APPLE MacBook Pro 14″ (2021) Review

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In this article, I give you my Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021) review with specs included. This is a 14-inch MacBook Pro. I already reviewed the 16-inch version of the M1 MacBook Pro and did a comparison vs M1 Max that you can read here.

I know some people reviewed both of these laptops together and there are a lot of overlapping similarities but there are also some key differences so I thought I should do them separately.

Is this laptop as great as you might think? Well, probably yes as Apple always delivers great products and we are used to that.

The 14-inches is a new size for Apple. They haven’t made a 14-inch laptop in a long time. But, 14-inch is the new 13-inch now that we have smaller bezels, a bigger screen, and what used to be the footprint of a 13-inch laptop.

In fact, the footprint is not so much bigger compared to the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro. This is however a little thicker and a little bit heavier.

The thinking here is that there is a much bigger difference between the 14 and the 16-inch than the 13 and 14-inch laptops.

MacBook Pro 2021 14 vs 16 inch
MacBook Pro 2021 14 vs 16 inch

There’s some overlap probably for some of you trying to decide should you get the 13-inch MacBook Pro or the 14-inch but probably nobody’s thinking whether you should get a 13-inch or a 16-inch laptop. They have different use cases, they are different competing laptops.

We’ll look at some of the competitors too, including performance and other metrics later in this text.

Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021) Specs

You probably know by now that this is a big overhaul for Apple. We have the M1 Pro and the M1 Max processors inside using Apple’s system-on-chip unified architecture here.

The RAM and SSD storage are all part of the chip which is part of what allows it to be radically fast not unlike the M1 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

This is a new architecture and that means it’s very power efficient which we saw with the Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That also means it runs a lot cooler and a lot quieter which is what you want from a laptop.

Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021)Specs
Display14.2″ XDR Pro Motion, 120 Hz, Mini LED, 3024 x 1964, 254 PPI, 500 nits (conventional brightness), 1600 nits (HDR), 100% sRGB, 89% Adobe RGB, 100% DCI-P3,
2.2 Gamma,
6600K Colors,
0.02 Black Level,
26,330:1 Contrast
M1 Pro CPU Version8 Core/ 10 Core
200 Gb/s Memory bandwidth
16/32 GB RAM (512-bit LPDDR5)
GPU: 14 and 16 Core options
M1 Max Cpu Version10 Core
400 Gb/s Memory bandwidth
32/64 GB RAM (512-bit LPDDR5)
GPU: 24 and 32 Core options
Storage512 GB up to 8TB SSD
Ports3x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C,
HDMI 2.0,
UHS-II SD Card Slot,
3.5 mm headphones out
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5
OtherMagic Keyboard with Full-size Fn row,
Touch ID,
1080p WebCam,
3 microphones,
MagSafe 3,
67 W charger (base model only), 96 W fast charger (other versions),
70 WHr Battery
Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021)

The idea is it’s supposed to not burn a lot of power, it’s supposed to run for a decent amount of hours on battery and be efficient and those are the things we’ve kind of foregone with a lot of laptops over the years. This was a long-lasting issue with Intel chips but not with bad performances from Intel CPUs.

Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021) Display

2021 14-inch MacBook Pro comes with a mini LED display which is an OLED light technology in terms of contrast, black levels, brightness, and contrast, all that good stuff for a display.

Apple MacBook Pro 14 2021 Color Options
Apple MacBook Pro 14 2021 Color Options

The notch, which to be honest does not look like the best solution, I do suspect that Apple wanted to include face ID there and there was a part shortage and they couldn’t do it and that’s why we have it.

MacBook Pro 2021 14 inch Dimentions
MacBook Pro 2021 14 inch Dimensions

It is a 1080p high-quality Webcam on the notch. Nowadays with everybody video conferencing that is nice to have. And the usual three-mic system for picking up high-quality audio is here too.

The good thing about the notch (if you can say there’s a good thing about the notch) is that it’s still a 16 by 10 aspect ratio display and the notch and the menu bar live above that so you’re not losing any of that 16 by 10 real estate.

