MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) review: A throwback design with serious new power


The new MacEbook Pros are simply as a lot a throwback as they’re a large leap ahead. The newest 14-inch and 16-inch fashions revive the basic magnetic MagSafe charger, drop the Touch Bar for extra bodily keys and at last offer you a wholesome quantity of ports once more. These tackle among the greatest criticisms of Macs over time, and for some, might be motive alone to drag the set off.

And then there’s the new stuff — together with a surprising Liquid Retina XDR display with extra colours and fewer bezels, unimaginable audio system and a few wild M1 Pro efficiency that outshines the already beastly M1 Macs. When you set that every one collectively, the new MacBook Pros are largely Apple’s greatest but.

But with beginning costs of $1,999 for the 14-inch model and $2,499 for the 16-inch, these highly effective machines are a steep funding, particularly when the cheaper M1 MacEbook Air and 13-inch MacEbook Pro nonetheless ship greater than sufficient power for the common individual. So who ought to truly make the plunge?

A throwback in all the proper methods

The 14-inch MacEbook Pro presents beastly efficiency for serious power customers, in addition to the perfect ports, show and audio system on a MacEbook.

Who it’s for: The 14-inch and 16-inch MacEbook Pros are perfect for inventive professionals and software program builders who need desktop-grade power in a conveyable machine. It’s additionally value contemplating for on a regular basis of us who don’t thoughts splurging for the MacEbook with probably the most ports and greatest show and audio system.

What it’s essential to know: The new MacEbook Pros have Apple’s strongest processors but with your selection of an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip, in addition to new Liquid Retina XDR shows which might be colourful, smoother and extra immersive than earlier than. They additionally pack among the greatest webcam and speaker units we’ve ever examined on a Mac.

How it compares: The latest MacBook Pros outperform the M1 MacEbook Air and M1 MacEbook Pro by a major margin — particularly relating to graphical capabilities. The 14-inch and 16-inch fashions additionally carry much more ports than the M1 Air and 13-inch Pro, making them ultimate for folk who have to plug numerous stuff in directly. These new MacBooks largely run circles round rivals just like the Dell XPS 13 when it comes to sheer efficiency, and might even maintain their very own in opposition to laptops with discrete graphics just like the Surface Laptop Studio. However, we discovered our 14-inch M1 Pro mannequin’s battery life to be far behind the M1 Macs in addition to some opponents.

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Big rubber toes, thick edges loaded with ports, a MagSafe charger — wait, what yr is it? The new MacEbook Pro looks like a loving callback to the chunky MacBooks of a decade in the past, bringing some much-needed utility again to Apple’s laptops whereas nonetheless sustaining a smooth and modern-looking design.

Our 14-inch MacBook Pro unit is noticeably wider and taller than the 13-inch Pro we use every day, although it doesn’t really feel a lot heavier at 3.5 kilos versus 3.1 kilos. Its edges are a bit thicker than these of the 13-inch Pro and never almost as smooth because the Air, however for good motive: The MacEbook Pro lastly has good ports once more.

The new Pro options three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports for connecting to high-end shows and equipment, an SDXC slot for transferring photographs and movies from a digital camera, an HDMI port for exterior screens and TVs and a headphone jack that helps high-impedance headphones, which is a well-liked commonplace for audiophiles. While it’d be good to even have a USB-A port for the numerous legacy equipment we nonetheless use every day, that choice remains to be a giant improve from the measly two Thunderbolt 4 ports you’ll get on the 13-inch Pro and Air. Oh, and the MagSafe charging port is again — yep, identical to the one you had in your previous MacEbook within the 2000s.

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We’re actually comfortable concerning the Pro’s new braided MagSafe 3 charging cable, and never only for nostalgia’s sake. This charger snaps magnetically to the MagSafe port on the new MacBook with a satisfying click on, making a agency connection, however one that may safely detach with out sending your laptop computer flying ought to somebody journey on the wire. As somebody who’s knocked over their MacEbook Pro on this actual style, we respect the change. This cable additionally costs the new MacEbook ridiculously quick, matching Apple’s claims of going from 0 to 50 % in our checks. Plus, having a devoted charging port signifies that all three of your Thunderbolt 4 ports will likely be out there when you juice your machine up — although you may nonetheless cost through USB-C if in case you have a high-speed cable you’re keen on.

