The new 14-inch MacBook Pro with custom Apple Silicon replaces the Intel-based 13-inch models with high-end processors and four Thunderbolt ports. It has the same powerful M1 Pro and M1 Max chipset configurations, multiple ports, and new design elements as the updated 16-inch MacBook Pro.
● M1 Pro and M1 Max processors
● 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display with mini-LED backlight
● ProMotion 120Hz variable refresh
● HDMI, SD-card, MagSafe, Thunderbolt 4 ports
● Notch in the display
● Starts at $1,999
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Apple reversed course on many design decisions it has made since the 2016 MacBook Pro. For example, the 14-inch MacBook Pro has no Touch Bar, has multiple port types, and can be charged via a MagSafe connector. And it houses the most powerful custom processors Apple has built yet — the M1 Pro and M1 Max.
The transition to Apple Silicon is a year in, with the first models having released in late 2020. Those first models included the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, but they didn’t see any significant design alterations.
That changed with the 14-inch MacBook Pro. The number of design changes, feature additions, and performance overhauls is almost too good to be true. This model specifically takes a new place in the lineup with near feature parity with the larger 16-inch MacBook Pro.
14-inch MacBook Pro Features
Apple has long been in a league of its own for custom silicon design, and the new MacBook Pros showcase that. Despite a slim form factor and minimal cooling mechanisms, these laptops can outperform all but the most powerful laptops on the market.
Every aspect has increased — from battery life to rendering speeds — all thanks to the upgraded M-series processors.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro is a new size class that sits comfortably between the 13-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro. The edge-to-edge display, 0.61-inch thick chassis, and 3.5-pound weight make for a small yet powerful machine.
At first glance, this laptop is obviously a MacBook Pro with the aluminum body, giant trackpad, and slim enclosure. However, the keyboard is surrounded by black casing, the display is notched, and there are large feet underneath.
Apple pushed the display to the edge so there is no longer a MacBook Pro logo underneath, nor is there space for a webcam in the bezel. So, rather than have a uniform, and thick, bezel around the display, Apple went with a notch design. This controversial design enables more screen real estate in the same-sized casing by having a small cutout around the camera module.
The iPhone X pioneered the notch design so it could move forward into an edge-to-edge display while housing a complex True Depth system for Face ID. However, you won’t find Face ID in the latest MacBook Pros due to the extreme thinness of the display lid.
Apple argues that the space around the notch is now used for the menu bar, giving apps more space to take over. Also, developers can design their apps so they encompass the space around the notch if they so choose.
The internal design has been rearranged to enable 50% more airflow, even at low fan speeds. The active cooling is necessary for high-end processor, but won’t always be enabled.
Apple says that many everyday tasks will not cause the fans to spin up thanks to the efficiency of the M1 Pro and M1 Max. Between the fans, aluminum chassis, and raised bottom due to larger feet, the 14-inch MacBook Pro should stay relatively cool during use.
Liquid Retina XDR Display
The Liquid Retina XDR Display combines of all of Apple’s latest display technologies in one package. It houses a mini-LED backlight, high mobility oxide TFT for 120Hz refresh, and a 1,600 nit peak brightness HDR LCD panel.
The 14.2-inch display has 254ppi at 3024p by 1964p. It operates at 1,000 nits of sustained brightness but can crank up to 1,600 nits for HDR content.
The 120Hz ProMotion display enables a variable refresh rate that adjusts to whatever content is on the screen. Users who need a fixed refresh rate for video editing can set their preferred refresh rate as well.
The mini-LED backlight is a half-step from standard LED to OLED. It enables a higher contrast ratio of 1,000,000 to 1 with deeper blacks and better control over color accuracy. Localized dimming means reduced halo effects and an overall more accurate picture.
All of these display features first appeared in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Apple has been long-rumored to implement mini-LED across its entire lineup, and now that it has debuted in three products, expect it to show up in more large-sized displays.
The M1 Pro and M1 Max
While the 14-inch MacBook Pro is an impressive machine, it owes most of its capabilities to the custom Apple Silicon inside. Customers can choose between the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors when configuring their new MacBook, and each offer significant improvements over the equivalent Intel processor.
The introduction of the original M1 processor proved how far Apple could take its consumer-grade machines with custom ARM similar to that used in the iPhone. Now, Apple can show off even more with its pro-grade chips outperforming all but the most powerful Intel laptops on the market.
