The M1 MacBook Pro. Currently the most powerful portable Apple Silicon, with not only performance but battery life that just clowns the same, low-power Intel version from the same year. But, also… stuck with the exact same design.
It’s really more of a MacBook Air Pro, and I’ve been reviewing it since it first came out, so I’m here to tell you whether you should get it now, or wait for the MacBook Pro Pro versions that are coming up next.
The M1 MacBook Pro that Apple released late last year is the entry-level MacBook Pro, and I don’t just mean by price-point, but also literally the entry-level MacBook Pro. Apple opened it up, ripped out the intel, slammed in the M1, closed it up, and called it a day. At least when it comes to the design. Which is totally fine as new silicon launch platforms go, because it keeps everything else nice and stable and lets everyone focus on launching that new silicon. And since it’s barely any bigger than a MacBook Air, and still paradoxically thinner at its thickest point, it remains the best design for anyone who wants maximum performance from an ultra portable. At least for now.
Because what’s rumored to be coming next is that long-anticipated redesign. Specifically, something that keeps the flat corners but also flattens out the currently curvy top and bottom. What that’ll mean in terms of external ergonomics and internal capacity, we’ll have to wait and see.
So, if you don’t care about the design, and the current bead-blasted aluminum unibody is perfectly fine for you, go ahead and get the M1 MacBook Pro now.
But, if you’ve just been aching for that redesign, and you want your MacBook Pro to look even more like an iPad Pro… taco? Then go ahead and wait on the M1X version rumored for later this year.
The M1 MacBook Pro kept the same 13.4-inch Retina high-density, P2 wide-gamut, LCD display as the previous generation Intel models. No better, but only because it was already one of the very best LCD laptop displays in the business. It’s just a little tight if you’re trying to do a lot of audio, video, or code editing strictly on the built-in display.
The M1X MacBook Pro, though, is rumored to be getting an even bigger, better, bezel-blasting display. Closer to 14-inches, and possibly even miniLED, which uses local dimming zones for deeper blacks, bright whites, better contrast, and closer to full-on high-dynamic range, or HDR. Maybe not as dynamic as OLED, but also not as problematic. Also, for those who want more of a portable workstation, a 16-inch M1X should be coming around the same time.
So, if the current LCD display is good enough for you, get the current M1 MacBook Pro.
But, if you really want something a little bigger and with a higher dynamic range so you can really get your HDR on, wait for the 14-inch M1X. Maybe even and especially the 16-inch version.
The M1 MacBook Pro is Apple’s first generation of Apple silicon, based on the same IP and architecture as the A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12. It’s an ultra-low-power system on a chip, but it’s got just about the best single-core performance in the business. Especially with the active cooling system that lets it run, full out, for far longer than the Air. Also, it’s not just fast it’s responsive. So much so, it makes using the Mac feel like using the iPad. Just… Instant. It runs native apps better than ever before and slugabed intel apps — especially the ones that lean hard on graphics — surprisingly well. The up to 20 hours of battery life are beyond mind blowing. It really makes the Pro the M1 Mac to beat right now.
But, it’s the ultra-lower power version and that means, yes, there will also be a higher-power option. An M1X, or whatever Apple ends up calling the chipset that adds even more performance and graphics cores for even better multicore performance. Maybe even lets the single core run just a little bit faster as well. How many more cores remains an open question, but rumors are pointing to anywhere from 12 to 16, so 1 and a half to double. Either of which is really going to shake things up.
So, if you want the best mobile processor on the market right now, and you want it right now, now, now, get the M1 MacBook Pro.
But, if you want even more multicore to throw at your problems, then you’ll want to wait on the M1X MacBook Pro.
One of the best parts of the M1 MacBook Pro is the unified memory. Just a big pool of 8GB or 16GB slapped right on the chipset and shared between the CPU, GPU, neural engine, and image signal processor. Combined with everything from memory compression to ultra-fast swap — I mean 8GB is still 8GB, but it’s the very best 8GB it can be. Same for 16GB. Especially when it comes to graphics, because embedded graphics is usually far, far more RAM constrained. And bottlenecked. But those are the only options on the entry level Pro, both the old Intel and the new M1… 8GB or 16GB.
But, an M1X MacBook Pro will almost certainly take a page from the higher-end Intel MacBook Pro and go all the way up to 32GB on the 14-inch, 64GB on the 16-inch. At least to start.
Same with the storage capacity. Instead of being capped at 2TB, they should mirror the Intel models and go to 4TB and 8TB respectively. Which. Just. Drool.
So, if you don’t think you’ll need more than 16GB and 2TB for your MacBook Pro, go ahead and get the M1 now.
But, if you really want more, especially if you want much, much more, you’ll want to wait on the M1X.
One of the biggest compromises on the entry-level MacBook Pro, since Apple introduced it back in 2016, is that it only has two USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports, and they’re both on your left. Which makes it more than slightly annoying if the only power plug in range is decidedly on your right. It made the lack of MagSafe, on this model in particular, particularly hard to swallow. And the M1 version did nothing at all to address this.
Simply by virtual of being the higher-end MacBook Pro, though, the M1X version should have four ports, two on each side. Rumor has it, though, that it’ll also bring back both MagSafe for power and an SD Card slot for media, something else that went missing back in 2016. Especially if those are in addition to, and not instead of any of the USB-C ports, that’ll make the next MacBooks even more Pro. Again.
So, if two times USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 is all you need, then go ahead and get the M1 MacBook Pro now.
But, if you’re willing to wait, four ports, maybe even MagSafe and SD, could be yours on the M1X.
The entry-level, 2-port M1 MacBook Pro starts at $1299, which really fits in with it’s more portable, quasi-MacBook Air Pro origins. The current higher-end, 4 port, 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1799, and the 16-inch, at $2399.
Apple could hold the line on those prices for the M1X 14-inch and 16-inch MacBooks Pro respectively, or they could bump them up slightly to pay down whatever new technologies, like miniLED they end up including. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But, if money matters and you want an entry level MacBook Pro, you’ll want the M1, available now.
And if money — and time — are no object and you’re just lusting after a higher-end Pro, you’ll want to wait on the M1X Pro.
And while you’re waiting, check out this playlist, where I preview all the Macs that are coming next. Just click on the playlist and I’ll see you next video.