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


The brand new MacBook Execs 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 Contact Bar for extra bodily keys and at last offer you a wholesome quantity of ports once more. These tackle a few of the greatest criticisms of Macs through the years, and for some, could possibly be motive alone to drag the set off.

After which there’s the brand new stuff — together with a surprising Liquid Retina XDR display with extra colours and fewer bezels, unbelievable audio system and a few wild M1 Professional efficiency that outshines the already beastly M1 Macs. If you put that every one collectively, the new MacBook Pros are largely Apple’s finest but.

However 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 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Professional nonetheless ship greater than sufficient energy for the common individual. So who ought to truly make the plunge?

A throwback in all the fitting methods

The 14-inch MacBook Professional gives beastly efficiency for severe energy customers, in addition to the perfect ports, show and audio system on a MacBook.

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

What it’s essential know: The brand new MacBook Execs have Apple’s strongest processors but along with your alternative of an M1 Professional or M1 Max chip, in addition to new Liquid Retina XDR shows which might be colourful, smoother and extra immersive than earlier than. In addition they pack a few of the finest webcam and speaker units we’ve ever examined on a Mac.

The way it compares: The latest MacBook Pros outperform the M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Professional 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 Professional, making them superb for folk who must plug numerous stuff in directly. These new MacBooks principally run circles round rivals just like the Dell XPS 13 by way of sheer efficiency, and may even maintain their very own in opposition to laptops with discrete graphics just like the Surface Laptop Studio. Nonetheless, we discovered our 14-inch M1 Professional mannequin’s battery life to be far behind the M1 Macs in addition to some rivals.

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Huge rubber toes, thick edges loaded with ports, a MagSafe charger — wait, what yr is it? The brand new MacBook Professional seems 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 Professional we use each 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 Professional and never practically as smooth because the Air, however for good motive: The MacBook Professional lastly has good ports once more.

The brand new Professional 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 customary for audiophiles. Whereas it’d be good to even have a USB-A port for the numerous legacy equipment we nonetheless use each day, that choice continues to be a giant improve from the measly two Thunderbolt 4 ports you’ll get on the 13-inch Professional and Air. Oh, and the MagSafe charging port is again — yep, identical to the one you had in your outdated MacBook within the 2000s.

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We’re actually completely satisfied concerning the Professional’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 MacBook Professional on this actual style, we respect the change. This cable additionally costs the brand new MacBook ridiculously quick, matching Apple’s claims of going from 0 to 50 p.c in our exams. Plus, having a devoted charging port implies that all three of your Thunderbolt 4 ports shall be obtainable when you juice your machine up — although you may nonetheless cost by way of USB-C in case you have a high-speed cable you’re keen on.

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Talking of helpful throwbacks, the new MacBook Pro’s keyboard lastly ditches the dreaded Contact Bar in favor of a full-size row of bodily perform keys. The Contact Bar (which continues to be discovered on the 13-inch Professional) has its makes use of for inventive of us, offering contextual contact controls for issues like shortly scrubbing by way of a video or accessing shortcuts in Photoshop. However we’ve all the time discovered it fairly cumbersome for our private wants, and had been completely satisfied to as soon as once more be capable of brighten our show or regulate the amount with a single satisfying faucet of a bodily key.

New perform row apart, that is largely the identical Magic Keyboard that we liked on final yr’s fashions, simply with a slick black-on-black design that helps distinguish the brand new Professional as a heavy responsibility work machine. It felt nice to sort on Apple’s newest laptop computer for days on finish thanks to every key’s strong journey and snappy suggestions, although we nonetheless desire the even deeper keys on the Floor Laptop computer Studio by a hair. The Power Contact Trackpad is nearly similar in dimension to that of the 13-inch Professional and feels pretty much as good as ever for clicking and zooming by way of net pages, and the larger Contact ID floor constructed into the ability button made it simple to log in with a fast finger scan.

