What’s New With the 2021 MacBook Pro?

What’s New With the 2021 MacBook Pro?

This week Apple announced their new 14” & 16” MacBook Pro laptops which feature their new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. What’s new? Should you get one?
It’s been rumored for most of 2021 that Apple was working on new MacBook Pros and a higher performance version of their custom silicon, this week we finally got the official announcement, specs, release date, and price. Spoiler alert: these laptops are not cheap.
Apple appears to have listened to user feedback, or at least the loudest voices on YouTube, and given back a lot of old features as well as added a lot of impressive new features. A lot of people will be pleased to see the return of the MagSafe charging port, HDMI 2.0, an SDXC card reader, and physical function keys in place of the TouchBar.

The Good

For me, one of the most exciting new features is the screen, it now features ProMotion up to 120Hz refresh rate, which has been on the iPad Pro for a few years now. The screen intelligently switches between 24Hz and 120Hz to conserve battery life and give buttery smooth interface transitions. You can also lock the refresh rate to 24Hz,  30Hz, or 60Hz when editing video. Nice work Apple!

The screen is edge-to-edge with incredibly thin bezels all around, and uses their Liquid Retina XDR display, using mini-LED technology to deliver high dynamic range and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. The same screen technology is found on both the 14” and 16” models.

Apple has finally included a 1080p Facetime camera in the MacBook Pro. It’s a shame this didn’t come along in 2020 when we were all meeting up virtually, but it’s a welcome addition. What may not be so welcome is the notch that surrounds the webcam, more on this later.

Most excitingly, Apple is using the new MacBook Pro models to launch their new processors; the M1 Pro and M1 Max. After M1 was so well received last year, a lot of pro users were waiting for something with more horsepower and specifically more graphic performance. The M1 from last year featured 8 CPU cores, 4 efficiency and 4 high performance, as well as 8 GPU cores and supports up to 16GB of unified memory. The new M1 Pro has up to 10 CPU cores, 2 efficiency and 8 high performance, as well as up to 16 GPU cores and supports up to 32GB of unified memory.

If that’s not enough power, the M1 Max has the same CPU cores with up to 32 GPU cores and supports up to 64 GB of unified memory. 
Both systems start at 512 GB internal storage and support up to 8 TB of internal SSD storage. Both processors also have dedicated media encoders built-in for native ProRes support and faster media encoding across the board.

Apple claims the M1 Pro will equal the performance of an 8 core Intel i9 and an NVIDEA RTX 3050 Ti, while using less than 50 watts of power. They also claim that the M1 Max will give similar performance to the NVIDEA RTX 3080, while using 70% less power. Personally, I’m waiting for some real-world tests and independent benchmarks before taking too much notice of Apple's speed claims, but I am expecting these laptops to be fast, efficient productivity machines.

Battery life claims are excellent for machines of this power. While not as good as the M1 MacBook Pro, Apple still claims up to 17 hours for the 14” model and up to 21 hours for the 16” model. There’s also the addition of fast charging via the 96 Watt fast charger, which will deliver 50% battery in one hour.

As with the previous Apple silicon, these machines will perform exactly the same when plugged in or on battery, they will produce less heat and less fan noise than the Intel equivalent, and they will consume significantly less power.

The Bad

The notch has made its way onto the MacBook Pro. In order to deliver an edge-to-edge screen, Apple has placed the camera into a notch, similar to the iPhone. It appears that the notch will sit in the middle of the menu bar and won’t actually interfere with any applications, but I’d need to get hands-on with one to decide if it’s intrusive or not. The inclusion of a notch and no FaceID seems like a missed opportunity.

The price is high, there’s no escaping that fact. The new MacBook Pro models start at $1,900 and can be configured up to an eye-watering $6,000. It was disappointing to see that the cheapest entry-level 14” MacBook Pro doesn’t come with the 96 Watt fast charger as standard, only has an 8 core CPU and a 14 core CPU, and it still costs $1,900. It's been argued that the price versus performance is excellent value, but there's no denying the cost alone, despite the value, is high.

Should You Get One?

As a working professional, if a piece of technology is going to save you time and hassle, then it’s often worth whatever price tag is on it. If you’re a hobbyist, you may not need anything more than the computer you’re already using.