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Speaking of helpful throwbacks, the new MacBook Pro’s keyboard lastly ditches the dreaded Touch Bar in favor of a full-size row of bodily operate keys. The Touch Bar (which remains to be discovered on the 13-inch Pro) has its makes use of for inventive of us, offering contextual contact controls for issues like shortly scrubbing via a video or accessing shortcuts in Photoshop. But we’ve at all times discovered it fairly cumbersome for our private wants, and have been comfortable to as soon as once more be capable to brighten our show or alter the quantity with a single satisfying faucet of a bodily key.

New operate row apart, that is largely the identical Magic Keyboard that we cherished on final yr’s fashions, simply with a slick black-on-black design that helps distinguish the new Pro as a heavy responsibility work machine. It felt nice to kind on Apple’s newest laptop computer for days on finish thanks to every key’s strong journey and snappy suggestions, although we nonetheless choose the even deeper keys on the Surface Laptop Studio by a hair. The Force Touch Trackpad is sort of similar in measurement to that of the 13-inch Pro and feels pretty much as good as ever for clicking and zooming via internet pages, and the larger Touch ID floor constructed into the power button made it straightforward to log in with a fast finger scan.

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Apple set a new commonplace for laptop computer efficiency with final yr’s M1 processor, which permits even the $999 MacEbook Air to run circles round most rivals and deal with heavy workloads with ease. And now, the corporate has crafted a pair of much more highly effective chips for the 14-inch and 16-inch MacEbook Pros with the M1 Pro and M1 Max, that are designed to present exponentially extra efficiency muscle to serious creatives and builders. We’ve been testing the 14-inch mannequin with an M1 Pro processor, and yep — Apple has managed to considerably outdo the already absurd speeds we’ve gotten from the M1 MacBooks.

We fired up and performed round with a wide range of demanding inventive tasks that got here preloaded on our system, and none of them managed to make the new MacEbook Pro buckle — actually, we’ve but to listen to the followers kick in. Rotating an in depth 3D sculpture in Cinema 4D felt clean and prompt, and there wasn’t a single stutter as we scrolled down greater than 1,500 audio tracks in Logic Pro. An 8K video mission loaded instantaneously in Final Cut Pro, and we have been in a position to export it to 720p in about 30 seconds. The MacEbook Pro remained speedy at the same time as we had all these tasks open directly — on high of our normal workload of Slack, Outlook, Steam, Discord and dozens of Chrome tabs. You’re going to have a really laborious time taxing this factor.

The new MacEbook Pro’s spectacular actual world efficiency is backed up by our benchmark scores, which make even the blazing M1 Macs look considerably modest by comparability. On the Geekbench 5 multi-core check that measures common processing velocity, our 14-inch Pro scored a whopping 12,463 — that’s a giant leap over the 7,628 we noticed from the M1 MacEbook Pro, and greater than double the rating of Windows opponents just like the Surface Laptop Studio and Dell XPS 13 OLED.

The M1 Pro’s graphics capabilities are equally spectacular, as we observed on the Geekbench 5 OpenCL check (which measures GPU efficiency) in addition to on our gaming benchmarks. The 14-inch MacEbook Pro’s OpenCL rating of 36,326 is sort of double what we acquired from the M1 MacEbook Air (17,183) and Pro (19,339), which illustrates simply how a lot further visible muscle the new mannequin has over the usual M1 machines.

Heck, it even got here considerably near the Surface Laptop Studio (51,933) — a laptop computer that has a discrete Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU. In different phrases, the one chip contained in the new MacBook Pro can maintain its personal in opposition to a lot chunkier laptops with devoted graphics playing cards. We noticed comparable parity when it got here to gaming, as each the 14-inch MacEbook Pro and Surface Laptop Studio turned in a extremely playable 47 frames per second when working Shadow of the Tomb Raider with all graphical settings cranked up. This makes the MacEbook Pro a superbly succesful gaming machine — although the quantity of big-name PC titles you may play on Mac remains to be fairly restricted.

It’s value noting that we examined an upgraded $2,899 model of the bottom 14-inch MacEbook, which options an M1 Pro chip with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU alongside 32GB of RAM (which aids in multitasking) and 1TB of storage. Essentially, the extra cores you could have, the tougher the CPU and GPU can work for demanding duties.

