Apple 14" MacBook Pro M1 Pro Review: It's Now Actually Pro!

Today, we’re going to talk about what’s arguably the most popular laptop, by far, in the world. The Apple MacBook Pro.

This is a laptop that you basically see anywhere. At school, at the office, in a cafe, you name it. One way or another, you’ve seen it. But you would also know that in recent years, Apple hasn’t really been giving the MacBook Pro its proper Pro status. Pro, as in professional, for people who need to do actual serious work.


But that all changes with this generation. The new MacBook Pros featuring that new Apple silicon is a laptop that’s now actually Pro.


So the first thing you’ll definitely notice is the new design and the fact that it is actually thicker. For once, Apple is not pursuing thinness and has actually realised the fact that if you want sustained high performance across the board, at a certain point, space becomes necessary.


And to be very honest, I’m actually liking the thicker profile. It feels just right when you’re holding the laptop walking about or even if you’re just resting your hands on the keyboard. It also features a slightly more squarish design that I also personally prefer and the finish on the aluminium is just as immaculate as ever.


Now one big difference is over on the bottom, where you get a debossed MacBook Pro text right in the centre, that’s kind of nice. But more importantly, Apple has totally redesigned the laptop feet. Instead of it being slightly spherical or elliptical, it’s now larger, thicker and completely flat. This new design should last a lot longer.


But now let’s address the elephant in the room. The display. Or more specifically, that notch.


As they say, courage. But on a serious note, I honestly have no issues with it. Due to the way macOS is designed and the overall 16:10 aspect ratio of the display, that notch is almost always together with the taskbar, which is generally an area you wouldn’t be looking at all the time. And even if you were to consume media in full-screen, there is hardly any content in 16:10.


To justify the notch, Apple has finally increased the resolution of the camera to 1080p, which you can see is definitely great and coupled with their studio-quality mics, it makes for a pretty great call experience. No qualms with regards to quality.


But with that said, since there’s already a notch, Face ID would’ve been amazing. Facial recognition via Windows Hello has already been available for a long time, Apple really ought to add Face ID. Had they done so, it would have also lessened the impact and increased the justification for a notch.


But oh well, here’s hoping


However, putting the notch aside, this display is downright amazing.


You get a 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display that has a resolution of 3024 x 1964, resulting in 254 pixels per inch. The use of Mini LEDs is what separates this display from the rest and where it gets its XDR name. It can get up to 1000 nits of sustained brightness and up to 1600 nits in peak brightness with a contrast ratio of a million to one. It also supports 10-bit colour, P3 colour coverage with True Tone.


What does that all mean?


In simple terms, it’s a gorgeous display for basically anything. Text is clear and sharp when you’re just simply browsing or reading, colours are nice and vibrant with deep blacks when you’re consuming content and the support for 10-bit colour and P3 colour coverage means it’s well suited for content creation, for professionals, exactly what this laptop is meant for.


It really is great and I would say that only OLED equipped Windows-based laptops would come close. But because this uses Mini LEDs, you needn’t worry about burn-in and any form of automatic dimming, especially on white.


But the best part about this display is ProMotion. We’re finally getting 120Hz in a MacBook and it’s glorious. Everything feels smooth and fantastic. And the best part about it is that it’s a variable refresh rate. Meaning if nothing much is moving on the screen, the refresh rate can actually drop well below the standard 60Hz, which saves battery life.


Oh, and it shows.


Apple claims up to 17 hours of video playback on the 14-inch model which we have here. In reality, with more actual real-world usage consisting of a mixture of browsing, video consumption and photo editing, we were getting right about 10 hours. A far cry from 17 hours, but still very respectable, with ProMotion enabled no less.


So back to the point, not only is the display downright fantastic, battery life is not a concern at all.


Now let’s talk about the bottom half of the laptop.


