apple macbook pro ramverge Let’s start simply: the new MacBook Pros with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are incredible — the fastest laptops we’ve ever tested in some tasks, with some of the longest battery life we’ve ever seen. Apple’s big bet on moving away from Intel CPUs and AMD GPUs in favor of its own Apple Silicon chips is paying off in meaningful ways, and if you can afford one of these machines, you will be very happy with them. They’re great.
That said, the new MacBook Pros are not without their quirks, and the Mac software ecosystem is still catching up to Apple Silicon in general and Apple’s pro hardware GPU ideas in particular. So things aren’t quite as simple as our first impression of the MacBook Air with an M1 chip last year — depending on your needs and the tools you use, the Mac software ecosystem might not let you actually get the most out of these machines for a while yet.
But make no mistake: the performance Apple has delivered with these machines combined with the battery life we’ve seen in our tests means that there’s a new standard in the industry — one that Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and every other laptop maker will be hard-pressed to reach anytime soon.
We reviewed three of the new MacBook Pros: a $4,399 16-inch model with an M1 Max processor with 32 GPU cores, 64GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage; and 16- and 14-inch models with M1 Pros with 16-core GPUs, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage that list for $3,099 and $2,899 respectively. These are expensive computers from the jump: even the base model 14-inch starts at $1,999.
The first thing you’re going to notice after you take a deep breath and spend the money is that these new MacBook Pros are much more substantial than the outgoing models. They’re bigger and heavier than previous MacBook Pros, and they are more squared off. The 16-inch is even just a little thicker than the older 16-inch MacBook Pro. Surprisingly, the extra thickness is mostly in the display — the actual body is only ever so slightly thicker than my old 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro, but you can really see it in the lid because it no longer tapers at the edges.
This is good news. Apple has made so many compromises in the name of thinness for so long that it was about time for the pendulum to swing back, and the extra thickness allows for better cooling and the return of some useful ports. On the right side, you’ve got a Thunderbolt 4 port, an HDMI port, and a full-size SDXC slot; on the left side, you’ve got two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a MagSafe power connector.
The ports are wonderful, and I’m glad they’re back. A few people on our video team said the SD card slot is enough of a reason to upgrade all by itself. But be warned that the ports aren’t top-spec: it’s an HDMI 2.0 port, not 2.1, and the SD card slot is only UHS-II, not the faster UHS-III or SD Express.
A side profile of the MacBook Pro 16 showing its full-size SD card slot, Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port, and HDMI port.
So yes, the ports are definitely more convenient, and totally fine for most situations, but there are still reasons to visit dongletown. For example, macOS Monterey now supports variable refresh rate external displays using a Vesa standard called Adaptive-Sync, but Apple tells me you’ll need a Thunderbolt to DisplayPort dongle for that. I also ran into a strange bug where sending audio out over HDMI resulted in stuttering video and glitchy audio, which Apple says it is looking into.
The MagSafe 3 connector is great, a true classic. It’s strong enough to drag the MacBook Pro along a desk if you pull it straight, but instantly disconnects if it’s yanked at an angle. I missed it terribly.
The confusion arises at the other end of the MagSafe cable, which is USB-C. You can charge all of these machines over USB-C using any of the ports, and you can fast charge the 14-inch MacBook Pro using a 100-watt USB-C adapter and a USB-C cable that supports that much power. But you can only fast-charge the 16-inch MacBook Pro using the Magsafe connector connected to a 140-watt-or-higher power brick — MagSafe is the only port that supports the newest high-power USB-C PD standard. The other ports do not. What’s more, there’s no indicator anywhere that you’re fast charging, so you just have to plug in and hope for the best. At this point, “plug in and hope for the best” is the unofficial USB-C slogan.
USB-C charging is overall one of the most confusing parts of the entire confusing USB-C ecosystem, and it appears Apple is using MagSafe as a way around it — the power adapters are still interchangeable, but you’ll definitely know if your cable supports fast charging because there’s a MagSafe connector on it. It’s smart, but after years of USB-C nonsense, it’s also just funny we’re back here.
Lastly, there’s the keyboard, which is blessedly drama-free. Apple finally shed the hapless Touch Bar, added full-height function keys, and restrained itself from trying to reinvent anything else. It feels like every other scissor-switch Apple keyboard I’m used to, which is welcome news.