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  • Soon Kai Hong

MacBook Pro 16” M2 Max Review: 1 Month Later

We only really have one thing to say about the MacBook Pro 16” with M2 Max. This is the laptop to get if you want the best of the best with almost no compromises. Of course, with the exception of gaming that is, but even that’s about to change…? We’ve been using this daily for a month now and at every step along the way, we were just pleasantly surprised. To the point that I personally didn’t touch my desktop with an RTX 3080.

Now honestly at this point in time, the MacBook Pro 16” with the M2 Max in our case, really needs no introduction. There are quite a number of things that are basically the same as before. Even so, let’s just quickly go through it.

Design

If you know anything about the previous MacBook Pro 16”, you’ll be hard pressed to find any real physical difference between that and this. You’re still going to get a really nice and sleek aluminium chassis with the option for either Silver or Space Grey, it’s going to be really well built and sturdy that can withstand the rigours of daily use and of course still the same great MiniLED display with the 120Hz ProMotion and much much more.

Basically if you were to put the previous MacBook Pro 16” together with this, side by side, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference at all. Which is not much of a surprise considering Apple’s history with their products.


But is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.


The MacBook Pro 16” feels premium through and through, as it always has been and Apple has already addressed most, if not all of the concerns regarding the MacBook Pro lineup since they’ve transitioned to the use of their own silicon.


So what are the differences then? Small things really. And they are all under the hood.

The New Stuff

First up, thanks to the new M2 Pro or M2 Max, we now have HDMI 2.1 which will be able to support up to 4K 240Hz or 8K 60Hz output. With more and more monitors and TVs supporting the HDMI 2.1 standard no less thanks to the next generation consoles, this is a welcome change. In all honesty though, the previous generation should’ve already come with it but oh well, we’re glad it’s here.

The next difference might be small but will prove to be mighty useful depending on your situation. The new MacBook Pros supports the latest WiFi 6E standard alongside Bluetooth 5.3. That means if you’re in a country where you’ve access to WiFi 6E with a compatible router and ISP, you’ll be able to enjoy much faster internet speeds with yet even less traffic thanks to the 6GHz band.


Oh and of course, how could we forget? You now get a colour matching MagSafe 3 cable. But it only applies to one-end and not the entire cable itself. The 140W power adapter that comes with the 16” is also still in the standard white. Pretty classic of Apple to do that.

Interestingly however, there is one company out there that has made a GaN charger that can replace that 140W power adapter and be much more versatile. This is from a company called VoltMe and they’ve just recently launched a GaN charger that can output a total of 140W as long as you use the USB-C to MagSafe 3 cable. Safe to say, we would definitely much prefer to bring this around especially for events and such.

M2 Max Is A Small Step Forward But Still Great

Lastly, it’s of course the M2 Max chip itself.

We’ll say it right now. If you already own a MacBook Pro with the M1 Max, this isn’t going to be that huge an upgrade. The step up, going from the M1 Series to the M2 Series is simply more of an evolutionary one, rather than revolutionary. In addition, if you’re looking at the M2 Pro model, it’s not going to perform better than the M1 Max.


Breaking it down in terms of relative performance, it’s basically like this. We have the M1, the M2, the M1 Pro, the M2 Pro, the M1 Max and then the M2 Max.


So again, if you already own the MacBook Pro with M1 Max, this new M2 Max isn’t worth it in any way. On the other hand, if you already own the MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and you know you want more performance, perhaps that’s still justifiable as long as you have the cash to spare. If you’re however upgrading from an Intel-based MacBook Pro or perhaps you don’t yet have a MacBook Pro at all. Then sure, by all means. Consider getting either of the two new MacBook Pros with M2 Pro or M2 Max.


With all that said, there are a few key advantages that M2 Max does bring to the table. Compared to the M1 Max, M2 Max adds an additional two efficiency cores, bringing the total CPU core count to 12. In addition, there’s six more GPU cores which brings the total GPU core count up to 38.


Thanks to that, the new MacBook Pro 16” will allow you to be able to enjoy an additional hour of use on battery and this applies to both the 14” and 16” with either the M2 Pro or M2 Max as they all share the same CPU design. In actual practice, we got just about 12 hours of battery life on a single charge but it is to be noted that we used the laptop in a real world scenario with various mixed usage, including but not limited to, web browsing, video and photo editing and more. In most cases, it would just last about 30 minutes more or so in comparison but any additional battery life is simply a good thing and we’ll take it, no questions asked.


