Well, it’s finally happened – the long-awaited Macbook Pro (MBP) with a more powerful M1 chip has finally dropped. And it’s looking like a real ‘pro’ machine now.
And it’s all thanks to two new SoCs: the M1 Pro and M1 Max. Apple says it’s the first time it’s used a system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture on its pro systems, and it has drastically improved performance and power efficiency.
M1 on steroids
According to their measurements, the M1 Pro CPU is up to 70 per cent faster than M1 while the GPU is up to twice as fast. Memory bandwidth is nearly three times faster than M1 and it supports up to 32GB of unified memory.
The M1 Max is even quicker and the GPU is up to four times faster than the M1. Memory bandwidth is twice that of M1 Pro and almost six times that of M1, and the M1 Max supports up to 64Gb of unified memory.
Apple claims that the new MBP is now capable of handling extreme geometry and textures in scenes that PC laptops equipped with Core i9 and RTX 6000 or RTX 3080 graphics will struggle with.
The new SoCs also feature two ProRes accelerators to boost video editing performance. You can edit up to 30 streams of 4K ProRes video or up to seven streams of 8K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro.
Improved performance on battery
And unlike most notebooks, the new MBPs do not throttle their performance when unplugged from a power adapter. The improved power efficiency also means that video editors can now grade colour in HDR on 8K ProRes 4444 video on battery power.
In terms of video playback, the 14″ MBP gets up to 17 hours while the 16″ gets up to 21 hours – the longest ever on a Mac laptop. For Xcode developers, that’s four times more code while photographers get twice as much battery life when editing in Adobe Lightroom Classic. What’s more, the new MBPs support fast charging for the first time, and you can charge up to 50 per cent in 30 minutes.
And guess what? The crowd-favourite MagSafe – now Magsafe 3 – is also back, and you can still charge via USB-C.
New design choices
The new MBP comes in two flavours: 14″ and 16″, and it is markedly different in terms of aesthetics. The new enclosure design not only makes more room for ports but it’s also designed to support the new thermal system that can move 50 per cent more air than the previous generation MBP even at lower fan speeds, resulting in a laptop that stays cooler and quiet more often than not.
Also new is a redesigned Magic Keyboard that sits in a double-anodised black well. Gone is the (annoying) Touch Bar, which is replaced by full-height, physical function keys.
The ultimate Netflix laptop
For the first time in the Macbook lineup, the MBP gets the Liquid Retina XDR display treatment. That means mini-LED backlighting a la iPad Pro, giving you up to 1,000 nits of sustained brightness with up to 1,600 nits at peak. And with the 1M:1 contrast ratio, the new MBP display has a dynamic range that’s perfect for viewing HDR footage (and actually meets the specifications). It also has ProMotion technology (adaptive refresh rate up to 120 Hz) for even smoother animation.
The bezels are also thinner and the display resolution slightly better – you have a 16.2″ panel with 7.7m pixels on the 16″ model and a 14.2″ panel with 5.9m pixels on the 14″ model.
On top of the display, you’ll notice the new 1080p FaceTime HD camera, which doubles the resolution and improves low-light performance. The camera system also leverages the image signal processor (ISP) and Neural Engine built into the M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs for computational enhancements to improve sharpness and skin tones. Accompanying the new camera are studio-quality mics with an even lower noise floor for clearer calls and voice recordings.
And in keeping with the very video-centric nature of the new MBPs, the new six-speaker sound system follows the new meta of two tweeters for a clearer soundstage and four force-cancelling woofers. Apple says the new system offers 80 per cent more bass along with spatial audio support for a more immersive listening experience; yes, it supports Dolby Atmos as well.
Last but not least, both 14″ and 16″ MBPs have three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SDXC card slot, an HDMI port, and a new headphone jack that supports high-impedance headphones (headphone monitors). The M1 Pro supports up to two Pro Display XDRs while the M1 Max connects up to three Pro Display XDRs and a 4K TV.
The new 14″ MacBook Pro model starts at $2,999 ($2,769 for education) while the 16″ MacBook Pro model starts at $3,749 ($3,449 for education). Do note that prices for the 14″ start with the 8-core model and you have to pony up an extra $300 for the 10-core version. They will be available on apple.com/sg/store and in the Apple Store app. Apple hasn’t confirmed the dates here yet, but in the US it will be released on 26 October.