Dusseldorf Apple is outplaying the competition with an improved version of its M1 chip in the new Macbook Pro. With the device, the iPhone company also admits that design isn’t everything when it comes to notebooks.
Apple has been developing its own chips for its iPhones and iPads for years with great success. But when the Californian company announced in the summer of 2020 that it would also equip its Mac computers with its own processors, many observers rubbed their eyes in surprise.
But the billion-dollar bet pays off, even with the new Macbook Pro generation. A quick conclusion first: it’s great, but it might not offer the ideal laptop for everyone. But more on that later.
The new Macbook Pro is available in two variants, which differ mainly in terms of screen size: 14 and 16 inches. They can be ordered in many configurations. The entry is marked by the 14-incher with Apple’s M1 Pro processor (CPU) with 8 cores, with 6 performance cores being responsible for maximum performance, while 2 efficiency cores handle routine jobs while saving energy. In addition, Apple packs a graphics chip (GPU) with 14 cores.
At the upper end of the equipment scale is the M1 Pro Max CPU with 10 cores, a GPU with 32 graphics cores and a number of extras that are supposed to accelerate video editing and boost artificial intelligence. This expansion level is not only reserved for the large 16-incher, but is also provided for the smaller model.
Brutally superior Our test device, a 16-inch device with an M1 Pro CPU, quickly showed why Intel boss Pat Gelsinger should be very concerned. His competitor Apple, which he recently mocked as a “lifestyle company from Cupertino”, is already brutally playing off its superior concept with the improved M1 Pro variant. And as expected, the M1 Pro Max tops its performance again.
In the field test, we tried to embarrass the MacBook Pro by editing an 8K resolution video, which didn’t work. We were able to change color and raw data, move around in the timeline, edit films without even turning on the Macbook’s fan.
The delay between hitting the play button on unrendered footage and the actual start of the video was so small that we couldn’t even measure it, while it was a moment or two when compared to an Intel system.
It has to be said that the editing program used by Apple, Finalcut Pro, has already been optimized for the new chip family. However, the speed advantages are also achieved by many programs that do not come from Apple.
Even programs from Adobe (Photoshop, Premiere, Lightroom and Co.) are no longer only available in an Intel version that starts in Rosetta 2 on M1 laptops. Rosetta is a programming environment (emulation) from Apple that can translate programs written for Intel processors for use with ARM processors such as the M1 CPUs.
Top performance even in battery mode Microsoft office programs such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint no longer require a Rosetta environment. Incidentally, the Macbook also delivered top performance in Apple programs such as Finalcut Pro or the audio software Logic Pro in the test in pure battery mode.
Professionals will also enjoy the screen of the new Macbooks. The same mini-LED technology is used here as in the Pro iPads. It delivers extremely strong contrasts. In everyday use, it is hardly noticeable that there is a so-called notch in the middle of the upper edge of the display for technical reasons.
This is where the camera, an LED and light sensors are located, similar to many smartphones. A few software providers still have to adapt their programs so that certain menu items do not disappear in the notch. On the positive side, the webcam finally delivers the necessary quality to cut a good figure in video conferences.
However, the new generation of professional Macbooks also promises interesting perspectives for users who are not constantly juggling with high-resolution video material or building 3D animations in Cinema 4D, but instead perform technically simpler jobs on mobile computers. Apple has not only equipped its latest models with enormous CPU power, but also made some fundamental decisions that make waiting for the new Macbook (without Pro) exciting.
Applied a little thicker On the one hand, Macbooks can be a little thicker again. The 16-inch model from our practical test is twelve millimeters thicker than the 13-inch model from last year. Apple uses the space to provide the Macbook with more connections (ports). There is again a slot for SD memory cards (XDXC), which many Macbook users have been missing for years.
While the slot doesn’t support the newer, faster UHS-3, UHS-2 still means 300 megabytes per second. The main thing is that you can save a cable. The same applies to the HDMI port, which we missed in the previous model.
Again, Apple has not opted for the best possible variant (HDMI 2.1). But HDMI 2.0 still manages 4K resolution at 60 Hertz (Hz). If you want to control a higher monitor resolution, you can do this via one of the four USB-C sockets with Thunderbolt 4.
The Magsafe power supply plug is making a comeback, at least in the 16-inch model. With a USB-C cable, it is attached to a powerful 140-watt adapter that weighs 293 grams. Compared to previous Magsafe versions, the magnet holds the power cable a little tighter to the case. You can also charge the 16-inch model using a standard USB-C cable, but at a slightly slower rate than Magsafe’s fast charge mode.
A heart for high-impedance An interesting innovation is the headphone jack, which can also support high-impedance headphones. With conventional low-impedance headphones, this does not matter. Up until now, however, high-impedance devices tended to sound too quiet without an additional amplifier. Now headphones on the Macbook Pro always sound loud enough.
The touch bar is gone. The narrow touchscreen strip above the classic keyboard was introduced in 2016 with the Macbook Pro at the time, but had not found a large following, also because too few software manufacturers had properly supported the customizable OLED bar.
Conclusion: With the new Macbook Pro, Apple continues the successful transition to ARM processors. At the same time, Apple also admits with the new devices that the vision pursued by the then design boss Jony Ive, according to which ever thinner devices should get by with as few interfaces as possible, was not the last word.
If the variety of ports will also find its way into cheaper Macbooks, the notebooks from Apple will find many loyal customers beyond the professional scene. A Macbook Pro is simply too expensive for simple mobile office work.
Prices start at just under 2250 euros for the 14-inch model (8-core CPU, 14-core GPU, 16 gigabytes (GB) of RAM, 512 GB of SSD storage). They range up to a staggering €6850 for the most lavish top-of-the-range model (16-inch, 10-core M1 Max CPU, 32-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine chip, 64GB of memory, 8TB of SSD storage) , whereby the price alone accounts for 2530 euros for the largest possible SSD.
The model from our practical test is in the price list at just under 3440 euros. This is a reasonable price for a multimedia professional laptop. Maybe too much for the big rest.
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