Apple MacBook Pro with M1 Max Review: Hail to the King

It is extraordinarily tough to come right into a evaluation of the new MacBook Pro with a really impartial mindset. The authentic M1 was simply so darned spectacular {that a} follow-up naturally has monumental sneakers to fill. Somehow, not solely does the MacE book Pro powered by M1 Max meet expectations, it exceeds them: this laptop is a marvel.

When speaking about the MacE book Pro, all the pieces appears like hyperbole. “This changes everything,” or “the fastest ever,” or “I’ve never been so impressed.” None of that sounds grounded or actual, however it’s actually laborious to argue with the knowledge and consumer expertise. In the final week-plus of full-time day by day use and hours of benchmarking, the numbers don’t lie: that is the quickest and most spectacular laptop computer we now have ever examined and it smokes each single doable competitor in almost each class, even the already spectacular authentic M1.

You definitely pay a worth for it: the machine we examined was almost the highest-end mannequin Apple makes: the 16-inch MacE book Pro with the M1 Max processor, 64 gigabytes of RAM, and 4 terabytes of SSD storage; the solely manner to spend extra could be to enhance the storage capability additional. To get pleasure from what we reviewed right here, you’re going to have to be prepared to half with $4,700. If you need to match the efficiency however save a bit, you are able to do that by dropping inside storage down to 1 terabyte, which brings the worth down to $3,700 — a selection we advocate must you resolve this laptop is for you. Cutting the reminiscence in half shaves that worth down to $3,500.

That is rather a lot to drop on any laptop, no matter class, however it’s not the worst. We gave the HP ZBook Studio G8 grief for its excessive worth, and rightly so: that laptop is much more costly if we’re 1 TB capacities and the finest efficiency to match with the M1 Max.

But like we what we mentioned of that machine in our evaluation is the identical right here: it’s not like the asking worth isn’t price it.

A Return to Form

When holding the new MacE book Pro in hand, long-time Apple laptop followers will discover that it has much more in widespread with the older fashions of the early 2010s than it does with the newer TouchBar fashions. The edges are rounded a lot softer, the laptop itself a lot thicker, and the general heft way more noticeable — not to point out there are much more ports to be discovered on the sides of this system.

When I held it up to my first-generation MacE book Pro with TouchBar, my spouse thought that the previous mannequin was an Air in contrast to this new mannequin, the distinction is that substantial. Honestly, I’m glad the MacE book Pro has its heft again. There is rather a lot to like a couple of skinny and light-weight machine, however the tradeoffs that Apple made to get me there with its older machines, to me, aren’t price what the new MacE book Pro brings to the desk.

Top: 2012 MacE book Pro; Middle: 2021 MacE book Pro; Bottom: 2016 MacE book Pro

So when you may say that bringing again the port choice is a return to kind for professionals, you can even say the laptop itself actually returns to a kind we haven’t seen for almost a decade. To that, I say, “Welcome back.”


Regarding port choice, the MacE book Pro has virtually all the pieces a photographer may discover themselves on the lookout for. Aside from three Thunderbolt 4 ports, it additionally brings again the full-size HDMI port, the SD card reader, and MagSafe. It additionally has an upgraded 3.5mm headphone jack with help or high-impedance headphones.

When not utilizing headphones, I used to be actually impressed with the high quality of the audio system on the MacE book Pro. The extra dimension of the chassis over is being absolutely utilized right here as a result of the fullness of audio is absolutely nice. Gone are the days of thin-sounding, “tinny” music in a laptop computer, as each midtones and bass are properly represented. I really forgot to plug in my full-size audio system on one event and didn’t notice the audio was coming via my laptop computer till midway via a YouTube video, that’s how good they’re.

For those that, for some purpose, thought Apple was going to solely pack a UHS-I SD card reader into its skilled laptop computer line, I hate to disappoint you: it’s certainly UHS-II. Some may complain that it needs to be UHS-III as different PC laptops in its phase provide, and whereas I agree this might have been good, the precise real-world use instances of UHS-III are slim. Very few UHS-III SD playing cards exist, few if any present digital camera helps UHS-III (I consider it’s none, however I may very well be unsuitable), and the market is transferring in direction of CFexpress (no, SDexpress isn’t going to take off, cease pretending it should). Basically, it could have been a pleasant specification to have {that a} overwhelming majority of MacE book Pro customers would by no means discover a want for.

The different considerably disappointing observe on the ports is that the HDMI port isn’t HDMI 2.1, however relatively the older HDMI 2.0 specification, which implies that the MacE book Pro can’t help 120Hz output via HDMI (although you definitely can via Thunderbolt). Apple very doubtless supposed the HDMI port to be used to join to televisions or presentation screens in workplace assembly rooms, so whereas the lack of HDMI 2.1 is disappointing, identical to the UHS-III card reader, its exclusion isn’t doubtless to really have an effect on its customers.

