APPLE MacBook Pro 16-inch M1 Pro vs M1 Max (2021) Comparison

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In this article, I give you my Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch M1 Pro vs M1 Max (2021) comparison with specs included. This is the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors inside.

They did gain a little weight but in fact, I like them so much that I got both. I wanted to test both the pro and the mac so you could find out which one you should buy.

Do you remember when the M1 was a revolution for the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro? Well, it’s happening again and we’re going to look at them.

Before we get to that burning question can it play crisis we’re going to talk about what’s new here well the prices are not new pretty much is the same price view apple’s been doing with the 16-inch MacBook pros starts at 2500 that gets you an m1 pro with a 10 core CPU a 16 core GPU 16 gigs of ram and a 512 gig SSD.

You can go up to a middle tier that increases your SSD capacity and then there is the max model which also you can adjust the configuration on but the starting price of the 3500 max is the same 10 core CPU a 32 core GPU 32 gigs of ram and a one terabyte SSD.

No matter which configuration you go with you can change your ram you can change your SSD and all that you’re going to get the same lovely almost but not quite (because apple) mini LED 16.2 inch almost 4k display fantastic looking display the same keyboard, the same wi-fi 6, not 6e Bluetooth 5 all those things you would expect the same keyboard okay so you’re only going to be paying for how much ram you want and how much storage capacity and which of the processors you want pro or max.

The difference between pro and max is only GPU configuration, not the CPU. So, for the 16-inch, you’re looking at a 10-core M1 CPU which is eight performance cores and two efficiency cores. Compare that to the regular m1 13-inch MacBook pro and air which had four performance and four efficiency cores you’re obviously talking a lot more performance here potentially a little bit less efficiency in terms of cores so there’s that.

The GPU is available with that 16 core option. Then if you go to the max you can get it with 24 or 32 cores and I’ll talk about who should get that and the differences and all that sort of thing.

The battery capacity is a hundred watts probably it’s 99.99 or something because airlines limit your carry capacity for lithium batteries onboard airplanes as you might guess that’s probably going to mean good battery life especially due to the efficiency of this mac.

The charger is 140 watts despite the massive horsepower inside this laptop this little thing. When we’ve been doing the benchmarking tests and comparing this to intel laptops and Intel gaming laptops we’ve been comparing it to things like the Alienware x17 and the MSI ge76 raider 17-inch gaming laptop so the RTX 38 in comparison that’s the power supply difference. So that’s going to be the theme here where I feel like Roy kent and ted lasso is going I won’t say the whole word you know what it is if you’ve ever watched that show it’s amazing what about the caveats well the caveats aren’t so much about ports because Apple listened as you probably know by now and instead of giving us only USB-C Thunderbolt ports we’ve got some legacy ports back.

We have HDMI 2.0, not 2.1 it’s not for driving an 8k tv but it’s there for those of you who when you’re traveling and you want to plug it into the tv in your hotel room so you can watch well apple tv or Netflix or whatever it is right for projectors at work for all that sort of convenient stuff for every day 4k TVs it works.

And we have a full-size sd card slot I was just like well I just stuck an sd card in my mac for the first time since like 2015. it’s an uh s2 not uh s3 so it could be even faster but nonetheless, that’s really handy because that’s the easiest dongle for me to lose.

There are still no USB-A ports there are three Thunderbolt 4 ports USB shaped connectors onboard backward compatible with thunderbolt 3 for those who have peripherals and monitors and all that stuff and the mag save charger connection is back which is awesome. So, you might say oh no the last generation had four Thunderbolt why only three well you know before one of them was always taken up by the charger so now you don’t have that problem because you’re plugging into MagSafe which is called magsafe3 which is a nice secure magnetic connection that will break away in case somebody actually kicks your laptop on the coffee table or whatever. And yeah the connector is the silver color, not space gray if you buy the space-grade laptop.

The space gray and silver are still the two colors that are available I know we have three different macs here we got the 14-inch and two 16-inch and they’re all space gray can’t show you silver but you know what silver is like it’s been around forever.

M1 Pro vs M1
M1 Pro vs M1 Max

There’s one little gotcha okay so everybody was saying stop making macs so darn thin right we want better battery life we want better cooling so they did make it a little bit thicker and you can see the difference between the 2019 16 inch MacBook pro here with an intel core i9 versus the new generation it’s a little bit thicker the footprint’s about the same it’s got about a half a pound heavier. Instead of 4.3 pounds, it’s 4.8 pounds so there you go that’s the trade-off I think it’s totally worth it though.

