Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops bring a big boost in CPU performance, an even bigger boost in graphics performance, the highest quality screens to date for an Apple laptop and the return of some features that Pro users have been missing.
New MacBook Pro 14.2 inch and 16.2 inch laptops are available for pre-order today with prices starting at $1999 and $2499, respectively, and the new laptops powered by Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max chips will be available starting next week.
At first glance, the new laptops bring back a couple of classic features. The physical Fn keys are back, and the Touch Bar is gone. While Apple isn’t giving users any full-sized USB ports, the new MacBook Pro’s three Thunderbolt 4 ports are joined by an HDMI port and SD card reader. And while you can charge the notebook via a Thunderbolt port, there’s also a MagSafe charging system.
Apple also says that the new MacBook Pro laptops are its first to support fast charging. Plug in the laptops for 30 minutes to get a 50% charge.
Apple has also upgraded its displays. The MacBook Pro 16 has a 3456 x 2234 pixel display, while the 14 inch model has a 3024 x 1964 pixel screen. Both are what Apple calls Liquid Retina XDR displays that feature:
- Mini LED technology
- 120 Hz refresh rates with ProMotion tech for variable refresh rates
- Up to 1,000 nits sustained brightness
- 1,600 nits peak brightness
- 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio
- P3 wide color gamut
- 1 billion colors
Interestingly, Apple has also taken a page out of its iPhone playbook and brought a camera notch to its MacBook Pro laptops. While this gives the notebook a higher screen-to-body ratio, it also means that a chunk it taken out of the top of the screen, which may look funny in full-screen applications.
Speaking of the camera, Apple has upgraded that too, with a new 1080p camera that the company says offers double the resolution and twice the low-light performance of previous-gen MacBook Pro cameras.
Apple is also improving support for external displays, something that has been a weak point of its Macs with M1 chips.
The speaker system has also been upgraded to a 6-speaker setup consisting of two tweeters and four woofers for 80% more bass including an extra half octave of low notes. There’s support for spatial audio, and the upgraded speakers aren’t just limited to the larger MacBook Pro: they’re included in both models.
At the heart of Apple’s new laptops are the company’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. They’re based on the same technology as the Apple M1 chips introduced last year. But the new models have additional CPU and GPU cores, support for more (and faster) memory, and many other upgrades.
The Apple M1 Pro and M1 Max chips both feature up to 10 CPU cores, but the Pro has up to 16-core graphics, support for up to 32GB of unified RAM, and 2,000GB/S memory bandwidth, while the M1 Max has up to 32-core graphics, up to 64GB of RAM, and 4,000GB/s memory bandwidth.
Apple says that makes the new MacBooks significantly faster than previous-gen models:
- MacBook Pro 16 with M1 Pro or M1 Max offers 2X the CPU performance of previous-gen with Intel Core i9
- MacBook Pro 16 with M1 Pro offers 2.5X faster graphics than the previous-gen with Radeon Pro 5600M
- MacBook Pro 16 with M1 Max offers 4X faster graphics than Radeon Pro 5600
- MacBook Pro 16 with M1 Pro or Max offers 5X faster machine learning performance than previous-gen with Core i9
- MacBook Pro 14 with M1 Pro or M1 Max offers 3.7X the CPU performance of previous-gen with Intel Core i7
- MacBook Pro 14 with M1 Pro offers 9X faster graphics performance than previous-gen with Core i7
- MacBook Pro 14 with M1 Max has 13X faster graphics
- MacBook Pro 14 with M1 Pro or Max offers 11X faster ML performance
At the same time, Apple notes that its new chips are more energy efficient, with the new MacBook Pro 14 lasting for up to 17 hours on a charge when playing local video, and the 16 inch model getting up to 21 hours of battery life under the same conditions.
Given that Apple’s M1 chip was already sitting atop the charts when it came to performance-per-watt, it’ll be interesting to see how the new MacBook Pro fairs against Intel and AMD-powered competition in real-world testing moving forward.
Apple seems pretty confident, claiming that, for example, its new chips can outperform the latest quad-core or octa-core chips from competitors while using significantly less power and even offering GPU performance that comes within striking distance of the most powerful discrete GPUs available for laptops, while using 100W less power.
The company says new MacBook Pro laptops can support multiple external displays, including the company’s 6016 x 3384 Pro Display XDR. How many displays you can plug in depends on which chip you get though:
- M1 Pro supports up to two Pro Display XDRs
- M1 Max supports up to three Pro Display XDRs and a 4K TV
Note that in order to get full performance though, you do have to pay a little extra. Apple glossed over this in its product announcement, but the starting prices for its new laptops get you entry-level versions of the M1 Pro and M1 max chips with fewer GPU cores.
For example, say you want a MacBook Pro 14 with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Here’s what you’ll end up paying for different CPU options:
- $1,999 for MacBook Pro 14 w/M1 Pro with 8-core CPU and 14-core graphics
- $2,199 for MacBook Pro 14 w/M1 Pro with 10-core CPU and 14-core graphics
- $2,299 for MacBook Pro 14 w/M1 Pro with 10-core CPU and 16-core graphics
- $2,499 for MacBook Pro 14 w/M1 Max with 10-core CPU and 24-core graphics
- $2,699 for MacBook Pro 14 w/M1 Max with 10-core CPU and 32-core graphics
The $2,499 starting price for the MacBook Pro 16 does cover the top tier M1 Pro chip. But you’ll still end up paying more if you want more graphics performance:
- $2,499 for MacBook Pro 16 w/M1 Pro with 10-core CPU and 16-core CPU
- $2,699 for MacBook Pro 16 w/M1 Max with 10-core CPU and 24-core graphics
- $2,899 for MacBook Pro 16 w/M1 Max with 10-core CPU and 32-core graphics
All of those chips have the same 16-core Neural Engine for hardware-accelerated machine learning and AI performance. Note that the prices will climb substantially if you want to configure a system with additional storage or memory.