What Does the "M" Series Really Mean

Today’s drop (via press release) of the M3 MacBook Air got my tech news starved brain thinking:

While Intel has struggled to advance performance and efficiency, and QC is about to launch their real ARM initiative with some pretty good sounding performance teasers, it seems that Apple has somewhat painted itself into a corner. The M1 series (M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra) were so good that the succeeding generations have been somewhat meh and leave a lot of users (and reviewers) scratching their heads trying to figure out what the upgrade strategy is/should be for users.

And so product launches are mostly relegated to press releases with lots of canned videos, reflecting this conundrum that the “new” processor releases are really for new buyers or those still in the Apple/Intel camp. My 2021 eBay used M1 Max MacBook Pro was $574 less than the brand new M3 MacBook Ai (with 24gb/2tb), and trounces specs and performance. Of course, that is a bit of a poor comparison given it was first generation best vs 3rd generation lower end, but still a real issue. If I match it toe to toe with the M3 Max MacBook Pro closest configuration, it is a whopping $1800 difference in two years, while every benchmark and real life review shows the M1 Max still doesn’t draw a long breath…

So what am I really getting at - we have reached max computer (and I believe max tablet). Sure, you’ll get stunning results from the M3 Ultra, but not many of us are coordinating Mars space missions in our basements. It’s now all coming down to form factor and peripheral features, where Windows has always delivered more choices and experiments than my Apple overlords…


Yeah it just all seems so underwhelming and stale at this point. Even they aren’t impressed with it. :smiley:

1 Like

No I think it’s more a matter of the hardware outrunning the software once again which has happened to Intel numerous times previously including the first multicore chips, when they added tuboing etc. It took a good while for the OS and apps to start taking fuller advantage.

In that vein, way under used/exploited tech in the Mseries chips include the NPUsystem , unified memory benefits etc.

In other words devs will likely start taking fuller advantage of the m2 chips around the time of the M5 release :upside_down_face:

PS: It also is worth remembering that the m1 was allegedly almost a decade in development ( work allegedly started around when the iPhone 6 Plus released) so expecting the same types of leaps from succeeding generations of the M chips just doesn’t make sense IMHO

1 Like

For me, we’ve been there for some time. I currently use the Pro X (SQ2) and, other than some graphics issues that are related to WOA limitations, it clearly outperforms my requirements. Other than changes to form factors or peripherals, there is really no reason to “upgrade” my unit.

The things I do find necessary are the pen charger/cradle in the keyboard, LTE, daylong battery life and decent camera/microphone combination for video conferencing. I like the removable storage as well.

For all those reasons, an :upgraded" Go, as much as I love its size, is probably a no-Go for me.


Exactly. Perspective in 3-5 years with show this, but Apple’s 0-5% IPC improvements over the last five years will become blatantly immediate when they are no longer the clear performance and efficiency leader in 1-2 years. The hardware development has languished since their star engineers’ mass exodus to Nuvia. It is equally telling that their AI TOPs performance is falling behind the rest of the market (M3 sees 16 TOPS versus 45 TOPS in Snapdragon X). On the CPU front, Apple’s IPC is on track to be surpassed by second generation Snapdragon X in both IPC and efficiency (based on Cinebench 2024 and Geekbench 6.2, they are only behind 5-7% currently; unlike Apple’s measly 0-5% IPC improvements, most companies like Intel or AMD see generational IPC improvements on the order of 15-20% these days), as well as quite possibly in IPC by Zen 5.

Yep. The two external monitor support applies only with two total active displays. The poor little thing called M3 can’t even run its own display with two external displays connected. What a letdown and I would call this specification mischaracterization from Apple very Microsoft-esque. If this the year Microsoft Surface turns more Apple in terms of quality and transparency (for example, Microsoft battery life estimates still include standby and I for one would love to see that slashed forever), I’ll be a happy camper.


1 Like

How did I get “stuck” on the upgrade search?

Assuming that neither Apple nor M$ will deliver the 2-in-1 device I want, what next? Just for grins, I looked at the new M3 MacBook Air 15 (2.7lbs) and iPad Mini 6 (5g). It’s a brutal experience:

M3 MBA13 : $1699 for 16gb ram, 1tb ssd, 8c/10c (2.7#)
M1 Max MBP14: $1220 trade in; 32gb ram, 2tb ssd, 10c/24c (3.5#)
Net cost: $479 for a NET downgrade and save 0.8# in my bag

iPad mini 6: $799 for A15; 256gb ssd; 5g (0.66#)
iPad Pro 11: $395 trade in for M1; 16gb ram; 1tb ssd; 5g (1.04#)
Net cost: $404 for ANOTHER net trade down and save 0.38# in my bag

I knew that Apple gear holds its value (both financially and operationally) but it looks like they’ve outdone themselves this time in the M series world. A clear DOWNGRADE in my hardware will ONLY cost me $883 and save a whopping 1.18# in the bag.

PS - @Hifihedgehog - is your Oryon magic going to bring me a <2.5# WOA with 16gb ram, 1tb ssd, 5g, and OLED for <$3000…



What year?

June 2024. :wink:

Windows Central confirmed it just a couple of weeks ago.

And a month before that, my own sources confirmed the date and other details long before the Windows Central article:

In short, the WOA wow moment is on our doorstep now, three months away.

Hyped? Oh, yes, yes, I am!

Taking the long and clear-eyed view after Surface Pro 10, however, my only worry is long-term commitment to the brand. That is, if the brand will suffer the same fate as the NUC did at Intel. Panay’s departure certainly makes me think that the Surface brand’s days are numbered. The absence of Microsoft Mechanics video detailing the Surface Laptop Studio 2, when every device before has had a video, is also alarming and possibly the harbinger of the loss of commitment from corporate Microsoft. The increasingly worse support experience for consumers, which has recently become terrible on the business side as well (which used to be the last good support for Surface), has only cemented this perception for me.


Yeah, it doesn’t look good. However, on the bright side, a Surface 10 bought this year will likely have support for the length of time people on this forum usually keep them for. So the (possible) problem can is kicked down the road a ways.

And to @dstrauss – Dale, you’ll be retired by the time a device like the magical Surface 10 OLED unicorn has served its use. :skypenod:

1 Like

Same here - now, if Sammy would resurrect the Galaxy Book 12" with EMR support, THAT would be a juicy development.


Alas, it appears that Samsung believes tablets must run Android. Only their laptops get EMR pens (in a silo no less).

1 Like

I’m probably in - in that case. I don’t need Dale level storage but I do want 16GB, 5G and OLED display.

I could be sporting a new Fold 6 (assuming a super Samsung deal on preorder) and Surface Pro 10 by the end of the Summer. I haven’t spent a dime on tech for over a year.


Woah. So you’re okay with forgoing the wait for the 11" Surface Pro that is set to come out in the future?

1 Like

A very uncertain future as I see it (for Surface that is)


Ditto and good point. I’ve heard the rumors but nothing materialize, not even an OLED display in the works like I did for the Surface Pro 10. So it is still highly tentative even if it is in the roadmap. It ain’t over 'til it’s over.