The beginning $1,999 14-inch mannequin packs an M1 Pro with an 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU and maxes out with an M1 Max chip with a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU. You’ll additionally want an M1 Max chip if you wish to outfit your MacEbook with 64GB of RAM for heavy workloads. Those who want the best possible power for issues like superior 3D rendering and software program growth will wish to take into account the higher-core choices, however even our middle-of-the-pack M1 Pro pumped out among the greatest laptop computer efficiency we’ve ever gotten our arms on.

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The 14-inch MacBook Pro isn’t simply probably the most highly effective Mac we’ve examined — it additionally has the perfect MacEbook show we’ve ever laid our eyes on. Photos and movies popped with daring colours and placing distinction, primary textual content appeared satisfyingly inky and swiping between apps felt extra fluid than ever. Heck, we don’t even thoughts that new notch all that a lot.

The new Pro packs a 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR show with a 3,024 x 1,964 decision, which is quite a lot of fancy jargon to say that it’s one of many sharpest MacEbook screens but and is designed to supply a fair wider vary of colours than your typical High Dynamic Range (HDR) panel. Those claims actually held up nicely in our testing — when flipping via XDR-optimized pictures in Affinity Photo, we have been struck by the intense, daring blues and deep blacks in a composite picture of a ballerina. The beaming purple lights of a automobile actually stood out in a picture of a wet Manhattan at evening, and the reflections of the road lights onto the sidewalk appeared strikingly true to life.

When we fired up an 8K nature video on YouTube at full decision, we have been handled to lush greens and oranges as a bunch of deer ran round a grassy subject. Whether you care about correct coloration and element for visible work or simply need an amazing canvas for watching motion pictures and photographs, the 14-inch MacBook Pro’s show actually delivers.

The new MacBook Pro additionally shrinks the bezels down significantly (about 24 %) for a extra immersive display that’s extra in line with the iPhone and iPad Pro. There’s only one catch: The MacEbook now has a notch. We didn’t actually thoughts it — the small black space that homes the webcam sits in the course of the macOS menu bar, and is simple to overlook about whenever you’re utilizing most apps. However, it doesn’t really feel like Apple is utilizing the MacEbook Pro’s added actual property to its full potential simply but.

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When you fullscreen most apps and movies, the highest part of the MacEbook Pro’s show goes darkish. This hides the notch whenever you’re, say, watching a YouTube video in fullscreen mode or maximizing a webpage in Chrome, nevertheless it additionally creates a giant black digital border on the high that makes the Pro’s bezels look like simply as chunky as on earlier fashions. This bigger display has numerous potential for extra immersive viewing — as we observed when a stunning animated screensaver kicked in and stuffed up each inch of the show — so we actually hope to see apps optimize for the notch over time. Still, that’s finally a minor nitpick, and we’ve no downside having a notch after we see how way more show space the 14-inch Pro has after we put it side-by-side with a 13-inch mannequin.

Better sharpness and coloration and a notched display aren’t the one huge modifications right here. The new MacEbook Pro has a most refresh charge of 120Hz, which means that it’ll look twice as clean as earlier Macs whenever you’re scrolling down internet pages or flipping via a photograph gallery. The advantages of this have been apparent immediately — doing issues like blowing apps out in multitasking mode and skimming via a video file in Final Cut Pro felt extremely fluid, to the purpose the place the 60Hz display on our 13-inch MacEbook Pro now appears to be like sort of sluggish.

Just just like the iPhone 13 Pro and the most recent iPad Pros, the new MacEbook Pro show makes use of Apple’s ProMovement show to dynamically increase the refresh charge whenever you want it (like whenever you’re scrolling via one thing shortly) and decrease it whenever you don’t (like whenever you’re a static picture) as a way to save battery life. You can even lock the show at varied intervals between 47.95 to 60Hz, in case you’re trying to avoid wasting power or want a selected refresh charge for no matter media you’re engaged on.

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We nonetheless haven’t fairly gotten over the 14-inch MacEbook Pro’s glorious audio system, which have develop into our new go-to for blasting punk songs whereas we prepare for the day. The six-speaker setup contained in the new Pro was loud sufficient to fill a bed room with sound whereas being fairly audible from the subsequent room, and did an extremely good job offering loads of depth and readability for all of the music we threw at it.