MagSafe is again, and the devoted charging port is one among two methods to energy the MacE book Pro — you possibly can nonetheless energy it via USB-C as earlier than in order for you to. The MacE book Pro helps quick charging particularly with the included energy brick and MagSafe cable and might cost to 50% energy in about half-hour. With the 16-inch variant that we examined, that’s the solely technique that helps quick charging, however there are a complete of five fast-charging options out there for the 14-inch model.

On the observe of MagSafe, the cable is now a woven kind, which is nice to see. It looks like the high-quality material woven charging cables I’ve been shopping for from third-party producers for years as a result of they have been all the time higher than what Apple was producing. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.


The new MacE book Pro makes use of what Apple calls Liquid Retina XDR, which is the firm’s implementation of mini LED expertise. This implies that the 16-inch laptop computer has 7.7 million pixels and gives sustained brightness of 1,000 nits and a peak brightness of 1,600 nits. That additionally means a distinction ratio of 1,000,000:1. It options 10,216 mini LEDs organized in 2,554 zones. For reference, the iPad Pro with M1 options 10,000 mini LEDs organized into 2,596 zones, and the Pro Display XDR has simply 576 zones. More zones imply higher distinction, higher blacks, and fewer seen halo round vibrant objects.

That brightness is excellent for viewing HDR content material and likewise implies that throughout the day, you’ll very doubtless don’t have any hassle seeing something on the display screen as it might compete with severely vibrant ambient gentle. The show additionally refreshes at up to a quick 120Hz, although with ProMovement it varies relying on the content material on display screen. You can lock the refresh fee of between 48 and 60Hz, however Apple doesn’t enable you to lock it to 120Hz.

Resolution-wise, the MacE book Pro doesn’t fairly provide a 4K show, however 3,456 x 2,234 pixels. For reference, true 4K would require 3,840 x 2,160 in widescreen (the MacE book is a bit taller than that as you possibly can see), and seeing a pc this costly come up in need of true 4K is a bit disappointing on paper. In follow, I by no means observed. The show has sufficient decision and is stunningly lovely and vibrant. If you discovered your self wanting the glorious show from the newest iPad Pro on a pc, Apple delivers that almost identically right here.

It boasts virtually 99% of P3 protection with a most Delta E of lower than one. The solely factor we observed was that in distinction with the iPad Pro, the white level wasn’t fairly proper (Delta E of three).

One final thing to discuss is the digital camera notch, which some have mentioned is obtrusive and others say doesn’t trouble them. I’m in the latter camp. If you’re on the lookout for the notch, you’ll after all see it, and those that pack the taskbar with tons of icons will in all probability run into a difficulty of them disappearing behind the notch (which I agree is dangerous design). But I, and I feel most customers, will find yourself forgetting the notch is there in any respect. It often simply resides in the area on display screen I don’t use anyway and it doesn’t have an effect on my viewing of widescreen content material since that space goes black anyhow. In brief, I really feel like the notch dialog is overblown.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The keyboard, which over the final decade has been a sore spot for Apple, is marvelous. I’ve been utilizing the iMac Pro keyboard for just a few years now and actually grew accustomed to it, however I feel I desire the one on the MacE book Pro. It took me about an hour to get used to, however after that, it typed like a dream. Having TouchID in the higher right-hand nook is sweet and is tremendous responsive.

One of the issues some folks have with Apple keyboards is that they are often loud, even the nicer ones like the devoted iMac keyboards (however particularly the early butterfly keyboards). The MacE book Pro sorts softly and quietly, and it’s actually only a pleasure to use.

The Force Touch-enabled trackpad is sweet, responsive, and fairly completely sized: not too huge, and never too small. I’m not an enormous trackpack man (give me a mouse any day), so I’m in all probability not the finest suited to consider its efficiency, however I discovered it to be inoffensive and completely serviceable.


I would like to take a second to briefly discuss the pace of the SSD, as a result of it’s absurdly quick. The PCIE 4.0 SSD blasts via the ceiling of earlier benchmarks, boasting sustained 6,626 MB/s write speeds and 5,841 MB/s learn speeds:

To put these numbers in perspective, the newest Mac Mini has a median of three,100 MB/s write and a couple of,880 MB/s learn speeds, and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced (which is one among the few computer systems we now have examined that additionally helps PCIE 4.0) solely clocks in 4,321 MB/s learn and 5,211 MB/s write speeds.

Basically, editors ought to think about using exterior storage just for backups and storage, since the speeds of working instantly off the MacE book Pro’s inside SSD are going to be robust to beat.

Big Battery

This laptop is noticeably heavy, doubtless due to the appreciable {hardware} inside, together with the big battery: it’s a huge 100 watt-hours.