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Apple set a new standard for laptop performance with final yr’s M1 processor, which permits even the $999 MacBook 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 MacBook Execs with the M1 Professional and M1 Max, that are designed to present exponentially extra efficiency muscle to severe creatives and builders. We’ve been testing the 14-inch mannequin with an M1 Professional 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 initiatives that got here preloaded on our system, and none of them managed to make the brand new MacBook Professional buckle — actually, we’ve but to listen to the followers kick in. Rotating an in depth 3D sculpture in Cinema 4D felt clean and immediate, and there wasn’t a single stutter as we scrolled down greater than 1,500 audio tracks in Logic Professional. An 8K video mission loaded instantaneously in Last Lower Professional, and we had been in a position to export it to 720p in about 30 seconds. The MacBook Professional remained speedy at the same time as we had all these initiatives open directly — on prime of our common workload of Slack, Outlook, Steam, Discord and dozens of Chrome tabs. You’re going to have a really laborious time taxing this factor.

The brand new MacBook Professional’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 take a look at that measures common processing velocity, our 14-inch Professional scored a whopping 12,463 — that’s a giant leap over the 7,628 we noticed from the M1 MacBook Professional, and greater than double the rating of Home windows rivals 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 take a look at (which measures GPU efficiency) in addition to on our gaming benchmarks. The 14-inch MacBook Professional’s OpenCL rating of 36,326 is sort of double what we bought from the M1 MacBook Air (17,183) and Professional (19,339), which illustrates simply how a lot additional visible muscle the brand new mannequin has over the usual M1 machines.

Heck, it even got here considerably near the Floor Laptop computer Studio (51,933) — a laptop computer that has a discrete Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU. In different phrases, the only 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 MacBook Professional and Floor Laptop computer 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 MacBook Professional a wonderfully succesful gaming machine — although the quantity of big-name PC titles you can play on Mac continues to be fairly restricted.

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

The beginning $1,999 14-inch mannequin packs an M1 Professional 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 MacBook with 64GB of RAM for heavy workloads. Those that want the best possible energy for issues like superior 3D rendering and software program growth will need to contemplate the higher-core choices, however even our middle-of-the-pack M1 Professional pumped out a few of the finest laptop computer efficiency we’ve ever gotten our palms 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 MacBook show we’ve ever laid our eyes on. Photographs 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 brand new Professional packs a 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR show with a 3,024 x 1,964 decision, which is numerous fancy jargon to say that it’s one of many sharpest MacBook screens but and is designed to supply a fair wider vary of colours than your typical Excessive Dynamic Vary (HDR) panel. These claims actually held up effectively in our testing — when flipping by way of XDR-optimized photographs in Affinity Picture, we had been struck by the brilliant, 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.

Once we fired up an 8K nature video on YouTube at full decision, we had been handled to lush greens and oranges as a bunch of deer ran round a grassy subject. Whether or not you care about correct colour and element for visible work or simply need an important canvas for watching motion pictures and taking a look at photographs, the 14-inch MacBook Pro’s show actually delivers.

The new MacBook Pro additionally shrinks the bezels down significantly (about 24 p.c) for a extra immersive display that’s extra in keeping with the iPhone and iPad Professional. There’s only one catch: The MacBook 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 straightforward to overlook about while you’re utilizing most apps. Nonetheless, it doesn’t really feel like Apple is utilizing the MacBook Professional’s added actual property to its full potential simply but.

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If you fullscreen most apps and movies, the highest part of the MacBook Professional’s show goes darkish. This hides the notch while you’re, say, watching a YouTube video in fullscreen mode or maximizing a webpage in Chrome, but it surely additionally creates a giant black digital border on the prime that makes the Professional’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 beautiful animated screensaver kicked in and crammed up each inch of the show — so we actually hope to see apps optimize for the notch over time. Nonetheless, that’s in the end a minor nitpick, and we’ve no downside having a notch after we see how rather more show space the 14-inch Professional has after we put it side-by-side with a 13-inch mannequin.

