2021 MacBook Pro review: Yep, it’s what you’ve been waiting for

Enlarge / The 2021 14-inch MacBook Professional stacked on high of the 2021 16-inch MacBook Professional.

Samuel Axon

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Apple has lengthy supplied an software referred to as Time Machine that allows you to revert the software program in your laptop to the state it was in earlier than one thing went significantly mistaken. In some ways, the brand new MacBook Professional is a {hardware} Time Machine of its personal; you might say it makes it appear to be the previous 5 years by no means occurred.

The 2021 MacBook Professional is notably bulkier, extra versatile, and extra highly effective than its predecessor. It clicks “revert” on a complete bunch of modifications which were usually unpopular, just like the inclusion of the Contact Bar rather than bodily perform keys and the singular deal with Thunderbolt because the port of alternative.

The brand new laptop computer additionally has essentially the most superior CPU,  GPU, and NPU ever included in a shopper laptop computer and show know-how that has by no means been seen in mainstream shopper merchandise. So perhaps it is not a lot just like the previous 5 years by no means occurred; it is extra like we have slipstreamed into an alternate timeline the place Apple by no means modified course at a crucial juncture when lots of people felt it should not have.

There was hypothesis about whether or not that is the primary laptop computer designed with out a whole lot of direct involvement by long-time Steve Jobs accomplice Jony Ive, who left Apple not all that way back. Perhaps, perhaps not. Given all that goes into designing these machines over a number of years, it is most likely not that clean-cut.

However Ive’s stage of involvement apart, relaxation assured: When you did not just like the path Apple has been taking with the MacBook Professional for the final 5 years, this laptop computer principally seems like an specific apology for all of that. The end result: It is the very best laptop computer cash should buy for a lot of use circumstances, offered you might have quite a bit of cash.


Specs at a look: 2021 14- and 16-inch MacBook Professional
OS macOS Monterey 12.0.1
CPU Apple M1 Professional (14-inch), M1 Max (16-inch)
RAM 32GB (14-inch), 64GB (16-inch)
GPU  Apple M1 Professional (14-inch) M1 Max (16-inch)
HDD 1TB (14-inch), 2TB (16-inch)
Networking Wi-Fi 6; Bluetooth 5.0
Ports 3x Thunderbolt, 3.5 mm headphone, SD card slot, HDMI, MagSafe
Guarantee 1 12 months, or 3 years with AppleCare+
Worth as reviewed $2,899 (14-inch), $3,299 (16-inch)

As normal, we’ll begin with the specs. And there’s quite a bit to speak about right here.


The MacBook Professional is available in two sizes: 14-inch and 16-inch. Technically, the display sizes are 14.2 inches (with a 3024×1964 pixel decision) and 16.2 inches (3456×2234). And sure, there’s a digital camera notch—we’ll get to that shortly.

The show is without doubt one of the key worth propositions of this machine. It’s in a completely totally different class than most different shopper laptop computer shows, thanks partly to Mini LED tech, which has been exhibiting up in high-end TVs and Apple’s ultra-pricy Professional Show XDR monitor.

Mini LED allows native dimming of a whole bunch and even 1000’s of dimming zones, so whereas it’s nonetheless an LCD display, in optimum circumstances, you will get related distinction and black ranges to what you may see in an OLED display however with higher brightness and no burn-in threat.

The 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro's display.
Enlarge / The 2021 16-inch MacBook Professional’s show.

Samuel Axon

Apple claims it could possibly obtain 1,600 nits of peak brightness on highlights, or 1,000 nits of sustained full-screen brightness. That’s frankly nuts for a laptop computer display; it’s similar to what we see in the most costly HDR tv units. This can be a enormous deal for individuals in sure fields who wish to do issues like HDR shade grading on the go, which hasn’t actually been doable with out impractical and ludicrously costly cellular workstations. For the remainder of us, it means increased brightness to struggle the daylight or overhead lights and excellent distinction and highlights in HDR video content material like films and TV reveals.

Apple is thought for calibrating its shows effectively earlier than transport them, and you may for the primary time create customized shade profiles proper in macOS’s System Preferences pane. This received’t matter to most individuals, however for a sure crowd of photo- and video-editing professionals, it might be a very nice addition.

All that collectively makes this the very best show I’ve ever seen in a laptop computer.

It’s not at all times flawless, although. You’ll often discover LCD-type blooming, particularly in letterboxed pictures like 16:9 movies. It’s simply markedly much less pronounced than it was in prior MacBook shows.

The 14-inch mannequin may benefit from a bit of extra display actual property, too, given the duties it’s meant for. As has lengthy been the case with Apple’s “Retina” shows, the precise display area is just not what you’d anticipate from the native decision, as there’s some scaling occurring.

The display on the 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro.
Enlarge / The show on the 2021 14-inch MacBook Professional.

Samuel Axon

By default, the 14-inch’s desktop “seems to be like” 1512×982 by way of obtainable area for home windows. You may bump that up a bit of to 1800×1169. (The System Preferences panel warns this will likely have an effect on efficiency, however we haven’t observed something points.) There are additionally two decrease resolutions—1147×745 and 1024×665—that make all the things larger however a bit fuzzier.

As for the 16-inch mannequin, the default mode “seems to be like” 1728×1117, and there’s once more a extra spacious scaled possibility at 2056×1329. The downscaled sizes embrace 1496×967, 1312×848, and 1168×755. The 16-inch offers you sufficient area in its default scaling setting and lots within the one which’s a step above it. However to me, the 14-inch feels a bit cramped except it’s on the best setting.

Based mostly on what Apple has stated and so far as we will inform, there’s no substantial distinction between the 14-inch and 16-inch shows in addition to display dimension. It might be that the 14-inch mannequin has fewer Mini LED zones, however it seems to be so good as it’s that it will likely be arduous for most individuals to see.

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