Does Apple’s M3 chip obsolete the M1 and M2? Here’s when to upgrade – and why

Mac Studio M2 Ultra ports

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

As soon as Tim Cook faded from the screen, my wife turned to me and asked, “M3, huh? So, does that mean all our new Macs are now obsolete?” We had just finished watching the shortest Apple event in history, where the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max processors were announced, along with a new MacBook Pro and iMac.

Over the past two years, we’ve upgraded all of our company Macs (about a dozen of them) from Intel to M1 and M2 architectures. My wife’s computers are now M2-based, while I’m running a very highly equipped M1 Max Mac Studio, as well as a bunch of M1-based Mac minis and an M1-based MacBook Air.

Also: Apple’s M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chipsets: Everything you need to know

We spent quite a lot on these machines. My wife’s main machine is a maxed-out M2 MacBook Air, which was ZDNET’s Product of the Year for 2022; let me tell you, maxing out Mac storage and RAM doesn’t come cheap.

My wife’s concern about potential obsolescence is valid. Fortunately, it’s nothing to worry about. In fact, ZDNET Editor-in-Chief Jason Hiner writes today that “Apple’s desktop-class MacBook Pros have leapt forward again with M3. But remember the latest M2 MacBook Air still offers pro-level performance with a more impressive form factor and price tag.”

In short, the M1 and M2 Macs are still awesome, current, well-tested, and well-functioning machines. But let’s dive a little deeper. Why would you upgrade fo the M3?

Reasons to upgrade

I regularly upgrade my machines. I’m always chasing the chance to save time. So if I thought that these new devices would give me an extra hour or so in my day, I’d leap at it. But I’m sticking with my M1s because I’m not feeling it.

By “feeling it,” I mean that my current machines aren’t making me miserable. And believe me, I’ve known misery. Back before Apple’s spate of upgrades in 2018, the company let the Mac product line languish for years. My work productivity suffered, and I contemplated moving my entire work stack to the PC, which would be a major effort because I use some special purpose software — Final Cut Pro and Keyboard Maestro, among others — that is Mac only and forms the basis of my productivity.

Finally, when Apple did a full sweep upgrade, first to a new Intel Mac mini in 2018, and then to Apple Silicon, I was all over it. Because I needed that long-awaited performance.

Also: Migrating to M1 Macs: How I’m…