But now let’s talk RAM, or in this case, Unified Memory. 64GB was the limit for the previous generation and indeed, that’s also actually the amount of RAM we have with this very MacBook Pro with M2 Max. But if you ever need more RAM, you can choose to go with 96GB of RAM. As long as you have that much spare cash at least.


Going from 32GB of Unified Memory to 96GB will inflict an additional damage of S$1211.20 or US$800.

It’s quite a huge hole in your wallet, just for RAM. Perhaps if you’re doing heavy 3D work, that’s going to be the way to go for you but for the rest of us, 64GB is already more than plenty and 32GB is probably the sweet spot.


With that, we’ve basically covered all the main differences between the previous generation and this generation. However, let’s now address the elephant in the room. Or elephants in this case?

Higher Clocks, Higher Temps, Slower SSDs

There are two main “hidden” changes that Apple did under the hood that the average consumer would never know should they not use their system to its fullest potential. Yes, we’re talking about the increased clock speeds and temperatures as well as the slower SSD speeds with the new M2-Series MacBook Pro.

Regarding the clock speeds, the new M2 Max in the MacBook Pro 16” will run up to 3.3GHz for the Performance Cores and up to 2.4GHz for the Efficiency Cores while drawing 35W of power for most intense workloads. This is a healthy boost in comparison to the previous M1 Max. With that additional performance however comes higher temperatures.


Under sustained workloads, especially those that would utilise both the CPU and the GPU at the same time, you’ll basically see the chip running at 100°C to 102°C throughout the entire load duration. While we might not have tested the MacBook Pro 16” with M1 Max previously, we understand from other reviewers that it ran just a little cooler at about 98°C in the same workloads.


None of them are great temperatures of course, especially when compared to thin and light gaming laptops nowadays. But Apple has always prioritised noise over thermals since time immemorial so there really isn’t anything surprising about it at this point. At the very least, surface temperatures are still well within reason. Overall, despite the higher temperatures, the M2 Max will still run at higher clock speeds and in any test we threw at it, it certainly did result in higher performance over the M1 Max.

The matter regarding the SSD speeds in our opinion is perhaps of a bigger concern. To be clear, this only affects the base configuration with the 512GB SSD for either the 14” or the 16”. So if you opt for 1TB of above, this will not be of concern.


Essentially, what Apple did was that they went with larger capacity memory modules with the new MacBook Pros. So unlike before where there were four or five chips for a total of 512GB, there’s now just two chips. We aren’t going to dive in too technical with this but in very simple terms, think of it as running single channel RAM instead of dual channel RAM.


This leads to a huge loss in performance. We’re talking half the read and write speeds with this new generation.


If you’re looking at the MacBook Air, we would say this isn’t that big of a deal considering the target audience and actual use cases from actual users. But for a MacBook Pro, pretty much the de facto Pro machine for professionals, you might want to consider getting at least 1TB instead and just ignore the 512GB option completely.

It's Great But Prepare Your Wallet

And so we come to our experience with the MacBook Pro 16” with M2 Max. What can we say? It’s just fantastic. We used it for just about everything. Web browsing, consuming content, documents, photo and video editing, all of that. It just ran like a champ.

As mentioned, I personally didn’t even touch my desktop PC which sports a Ryzen 9 3900XT alongside an RTX 3080. I even have a dual monitor setup to boot.


Ever since Apple transitioned to their own silicon, there really isn’t anything like the MacBook Pro. But again we’ve to say this. Only consider this if you own an Intel-based Mac and would like to upgrade or if you don’t already own a Mac and you want one. For our specific configuration, this will set you back US$4,299 or S$6,210. Our suggestion however is to drop that RAM down to 32GB and just go with a 1TB SSD. That’ll set you back US$3,499 or S$4,999. Which is still a lot for sure, so 0% instalment plans might be the way to go.


In any case, you guys can be assured that we will continue using this MacBook Pro and it’ll actually be one of our main editing machines, especially on the go. Just like with the previous MacBook Pro, despite some weird decisions by Apple, this is still an incredibly great experience.



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