The new MacBook Pros are just as much a throwback as they are a giant leap forward. The latest 14-inch and 16-inch models revive the classic magnetic MagSafe charger, drop the Touch Bar for more physical keys and finally give you a healthy amount of ports again. These address some of the biggest criticisms of Macs over the years, and for some, could be reason alone to pull the trigger.
And then there’s the new stuff — including a stunning Liquid Retina XDR screen with more colors and less bezels, incredible speakers and some wild M1 Pro performance that outshines the already beastly M1 Macs. When you put that all together, the new MacBook Pros are largely Apple’s best yet.
But with starting prices of $1,999 for the 14-inch model and $2,499 for the 16-inch, these powerful machines are a steep investment, especially when the cheaper M1 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro still deliver more than enough power for the average person. So who should actually make the plunge?
The who, what and how
Who it’s for: The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are ideal for creative professionals and software developers who want desktop-grade power in a portable machine. It’s also worth considering for everyday folks who don’t mind splurging for the MacBook with the most ports and best display and speakers.
What you need to know: The new MacBook Pros have Apple’s most powerful processors yet with your choice of an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip, as well as new Liquid Retina XDR displays that are colorful, smoother and more immersive than before. They also pack some of the best webcam and speaker sets we’ve ever tested on a Mac.
How it compares: The latest MacBook Pros outperform the M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro by a significant margin — especially when it comes to graphical capabilities. The 14-inch and 16-inch models also carry far more ports than the M1 Air and 13-inch Pro, making them ideal for folks who need to plug lots of stuff in at once. These new MacBooks mostly run circles around rivals like the Dell XPS 13 in terms of sheer performance, and can even hold their own against laptops with discrete graphics like the Surface Laptop Studio. However, we found our 14-inch M1 Pro model’s battery life to be far behind the M1 Macs as well as some competitors.
A throwback design in all the right ways
Big rubber feet, thick edges loaded with ports, a MagSafe charger — wait, what year is it? The new MacBook Pro feels like a loving callback to the chunky MacBooks of a decade ago, bringing some much-needed utility back to Apple’s laptops while still maintaining a sleek and modern-looking design.
Our 14-inch MacBook Pro unit is noticeably wider and taller than the 13-inch Pro we use daily, though it doesn’t feel much heavier at 3.5 pounds versus 3.1 pounds. Its edges are a bit thicker than those of the 13-inch Pro and not nearly as sleek as the Air, but for good reason: The MacBook Pro finally has good ports again.
The new Pro features three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports for connecting to high-end displays and accessories, an SDXC slot for transferring photos and videos from a camera, an HDMI port for external monitors and TVs and a headphone jack that supports high-impedance headphones, which is a popular standard for audiophiles. While it’d be nice to also have a USB-A port for the many legacy accessories we still use daily, that selection is still a big upgrade from the measly two Thunderbolt 4 ports you’ll get on the 13-inch Pro and Air. Oh, and the MagSafe charging port is back — yep, just like the one you had on your old MacBook in the 2000s.
We’re really happy about the Pro’s new braided MagSafe 3 charging cable, and not just for nostalgia’s sake. This charger snaps magnetically to the MagSafe port on the new MacBook with a satisfying click, creating a firm connection, but one that can safely detach without sending your laptop flying should someone trip on the wire. As someone who’s knocked over their MacBook Pro in this exact fashion, we appreciate the change. This cable also charges the new MacBook ridiculously fast, matching Apple’s claims of going from 0 to 50 percent in our tests. Plus, having a dedicated charging port means that all three of your Thunderbolt 4 ports will be available while you juice your machine up — though you can still charge via USB-C if you have a high-speed cable you’re partial to.
The Touch Bar is finally gone — and we couldn’t be happier
Speaking of useful throwbacks, the new MacBook Pro’s keyboard finally ditches the dreaded Touch Bar in favor of a full-size row of physical function keys. The Touch Bar (which is still found on the 13-inch Pro) has its uses for creative folks, providing contextual touch controls for things like quickly scrubbing through a video or accessing shortcuts in Photoshop. But we’ve always found it pretty cumbersome for our personal needs, and were happy to once again be able to brighten our display or adjust the volume with a single satisfying tap of a physical key.
New function row aside, this is largely the same Magic Keyboard that we loved on last year’s models, just with a slick black-on-black design that helps distinguish the new Pro as a heavy duty work machine. It felt great to type on Apple’s latest laptop for days on end thanks to each key’s solid travel and snappy feedback, though we still prefer the even deeper keys on the Surface Laptop Studio by a hair. The Force Touch Trackpad is almost identical in size to that of the 13-inch Pro and feels as good as ever for clicking and zooming through web pages, and the bigger Touch ID surface built into the power button made it easy to log in with a quick finger scan.
The M1 Pro chip delivers truly bonkers performance
Apple set a new standard for laptop performance with last year’s M1 processor, which allows even the $999 MacBook Air to run circles around most rivals and handle heavy workloads with ease. And now, the company has crafted a pair of even more powerful chips for the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros with the M1 Pro and M1 Max, which are designed to give exponentially more performance muscle to serious creatives and developers. We’ve been testing the 14-inch model with an M1 Pro processor, and yep — Apple has managed to significantly outdo the already absurd speeds we’ve gotten from the M1 MacBooks.