The resolution on this is pretty high. It’s not quite 4K resolution but for a 14-inch display, I think it’s perfectly acceptable. It’s the usual wide-gamut P3 well-calibrated at the factory and 500 nits in brightness in your standard use modes in a standard definition like on the desktop. And, you can do 1600 nits in HDR mode including if you’re playing a video in a window. That window can be HDR while your desktop is still SDR it’s pretty neat stuff.

MacBook Pro 2021 14 inch Box Content
MacBook Pro 2021 14 inch Box Content

Anyway, it’s a gorgeous display, there’s not much blooming which means white text or objects on a black background don’t show much light blooming around the white stuff, it’s sweet.

And that’s one of the things that set it apart from the 13-inch MacBook Pro which has a conventional IPS display not mini-LED so certainly not as gorgeous looking, there’s no fancy HDR mode all that sort of thing so it is a little more pro.

Apple MacBook Pro 14 2021 Space Grey and Silver
Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2021) Space Grey and Silver

Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021) Ports

Another thing that is “pro” here is the ports. So, I can imagine Apple’s kind of laughing at this. So many PC manufacturers went and sort of copied them and said okay we’ll just have USB-C, Thunderbolt 3 ports, or Thunderbolt 4.

Well, Apple now has brought back the legacy port for Pro people. For example, the M1 13-inch MacBook Pro can only drive one external display, with this one you can go up to four just like the 16-inch laptop. You can have three 6K plus a 4K display. It’s all 60 hertz, it’s crazy.

MacBook Pro 2021 14 inch Ports
MacBook Pro 2021 14 inch Ports

You’ve got an HDMI 2.0 port, you have three Thunderbolt 4 ports, USB-C style connector, one less but that’s okay because we now have a separate MagSafe connector for charging so you’re not using one of those to charge anymore.

And we have a UHS SD card slot UHS2 and not the very fastest available but I’ll take it. It’s wonderful.

For creative pros you got cameras, you got your SD cards, etc. And you have a three and a half millimeter headphone jack of course that supports high impedance headphones for your audio files out there.

So the ports and stuff and the external monitor support this is more what pros want. So, that sets it apart from the 13-inch MacBook Pro right there.

Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021) Keyboard

Having nothing to do with Pro or not-Pro, the touch bar is gone. If you like the touch bar the 13-inch still has that for you. But, the 14-inch and the 16-inch do not.

Apple MacBook Pro 14 2021 Space Grey
Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2021) Space Grey

You have an Fn row up top with your physical escape key. Your brightness controls are buttons again and all that sort of thing. I’m fine with that I was not a huge touch-bar fan. So, it’s gone here R.I.P.

You still have that Touch ID fingerprint scanner and no longer will you get any indicator that tells you when you need to press it since there is no touch bar with a graphical display on it but other than that.

Its magic keyboard is fine. I mean for those of you who are used to it I still don’t appreciate how low travel it is at .9 millimeters but it is very tactile, very crisp scissor keys the reliable kind butterfly keyboard long gone, and all that sort of thing.

Once you get used to the travel on it it’s actually nice to type on.

And the trackpad is still the same giant haptic trackpad that’s class-leading here. So, that stuff’s good not much different from your 13-inch in that respect that trackpad.

Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021) MagSafe 3

As I said, we have that MagSafe 3 connector now. So, there are two different power chargers.

If you get the base model of the 14-inch MacBook Pro you get a 67 watt-hour. If you get anything but the very base model then you get a 96 watt-hour charger that supports fast charging. So 50% charge in half an hour which is pretty darn fast.

The good thing about the MagSafe is that if you kick the cord that is plugged you’re not going to pull the laptop off the coffee table, that sort of thing. If you do need to fall back on USB-C charging you can do that as well.

Apple MacBook Pro 14″ (2021) Performance

Now let’s talk about performance. It almost exactly parallels the 16-inch models that are reviewed, Pro and Max.