The repairability has supposedly improved too I fixed it has already started taking it apart and it looks like the battery is relatively not too impossible to replace which is probably the thing most people replace. This is still m1 architecture which means a unified soc system on a chip so part of the reason it can be so fast is the fact that you’ve got your CPU and your GPU on the same die okay we’ve seen that AMD until they do the same thing for integrated graphics right but not for such powerful integrated graphics like we can see here with a 32 core GPU but also your storage and your ram are all on one chip.

So no PCIe bus for those who are more technical to ship your data around which slows things it gets a lot faster for the m1 pro you’re talking 200 gigabits per second data transfer 400 for the max. So that’s pretty fast but that also means you can’t upgrade your ram or your SSD after the fact because it’s a monolithic architecture one ship has all that stuff. Likewise, if any portion of that chip should fail the whole chip or really the whole logic board as apple calls motherboards would need to be replaced so that’s still the way that is.

M1 vs M1 Pro vs M1
M1 vs M1 Pro vs M1 Max

When it comes to speakers on this you have six-speaker audio with force woofers as apple calls them they sound really good. I mean the 16-inch MacBook Pro has always sounded good if you’re coming from the 2019 model well it’s not going to sound super-duper better it’s going to sound a little bit better but compared to most other laptops on the market with the exception of surface lap studio laptop which sounds really pretty good too it’s one of the best that you’re going to find in terms of audio.

The three-and-a-half-millimeter headphone jack supports high impedance headphones so for those of you who are audiophiles you know what that means that means you don’t need an external headphone amplifier to use your really fancy pants high impedance headphones anymore.

The display on this is lovely. We saw Apple bring a Mini LED display to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro recently and this one is every bit as good with a little bit less blooming which means if you’ve got a completely black background with a white text (or white anything) on, you won’t see quite as much halo around that, it’s really pretty trivial.

What’s not so trivial is the notch. I mean what Apple you know. Do you think this is branding at this point? I don’t know. My real strong guess here is that they were gonna include Face ID and supply constraints due to well we all know supply constraints for everything right now.

It is just crazy, I meant that they couldn’t do this since they’re having enough trouble fulfilling face ID parts for iPhones at this point. But anyway, it looks kind of silly.

They did add extra height. It’s still a 16 by 10 aspect ratio display so the notch is not eating into that 16 by 10 area of the display. They add a little extra display up top which is where the menu bars are and yes the cursor just swings back and forth underneath it as if it wasn’t there.

Yes, occasionally you’ll find an app that actually pushes icons out so far that you might see something look a little weird and glitchy and Apple has added a temporary they’ll eventually get rid of it when developers update a way to drop the menu bar down to take care of it anyway.

I haven’t had any functional issues with the notch, I just think it looks kind of goofy but I guess you get used to it, and given how gorgeous this display is. Otherwise, well you know in conventional brightness when you’re using it on normal laptop mode it’s 500 and it’s a brightness that has been typical of Apple. In HDR content-wise it supports up to 1600 nits so you have that great contrast Mini LED with thousands of local dimming zones and all that sort of thing. That’s how they do it.

Full p3 coverage, still a glossy display, it looks great, and the amazing thing is pretty weird. If you’re playing say HDR content in a window the desktop can stay in SDR mode while that window is in HDR mode which is pretty trippy. Anyway, it’s a gorgeous display.

One upside of that notch is the fact that you get a 1080p webcam that looks considerably better than what you’ll see on most any other laptop so hey I’ll take that. And, as usual, there are three mics for high-quality audio. So, these days when everybody’s still stuck zooming and face timing, and everything else, it’s nice.

The trackpad on this is, as always, class-leading. It really isn’t any different from the previous generation. It is still insanely huge as well but it’s the same haptic touchpad that works wonderfully.

The big news about the keyboard is that the touch bar is gone from the top. For those who always hated that and just wanted your function key back row back and dedicated escape key brightness buttons that were clicky all that sort of thing. Well, the full-size function row up top is back.

I never got into the touch bar much myself so I’m pretty happy that it’s this way too. The only thing is it’s kind of weird is we do have touch id on the keyboard same place but you used to get that little indicator on the on the touch bar that would say put your finger here dummy right now it needs you and now you don’t get that. So I’m just something to adjust to.

The key travel is 0.9 millimeters that’s pretty darn short that’s something I still don’t really much appreciate. In fact, I think that’s a little less travel than the 2019-era 16-inch MacBook pro. I think that was a whole millimeter maybe.

Anyway that’s very low travel but it is very tactile you can almost say it feels like the lowest travel mechanical keyboard you’ve ever used. These are scissor keys. It’s nice it’s still short oh well. Despite the fact that the mac got a little thicker there’s still enough room for more travel on those keys and it’s the way the magic keyboard rolls.