We fired up and played around with a variety of demanding creative projects that came preloaded on our system, and none of them managed to make the new MacBook Pro buckle — in fact, we’ve yet to hear the fans kick in. Rotating a detailed 3D sculpture in Cinema 4D felt smooth and instant, and there wasn’t a single stutter as we scrolled down more than 1,500 audio tracks in Logic Pro. An 8K video project loaded instantaneously in Final Cut Pro, and we were able to export it to 720p in about 30 seconds. The MacBook Pro remained speedy even as we had all these projects open at once — on top of our usual workload of Slack, Outlook, Steam, Discord and dozens of Chrome tabs. You’re going to have a very hard time taxing this thing.
The new MacBook Pro’s impressive real world performance is backed up by our benchmark scores, which make even the blazing M1 Macs look somewhat modest by comparison. On the Geekbench 5 multi-core test that measures general processing speed, our 14-inch Pro scored a whopping 12,463 — that’s a big leap over the 7,628 we saw from the M1 MacBook Pro, and more than double the score of Windows competitors like the Surface Laptop Studio and Dell XPS 13 OLED.
The M1 Pro’s graphics capabilities are equally impressive, as we noticed on the Geekbench 5 OpenCL test (which measures GPU performance) as well as on our gaming benchmarks. The 14-inch MacBook Pro’s OpenCL score of 36,326 is nearly double what we got from the M1 MacBook Air (17,183) and Pro (19,339), which illustrates just how much extra visual muscle the new model has over the standard M1 machines.
Heck, it even came somewhat close to the Surface Laptop Studio (51,933) — a laptop that has a discrete Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU. In other words, the single chip inside the new MacBook Pro can hold its own against much chunkier laptops with dedicated graphics cards. We saw similar parity when it came to gaming, as both the 14-inch MacBook Pro and Surface Laptop Studio turned in a highly playable 47 frames per second when running Shadow of the Tomb Raider with all graphical settings cranked up. This makes the MacBook Pro a perfectly capable gaming machine — though the amount of big-name PC titles you can play on Mac is still pretty limited.
It’s worth noting that we tested an upgraded $2,899 version of the base 14-inch MacBook, which features an M1 Pro chip with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU alongside 32GB of RAM (which aids in multitasking) and 1TB of storage. Essentially, the more cores you have, the harder the CPU and GPU can work for demanding tasks.
The starting $1,999 14-inch model packs an M1 Pro with an 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU and maxes out with an M1 Max chip with a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU. You’ll also need an M1 Max chip if you want to outfit your MacBook with 64GB of RAM for heavy workloads. Those who need the absolute best power for things like advanced 3D rendering and software development will want to consider the higher-core options, but even our middle-of-the-pack M1 Pro pumped out some of the best laptop performance we’ve ever gotten our hands on.
A gorgeous display — even with that notch
The 14-inch MacBook Pro isn’t just the most powerful Mac we’ve tested — it also has the best MacBook display we’ve ever laid our eyes on. Photos and videos popped with bold colors and striking contrast, basic text looked satisfyingly inky and swiping between apps felt more fluid than ever. Heck, we don’t even mind that new notch all that much.
The new Pro packs a 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with a 3,024 x 1,964 resolution, which is a lot of fancy jargon to say that it’s one of the sharpest MacBook screens yet and is designed to offer an even wider range of colors than your typical High Dynamic Range (HDR) panel. Those claims certainly held up well in our testing — when flipping through XDR-optimized images in Affinity Photo, we were struck by the bright, bold blues and deep blacks in a composite image of a ballerina. The beaming red lights of a car really stood out in an image of a rainy Manhattan at night, and the reflections of the street lights onto the sidewalk looked strikingly true to life.
When we fired up an 8K nature video on YouTube at full resolution, we were treated to lush greens and oranges as a group of deer ran around a grassy field. Whether you care about accurate color and detail for visual work or just want a great canvas for watching movies and looking at photos, the 14-inch MacBook Pro’s display really delivers.
The new MacBook Pro also shrinks the bezels down considerably (about 24 percent) for a more immersive screen that’s more in line with the iPhone and iPad Pro. There’s just one catch: The MacBook now has a notch. We didn’t really mind it — the small black area that houses the webcam sits in the middle of the macOS menu bar, and is easy to forget about when you’re using most apps. However, it doesn’t feel like Apple is using the MacBook Pro’s added real estate to its full potential just yet.
When you fullscreen most apps and videos, the top section of the MacBook Pro’s display goes dark. This hides the notch when you’re, say, watching a YouTube video in fullscreen mode or maximizing a webpage in Chrome, but it also creates a big black virtual border at the top that makes the Pro’s bezels appear to be just as chunky as on previous models. This larger screen has lots of potential for more immersive viewing — as we noticed when a gorgeous animated screensaver kicked in and filled up every inch of the display — so we really hope to see apps optimize for the notch over time. Still, that’s ultimately a minor nitpick, and we have no problem having a notch when we see how much more display area the 14-inch Pro has when we put it side-by-side with a 13-inch model.