Here we only have the Pro base model because I figured that’s the one sufficiently different from the other two. Read my 16-inch review if you want to hear about the more powerful Pro and Max configurations.

The base model is two thousand dollars here and that starts with an eight-core CPU, six performance cores with two efficiency cores, and 14-core GPU all integrated system-on-chip.

So, that’s a little bit different from every other 14-inch model as you go up the food chain in price, and with all of the 16 inches, those are 10 core CPUs with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores.

So, as you might guess, if you go at the base model you’re not going to get quite as much CPU performance here.

Still going to be faster than a 13-inch MacBook Pro which has four performance cores and four efficiency cores.

And just like the 16-inch model, if you want to go to the Max model that’s where you’re going to get more GPU cores. After you step up from the base model you can still get a Pro with the same number 10 core CPU. But, if you want to move up to the 24 and the 32 core GPU for your creative professionals who are doing a lot of video editing for example, or 3D renderings then you move up to the Max processor model.

Now for RAM, you can get the pro with either 16 or 32 gigabytes of memory with the max you can get it with 32 or 64 gigabytes of memory.

So, that’s a lot of data and that’s great here’s a little bit more data though.

For RAM, again part of the system on chip, everything is soldered and it’s not even literally soldered its part of one big chip, the base model has 16 GB of RAM, and if you want to go higher than that you can go up to 64 max.

For the storage, 512 GB is a starting. You can go all the way up to 8 terabytes so you’re going to pay god through the notes for that 8 terabytes so probably most of you are going to use external storage on this thunderbolt USB-C whatever you want to do with that.

So that’s a lot of data, right? What does this mean to you? If you’re just liking the MacBook Pro 14-inch model because you want to hook up external monitors a couple of them instead of just one then you can go with the lowest end configuration you don’t have great demands.

You do everyday office work even if you’re you know doing photoshop and lightroom and all that sort of thing not as a working creative professional who triages a thousand photos a week or something like that but like that’s a lot of normal people do.

You edited photos, you added some video that you took with your iPhone or any other device. And the base model is actually fine. I mean let’s face it the m1 air and 13-inch MacBook Pro were very performant.

If you’re somebody who’s doing coding and you’re doing smaller projects or you’re doing it for school the base model is just fine for you. Honestly, you might even be able to make do with a 13-inch MacBook Pro.

But, for those who are coding commercially for bigger companies and you have millions of lines of code that’s when you’re starting to say i should move up to that amazingly fast beats the pants off of any pc processor 10 core cpu model which starts at 2500 dollars so you go to 500 bucks it’s probably worth it for that.

If you’re a video editor and you’re looking for something small to take with you instead of a 16-inch MacBook Pro. I mean I get that the 16-inch MacBook Pro is 4.8 pounds this one is 3.5 pounds which is 1.6 kilograms it is an easier carry then certainly consider the 24 core or the 32 core GPU. If you’re working with 4k footage multiple streams or even 8k and that sort of thing. You’ll get nearly the same performance as on the 16-inch.

The only limiting factor here is smaller chassis less room to dissipate heat. But honestly, this one doing the Cinebench r23 test which is our favorite test to get any laptop overheating and throttling and cutting back on his performance, this one still can do Cinebench R23 multi-core multiple rounds of that long test and maintain 90-degree centigrade core temperatures. That’s when the fans kick on around 90 degrees just like the 16 inch. It’s pretty impressive in terms of thermals.

Let’s talk a little more about those thermals when doing things like working in final cut pro with multiple 4k streams and not even prores footage which is more efficient but less efficient codecs and all that sort of thing.

This typically even doing exports the cores are in the 50 to 60 centigrade range for temperature that’s great. The 16-inch will stay a little cooler it pretty much just stays at 50 to 53 centigrade.

This can handle anything you won’t hear the fans much. When they do kick on they’re not loud typically they’re anywhere from 1500 RPMs to 2400 RPMs. It doesn’t get burning hot it’s really darn impressive it’s nice stuff.