That touch bar is now gone, and I’m very happy about that. The touch bar was really a novelty more so than anything. It was supposed to be something great, but it definitely wasn’t. Apple has finally recognized how meaningless it was and have thus now provided a full-sized function row.


So much better.


As for the keys themselves, they feel just like the previous generation and you, of course, get Touch ID in the top right corner which acts as the power button as well. As for the trackpad, it really needs no introduction. Same as ever, great as ever. Arguably the best in the industry.


Moving on to the speakers, they are improved. Definitely does sound clean and crips while also actually providing a little bit of bass, which was surprising. There are some Windows-based laptops that do sound a tad better but not by much. This is still very very good.


And now, ports. We now get ports. Finally, after almost half a decade, Apple has decided to grace us with their wisdom.


The huge thing that makes a comeback better than ever, is MagSafe, now MagSafe 3. This is really awesome and if you’ve used a MacBook Pro from 2015 and before, you would know that this simple design has saved the lives of many MacBook Pros. It’s great.


But apart from that, you still get a total of three Thunderbolt 4 ports, a high impedance headphone jack, HDMI 2.0 and a full-sized SD card reader. Photographers, videographers, or really anybody in general, rejoice. You can now bring your MacBook Pro anywhere you want, and not worry too much about bringing a dongle. This should now have the ports you need, built right in, as it should be.


Finally, let’s talk about performance. This is a huge step forward for Apple with their new M1 Pro and M1 Max.


Today, we just have the M1 Pro and in fact, our unit is basically the base model MacBook Pro 14-inch with the 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU M1 Pro, 16GB of Unified Memory and 512GB of SSD storage.


Now let’s get straight into the heart of things. Despite this being the lesser M1 Pro, the performance really amazed me. It can pretty much match up against the likes of Intel and even potentially reach what Ryzen has to offer in the laptop space. In fact, if you were to use native Apple software like Final Cut Pro, the difference is even more apparent.


It really is amazing. We’re talking 8K Apple ProRes 4:2:2 footage. A seven-minute edit only took 3 minutes to render on Final Cut Pro. That’s insane. And even if we’re talking about more standardized footage from hybrid cameras and the such on Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve, a 10 minute 4K edit takes just about 5 minutes to render, it’s unlike nothing before it.


It even did the render while being pretty much silent and with temperatures well within reason.


But the larger upgrade comes from the GPU side of things and this is really amazing. I could run Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1200p High settings and get really playable frame rates, almost a solid 60 FPS, putting it in line with performance from the likes of an RTX 3050 or even an RTX 3050Ti.


That’s downright amazing, especially when the M1 Pro is a single chip like an APU and drawing much less power at that. In fact, the temperatures while gaming was pretty great as well. Not to mention, the performance is the same, be it on battery or plugged in. The efficiency of this new Apple silicon is really something else.


Gaming on a MacBook Pro, who would’ve thought? It’s now a reality.


I really like the new MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chips, I really do. As someone who doesn’t own a MacBook, this is actually enticing me to get one myself. It is that good. But if you want to enjoy what this has to offer, you have to pay for it. The MacBook Pro 14-inch starts at US$1,999 or S$2,999. That is quite steep as the minimum point of entry to get a MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro and not even the full version at that.


Also to note is that at that price, it comes bundled with the standard 67-watt charger, which isn’t ideal. You will definitely want to upgrade to the 96-watt charger at the very least, which adds a little to the cost.


Now is it worth that price tag? Absolutely. But it is still undeniably expensive. If you’re a professional, this is probably a no-brainer.


But if you’re someone who just needs a MacBook, you’ll have to stop and think, do you really need the added power from the M1 Pro or M1 Max? Or do you just need to use macOS?


If you’re the former, go for it. The new 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max will be worth every dollar. But if you’re the latter, I would say the standard M1 is more than capable, and you can just grab the MacBook Air M1 instead.


But regardless, the new MacBook Pros from Apple are really good and it’s now actually Pro.


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