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Everything Apple announced at its October 'Scary Fast' event (and what wasn't unveiled)

The company used a special evening presentation to unveil its newest 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro, iMac, and M3 chipsets. Other things were oddly missing in action.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Apple Store photo taken by iPhone 15 Pro Max at 28mm
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

It's been an eventful year for Apple's computing line; the company unveiled 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max configurations back in January, the first-ever 15-inch MacBook Air along with new Mac Studio and Mac Pro models at WWDC in June, and a Vision Pro headset that may eventually replace all the machines listed above.

Also: Professionals should buy Apple's cheapest M3 MacBook Pro for one reason, and one reason only

Apparently, that's not enough hardware for consumers to throw their wallets at, because what the company announced today might be its most enticing ensemble of Mac computers yet. During an evening keynote at Apple's Cupertino headquarters, Tim Cook and several product executives took the virtual stage to unveil new MacBook Pros and a 24-inch iMac -- all powered by M3 processors.

The new silicon is based on TSMC's 3nm process and will surely become the standard chipset across Apple's upcoming Mac hardware. More importantly, the lineup of new Mac computers comes at a time when other chipmakers, including Qualcomm and Intel, are readying up high-performance computing chips of their own. 

For a recap of all the products unveiled during Apple's "Scary Fast" event -- and what didn't make the director's cut -- see the list below.

What products did get announced

M3 chips in all sizes

Apple M3 chips
June Wan/ZDNET

At the center of Monday's hardware announcements was Apple's newest silicon: M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max. The new M3 chips, built on TSMC's 3nm process, succeed the M2 chips' 5nm process and fall in line with the new iPhone 15 Pro's A17 Pro chip.

The cutting-edge transistors of the 3nm process allow Apple to improve the GPU performance of its Mac computers -- up to 1.8 faster graphics performance than the M2 chip. The efficiency cores get a big leap, too, with a 30% improvement compared to the M2 series and a 50% improvement over the M1 series.

Also: Why Apple's Mac Studio with M2 Ultra is the Tesla Model S Plaid of computers

The M3 chipsets also introduce Dynamic Caching, which allows the processors to adaptively allocate bandwidth based on the tasks at hand. That's compared to traditional memory management, which prioritizes a single program at a time.

The M3 also supports Mesh Shading and hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing for improved graphics rendering, especially for creative workflows and gaming.

Much like the M2 processors that classify Apple's latest Mac computers by performance and efficiency, the company's carried over its three-tier approach with this next wave of models, as follows:

  • M3: Eight main processing (CPU) cores (four performance and four efficiency) and 10 graphics (GPU) cores
  • M3 Pro: Starting at 12 main processing cores (six performance and six efficiency) and 18 graphics cores
  • M3 Max: Starting at 16 main processing cores (12 performance and four efficiency) and 40 graphics cores, and now supports up to 128GB of unified memory

2. 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro in Black
June Wan/ZDNET

Apple's MacBook Pro line is more convoluted than it seems, with Touch Bar and no-Touch Bar models still being sold. The new M3 upgrades may streamline things going into 2024. 

With the ever-dwindling inventory of the M2-powered 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros on Apple's storefront, we found out during the "Scary Fast" event that the two larger laptop models are getting fresher M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips. Apple says the M3 Max models, for example, are two times faster than the M2 Max models that were released back in January.

The new MacBook Pros can also be configured with up to 128GB of unified memory, which is ideal for "extreme users" who rely on multiple plugins and services when photo and video editing, developing, and more.

Also: M3 MacBook Pro with top-of-the-line specs? You'll be surprised at how far it is under $10,000

What hasn't changed is the form factors of the new MacBook Pros, with Liquid Retina XDR displays that get plenty bright (up to 1,600 nits) and all the ports for professional users. Only this time, there's a new Space Black finish that gives off dark hues similar to the iPhone 15 Pro, and, more importantly, a meaningful improvement to the performance and battery life (up to 22 hours) thanks to the new M3 chipsets.

The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros are available for preorder right now, starting at $1,599 and $2,499, respectively, with the M3 and M3 Pro models seeing earlier ship times (as soon as next week), and the M3 Max models being slated for late November.

3. iMac with M3

Apple 24-inch iMac with M3
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

It's hard to believe that the oh-so-colorful 24-inch iMac is more than 900 days old, and I blame its timeless design and reliable M1 chipset for that. During Apple's "Scary Fast" event, the company's all-in-one computer for the mainstream saw a much-needed revamp -- mostly internal, of course, with the new base-level M3 chip taking the M1's place.

Also: Best Mac models this year, and which one you should buy

Apple says the M3 chip allows the new 24-inch iMac to perform at twice the speeds of its M1 predecessor, and the difference is larger compared to Intel-based models. Otherwise, the design of the new iMac is about the same as the last, with a 1080p FaceTime camera, a six-speaker sound system, a 4.5K retina display that ramps up to 500 nits of brightness, and Apple's Neural Engine and Media Engine for creative workflows.

The 24-inch iMac is now available for preorder starting at $1,299 and will begin shipping next week.

What products didn't get announced

1. 13-inch MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Pro 13.3 inch M1 on a table
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

There were murmurs that the M3-fication of MacBook Pros would include Apple's lost but not forgotten 13-inch model, but that turned out to be more of a trick than a treat.

It's not unreasonable to assume that it may be the end of the line for Apple's final MacBook with a Touch Bar, as its most recent refresh happened nearly a year and a half ago when the company simply swapped out its M1 chip for an M2. The design of the 13-inch MacBook Pro remains inferior to even the MacBook Air, which fields a notched design and a keyboard that's less prone to defects.

If there was any time for the company to further the gap between its old laptops and the new, Apple's "Scary Fast" event just made the most sense.

2. Magic Keyboard and Mouse with USB-C

Apple Magic keyboard and mouse on white background

With the iPhone being the last major product to transition over from Lightning to USB-C, the stars had aligned for Apple to standardize its most popular Mac accessories during its "Scary Fast" event, but that never came to fruition. Not yet, at least.

Also: Best USB-C chargers and accessories for iPhone 15 Pro: Expert tested

With the new 24-inch iMac, Apple will continue to bundle Lightning-equipped Magic Keyboard and Mouse peripherals, giving some users reasons to retain their cables.

How to rewatch Apple's 'Scary Fast' event

The keynote presentation began on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET), and was livestreamed across Apple's homepage and official YouTube channel. You can rewatch the broadcast on Apple's YouTube channel right now.

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