Computers & Laptops
Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1, 2021) Review
We bought Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro for our reviewer to test. Read the full product review.
The new 16-inch MacBook Pro M1 is the best laptop Apple has ever made.
The combination of an excellent display, great speed and excellent battery life make the Pro a must-buy for anyone who depends on their laptop to get through demanding computing tasks quickly. Of course, the price for this level of performance is high, starting at $2,499. MacBook Pro offers a window into a new kind of computing experience for those who can tolerate the high price.
I’ve been using Apple laptops since the PowerBook 100 was released in 1991. After spending several weeks with the new MacBook Pro, it offers the responsiveness previously only associated with iPads and iPhones combined with the refined form factor of Apple’s best laptops.
Design: Back to the Future
At first glance, the new MacBook Pro doesn’t look radically different from Apple’s previous Pro notebook models. It has a similar aluminum frame and the screen is roughly the same size as the 2019 model.
However, small details affect the design of the new MacBook. The Pro is simply more beautiful than any laptop Apple has ever made in a number of ways, starting with the incredibly smooth hinge mechanism when you open it.
Pro can be considered a step back in some areas. First, the MacBook Pro measures 0.66 x 14 x 9.8 inches and is 4.8 pounds thicker and heavier than the model it replaces. This is definitely not a laptop that you forget to carry in your backpack. On the other hand, the weight of the new MacBook is convincing and in line with the target audience of professionals.
Apple has also come full circle by replacing the ports it removed from the MacBook in previous iterations. You get a Massif connector, a headphone jack, an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports, which should be enough for almost any user. There’s no USB-A port, but most people won’t need it.
Keyboard: Precision is everything
The joy of using a MacBook Pro only becomes apparent when you start typing on the keyboard. It has a scissor mechanism that feels precise and gives excellent feedback.
The Pro has one of the best keyboards I’ve ever used on a laptop. But if I’m being picky, I’d say the key resistance is a bit too strong, which can lead to finger fatigue during long typing sessions.
Just above the keyboard is another area where Apple has decided to take a step back. The company has abandoned the Touch Bar, which enables the use of software functions through touch. Having used the Touch Bar for many years but never found a use for it, I say bon voyage.
Trackpad: big and fat
There’s nothing I don’t like about the trackpad on the new MacBook Pro. It’s big and responsive and you won’t notice it after a while, it’s all you need in a feeder.
The trackpad on the new MacBook works flawlessly, which is more than most Windows laptops. I had no problem moving the cursor on the screen accurately when I spent hours editing documents.
Display: clear and beautiful
The Pro has the best screen I’ve ever used on a computer, and that might be the reason to buy this model myself. Scream for quality.
Some users may object to the notch carved into the top of the screen, which leaves room for the camera. But I found that I didn’t even notice the hole after a few hours of use.
The display features Mini-LED technology, which means that the display can be partially turned off, giving you a deeper black than standard LED displays. You also get Promotion, which means a high refresh rate that makes the look smoother when you move the mouse, for example.
In addition to a great screen, you get a new set of speakers with the Pro. The speakers are, in a word, awesome. They have four woofers that produce enough bass to keep most music alive. Movies sound like movies.
Text looks great in the Pro, and I ended up spending time staring at Word documents to admire how the words look so sharp and defined. Video playback was equally impressive, and the Mini-LED display showed such detail that it made me want to watch my favorite movies again. The anti-reflective coating also works very well, even when using the Pro in direct sunlight.
Performance: Incredible speed that stays cool
The MacBook Pro uses the same high-quality Apple-designed M1 chip that has powered some of the company’s other machines for the past year.
A new chip makes the difference. I never thought my old 2019 MacBook Pro was slow until I started using the new model and now I can’t try another computer without considering how slow it is.
Applications launch almost immediately in Pro. I have a bad habit of keeping too many browser tabs open while I work. But even with dozens of tabs open in both Chrome and Safari, the Pro didn’t slow down.
Battery: goes back and forth
Despite its power, the chip absorbs energy. The M1 Pro lasted for 16 hours of continuous battery life, making it the longest-lasting laptop I’ve ever tried.
All this battery life has an important practical benefit. In short, you don’t have to worry about carrying a charger with you even to work all day. It’s a liberating feeling not to have to worry about the juice.
MacBook Pro (M1, 2021) vs MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
It’s fair to say that for many people, the much cheaper MacBook Air is a better option than the Pro model.
The Air offers many of the same benefits as the Pro, including an incredibly fast M1 processor, which also means super long battery life. You also get the proven portability of the Air model, making it noticeably thinner and lighter than the Pro.
But the Pro model has a lot of advantages over the Air and it’s up to you to decide if they’re enough to afford the extra cash. For example, the Pro has plenty of ports that can be useful for connecting peripherals, while the Air is pretty stuck with USB-C.
The screen of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is also a step up from the Air model. Of course, the Pro screen is much larger than the Air, meaning you can see a lot more information at once and make working on large documents or spreadsheets easier. The screen also blows the Air over in terms of sharpness and resolution, which you notice immediately when you have the two models next to each other.
If your primary computing tasks are light web browsing and portability is more important to you than brute power, Air is a good choice. But if you’re staring at a laptop screen for many hours a day and want the flexibility of multiple ports, you won’t regret spending the extra money on the Pro.
An incredibly powerful laptop.
As one of the newest and most expensive laptops on the market, it’s no surprise that I give the MacBook Pro near-high marks. Blazing fast, great screen and all day and some battery life make it a great laptop for almost any purpose. However, the design is back to basics and road warriors may want to consider a lighter, less bulky model. But if you rely on your MacBook for demanding tasks, this is a must-have.