With that huge battery, Apple charges the 16-inch MacE book Pro as able to lasting up to 14 hours for informal internet looking and 21 hours of watching content material via Apple TV.

In testing, we discovered that these numbers have been largely correct, and thru blended use I received anyplace from between 10 and 12 hours. Overall, I had no points with battery life when utilizing it on these sorts of light-weight duties all through a full day with no need to fear about recharging it. For intensive work like picture enhancing, it’s not fairly as long-lasting and I used to be in a position to get between 5 and 6 hours earlier than needing to plug again in.

I ran an extra check the place I related the MacE book professional to a 4K 120Hz monitor (as seen in the header picture above) which asks the graphics cores in the M1 Max to work laborious always (I additionally saved the built-in show at most brightness the whole time as properly), throughout which I additionally carried out a wide range of duties starting from video enhancing, picture enhancing, and web looking. At no level did I’ve any lower than ten Chrome tabs open and both Photoshop or Premiere have been being actively used or open in the background. Under that pressure, the laptop computer lasted nearly precisely 5 hours earlier than warning me that I had 10% energy remaining and may plug it again in.

Those numbers are very spectacular to me, and whereas I feel the M1 Max isn’t fairly as environment friendly as the authentic M1 is, it nonetheless is able to barely drawing any energy except it completely wants it, and when requested to go all-out, nonetheless manages to give excellent efficiency for for much longer than I anticipated. I’m comfortable to change the energy of this machine for barely much less effectivity.

And oh, what energy.

Photo Editing Performance

Before I get into our uncooked picture enhancing numbers, I would like to first share an expertise I had with the M1 Max MacE book Pro that’s extra on the video finish. I’ve been day by day driving a 2015-era iMac that boasts a 4Ghz quad-core Intel Core i7 and 32 gigabytes of RAM since I purchased it in 2016. It is certainly not a sluggish machine, and I’ve been fortunately engaged on it for years now and edited lots of of movies for purchasers once I operated my video manufacturing enterprise in San Francisco.

But as video information have gotten bigger, my previous dependable has began to present her age. It can’t even play again one 4K ProRes HQ file at one-quarter decision in Premiere Pro with out stuttering down to lower than one body per second.

In distinction, the new MacE book Pro with M1 Max was in a position to play 4 4K ProRes HQ clips on prime of one another at authentic decision with out dropping a single body.

Watching this laptop computer principally yawn at me in boredom with a process that might straight up crash my iMac nonetheless drops my jaw.

That in thoughts, it ought to come as no shock that the M1 Max MacE book Pro completely shreds via picture enhancing duties and is much and away the finest laptop computer we now have ever examined throughout virtually each class.

As is the case with all our latest laptop computer critiques, the numbers under symbolize the identical exams run on a bunch of methods, particularly the 13-inch Intel-based MacE book Pro, the Razer Blade 14, the ASUS Zephyrus G14, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, the HP Zbook Studio G8, and the 2021 M1 iMac (which has an identical efficiency to the M1 MacE book Pro and the M1 Mac Mini).

These exams include importing 110 61-megapixel Sony Alpha 7R IV and 150 100-megapixel SectionOne XF RAW information, producing 1:1 (Lightroom Classic) or 2560px (Capture One Pro) previews, making use of a custom-made preset with heavy world edits, after which exporting those self same information as 100% JPEGs and 16-bit TIFFs.

Lightroom Classic

Across the board, the M1 Max MacE book Pro beats all comers. During imports, the M1 Max squeaks out a win over the Razer Blade 15 and the HP Zbook Studio G8 by a scant few seconds, however that’s as shut because it will get. M1 Max exports JPEGs at a tempo that’s at the very least three minutes sooner than its closest opponents and exports TIFFs even sooner.

Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro is a little bit of a head-scratcher in a few instances which leads us to consider there could be a bug current, as the M1 Max and M1 each carry out poorly when it comes to imports of particularly the SectionOne XF information, however each are additionally slower than non-Apple silicon computer systems with Sony information. We can’t ensure, however we predict there is a matter with how Capture One handles {hardware} acceleration when it generates previews. The software program does a lot better with NVIDIA and Intel or AMD than with any M-series processor. There isn’t actually any purpose why this needs to be taking place, which is why we predict it’s a bug. We’ll attain out to Capture One and report again ought to something come of it.

As we now have talked about in our different critiques, Lightroom doesn’t use any type of GPU acceleration throughout import or export and as a substitute depends on the efficiency of the CPU and RAM. Capture One, on the different hand, does make the most of the GPU. Both the HP Zbook and the Razer Blade 15 each submit wins over the M1 Max in Capture One on the Sony information (and everybody beats out the pace of the SectionOne file import, therefore our perception in a bug), however as soon as these information are edited, the M1 Max as soon as once more takes entrance and heart: it exports each JPEGs and TIFFs remarkably rapidly. Specifically with exporting Alpha 7R IV 16-bit TIFFs, the sub-two-minute time is barely sufficient for me to run downstairs and refill my water bottle.


