14.2 vs. 16.2-inches. 3.5 vs. 4.7 pounds. 6 vs 8 performance cores. 14 vs. 32 graphics cores. 16 vs. 64 GB of unified memory. 200GB/s vs. 400GB/s memory bandwidth. Single vs double video accelerators. 512 GB vs. 8 TB SSD. 17 hours vs 21 hours of battery life. 67 watt vs. 140 watt power adapter. Pro portability vs. Max performance. And a difference of $500 to over $5000 or more. So, are the extra size and features worth the extra cash?
I’m Rene Ritchie, this… is MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Pro, let’s go!
One of the best things about the new MacBook Pro is that both sizes, 14-inch and 16-inch are almost identical. Almost!
That includes high dynamic range, HDR, mini-LED displays with up to 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, on both sizes. You just have to pick between those sizes. Between 14.2-inches and 16.2-inches.
On paper, that difference looks like $500. $2000 vs $2500. But that $2000 is for a lower-specced 14-inch, which I’ll get to in a minute. If you want to compare Apple’s to… Apple’s other Apple’s, once you put the systems in parity, the actual difference is $200. $2300 vs $2500.
Now, bigger might always sound like better. Especially if you want to have the most content in front of you as possible, for photo or video editing, music making, 3D rendering, coding, whatever. Just all the canvas, all the layers, all the text, and all the palettes, all the time.
But with that extra size comes extra bulk and, yeah, weight. Obviously the bigger one is bigger, which will affect how easily it’ll fit on your desk and in your bag, but it’s also heavier. 3.5 lbs vs. 4.7 pounds heavier. Half a kilo heavier. And that’s not so much if you’re leaving it on your desk, but it can be a lot if you’re carrying it around all day.
So, if portability is the most important thing to you, you’re going to want to go with the 14-inch. But if screen real-estate is your everything, you’re going to want to go with the 16-inch.
Real talk, unlike Deadpool, not everyone needs Maximum Effort from a MacBook Pro. If what you really want is that mini-LED display or those HDMI, SD Card, MagSafe, and Thunderbolt 4 ports, than the 14-inch model offers you the option of a binned-down M1 Pro with only 6 performance cores instead of 8, and 14 GPU cores instead of 16. Same 2 efficiency cores and 16 neural engine cores, just minus two p-cores and g-cores. Starting at $2000, or $300 less that the full-on M1 Pro.
And that lower core, lower price option just isn’t available on the 16-inch model. So, if you absolutely, positively, have to have a 2021 MacBook Pro, but you don’t want to spend a dollar more for it than you have to, the 14-inch is your nifty thrifty option.
On the other hand, if Maximum Effort is your mantra, well… for this MacBook Pro, you can actually go either way. Both the 14 and 16-inch models can be escalated to from M1 Pro to M1 Max, which means truly maxed out with 32 GPU cores, 64GB of RAM, and 8 TB of SSD. And both have identical ports.
But… but… The 16-inch does have a bigger thermal envelop, so it’ll be able to run hotter longer, if you are literally intent on lighting up all that silicon, all the time, which is why the 16-inch Max and only the 16-inch Max has a High Power mode that’ll let you goose the fans and the temperature to just let all those cores be all that they can be.
So, if you just want a MacBook Pro, and performance isn’t your prime concern, get the 14-inch, maybe even the 8-core, 4 GPU version.
But if you want a MaxBook Pro, get the 16-inch Max, 10 core, 32 GPU version.
M1 Pro vs M1 Max
You can get the M1 Pro or the M1 Max in either the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro. Both have the same 2 Ice Storm high-efficiency cores, 8 Fire Storm high-performance cores, and 16 Neural Engine cores. With the exception of that 8-core M1 Pro variant I just mentioned.
So, when it comes to just pure CPU and machine learning performance, you’re getting the same capability no matter which way you go.
With the M1 Max though, you can get 24 GPU cores for an extra $200, or 32 GPU cores for an extra $400.
All of those cores, efficiency, performance, and graphics, all have the same single core performance. What the versions with more cores give you is literally that — more better multicore performance. So, if you’re doing anything that’s GPU bound, for example, like heavy 3D modeling, or a ton of effects work, or driving a bunch of hi-res displays, that’s where you’ll see the difference.
M1 Max also offers extra accelerator blocks for media. 2 video encode and ProRes encode and decode engines, instead of 1 of each on the M1 Pro.
So, if you’re working on multiple streams of 8K ProRes video, or outputting a ton of video, for example, you’re going to want to go with Max.
The last difference is RAM. M1 Pro supports up to 32 GB of unified memory. M1 Max supports up to 64 GB. So, if you want max RAM, you’ll want max M1.
Now, unlike traditional PCs, which have separate CPUs with RAM, and GPUs with VRAM, all laid out on a board, Apple silicon uses a system-on-a-chip design, or SoC, that puts the CPU and GPU on the same die, and the RAM on the same package. That means the CPU and GPU, and other compute engines, don’t have to waste time and bandwidth copying data back and forth, but it also means they all have access to that same big pool of memory. Which at 16 GB is already big for a laptop GPU and at 32 GB… is just enormous.
Most people won’t need 16 GB, of course, but if you really are pushing the limits of your existing machine, if you’re doing tons of pro work in multiple pro apps across multiple pro displays, all at the same time, then now you can feed all those cores, all those apps, and all those screens with up to 32 GB
So if you’re more than fine with your existing MacBook or laptop, you’ll almost certainly be fine with 16 GB.
But if you’ve been frustrated with 16 GB in the past, if you’ve already been feeling memory pressure with exactly those kinds of workloads, then now you can get 32 GB, and maybe even keep AfterEffects happy!
For SSD, the basic rule of thumb is to take what you have now and double it for what you get next. That way you buy yourself some breathing room against storage creep. 1 TB is at the bottom end of the sweet spot. 2 TB at the top end. Any less, any you’ll likely be living that external drive life, which can be even more annoying that dongle life. Any more, and you’re just paying a premium to store bigger files and projects locally, and tempting the backup gods the extra convenience doesn’t make you extra sloppy.
So, if you don’t currently feel any storage pressure, go for 1 to 2 TB, and just offload old work when and if necessary.
If you are feeling it, especially if you travel a lot and it’s hard to go external, then look at more.
If you want the biggest battery, it might seem simple — just get the biggest MacBook Pro, the 16-inch, and that’s true. But only partly true.
The 16-inch absolutely has a bigger battery than the 14-inch, but the other thing you’ll want to consider is chipset. Everything else being equal, if you care about battery life more than performance, you’ll care about the M1 Pro more than the M1 Max.
Less silicon just means less power draw. That’s for both models. The 14-inch with the Pro will draw less power than the 14-inch with the Max. So, put those two things together, and the 16-inch with the bigger battery and the smaller M1 Pro will merge like Voltron to give you the absolute best battery life possible on the MacBook Pro.
In other words, maximum performance, 16-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max. Maximum battery, 16-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro.
Which also might help you get maximum value, depending on your specific workload needs, between that $2000 base model Pro and the $6000 fully-loaded MaxBook