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Apple’s 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro powered by M1 Pro and M1 Max Apple Silicon launched more than a year ago. As we await new M2 versions, we revisit how well these machines have held up under our daily workload.
In October of 2021, Apple ditched the design it chose in 2016 and debuted a pair of new MacBook Pros. We reviewed them both, of course.
Most of the staff who were in the market for a new machine purchased the M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro, and we have been using it nearly every day since.
The new machines shipped with a bevy of new features. They carried a redesigned chassis, three Thunderbolt ports instead of four, an HDMI port, an SD card reader, an updated display, and Apple Silicon inside.
In the past year, we’ve thrown a lot at our machine, from 8K multi-cam video editing, dynamic fluid flow plus associated boundary layer calculations, to more open Safari tabs than we can count and it has never skipped a beat.
2021 16-inch MacBook Pro specifications
|Display Size (inches)||16.2|
|Max Resolution||3,456 x 2,234|
|Brightness||1,000 nits sustained,|
1,600 nits peak
|Display Backlighting||Mini LED|
|Display Technology||Wide Color (P3),|
|Processors||10-core M1 Pro,|
10-core M1 Max
|Memory||16GB Unified Memory, up to 64GB|
|Graphics||M1 Pro 16-core,|
M1 Max 24-core
M1 Max 32-core
|External Video||2 6K displays at 60Hz (M1 Pro),|
3 6K and 1 4K at 60Hz (M1 Max)
|Storage||512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB|
|Keyboard||Backlit with ambient light sensor|
|Dimensions (inches)||14.01x 9.77 x 0.66|
|Weight (pounds)||4.7 (M1 Pro),|
4.8 (M1 Max)
|Battery Life||21 Hours|
|Ports||3 Thunderbolt 4 ports,|
SDXC card slot,
|Webcam||1080p FaceTime HD|
|Speakers||Six speakers with force-cancelling woofers, Dolby Atmos|
|Microphones||3 with directional beamforming|
|Color Options||Silver, Space Gray|
|Price||Retails starting at $2,499 – but frequently on sale|
2021 16-inch MacBook Pro, one year later – Still a great redesign
Our 16-inch MacBook Pro looks fantastic. It has nearly no signs of wear from the past year, and we adore the flat redesign. The old design, while still handsome, started to look a bit dated with its bulging curves.
The new straight edges look more modern and align better with Apple’s current design philosophy employed across iPhone and iPad. It also carries some nostalgia for us, hinting towards the design of much older MacBook Pros.
It always fits easily into our bags for travel and is comfortable to use. There isn’t anything we’d change from this physical exterior design.
One of the more controversial changes to this Mac is the larger display that incorporates a notch in the center of the menu bar. We had no issue with it at launch, and we’ve held steadfast in that opinion.
Unless you’ve got a really long menu bar, it makes no difference at all. In exchange for the notch, the MacBook Pro got a larger display with the menu bar now occupying the space on either side of the camera system, while Apple is free to provide upgraded camera hardware.
Our only minor qualm is still the lack of a Touch Bar. We understand many disliked the Touch Bar or, at best, found it unnecessary. We appreciated the Touch Bar for how it sped up our workflow.
Opening Affinity Photo showed a preview of recent working files along the Touch Bar for quick access, and filling out forms was expedited by multiple options that would display on the Touch Bar.
Touch Bar is gone, and it isn’t coming back. But we still feel a pang of sadness every time we have to jump through extra hoops that the Touch Bar used to alleviate.
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14″ MacBook Pro with M1 Pro
Configurable with Apple’s M1 Pro 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU, or up to a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU.
14″ MacBook Pro with M1 Max
Configurable with Apple’s M1 Max chip with a 10-core CPU and 24-core GPU, or up to a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU.
16″ MacBook Pro with M1 Pro
Powered by Apple’s M1 Pro chip with a 16-core GPU.
16″ MacBook Pro with M1 Max
Apple’s M1 Max chip can be configured with a 24-core GPU or a 32-core GPU.
Powering through our daily workflow
Performance remains the same. In case you missed our first review of the machine, these new chips boast a 10-core CPU with a 16-core Neural Engine, with memory bandwidth increased to 400GB/s on the Max.
Each also incorporates a new Media Engine as part of the SoC design, which enables hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW decoding and encoding. On the M1 Max, the Media Engine’s improved further to include two video encode engines, and two ProRes encode and decode engines, making it even better for video production.
This is all before you take into account the built-in GPU. The M1 Max starts with a 24-core GPU and rises to a 32-core option, which is what we have here.
Apple’s GPU and GPU speed gains are not the whole story. The 1TB flash drive we tested here is blisteringly fast as well. Using BlackMagic’s disk speed tester, we saw 6.4 gigabytes per second write speed and 5.3 gigabytes per second read.
You won’t quite get these speeds on the 512GB model, though. In our testing, we saw the same read speed at about 5.3 gigabytes per second, but a drop in write speeds to about 4 gigabytes per second. This is entirely due to less parallelization with the smaller storage capacity.
While the rest of the staff has different needs, most of my workflow with the Macbook Pro has been video production for AppleInsider‘s YouTube channel, photo editing, and plenty of writing. There’s also been occasional gaming.
None of these tasks have been burdensome for the M1 Max. It has powered through easily, speeding up our workflow, managing an unending pile of simultaneously open apps, and running on battery for hours.
Across the staff, we’ve had multiple incidences of not plugging into power or a Thunderbolt dock and not realizing it for hours until we glanced at the battery indicator, and it wasn’t full.
I should have opted for more storage on my personal machine. With the help of the JetDrive Lite, we were able to add an extra terabyte of storage via the SD card reader. The JetDrive Lite isn’t the fastest storage given that it’s SD-based, but it is an easy way to store files without needing an external SSD or hard drive.
Ventura offers Continuity Camera that allows you to use your iPhone’s rear-facing camera as your Mac’s webcam. This provides a far superior experience and has left us unconcerned with the integrated solution.
Still worth the purchase
It is common for a first-generation product, or at least the first-generation after a redesign, to have some rough edges that need refining with the next iteration. So far, that hasn’t been the case with the new MacBook Pro.
The keyboard is responsive and fast, the display looks incredible and vivid, and the M1 Max has crushed it. We’d still have preferred four Thunderbolt ports instead of three with HDMI and a SD card reader, but you can’t always get what you want.
For most users, we recommend either the stock M1 or M2 MacBook Air. If you need more power, or are looking at nearly any upgrade at purchase to the M2 MacBook Air, the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max Apple Silicon is an excellent machine for about the same price given the sales we’ve seen lately.
2021 16-inch MacBook Pro — Pros
- Sleek redesign
- M1 Max is still a more than capable chipset
- Plenty of ports
- Great looking display
- Fantastic battery life
- macOS Ventura added plenty of new features
2021 16-inch MacBook Pro — Cons
- We still morn the loss of the Touch Bar
- Your mileage may vary, but four Thunderbolt ports is more flexible than three with HDMI and SD
- No Wi-Fi 6e
- Built-in camera is only OK
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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