As all the time, our remaining check is operating the Puget Systems’ industry-standard PugetBench benchmark.

PugetBench assigns an Overall and 4 Category scores after timing all kinds of duties starting from the fundamentals like loading, saving, and resizing a big .psd, to GPU-accelerated filters like Smart Sharpen and Field Blur, to closely RAM-dependent duties like Photo Merge. As we now have in the previous, we ran model 0.8 of this explicit benchmark, as a result of it was the final model to embody a Photo Merge check, a function we discover explicit worth in given our concentrate on images.

Overall, the M1 Max MacE book Pro demolishes the competitors and posts a shocking 1242.1 general rating, which is greater than 200 factors larger than the subsequent closest competitor in the Razer Blade 15 or the M1 iMac. Broken down by class, the M1 Max wins throughout the board.

Performance Takeaways

Looking at the knowledge, there’s at the moment no contest: the M1 Max MacE book Pro is much and away the strongest laptop computer cash can purchase. Outside of what we’re pretty sure is a bug with file imports in Capture One, the M1 Max bests each laptop computer we now have examined.

What’s much more spectacular is how the MacE book Pro doesn’t care if it’s plugged into wall energy or not and hardly made a sound throughout any of our exams. This is in distinction to the Razer Blade 15 which wants to be plugged in to get the most out of the GPU; on battery alone, efficiency takes a nosedive.

If you paid shut consideration, you can hear the MacE book Pro followers come on throughout the notably heavy workloads, however even after they did, they have been very quiet. Overall, it runs principally silently via regular picture enhancing operation and gained’t make a peep throughout easy duties like watching reveals or looking the web. While utilizing it outdoors of benchmarking, I can’t recall a time I heard it make any sound outdoors of the quiet clicks of my fingers on the keyboard. The chassis can get a bit heat, however nothing excessive, and is fast to cool again down.

From a pure efficiency standpoint, that is the most spectacular laptop we now have ever examined. I really feel like we simply mentioned that when the M1 initially launched, and but Apple one-upped themselves once more.

Hail to the King

Professional photographers and filmmakers who grew up utilizing Apple merchandise that simply labored nice for creator-focused duties have felt let down lately by Apple’s design decisions in the MacE book Pro collection. The firm spent years specializing in kind issue and design over operate, and the “pro” in the product’s identify felt much less and fewer apt.

Not anymore. The MacE book Pro with M1 Max seems to be, feels, and operates like an actual skilled machine, and it dominates the competitors due to it. Apple by no means explicitly apologized to creatives for the what it did to the MacE book Pro line, however utilizing the new M1 Max-equipped machine looks like I can hear the firm telling me, “I’m sorry, let’s make it right.”

While you’ve to surrender the ultra-thin kind issue of earlier MacE book Pros, I really feel like the tradeoff we’re seeing on computing energy, silent operation, and extra port choice is properly price it. This laptop is sort of flawless, and the niggles about the barely decrease than 4K decision and lack of HDMI 2.1 really feel extraordinarily insignificant in the face of all the pieces else this laptop is able to. From the perspective of a working skilled, it’s all the pieces they might ever want and extra. So way more.

Are There Alternatives?

To be trustworthy, the M1 Max MacBook Pro could be the finest laptop you should buy, however most photographers don’t want this type of computing energy, particularly for the price. It turns into a dialog of worth, and Apple’s authentic M1, whereas slower, gives extra worth for extra folks, I feel. The authentic M1 remains to be a lot excellent, and the 13-inch MacE book Pro powered by the authentic M1 remains to be a superb purchase: 16 gigabytes of unified reminiscence and 512GB of SSD storage prices, $1,700 — a considerable low cost over what the M1 Max laptop computer will price.

If you’re trying past Apple, PetaPixel not too long ago revealed suggestions for the finest laptops for photographers, and the Dell XPS 15 and HP ZBook Studio G8 are each glorious choices which can be listed there. As you might need observed from our benchmark exams above, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced can be a stable machine that may grasp with each the M1 and M1 Max MacE book Pros in most efficiency benchmarks and has the quickest inside SSD of the PC group.

Should You Buy It?

Yes, in case your work calls for the finest efficiency. If you already personal an M1-equipped Apple laptop, I don’t know that you must shell out the money for the improve. But if you happen to’ve been hanging on to an older Intel-based MacE book Pro and it’s lengthy since proven its age, I’m assured that the 16-inch MacE book Pro with M1 Max will put a smile in your face.

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