and other utilities along with it, then I feel they could bring a much larger library of games to the Mac. Till then we just have to thank and use Andrew Tsai excellent YouTube content for getting the maximum out of gaming on the Mac.