When listening to bouncy rock bands like Jimmy Eat World and Tigers Jaw, we loved partitions of electrical guitars, deep rollicking bass and crunchy drums that every one sounded loud and punchy whereas having sufficient respiration room to face out individually. But what actually grabbed our consideration was the way in which these audio system deal with vocals — on extra somber tracks like Phoebe Bridgers’ “Garden Song,” the singer-songwriter’s whispery, craving vocals have been so clear that it appeared like she was within the room. These audio system additionally assist Spatial Audio (which positions sound three-dimensionally as an alternative of simply in stereo), and the added separation made optimized tracks like Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” sound a lot livelier than the opposite million instances we’ve listened to it.

The new MacBook Pro’s webcam is likewise distinctive, because of a bump in decision from 720p to 1080p that works in tandem with some very spectacular picture processing smarts. When snapping selfies in Photo Booth, the MacEbook Pro digital camera supplied wealthy, correct colours that correctly captured pores and skin tone whereas selecting up wonderful particulars just like the strands of a beard and the creases round our eyes. In truth, it made the identical shot from the Logitech C920, our choose for the perfect webcam, look boring and overexposed by comparability. And after we FaceTimed with a colleague who was additionally utilizing the new Pro webcam, the mix of the sharp digital camera and FaceTime’s portrait mode virtually made it appear like she was utilizing a flowery DSLR digital camera. This factor is really bonkers.

Rounding out the MacEbook Pro’s robust multimedia chops are a strong set of what Apple calls “studio-quality” microphones. That’s actually not too daring of a declare — the voice recordings we captured virtually appeared like they got here from a devoted USB microphone, and colleagues and pals famous that we got here via very clearly on calls. We even recorded some acoustic guitar and vocals on the built-in mics, and the standard was adequate that we may see ourselves utilizing them to chop some primary demos.

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There’s one space the place our explicit 14-inch MacBook Pro unit didn’t blow us away, and it’s battery life. Apple’s new laptop computer lasted simply over six and a half hours on our steady 4K video playback check, and we acquired roughly the identical quantity of endurance throughout a typical day of utilizing Slack, Chrome and Outlook whereas often leaping to heavier inventive apps.

That’s solely a fraction of what we acquired from the M1 MacEbook Air (14:12) and 13-inch MacEbook Pro (16:30), and behind the 8 hours and 14 minutes we noticed on the Surface Laptop Studio. Our battery consequence can be a far cry from Apple’s score of as much as 11 hours of wi-fi internet searching and 17 hours of video playback. It’s attainable that the quicker 120Hz ProMovement show is consuming up some further battery life right here, so it’s possible you’ll wish to lock the refresh charge to 60Hz if you’d like the very best endurance. Your mileage could fluctuate primarily based on how you employ the new MacEbook Pro, however I personally struggled to get via a full workday on a cost. The excellent news is that the MagSafe 3 charger usually absolutely juiced the laptop computer in lower than an hour, so that you’ll wish to preserve it useful on the highway.

Some minor drawbacks apart, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are the new MacBooks to purchase for video editors, 3D artists, builders or another sort of power person that might profit from tons of processing and graphics muscle. Our M1 Pro-powered 14-inch mannequin can juggle demanding inventive duties with out breaking a sweat and outperforms the already beastly M1 MacBooks by margin. And the choice to improve to a higher-core M1 Max chip means that you would be able to spec these laptops out with sufficient velocity to deal with absolutely anything.

But what in the event you’re not a “Pro”? Not everybody wants a $1,999 laptop computer (which may value hundreds extra primarily based in your configuration), and the $999 M1 MacBook Air remains to be the most suitable choice for most individuals contemplating the absurd efficiency and battery life you get for the value. Still, after dwelling with the new MacEbook Pro for just a few days, we don’t wish to return to a MacEbook that doesn’t have numerous ports, booming audio system, huge bodily operate keys and a stunning Liquid Retina show.

Those are all options that even on a regular basis shoppers can profit from, and whereas the new MacBook Pro is likely to be geared toward creatives, we additionally suppose it fills a distinct segment for anybody merely keen to spend money on probably the most feature-packed and future-proof MacEbook on the market. Just don’t let that snappy MagSafe charger get too far whenever you’re engaged on the go.

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