I’ve been waiting for these laptops to come out, and I have some money put aside for one. The money I thought would be enough won’t quite stretch to the model I want to get, so I’m waiting for real-world tests before I commit to purchasing. I'm planning on buying the 14" MacBook Pro with M1 Pro processor, 10 core CPU, 16 core GPU, 32 GB unified memory, and 1 TB of storage. As with any new technology, we can’t really be sure how it performs until it’s in the hands of the public.

If you often work remotely, or travel a lot, if your business requires video editing, or 3D modeling and rendering, then these new MacBooks may appeal to you. If you’re a creative professional who already uses Apple products and MacOS then this may be a sensible upgrade.

Even though I have been waiting specifically for this product, I am invested in the Apple ecosystem, I work with large image and video files for my work, I am still waiting for real-world reviews before I buy. Sadly it rarely pays to be an early adopter of new technology these days. I need to be sure it will fulfill my needs and be a good investment at that price.

Are you excited about these new MacBooks Pro? Are you considering an upgrade? Have you already ordered one? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Brad Wendes's picture

Brad Wendes is a British photographer and travel lover.
He began photographing parkour and acrobatics in 2010 and has since taken to portraiture and fitness photography.
Brad is a self-confessed geek, Star Wars fan, tech enthusiast, cat lover and recently converted Apple Fanboy.

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So against all the positives, the worst of the negatives is the notch (which offends one's aesthetic sense, nothing more), and the price (which is completely in line with today's "transitory" inflation - maybe we should listen to Ms. Psaki and wait for the "transitory" inflation to disappear). Way to go, Apple.

I’m waiting to see how the notch is actually implemented. If it sits in the middle of the menu bar and doesn’t touch any applications then it’s purely an aesthetic point.
If it encroaches into useable screen space then it’s likely to get annoying.
The notch and the price are what held me back from pre-ordering, I’ll wait for some hands-on reviews and real world uses before spending $3000 on a laptop

I can see the notch touching the applications if you auto hide the menu bar.

Ms. Psaki, what? Apple prices for premium products have always been priced similarly. The 13 inch for $1300 will work for many people, I have the same M1 chip in my Mac mini and it's super fast on editing.

These are the fastest laptops they've ever created and you made it political. Do you do this with any topic when chatting with people? Figure some random connection and insert your angst by blaming capitalism or the current administration?

My last laptop I had for 3 years and Apple gave me a $900 credit for the Mac mini M1. If you are using these computers for what they are intended, you'll make the ROI in 1-3 years. My buddy just got $600 from apple on a 4 year old MBP.

It’s true that Apple devices not only last, but also hold their value. Last year I sold my 2015 MacBook Pro for £300, and that was consolidated a good price.
These new devices really are premium products aimed at people who need all that power for something other than gaming.

The notch! HA HA HA

A troll! HA HA HA

Not at all. I just think its funny with all that's going on with these new M1 pro and max technology, the notch gets all the attention.

One might argue that Apple are happy with any additional noise being made about their products.

To the author- do you have an iphone? If so, have you ever noticed the notch on it? Yeah, neither have I. The brain tunes it out, so you'd never notice it, even if you tried. Does it matter if a few millimeters is possibly intrusive, given the more important features of the book, i.e. more cores, up to 64gb ram, and on and on?

I’m not hugely concerned about the notch, but I am waiting to see how it’s implemented. I do use an iPhone and generally only get bothered by the notch in full screen, landscape apps.

I’m almost certainly going to purchase one of these devices, I’d have been less concerned by a thicker top bezel, but the improved camera will likely more than make up for any odd aesthetic caused by the notch in the short term

Just got a new MacBook Pro. First 30 min in photoshop, that notch was pretty glaring to look at, but after an hour, my brain phased it out to where i stopped noticing it and dont realize it's even there.

Everybody own a phone. In my case, I almost don't use the webcam so... a solution (for me of course) could be the option of plug in the phone to the laptop and use the camera for it. So the display woulb be free of notch. 50 grames less heavy these new laptops. Anyways this time I will upgrade because mine one (macbook pro) is almost die. It is a 2009 version.