Better sharpness and color and a notched screen aren’t the only big changes here. The new MacBook Pro has a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, meaning that it’ll look twice as smooth as previous Macs when you’re scrolling down web pages or flipping through a photo gallery. The benefits of this were obvious right away — doing things like blowing apps out in multitasking mode and skimming through a video file in Final Cut Pro felt incredibly fluid, to the point where the 60Hz screen on our 13-inch MacBook Pro now looks kind of sluggish.
Just like the iPhone 13 Pro and the latest iPad Pros, the new MacBook Pro display uses Apple’s ProMotion display to dynamically boost the refresh rate when you need it (like when you’re scrolling through something quickly) and lower it when you don’t (like when you’re looking at a static image) in order to save battery life. You can also lock the display at various intervals between 47.95 to 60Hz, in case you’re looking to save some power or need a specific refresh rate for whatever media you’re working on.
The speakers and webcam are ridiculously good
We still haven’t quite gotten over the 14-inch MacBook Pro’s excellent speakers, which have become our new go-to for blasting punk songs while we get ready for the day. The six-speaker setup inside the new Pro was loud enough to fill a bedroom with sound while being pretty audible from the next room, and did an incredibly good job providing plenty of depth and clarity for all the music we threw at it.
When listening to bouncy rock bands like Jimmy Eat World and Tigers Jaw, we enjoyed walls of electric guitars, deep rollicking bass and crunchy drums that all sounded loud and punchy while having enough breathing room to stand out individually. But what really grabbed our attention was the way these speakers handle vocals — on more somber tracks like Phoebe Bridgers’ “Garden Song,” the singer-songwriter’s whispery, yearning vocals were so clear that it sounded like she was in the room. These speakers also support Spatial Audio (which positions sound three-dimensionally instead of just in stereo), and the added separation made optimized tracks like Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” sound much livelier than the other million times we’ve listened to it.
The new MacBook Pro’s webcam is likewise exceptional, thanks to a bump in resolution from 720p to 1080p that works in tandem with some very impressive image processing smarts. When snapping selfies in Photo Booth, the MacBook Pro camera provided rich, accurate colors that properly captured skin tone while picking up fine details like the strands of a beard and the creases around our eyes. In fact, it made the same shot from the Logitech C920, our pick for the best webcam, look dull and overexposed by comparison. And when we FaceTimed with a colleague who was also using the new Pro webcam, the combination of the sharp camera and FaceTime’s portrait mode practically made it look like she was using a fancy DSLR camera. This thing is truly bonkers.
Rounding out the MacBook Pro’s strong multimedia chops are a solid set of what Apple calls “studio-quality” microphones. That’s really not too bold of a claim — the voice recordings we captured almost sounded like they came from a dedicated USB microphone, and colleagues and friends noted that we came through very clearly on calls. We even recorded some acoustic guitar and vocals on the built-in mics, and the quality was good enough that we could see ourselves using them to cut some basic demos.
Not the best battery life
There’s one area where our particular 14-inch MacBook Pro unit didn’t blow us away, and it’s battery life. Apple’s new laptop lasted just over six and a half hours on our continuous 4K video playback test, and we got roughly the same amount of endurance during a typical day of using Slack, Chrome and Outlook while occasionally jumping to heavier creative apps.
That’s only a fraction of what we got from the M1 MacBook Air (14:12) and 13-inch MacBook Pro (16:30), and behind the 8 hours and 14 minutes we saw on the Surface Laptop Studio. Our battery result is also a far cry from Apple’s rating of up to 11 hours of wireless web browsing and 17 hours of video playback. It’s possible that the speedier 120Hz ProMotion display is eating up some extra battery life here, so you may want to lock the refresh rate to 60Hz if you want the best possible endurance. Your mileage may vary based on how you use the new MacBook Pro, but I personally struggled to get through a full workday on a charge. The good news is that the MagSafe 3 charger often fully juiced the laptop in less than an hour, so you’ll want to keep it handy on the road.
Some minor drawbacks aside, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are the new MacBooks to buy for video editors, 3D artists, developers or any other kind of power user that could benefit from tons of processing and graphics muscle. Our M1 Pro-powered 14-inch model can juggle demanding creative tasks without breaking a sweat and outperforms the already beastly M1 MacBooks by a good margin. And the option to upgrade to a higher-core M1 Max chip means that you can spec these laptops out with enough speed to handle just about anything.
But what if you’re not a “Pro”? Not everyone needs a $1,999 laptop (which can cost thousands more based on your configuration), and the $999 M1 MacBook Air is still the best option for most people considering the absurd performance and battery life you get for the price. Still, after living with the new MacBook Pro for a few days, we don’t want to go back to a MacBook that doesn’t have lots of ports, booming speakers, big physical function keys and a gorgeous Liquid Retina display.
Those are all features that even everyday consumers can benefit from, and while the new MacBook Pro might be aimed at creatives, we also think it fills a niche for anyone simply willing to invest in the most feature-packed and future-proof MacBook out there. Just don’t let that snappy MagSafe charger get too far when you’re working on the go.