Okay, let’s talk about performance now. And this overlaps a little bit with the 14-inch MacBook pro with the m1 CPU that we’re going to be reviewing as well soon. And the pro versus the mac CPUs like I said you’re going to get the same number of cores.

So if you’re only going to be doing CPU-intensive tasks you’re doing data visualization that doesn’t ever use the GPU you’re doing coding all that sort of thing there’s no need to get the max. The max is there for those of you who do more graphics-intensive things, particularly video editing photoshop that sort of stuff. You live in adobe creative cloud you live in final cut all those sorts of things right. Davinci resolve you get the idea.

Now with 3d rendering that’s still a little bit of hurt for the m1 mac because the GPU acceleration isn’t there in every program yet. Blender is native for the m1 but they’re still working on the GPU acceleration for these macs. So look forward to being better.

If you’re talking in terms of Blender and under other similar programs looking at CPU or rendering well it can actually knock the socks off of an intel machine. So of comparable i7 to i9 configuration. That’s pretty good. But anyway if you’re not the person who needs the GPU just get the pro. You’ll get a little better battery life you’ll spend less money and that’s nice.

But let’s talk about the performance of that CPU. It’s off the charts. Didn’t you expect that we saw what happened with the m1 MacBook air and 13-inch pro right? The geek bench numbers are the highest I have ever seen. Be it against that Alienware x17 against my MSI ge76 raider which has an intel 11th gen core i9 inside. Let along against max apple’s own i9 base 16-inch MacBook pro.

This thing is darn fast. I mean exponentially fast. Now when we look at something like Cinebench r23 it’s also fast. It’s not as class-leading there and that should be an m1 native application so that’s interesting. With graphics, it gets a lot harder to measure because of what Apple has done here with the change in architecture.

I can’t just run a 3d mark on this thing. I can’t run native windows. There’s no boot camp. Who is this not for this machine in general those of you who need boot camp? Those of you who need virtualization and a lot of speed. You can run parallels but you can only install the arm version of windows 10 or windows 11 so that’s kind of limiting.

And then inside of windows 10 or 11, it will virtualize to x86 and you can imagine the performance hit that you’re taking with that. So not so much for the windows crowd anymore which pushes the mac at the same time it’s a shame.

By far the most performant the most energy-efficient the coolest running the idea of what a laptop should have always been something that’s portable and doesn’t burn and lasts a while on battery right. But being limited to only Mac OS in a windows universe is going to hurt a little bit. All right there’s that anyway.

When it comes to GPU performance we look at something like graphics bench and the Aztec test the 1440p off-screen test because that’s the most demanding. And there that’s a metal native test it really does very well. It holds its own against an RTX 3080 and those gaming laptops that I mentioned.

And where it sits versus those is also going to vary depending on the wattage of the gaming laptop. You’ve got razor blades that are at the lower end you’ve got the big 17-inch Alienware and MSI’s that are at the higher end of the water there.

So real-world tests become a lot more important than graphics benchmarks when you don’t have cross-platform benchmarks to use. And it’s delightful stuff. For those of you again this is a machine for creative pros. We’re using something like final cut pro right.

Obviously, the most optimized apple makes that. It can be up to four times faster than my 2019 core i9 MacBook pro with Radeon graphics. Wow and that’s for the max model. If you’re looking at the pro model with a 16-core GPU then it can be up to three times faster.

So you can see if you want your timeline and you’ve got multiple 4k footages running there you’re even doing 8k if you want the most buttery timeline and the very fastest export speeds then the max is the one for you. But you’re not going to suffer too much if you go with the pro with the 16-core GPU.

If we look at something that is kind of more cross-platform which would be adobe premiere which is m1 native they’re still working on optimizations and all that sort of thing for it it. Again is beating those gaming laptops which is pretty impressive. How much depends on the wattage of the GPU.

But comparing it to RTX 3080 gaming laptops again. Anywhere from 15 faster to 33 faster. And that’s adobe premiere which is usually a little bit hard for the mac. And DaVinci Resolve which is pretty well optimized for the mac that can be up to two times faster than an Intel-based machine with a good GPU.

So as machines for creative pros it’s hard to do better than this. It really is it’s astounding. What about heat and fan noise. Okay, this is also pretty darn crazy. You know anybody who’s had that core i9 2019 model 16-inch MacBook pro knows. Especially when you hook it up to an external display which I always do a 4k external display using both the internal the external panel that meant you’re always going to hear the fans.

And my god is it going to huff and chuff when you’re doing something like exporting video in premiere or any number of things or Cinebench r23 so here’s one right here. So Cinebench r23 heats up all laptops when we do tests. Gaming laptops including RTX 3080 don’t matter. And this is really just a CPU-based test so it doesn’t even matter about your GPU right.

