Apple MacBook Pro 2021 review: everything fans want

Apple’s 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops hit stores this week. I’ve been testing the 14-inch model for the past few days.

The new MacBook Pros now have a clear focus on design and function. It’s a change from 2016 when, in the name of a cleaner design, Apple infuriated some customers by removing ports that many still found useful. And it required those customers to buy adapters to plug their cameras and card readers into the ports. Worse still, the keyboard wasn’t very good and broke for many until it was updated last year. Now Apple customers have a MacBook Pro with no design compromises. There are many ports and a great keyboard.

The new MacBook Pros are Apple’s most sophisticated notebooks and hit stores Tuesday. They are loved by people who do great photo and video editing and by developers who need a Mac to create applications for Apple products, such as the iPhone. The 14-inch model starts at $ 2,000 while the 16-inch version starts at $ 2,500.

MacBook sales are booming. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said in June that the first M1 chip, in computers like the MacBook Air, helped “fuel” Mac growth, likely in addition to increased demand for new computers due to the US pandemic. coronvirus. Mac sales increased 16% year-on-year in the June quarter.

The new MacBook Pro can help Apple maintain that momentum, particularly among application developers and video and audio professionals who need more power than the MacBook Air offers. And it may even appeal to people who haven’t upgraded from the 2015 MacBook Pro or earlier, due to the lack of port options on older models.

I tested the 14-inch model. It’s the best Apple laptop I’ve ever used and has a lot more power than I know what to do with. Here is what you need to know about it.

What is good

The new MacBooks Pros were completely redesigned from a relatively boxy look to a newer, more rounded design which I really like. The 14-inch model I have reminds me of a much thinner and lighter version of Apple’s 15-inch PowerBooks or plastic MacBooks that were discontinued in 2011. And I like that it’s not too big.

MageSafe, two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, and a headphone jack.

Both models now have nicer displays, an HDMI port and SD card slots, and faster Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max processors. They also have three Thunderbolt 4 ports for adding things like external monitors and other accessories.

Apple brought back MagSafe this year, the popular magnetic charger it abandoned after the 2017 MacBook Air. I like it because it helps charge the MacBook Pro up to 50% in just 30 minutes. It also comes off if you trip over the cable so the entire MacBook doesn’t fall off. You can still use the Thunderbolt ports to charge with a USB-C power adapter if you want.

SD card slot, a Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port and an HDMI port.

That new 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display might be my favorite feature of all. Professionals will probably appreciate the main reason it exists: so you can color-color really sharp HDR videos and photos with precision. But I like it because it is incredibly bright.

I don’t usually mention numbers in reviews because they don’t mean much to most people, but they are easier to explain. The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro has 500 nits of brightness, while the MacBook Air has 400 nits. The new 14-inch MacBook Pro, by comparison, has 1,000 nits of brightness, but it can hit 1,600 nits thanks to the new mini-LED backlight, which allows certain areas of the screen to become super bright for movies or photos. The display also has a million-to-one contrast ratio, which means really deep blacks and brilliant whites. The combined sharp resolution, rich colors, high brightness, and great contrast ratio give you better picture quality than some high-end HDTVs.

For normal people like me, that means that colors really show up in movies and TV shows, and even my photos taken with HDR on my iPhone 13 look the way they do on my iPhone screen, which is also HDR compatible. . It is a huge difference from my MacBook Air M1. I also appreciate the addition of ProMotion, which makes scrolling smoother. That’s a feature found on Apple’s new iPhone 13 Pro models and iPad Pros as well, and it makes a difference when scrolling through a news story. And it adjusts on the fly to save battery life if you’re not on the go or doing something that requires that high refresh rate. But you can turn it off or select a specific frequency if you are a video editor that needs a specific refresh rate.

The speakers are way better than any other laptop speaker I’ve tried. They have remarkably rich bass and can fill a room with audio. They also support spatial audio, which is like surround sound if you’re playing Dolby Atmos-encoded music or movies. Makes a movie or music sound like it’s coming from everywhere rather than just from the left or right of the laptop.

The keyboard performs just as well as the next-gen model, which received a major update after Apple’s Butterfly keyboards caused all sorts of problems, from sticky keys to repetitive keystrokes. It feels as easy to type as my MacBook Air M1. I like that Apple got rid of the touch bar screen on top, which I didn’t really find useful on previous MacBook Pro models, and replaced it with a full-size one instead. Easy-to-touch function keys to adjust volume, screen brightness, and more.

Then there’s the new M1 Pro chip. It’s a lot more powerful than I need in a laptop, so it’s really marketed to the pros. I tried a few demos where I was able to test six iOS apps running side by side in Xcode, just like a developer would if they were trying to see how well their new app ran on different models of iPhones. You can edit multiple 8K HDR video scenes (or Apple’s brightest XDR content) in real time within applications like Final Cut Pro, or render and modify how the sun goes down on 3D models in Cinema 4D, all without waiting for the computer process. Professionals will likely appreciate being able to perform these tasks from a laptop with a display and processors that allow them to do so. Lastly, you can add up to two additional displays with the M1 Pro or three displays if you upgrade to the M1 Max chip. That’s more than a single external monitor with the M1 chips last year, and it’s a big deal for people like me who prefer to run multiple displays at once.

Going back to something that everyone can appreciate: there is a 1080p webcam. Apple is finally moving from the 720p camera to older models. That really got a lot better last year thanks to the M1 chip, which used software to improve quality. But this year’s sharper resolution is remarkable and will finally show up in video chats. I just wish Apple found a way to add its Center Stage feature, which tracks you as you move on iPads, to its laptop. Studio microphones also help you sound clear.

Finally, the battery life is good considering all the power you get. Apple promises up to 17 hours of battery life for HD video playback with the screen at 8 notches brightness, and I came close to that in my video playback tests, losing approximately 23% battery every 4 hours of video playback. video. Of course, your mileage will vary. Video playback will reduce that, for example. But anyone who needs this for web browsing and document editing should have a smooth working day.

What is bad

There is a notch for the webcam at the top of the screen. People are going to have strong opinions about it. I don’t mind in most situations.

You won’t notice it if you have the laptop in dark mode, which is what I did, since everything around the notch is dark anyway. And I prefer the trade-off – you get slimmer bezels at the top of the screen rather than large bezels like on previous models. You’ll see the notch if you have a bright background and menus, but it fades into the background even better than on an iPhone, where it cuts off video content, for example. But, I wish Apple the notch also had Face ID, the facial recognition feature that unlocks iPhones and some iPad models.

I’m fine with the Touch ID fingerprint reader, as it’s what I’m used to on other Macs. However, Face ID would allow the laptop to boot directly to your desktop in a split second as you sit down. And some Windows laptops, like Microsoft’s Surface products, have a similar facial recognition option with Windows Hello.

So all that power comes with a little trade-off. It weighs a bit more than I expected at 3.5 pounds.

It’s not too heavy, but heavier than the 2.8-pound MacBook Air and a half-pound heavier than last year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Should you buy it?

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is an almost perfect combination of power and portability. While everyone will appreciate the amazing screen, great speakers, fast charging, and improved webcam, this laptop is best suited for professionals who need all the ports, extra power, and display technology not available on the other laptops from Manzana. the M1 MacBook Air is still the laptop for most people, and it costs $ 1,000 less, but I don’t blame you if you bought this instead.

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