APPLE has totally redesigned the MacBook Pro – turning a powerhouse into something unbelievable.
I’ve been testing the new 2021 MacBook Pro for a few weeks, and I never want to put it down.
For the past few years, Apple’s high-end laptop has struggled with its image.
It ditched key ports, introduced a controversial Touch ID bar to replace the function keys, and had a keyboard plagued by issues.
Now the new model is out, that all seems like a distant memory. Did it ever really happen?
Apple has backtracked on those less-liked changes, and upgraded almost every part of the machine to boot.
So what’s new? Let’s start with design.
New 2021 MacBook Pro design and features
As always, the MacBook Pro is gorgeous. And familiar.
It’s noticeably thicker (and heavier) than the older model – but who cares? It looks great and the race to “thinnest gadget ever” has thankfully long been abandoned.
With MacBook Pro, Apple has realised that it’s important to stuff it with as much power and support as is physically possible.
So on the exterior you notice the return of quick-attach MagSafe charger, an SD card slot and even a headphone jack.
Apple has chucked in four USB-C Thunderbolt ports for good measure too.
Colours are classic Apple with Silver and Space Grey, the latter of which is clearly better. I was saddened that there’s no Sierra Blue to colour match with the new iPhone 13, but I’ve learned to cope.
The controversial butterfly keyboard is gone for softer-touch keys that seem to fare better under heavy use.
I spend most of my day typing, and it’s a real joy. No complaints here.
And importantly, the row of function keys is back – replacing the OLED Touch Bar that never really found its feet.
The display is something to be hold.
It’s Apple’s Liquid Retina XDR panel – I’m using the 14-inch model, because I prefer the size.
Resolution is set at a sharp 3024 x 1964 pixels, working out to 254 pixels-per-inch.
The screen can hit 1,000 nits of sustained brightness – or 1,600 nits in certain areas when HDR demands it.
And the P3 colour gamut offers up a billion hues to enjoy.
Basically, it’s a better panel than most home TVs, and is colour-accurate enough to do serious photo and video editing on.
Sound quality is phenomenal for a laptop.
There’s a six-speaker setup, including four woofers and two high-performance tweeters.
You get respectable bass, impressive volume, and brilliant clarity across the spectrum.
It provides a proper, tangible and sophisticated soundstage that makes you question: Is this really coming from a laptop? Yes, it really is.
New 2021 MacBook Pro performance
Performance is really where the MacBook Pro begins to outclass, well, everything.
You can get it in M1 Pro and M1 Max variants. I’ve been trialling the 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU variant of the Max, which is quite unstoppable.
Paired with 64GB of RAM and 4TB of storage (though a ludicrous 8TB is available), it seems that the machine is limitless.
No activity can stopper its greatness.
If you’re an Apple fan, you’ve probably read a thousand anecdotes of outlandish performance.
It’s totally smooth. You can spam-click a dozen or more apps to launch, and they’ll appear instantly. It’s eerie and magical.
There is no general-use task – launching apps, browsing, watching content – that can slow this machine down.
But this is also a Pro machine, and has to deal with professional workloads.
I’ve done serious photo editing, and even demo’d video editing with multiple streams of very high-res footage.
I’ve opened dozens of apps at once – tab-packed browsers, huge documents in Photoshop, media players – and you can switch between them in a usable way with ease.
This machine is built for coders, for video editors, for graphics designers. It shows.
For raw computing performance, there is seemingly no equal on the market today. The slickness and optimisation, some of which is thanks to macOS itself, is a phenomenon to behold.
But it’s not all perfect. There’s the tricky issue of gaming.
I’ve played reasonably demanding games like World of Warcraft (I promise: crank it up on graphics and it puts pressure even on high-end rigs under certain conditions) on the MacBook Pro with no problem.
In fact, Apple has come leaps and bounds with graphical performance – trumping many rival Windows laptops.
But the fact is that a lot of games still don’t support macOS, which is a royal shame given the computing power on offer.
I suspect that may change in the coming years as Apple keeps pushing forward with its Nvidia- and AMD-rivalling chips.
But for now, you’ll have to put up with the fact that a lot of game makers simply aren’t prioritising Mac yet.
New 2021 MacBook Pro battery life
Battery life is great.
Apple claims 17 hours of movie playback and 11 hours of wireless web browsing.
But official metrics are tough to go by, because they won’t represent your usage.
I use the MacBook Pro as my main work machine.
That means it’s on for a full work day, in constant use. There’s web browsing, media playback, photo editing, video calling and more.
I can easily get through a day without having to charge it.
Cramming enough battery in to get several full days of use would compromise the design, so I think a day of hard use is a happy medium.
It juices back up quickly too – especially if you’re using the 96W USB-C adapter, which supports fast-charge.
New 2021 MacBook Pro review verdict
In many ways, Apple has made the perfect laptop.
The design is attractive and iconic, the performance is second to none, and the price actually seems fair – given what’s on offer.
It’s customisable and can be spec’d to extreme levels (at significant cost), and you start to question the value for money at the very high-end (north of £6,000/$6,000).
But the fact that the entry-level costs £1,899/$1,999 and is as powerful as it is…well, it’s a coup for professionals.
So does anything hold it back from greatness?
Ultimately, this machine will eventually be outclassed – as Apple creates more powerful chips. Somehow. By some miracle.
But that’s the relentless march of technology.
I’ve had absolutely zero issues with the notch. If that’s the only thing stopping you from buying this laptop, then I’m sorry. You’re missing out.
There’s also the fact that the MacBook Air with its M1 chip is now very good – and far cheaper.
So that will rightly tempt some more casual users away that may have previously opted for a MacBook Pro instead.
After a few years of muddled waters, the dividing line between Air and Pro is truly back .
This is a tour de force of laptop computing. It’s phenomenally good, despite being the first entry in a shake-up of the MacBook Pro line.
Gamers won’t be entirely pleased, which is perhaps the biggest failing.
But that may change in years to come, and many PC gamers will still opt for a desktop computer anyway.
Apple has listened to the fans and remade the MacBook Pro into a dream machine.
The Sun says: The new MacBook Pro is just about the best laptop on the planet. 5/5
All prices in this article were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed. Always do your own research before making any purchase.
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