But I whip my 2019 16-inch MacBook pro with in about a minute of the test. And this is a test that runs for like eight minutes total for the multi-core test. It would be hitting the thermal ceiling and throttling about a minute in and then the fans would be going. The same thing goes for gaming laptops.

This is a good way to max out the temperature and then bring up your fans and then see how the performance is despite some throttling. And with this new pro and max version, they don’t throttle. They go up to about 89 to 90 degrees about halfway to two-thirds way through the test in a 73 Fahrenheit room and then the fans will kick on and they stay at zero till it’s about 90 and then the fans will keep it at about 90 which is below thermal throttling.

And it doesn’t get that loud it doesn’t get hot to the touch. I don’t know how warm yeah hot absolutely not. It’s astounding it’s what you wish a laptop was. That’s really well done. I know there are some of you who wish like oh it was 50 degrees centigrade all the time while working really hard.

We aren’t there yet that would be beyond any possibility. This is pretty impossible enough and Apple has done it. So that sounds so fantastic yay right. Well, what else do people want to do with their laptops game. I mean it’s not that you can’t game at all but if you’re looking at triple-a titles and how you’re spending a lot on a laptop problem it could be that you are right. You want to play cyberpunk or ac Valhalla or far cry 6 and all those kinds of titles.

Well first off you’re stuck in the fact that this is not x86 architecture okay. So not gonna happen. You can’t boot camp in and play it. Forget about using the windows arm version with its virtualization. No no no and most of the games you’re gonna play really are going to run under rosetta which is apple’s emulation which actually is really fast as you probably know already from the original m1 laptops that came out.

So I mean I can run things like the shadow of the tomb raider which is already getting me an older game and was already kind of dumbed down in the port for macs and they’re less capable GPUs and stuff and I can get 85 frames per second and that’s really fine on high settings.

But of course, if you’re looking at a gaming laptop with an RTX 3080 then I can push 100 frames per second. So still not there but we have rosetta emulation. But your game library isn’t there. Your x86 isn’t here anymore. So if you wanted a gaming laptop sorry no-no and no crisis for you. Maybe Minecraft.

So how about battery life. Okay if we’re talking about competing for gaming laptops and mobile workstations where if you get six hours you’re like in your happy place right. Throw those ideas away. You can tell just from the difference in the size of the chargers here and the different efficiencies of the CPU and the max wattage are consumed by the 16 inch MacBook pro which does fine with a 140-watt adapter versus the 330-watt one I showed you or the 240-watt one on somewhat less demanding gaming laptops right.

The pro is going to have a better battery life versus the max. It makes sense because you know you got twice the GPU cores going on in the max model of it. But nonetheless setting the display to 200 nits of brightness and doing real-world tests and people this took me days because the thing wouldn’t die. I was using safari for half an hour it was still at 100 on the pro and the max. I mean what so I my.

Real tests are having a mail client running having safari running with several tabs open streaming some video editing some stuff in photoshop for a while a little bit of video calling that sort of stuff real world and we’re looking at with 200 nits of display brightness. This gets 11 hours on a charge with the max model and 13 hours on a charge with the pro model.

Given the horsepower and the performance here that is certainly impressive. And this is going to lead any other intel machine or AMD machine even on the market with this level of performance. And that’s not even really trying to optimize performance just leaving it to default settings and all that sort of thing. Obviously not putting it in the 16 inches high performance-only mode sort of thing.

Which doesn’t really make that much of a difference in performance by the way for those who are wondering versus the 14-inch that doesn’t have that option. But it runs on unicorn farts once again. Just like the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the m1 air it just keeps going.

Now apple does claim more they claim up to like 21 hours or something like that. If you’re just streaming video which is a very efficient task as processors are so optimized for it then sure and if you set your display brightness pretty low. But let’s face it especially nowadays when people are home more often if you’re going to watch video for eight hours you’re probably going to watch on your tv and not on your laptop.

You’re not going to spend 3 500 bucks to watch tv on your laptop, are you? I don’t know, not me. So that’s the 16-inch MacBook pro for 2021 with the m1 pro and m1 max processors. As you can tell I’m pretty jazzed and you know hey I think everybody is pretty jazzed. They have done pretty much everything we asked.

They gave us more ports they gave us better cooling they gave us this wild new processor with an integrated GPU that is kick-ass. It just is. A beautiful mini led display with great battery life it doesn’t get hot to the touch. The fans are not roaring all the time even if you’re hooked up to external monitors. I mean for creative professionals. It’s going to cost you some serious coin but you’re going to get some serious goodness out of this.

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