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Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Max, late 2021) review: Apple supercharges its flagship laptop

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The 2021 16-inch MacEbook Pro runs on second-generation Apple Silicon chips: M1 Pro (10-core CPU, 16-core GPU) or M1 Max (10-core CPU, 32-core GPU).


Image: Apple

Apple’s determination to desert Intel processors and transfer the Mac platform to its home-grown Apple Silicon was greeted with some concern by many Mac customers — concern that was allayed by the primary technology of Macs utilizing Apple’s M1 chip, which mixed robust efficiency and spectacular battery life.  

However, it was clear that these first-generation M1 Macs, launched in late 2020, had been geared toward mainstream customers, and Apple continued to promote Intel-based MacEbook Pro and Mac Pro fashions for its extra demanding skilled customers. The arrival of the second wave of M1 Macs is, due to this fact, a vital problem for Apple, because it must show that its new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips can ship the efficiency that its skilled customers require.  

It’s a problem that Apple appears to have relished, as the brand new 16-inch MacBook Pro supplies a formidable — if costly — improve for present homeowners. 

Like

  • Superb CPU and GPU efficiency
  • Impressive battery life
  • Outstanding Liquid Retina Display
  • Improved connectivity, keyboard and webcam

Don’t Like

  • Expensive
  • Limited improve choices
  • Slightly heavier than its predecessor

Design & options 

At first look, the brand new MacEbook Pro would not look dramatically totally different from its Intel-based predecessor, which was final up to date in late 2019. However, nearer examination reveals some vital variations, beginning with Apple’s determination to desert the unloved Touch Bar. This has been changed by a extra conventional row of bodily operate keys (now there’s innovation for you), together with a a lot bigger Escape key, which is a welcome element. The whole keyboard has additionally been up to date, with “mechanical keys that professional customers love” and which do, fortunately, journey properly and really feel agency when typing.  

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Look, no Touch Bar. The new Magic Keyboard has a row of bodily Function keys, together with an extra-large Esc key.


Image: Apple

Another element, which hasn’t been a lot commented upon, is the slight enhance in display measurement for the Liquid Retina Display, which implies that, to be exact, that is truly the 16.2-inch MacEbook Pro. This does implies that the brand new MacEbook Pro is barely bigger and heavier, measuring 16.8mm thick, 355mm vast and 248mm deep (0.66in. x 14.01in. x 9.77in.), and weighing both 2.1kg (4.7lbs) with the M1 Pro chip, or 2.2kg (4.8lbs) for the M1 Max model reviewed right here. That compares with 16.2mm thick, 350mm vast and 246mm deep, and a weight of two.0kg for the Intel-based 2019 mannequin (0.64in. x 13.78in. x 9.68in., 4.4lbs).  

SEE: MacEbook Pro launch: Things you could have missed

Even so, that is nonetheless weight for such a big laptop, and {many professional} customers will welcome the brand new Liquid Retina XDR Display and its enhance in decision from 3072 by 1920 (226ppi) to 3456 by 2234 (254ppi). The show additionally helps XDR with 1000 nits sustained brightness (peak brightness of 1600 nits), a 1,000,000:1 distinction ratio and Apple’s ProMovement characteristic, which permits the refresh fee to range dynamically between 47.95Hz and 120Hz relying on the content material being displayed. 

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Controls for the 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display (3456 x 2234, 254ppi).


Images: Cliff Joseph / ZDNet

The Liquid Retina Display additionally helps quite a lot of color requirements, together with the sRGB for net graphics and design and DCI-P3 for video-editing work, and there is even a useful pull-down menu within the Display Preferences panel that permits you to shortly choose the required color normal for various duties. Needless to say, the show is impressively vivid, sharp and vibrant when seen with the bare eye, nevertheless it’s the technical high quality of the show that may have {many professional} and inventive customers eagerly eyeing the brand new MacEbook Pro as their future cell workstation. 

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The MagSafe 3 energy connector makes a welcome return.


Image: Apple

Apple is addressing the wants of professional customers in different areas too. As properly as returning to conventional Function keys, the 2021 MacEbook Pro sees the return of Apple’s MagSafe energy connector, with its simply removable magnetic connector that is designed to remove accidents when individuals journey over the ability cable.  

Apple additionally boasts that the MacEbook Pro supplies “essentially the most superior connectivity ever”. Mind you, that is not a lot of a boast, given Apple’s conventional reliance on USB-C as the only interface possibility on the MacEbook vary. In distinction, this new mannequin is awash in ports and connectors, together with three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, and even a slot for SDXC playing cards. The FaceTime digicam, which now lives in a notch throughout the 16.2-inch display, will get a long-overdue improve to 1080p, however there is not any bodily privateness cowl.

