This article will sound very biased because, in this regard, I am very biased. MacBook Pro users and fans alike have been waiting years for Apple to ship a pro-grade laptop with better performance, efficiency, screens, and better port selections. Ever since the 2015 MacBook Pro was put out to pasture, many either stopped using MacBook Pros and found solutions elsewhere or stuck with the laptops because of workflow requirements. But now, almost anyone who’s ever used a MacBook Pro can rejoice in glad tidings as Apple’s 2021 MacBook Pros have arrived, and they look baller.
Real quick, what new MacBook Pros are we talking about?
Apple has announced two new MacBook Pros: one with a 14-inch screen and one with a 16-inch screen. Both are available for preorder today and start shipping October 26th.
The new laptops have a ton of features in tow, including new M1 Pro and M1 Max chipsets which are set to offer a ton more computing and graphics performance compared to the standard M1.
More ports, ProMotion, better battery life, improved speakers, the removal of the Touch Bar, and various configurations are also here.
Ooh, tell me more!
For the first time since 2016, Apple has given the MacBook Pro a meaningful design refresh. The screen gets rid of aging bezels in favor an edge-to-edge design, the keyboard gains back a physical Function row and drops the Touch Bar, and the port selection grows in meaningful ways. These are all areas that were once points of contention for a lot of folks, and they seem to be getting significantly better this time around.
The new MacBook Pros ship in 14-inch and 16-inch screen sizes. The new Liquid Retina XDR displays use mini-LED technology for inkier blacks and more accurate color reproduction. The screens also pack up to 1,000 nits of brightness, a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, HDR, and support for the P3 wide color gamut. Apple includes ProMotion as well which enables a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz, just like on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPad Pro.
Apple claims the new MacBook Pros have “the world’s best notebook display,” but I’m sure a lot of people won’t think that due to one quirk: a notch. Apple made the bezels small enough on the new laptops that they were required to house the web cam in a notch cutout at the top of the display. Luckily, it’s as tall as the menu bar and blends into a black background when full-screen apps are being used. Still, it looks a bit silly in Apple’s own renders, so I guess people will just have to get used to it.
Below the display sits a keyboard which now features an all-black design. It also features a row of physical Function buttons, which means the Touch Bar is officially no longer a thing. Well, it still exists on the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro which remains up for sale, but as the standalone MacBook with such a feature. I suppose Apple heard all the people who said it was redundant and stupid.
The trackpad remains largely unchanged here, while the speakers see significant improvements with a new high-fidelity six-speaker system with 80 percent more bass and support for Dolby Atmos. Apple also says the headphone jack is seeing improvements, which is a bit odd given how against the port the company has been in recent years.
Apple didn’t have to do any of this. Sure, these are all nice improvements, but they all play a minor role in the new MacBook Pros’ appeal. Really, what people are excited for are the specs and ports.
On the specs, Apple is offering two new processors in the MacBook Pro: the M1 Pro and M1 Max. They both build off the existing M1 with more powerful CPU and GPU performance, support for more RAM and storage, and better efficiency.
The performance claims Apple is making are pretty wild. The M1 Pro is apparently 70 percent faster than the M1 with 2x the graphics performance thanks to its new up-to-10-core CPU and up-to-16-core GPU. Slower configurations like the baseline eight-core CPU and 14-core GPU are available and still grant meaningful improvements over the standard M1.
The M1 Max gets even crazier. Apple says with its massive up-to-32-core GPU, you can expect up to 4x faster graphics compared to the regular M1. The M1 Pro supports up to 32GB of RAM, while the M1 Max supports 64GB. Both share the same CPU so you should expect the same general performance, but for those who need extra GPU power, the M1 Max will be the obvious SoC to go with.
Both chips are available on each new MacBook Pro, and Apple says they’ll both also benefit from better efficiency as a result. The 14-inch model will support up to 17 hours of video playback, seven hours more than the previous generation MacBook Pro. Meanwhile, the 16-inch model will get up to 21 hours of video playback, the most for any Mac laptop ever. Apple also says the MacBooks offer the same performance regardless of whether they’re plugged in or not.
Apple optimizes performance on both machines with a new internal design that’s better at filtering air through the machine. There’s also a new thermal system to balance out heat. It’s unclear how often you’ll be hearing the fan spinning, but Apple seems to think that’ll be a rarity.
As far as the rest of the specs go, Apple will let you configure either MacBook Pro with up to 8TB of SSD storage which, while great, seems a little excessive for a laptop. The company also includes a ProRes accelerator on the new M1 chips which will give you support for the video codec through various professional video editing apps.
If you’re recording in ProRes, chances are the camera you’re shooting with uses an SD card. You’ll be happy to know that Apple finally (finally!) included an SD card slot on the new MacBook Pros. This is in addition to three Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack, and an HDMI port. There’s also a new MagSafe 3 charging port which Apple says supports fast charging capable of juicing up 50 percent of your battery in 30 minutes. You’ll still be able to charge your laptop using USB-C, but MagSafe will obviously be the fastest way to do so.
Also worth mentioning is the inclusion of a 1080p web cam. Apple has included crappy 720p cameras on its laptops for years and years, so it’s nice to see 1080p finally make it to the MacBook Pro.
Obviously, each new MacBook Pro ships with macOS Monterey which comes with new FaceTime features, Focus modes, new Continuity tools, Live Text, and more. Universal Control between Macs and iPads is also supported, but it won’t be available at launch.
Holy hell, do these laptops sound awesome.
I’m not sure of the last time I was this excited for new laptops of any kind, let alone MacBooks. Apple is doing a lot right here with its new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, Liquid Retina XDR displays with ProMotion, expanded port selection, improved keyboard, and updated design. No matter how you look at it, there’s no doubt this is one of the biggest improvements in the Mac’s history.
Of course, the prices of these machines could keep some buyers from pulling the trigger. Apple’s starting the 14-inch model at $1,999 while the 16-inch models starts at $2,499. That’s with 16GB RAM/512GB storage in both of them, with various other configurations available for purchase. You can even spec out a 16-inch with a 10-core CPU/32-core GPU M1 Max, 8TB of storage, 64GB of RAM which’ll run you $6,099.
By no stretch of the imagination are these laptops cheap, but they’re not supposed to be. These are pro-grade machines built to do pro-grade things like animation, graphic design, programming, and more. They’re not meant to do simple office tasks and scrolling through Facebook. That’s why the M1-powered MacBook Air and 13-inch Pro exist.
That being said, it’ll be hard for any general consumer to not at least be intrigued by them. The new design, powerful new chips, and wider port selection are extremely appealing upgrades. So while they seem out of reach for a lot of people, I think there’s far too much hype around them to not be smash-hits, or at least some of Apple’s best-selling laptops they’ve ever put out.