Each of these processors combines the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine into a single System on a Chip. Thanks to this design, everything happens on the same chip using unified memory, making every process faster and more efficient.
Apple boasts that both the M1 Pro and M1 Max deliver 1.7 times more performance than the latest 8-core PC laptop chip in the same power envelope. And they match the highest performance levels at 70% less power. The Windows laptop Apple compared against was actually the MSI GP66 Leopard, a 5-pound computer with a two-hour battery life under heavy load.
The M1 Pro supports up to 32GB of RAM and 200GB/s memory bandwidth. This is essentially like stacking two M1 processors on top of each other with even more performance gains.
There are multiple configurations for this chipset with 8-core or 10-core CPU options, 14-core or 16-core GPU options, and 16GB or 32GB of RAM. Customers can also purchase up to 8TB of integrated SSD storage.
There are no options for a discrete GPU, and Apple says this is a benefit thanks to the unified memory. The M1 Pro consumes 70% less power at its peak than laptops with a discrete GPU. Apple compared the M1 Pro against the Lenovo Legion 5 for this data — another 5-pound laptop.
If the M1 Pro is like two M1 chips stacked on each other, the M1 Max is double that. It has a 10-core CPU with up to 64GB of RAM and 400GB/s memory bandwidth.
Customers can configure the M1 Max with a 24-core or 32-core GPU and up to 64GB of RAM. Maxing out this processor adds $700 to the base price of the laptop, costing another $800 for the maximum RAM.
Apple’s graphics comparisons continue, this time against a six-pound laptop called the MSI GE76 Raider. Apple says the M1 Max delivers similar performance to the high-end laptop with 100W less power.
Thanks to the efficiency of custom Apple Silicon, the battery life of the 14-inch MacBook Pro extends into all-day use. While intense tasks will drain the battery faster, general use can last up to 11 hours. And thanks to the 120Hz variable refresh, video playback can last up to 17 hours.
Battery life won’t be an issue either, thanks to fast charging capabilities. Standard charging up to 100W is possible through any of the Thunderbolt 4 ports, but the MagSafe connector enables 140W fast charging. That translates to a 50% charge in just half an hour.
Apple’s design philosophy under Jony Ive seemed to be minimalist for the sake of minimalism. As a result, with each update, Apple removed ports, changed the keyboard, and kept taking away in the name of simplicity. Now, however, Apple has taken a step back to return some high-demand ports for pros.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro has a MagSafe connector, three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack. Previous MacBook Pros had only two or four Thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack, which is a return to convenience.
The trade-off for the new ports is a slightly thicker chassis and the loss of one Thunderbolt 4 port. This is a slight reduction in features if only because a single Thunderbolt 4 port would have been much more versatile if less convenient. Notably, Thunderbolt enables HDMI 2.1 connections, while Apple’s included HDMI port is only HDMI 2.0.
As mentioned previously, the return of MagSafe enables 140W fast charging through Apple’s proprietary connector. Of course, this shouldn’t be confused with the iPhone MagSafe system, which uses magnets for accessories and charging.
Thunderbolt 4 is a universal port standard that is backward compatible through USB 4 and Thunderbolt 3 accessories. Therefore, if you have a USB-C-shaped connector, it is compatible with this port.
You can’t discuss a MacBook Pro revision without talking about the keyboard. After years of issues with a butterfly keyboard, Apple shifted back to scissor switches in 2019. The 14-inch MacBook Pro benefits from the latest Magic Keyboard with mechanical scissor switches that are just as clicky and durable as older Mac keyboards.
For the new MacBook Pros, Apple went with black keys surrounded by a black frame. The new frame is made to emphasize the backlit keys, thanks to the form-fitting design.
So long Touch Bar
Most notably, the Touch Bar has been replaced with a row of function keys. Apple introduced the Touch Bar in 2016 as an alternative interaction paradigm that would change depending on the app in use.
The Touch Bar frustrated many pro users since it took over the valuable physical function keys and the escape key. Apple gave pros the escape key back in a later update but stopped paying any attention to the Touch Bar.
After letting the Touch Bar go without any feature additions or upgrades for years, Apple has finally removed it entirely. In its place is a full-sized set of function keys — a first for MacBooks.
14-inch MacBook Pro Price Guide
2021 MacBook Pro
The 14-inch MacBook Pro is available starting at $1,999. Customers can choose multiple configurations based on the processor, RAM, and storage. Check out our Price Guide to find all of the configurations and lowest prices.