SEE: Apple lastly admits it made a mistake and backtracks on three silly MacEbook Pro design selections

It’s about time, after all, however not less than Apple is acknowledging that it must focus slightly extra on operate, somewhat than kind, for a change. It even supplies a comparatively easy possibility for battery substitute, as revealed by the latest tear-down performed by the courageous souls at iFixit

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Connectors on the 2021 16-inch MacEbook Pro: MagSafe 3, 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, 3.5mm headphone jack (left facet); SDXC reader, USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, HDMI (proper facet).


Image: Apple

Price & choices 

Needless to say, there is a price to all these new and improved options. As all the time, Apple supplies three normal configurations in its online store, with the brand new 16-inch MacEbook Pro beginning at $2,499 (£2,399 inc. VAT) with an M1 Pro chip that gives 10 CPU cores and 16 GPU cores, together with 16GB of ‘unified’ reminiscence that is constructed into the SoC, and 512GB of solid-state storage.  

The subsequent step up merely doubles the storage to 1TB for a further $200/£200, however we had been capable of evaluation the top-of-the-range off-the-shelf configuration with the M1 Max chip. The M1 Max has the identical 10 CPU cores, however doubles the GPU to 32 cores, and contains 32GB of on-chip RAM and a 1TB SSD for a complete value of $3,499 (£3,299 inc. VAT). 

Additional improve choices can help you enhance the reminiscence to 64GB for a hefty $400/£400, and add as much as 8TB of SSD storage (+$2,200/£2,200), for a prime value of $6,099 (£5,899 inc. VAT). To be honest, that is not out of line with related high-end cell workstations, reminiscent of Dell’s Precision 5750, nevertheless it does imply {that a} maxed-out MacEbook Pro actually must earn its maintain. 

Performance & battery life 

The unified design of Apple’s M1 chip — with CPU and GPU cores mixed in a single SoC — raised questions on its skill to compete with Intel-based PCs that may supply a discrete GPU to reinforce graphics efficiency. That query wasn’t actually answered by the primary wave of M1 Macs, nevertheless it appears to be like just like the M1 Pro and M1 Max are capable of present a reasonably emphatic reply. 

Benchmark testing for M1 Macs continues to be slightly tough, as so few benchmark instruments at present present native variations for Apple Silicon processors. However, the Geekbench 5 suite was one of many first, and the M1 Max in our evaluation unit scored 1790 in its single-core checks, and 12780 for multi-core efficiency. That compares with 1290 for single core and 7600 multi-core efficiency from Dell’s Core i9-powered 17-inch Precision 5750. 

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Chart: ZDNet

It’s additionally fascinating to check the M1 Max with the first-generation M1 used within the just lately up to date 24-inch iMac, which scored 1745 (single core) and 7700 (multi core). However, the iMac solely scored 22000 within the Geekbench 5 Compute check for GPU efficiency, and is left trailing by the M1 Max within the 16-inch MacEbook Pro, which breezes forward to 64950. 

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Chart: ZDNet

Our ordinary Unigine Valley check for 3D graphics efficiency would not run reliably on the M1 chips — not even utilizing Apple’s Rosetta know-how. However, the iOS model of 3DMark Wildlife Extreme is now M1-compatible, and our M1 Max chip achieved a formidable 121 frames per second within the benchmark’s 4K ‘Extreme’ mode. 

Apple’s declare that the brand new MacEbook Pro supplies efficiency that was “beforehand unimaginable on a laptop” is typical hyperbole, and there are a lot of web sites which can be at present crunching the numbers to check the M1 Pro and M1 Max to Nvidia’s newest GPUs. But the essential level for Apple is that the M1 Pro and M1 Max actually do present a robust improve for Apple’s present base {of professional} and inventive customers. 

There’s battery life to think about too, after all, and that is more and more beginning to seem like Apple’s ace-in-the-hole for laptops and cell gadgets. Using the MacEbook’s computerized energy balancing options, and with the display brightness set to 50 %, we had been capable of stream full-screen video from the BBC iPlayer for 11 hours and 42 minutes. That’s unheard-of from a laptop with such a big, high-resolution show, with rivals such because the Dell Precision 5750 solely managing simply over seven hours. Of course, battery efficiency will range when operating extra demanding graphics and video software program, however the brand new MacEbook Pro actually does look as if it may supply workstation ranges of efficiency, mixed with all-day battery life. 

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Image: Apple

Conclusions 

The new 16-inch MacEbook Pro is dear, however the top-end M1 Max chip proves that Apple Silicon can genuinely go toe-to-toe with essentially the most highly effective cell workstations obtainable from rival PC producers. It additionally brings these further little Apple touches to the desk, such because the excellent Liquid Retina XDR Display for high-end graphics and video work, and the laptop’s glossy, slimline design. And, after all, there’s the spectacular battery life, which actually throws down the gauntlet for Apple’s Windows rivals. All of this implies that Apple is lastly specializing in the wants of its skilled customers as soon as extra. 

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