Higher sharpness and colour and a notched display aren’t the one large adjustments right here. The brand new MacBook Professional has a most refresh price of 120Hz, that means that it’ll look twice as clean as earlier Macs while you’re scrolling down net pages or flipping by way of a photograph gallery. The advantages of this had been apparent instantly — doing issues like blowing apps out in multitasking mode and skimming by way of a video file in Last Lower Professional felt extremely fluid, to the purpose the place the 60Hz display on our 13-inch MacBook Professional now appears to be like type of sluggish.

Similar to the iPhone 13 Pro and the latest iPad Pros, the brand new MacBook Professional show makes use of Apple’s ProMotion show to dynamically increase the refresh price while you want it (like while you’re scrolling by way of one thing shortly) and decrease it while you don’t (like while you’re taking a look at a static picture) as a way to save battery life. You too can lock the show at varied intervals between 47.95 to 60Hz, in case you’re wanting to avoid wasting energy or want a selected refresh price for no matter media you’re engaged on.

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We nonetheless haven’t fairly gotten over the 14-inch MacBook Professional’s wonderful audio system, which have develop into our new go-to for blasting punk songs whereas we prepare for the day. The six-speaker setup inside the brand new Professional 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. However what actually grabbed our consideration was the best way these audio system deal with vocals — on extra somber tracks like Phoebe Bridgers’ “Backyard Music,” the singer-songwriter’s whispery, craving vocals had been so clear that it seemed like she was within the room. These audio system additionally help 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 Picture Sales space, the MacBook Professional digital camera offered wealthy, correct colours that correctly captured pores and skin tone whereas choosing up advantageous particulars just like the strands of a beard and the creases round our eyes. In actual fact, it made the identical shot from the Logitech C920, our choose for the perfect webcam, look uninteresting and overexposed by comparability. And after we FaceTimed with a colleague who was additionally utilizing the brand new Professional webcam, the mixture of the sharp digital camera and FaceTime’s portrait mode virtually made it appear like she was utilizing a elaborate DSLR digital camera. This factor is actually bonkers.

Rounding out the MacBook Professional’s sturdy 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 seemed like they got here from a devoted USB microphone, and colleagues and pals famous that we got here by way of 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 take a look at, and we bought 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 bought from the M1 MacBook Air (14:12) and 13-inch MacBook Professional (16:30), and behind the 8 hours and 14 minutes we noticed on the Floor Laptop computer Studio. Our battery outcome can also be a far cry from Apple’s score of as much as 11 hours of wi-fi net looking and 17 hours of video playback. It’s doable that the quicker 120Hz ProMotion show is consuming up some additional battery life right here, so you could need to lock the refresh price to 60Hz if you need the absolute best endurance. Your mileage could differ primarily based on how you utilize the brand new MacBook Professional, however I personally struggled to get by way of a full workday on a cost. The excellent news is that the MagSafe 3 charger typically totally juiced the laptop computer in lower than an hour, so that you’ll need to preserve it useful on the street.

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

However what if you happen to’re not a “Professional”? Not everybody wants a $1,999 laptop computer (which might price 1000’s extra primarily based in your configuration), and the $999 M1 MacBook Air continues to be the best choice for most individuals contemplating the absurd efficiency and battery life you get for the worth. Nonetheless, after dwelling with the brand new MacBook Professional for a number of days, we don’t need to return to a MacBook that doesn’t have numerous ports, booming audio system, large bodily perform keys and a beautiful Liquid Retina show.

These are all options that even on a regular basis customers can profit from, and whereas the new MacBook Pro is perhaps geared toward creatives, we additionally assume it fills a distinct segment for anybody merely prepared to put money into probably the most feature-packed and future-proof MacBook on the market. Simply don’t let that snappy MagSafe charger get too far while you’re engaged on the go.

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