What about battery life then that’s another part of this efficiency thing.

Battery life is pretty good not as good as the 13-inch MacBook pro so again for those who are trying to decide if your needs are not super heavyweight and particularly not needing that way extra cores for the gpu. This one apple claims around 11 hours of actual real-world use and 17 hours if you’re streaming apple tv.

My test actually doing real-world tests which took forever because let me tell you you can surf in safari for a long time before that ever budgets from 100 charged.

I was getting about 11 hours, at 200 nits of brightness, multiple tabs in safari going, doing some photoshop editing, some slack, some zoom calls, all that sort of stuff, office work, all the productivity, and a little bit of creative work but not spending my entire day and final cut.

The amazing thing is if you are doing Final cut or even adobe premiere where this holds up well and actually exceeds some high-performance intel core i7 and core i9 gaming laptops. Even there you’ll get most of your performance apple doesn’t throttle back as much as windows pc makers do.

I can actually edit on this 14 inch for about five and a half hours in Final cut on a charge without even trying, without even dropping my brightness below my comfort level which is about 300 nits and all that sort of thing. It’s superb, really is.

Now, one thing to note about battery life is I would expect an hour shorter run time with the Max processor. This is based on my testing of the 16-inch with the pro and the max processors. On the bigger mac there’s a little bit more of a delta but so far from what I’ve heard and seen it’s going to be about an hour shorter runtime for your 14 inch if you go with the Max processor.

So while we’re talking about pc laptops and comparisons you saw the graphs online. It’s highly performant if you look particularly at the 10 core CPU model it’s going to beat everybody in Geekbench 5. It’s going to beat in terms of code compilation times even if you’re looking at something like Alienware x17 okay we’re talking very powerful laptops here.

Despite the fact that it’s that small it is almost uniquely positioned in terms of its performance.

Besides the 13-inch MacBook Pro at the low end as a competitor, there’s also well surface laptop studio.

Now for creatives who want the touch screen and want the pen, it’s a no-brainer. It’s the surface laptop studio is a lovely machine it’s for you.

In terms of CPU performance, that surface laptop has only a four-core i7 CPU so not nearly as fast. And it has an rtx 3050 ti max-q and honestly similar performance to a bit less depending on the task you’re doing.

If you’re doing DaVinci resolve or premiere or final cut or something like that well obviously not final cut in the PC, uh the mac will win but for gaming, which is another topic, well the surface laptop still has an advantage because it has Nvidia graphics.

Then there’s the Asus rogue Zephyrus g14 with the RTX 3050 ti inside and a Ryzen processor which is more power-efficient and a bit cooler running than an Intel.

So that one’s two thousand dollars too and that one is actually a good competitor in terms of performance. Again, that’s good battery life but not as good.

You’re going to get a higher quality display here, you’re going to get better CPU performance, surprising because I love Ryzen but in terms of things like code compilation times and even performance inside of adobe premiere than that so barrier direct competitors.

And Apple is holding its own except for when it comes to gaming. Why? Because this is an ARM architecture, this does not support boot camp into Windows. You’ve got parallels which is a VM virtual machine and it is an ARM so you’re going to run Windows ARM version and then if you’re trying to run an x86 game from steam or something like that or wherever you get your games from then Windows is going to handle that virtualization over to x86 and it’s just not high-performance for that sort of thing so not so much.

I mean you can use Mac steam games that are going to run under rosetta. A little performance penalty there, not as much but this is just not really a machine for gaming. It’s just an x86 world for gaming right now.

So, that’s the 14 inch MacBook pro with M1 processors for 2021 and Apple has done it again just like with the 16-inch model. It’s an amazingly high performance yet compact and good looking machine that actually brings back some useful ports has a stunning mini LED display that holds this again against OLED, has very good battery life, runs cool, runs quiet, all those things that you want from a laptop in a portable package.

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APPLE MacBook Pro 14" (2021)

9.2

Performance

9.6/10

Price

8.7/10

Value

9.2/10