No, You Don't Need To Buy The New M3 MacBook Pro

I spent over $4,000 on the new M3 Max MacBook Pro. It's amazing, but after directly comparing it to my M1 MacBook Pro, I've realized it's probably not worth upgrading. 

The M1 MacBook Pro Was and Still Is Amazing

Two years ago, I made a substantial investment, parting with $2,700 for my M1 Pro MacBook Pro. At that time, it was a significant chunk of change for me, but what surprised me most was that it managed to lure me away from my beloved handmade Windows desktop PC. Fast-forward to the present, and I find myself contemplating an upgrade not because my current laptop falls short, but because the M1 Pro has set the bar so high.

Real-World Performance Over Benchmark Numbers

I must confess: I'm not one to get overly excited about benchmark scores. While tech enthusiasts revel in the thrill of comparing numerical values, I'm more interested in understanding how these computers perform in the trenches of my daily workflow. Can they handle the pressure of running multiple applications simultaneously, or do they buckle under the weight?

I spend a significant portion of my life immersed in video editing using Adobe Premiere. Two years ago, my M1 MacBook Pro couldn't play my 4K footage back smoothly, which forced me to create proxies for each project. However, as time passed, Adobe's updates turned the tides. Now, I seamlessly edit footage with full-resolution files on the timeline, managing multiple timelines and projects concurrently without a hint of lag.

The story repeats itself in Photoshop, where I've navigated through massive files with countless layers without a hiccup. Lightroom, Premiere, and Photoshop share the stage with a myriad of other applications and a multitude of Chrome tabs open simultaneously on dual 4K monitors running at 60 HZ, and it never slows down. 

If my old laptop runs everything perfectly, what exactly do I need to upgrade?

M1 Versus M3 Max

Now, with the advent of the M3 Max, the question lingers: is the upgrade worth the exorbitant cost? The M3 Max promises increased speed and efficiency, boasting impressive export times for both video and raw files.

My first test was a simple video export in Premiere. The M3 Max outpaced my M1 Pro, rendering a 9.5-minute video in 4 minutes and 6 seconds compared to the M1 Pro's 6 minutes and 13 seconds.

For my second test, I exported 100 raw files in Lightroom. The M3 Max finished the job in just 47 seconds, and the M1 took 78 seconds. 

These gains are impressive, but here's the real question: how often are you actually exporting files? Once or twice a day? How much are you willing to spend to save 5 or 10 minutes? In the grand scheme of things, for the majority of users, the marginal gains in speed may not justify the substantial dent in the wallet. Unless you find yourself in an industry where time is indeed money and rendering projects stretch into the realm of 24-hour marathons, the upgrade may not offer the revolutionary leap you're hoping for.

The Verdict

As a photographer and videographer, my M1 Pro has been the best computer I've ever owned — so good, in fact, that I really don't need to upgrade it. I imagine the majority of people reading this are in the same situation. 

If you can tell that your current computer is struggling to keep up with whatever tasks you throw at it on a daily basis, it's time to upgrade, but if it's already keeping up, it's probably not spending thousands of dollars to save a few extra minutes a few times a week. 

Lee Morris's picture

Lee Morris is a professional photographer based in Charleston SC, and is the co-owner of

Log in or register to post comments

I recently bought a M1 Pro at nearly $1500 off the original price. I'm very happy with it :) I am bumping into limitations when stacking some effects and transformations in Premiere Pro. I wonder how that M3 Max would handle plugins like Dehancer.

That ending was awesome.

I have an M1 Max that I bought on day 1 when they were announced. I'll keep using it till it's broken, can't be updated to the latest OS, or when the Max chips get to twice as fast for general compute.

I’m just getting back into the hobby & bought a 2018 MacBook Pro & Lightroom 5 to run permanently on it. Since I’m not a “pro”, that and Luminar should cover me a long time

The upgrade will be more significant if you own Intel MBP. I was stunned when my M2 Air 15" outperformed my heavy overheated Intel MBP in every task making it a worthwhile upgrade.

Upgrades can be so incremental to be almost meaningless. iPhone 14 to 15 or M1 to M3.
I’ve just upgraded from iPhone 10 to iPhone 15 pro max and from a fairly decent 2020 i7 intel iMac to an M2 Studio. Was it worth it? In terms of making me more productive, I doubt it, but the jury is out. For how long, who knows or cares. In terms of reducing my back account, most definitely. It’s just too easy to convince yourself it’s the thing to do. New and shiny is always a lure. Being pretty old now and long retired and more money than sense I was influenced by what I picked up from a friend. He once said “there are no pockets in a shroud’” and that to a degree has driven my upgrades along with reading all those online tech pages and consulting all those meaningless bench mark scores. The one real bonus was I had to get a new monitor and the BenQ SW321C is a real beast of a monitor it’s colour accurate matt 4K image surpassing the 5K iMac easily. The world through the BenQ looks so much better. Will my photos and videos be better? Thats unlikely. Do I get more pleasure from using the new gear? Absolutely. If I was still operating commercially as a freelance filmmaker and photographer would the investment be worthwhile? Now that’s the real question. Quite possibly especially from the video perspective using FCP and from my images being right on the money from a colour point of view. It all comes down to the ability to afford it coupled with a good slice of financial reality and sense. My youngest son runs a film production company in the UK making films for big players like Netflix, Sony and the like. His acquisition of new gear is driven by much more hard nose commercial reality. He asks “ will it pay for itself” while I ask will it be fun? The moral if there is one is if you are running a business you have ignore any M1 to M3 hype and be 100% sure that the spend will reap benefits for the business. If you are in my position it’s the no pockets in a shroud that comes into play, along with what the hell I deserve it. Shallow I know, but when you are on that slippery slope having past 70…..

Wow how many YT videos is one person going to do on this topic. The simple fact is that if you buy any Max series you are going to get good life out of the laptop, Apple knows this hence why you pay more for the product. Comparisons between the other series are going to provide limited significant performance increase.