Apple MacBook Pro M1 Pro review: Mac to the future

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There are few objects whose very form and design tell you everything you need to know about their purpose. A Formula 1 car, a SpaceX Rocket—there’s no mistaking what these are for. The same goes for the newly redesigned M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros.

Apple’s done a complete 180° turn away from the thin and tapered MacBooks of the past with their lack of ports and miserable and problematic keyboards. The 16-inch MacBook Pro feels substantial and its array of ports (HDMI, SD Card, 2 Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, and MagSafe) limit the need for dongles. The thicker case also means it can hold larger batteries (for up to 21 hours of video playback).

Return to Pro form

The updated case design is a throwback to the iconic Titanium PowerBook G4, the first true Pro laptop from 20 years ago. The keyboard is also responsive and brings back function keys by retiring the much-maligned TouchBar.

The key update here is the new system-on-a-chip, which adds more processing power and graphics performance that amplify the already impressive Apple M1 processor’s bandwidth.

My 16.2-inch M1 Pro-powered test unit comes with 16GB of RAM and the 10-core CPU with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores, a 16-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. It can easily keep up or surpass a fully outfitted Intel Mac Pro (except maybe in very graphics-intensive tasks) and draw way less power. It really is workstation-class performance on a laptop; it’s two times faster than the top-spec 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro with an i9 processor from 2020.

Working on Final Cut Pro, I was able to cut and add effects to a 12-minute 1080p 30fps HD video in real time. Rendering the video was effortless and the MacBook Pro’s fans didn’t even kick in.

Apple has brought a lot of features of its Liquid Retina XDR displays to the MacBook Pros, including extreme dynamic range with a million-to-one contrast ratio HDR. Watching Mad Max Fury Road, The Gangs of New York, and The Great Gatsby on the MacBook Pro is like seeing these films for the first time in scintillating and immersive detail.

It also has ProMotion, with 120Hz refresh rates, which few apps or websites support but which can come in handy when playing games or watching video.

Laptops are hardly the ideal stage for watching shows and videos, but the 16-inch MacBook Pro will soon become the preferred place to enjoy immersive content. A six-speaker sound system with four force-cancelling woofers generates 80% more bass, creating a surprisingly deep range of sound, including spatial audio (Dolby Atmos) in 3D.

Creator’s edge

Enjoying content is something you can do on almost any device, but the M1 Pro MacBook Pro is built for content creation at the highest level and can easily serve as the hub for designers and programmers. I use my Mac for photo and video editing, even for more demanding 360° video programming, web development, and encoding audio and video files.

This laptop is a future-proof platform for portable computing with all major apps being rewritten to work seamlessly with Apple Silicon.

If there’s one con about the new MacBook Pros, it’s the inclusion of a notch on the center of the display. While this polarizing design provides a much improved 1080p HD camera, it omits FaceID, which was one of the reasons notches were added in the first place.

Speed says

The new MacBook Pros are a reset of past designs and put the user and their needs front and center. They are also the most powerful and power-efficient laptops in the market today.

Words Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
This story was originally published in Speed Magazine’s November-December 2021 issue.

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