How to Pick the Right MacBook for You

I (Brenda) have tested both—specifically the 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Max chip and the 16-inch model with the M1 Pro. If you’re stuck between sizes and chipsets, you can narrow it down based on your preferences and workload. The 14-inch MacBook Pro has slimmer bezels around the screen, so its overall size is fairly similar to the 13-inch MacBook. The best of both worlds. The same is true for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but it still feels ginormous. 

Both sizes come with mini-LED screens (providing deeper blacks and rich color like on the iPad Pro), a 120-Hz refresh rate for smoother-looking screens, a physical row of function keys in place of the Touch Bar (complete with a Touch ID button), a 1080p webcam, and a six-speaker sound system. Apple also brought back an array of ports, including an HDMI port, three USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4, an SD card slot, and a high-impedance headphone jack. There’s also a MagSafe charging port that lets you magnetically connect the charger to the MacBook Pro, so you can rest assured your MacBook won’t fly off your desk when you trip over the wire.

The two processor choice options are significantly more powerful than most people need. If you’re mostly working through a web browser and typing up documents, these machines are overkill, and you should stick with a MacBook Air. Editing 4K video? Rendering 3D models in CAD? Producing music? That’s what these machines are intended for. They’re both powerful, but I was able to notice the difference when editing 20 GB (at a 4:1 compression) of RED raw footage. The M1 Max delivered buttery smooth performance, with the fans whirring only slightly. I experienced some stuttering and dropped frames during the same workload on the M1 Pro. Just to reiterate, this was a heavy stress test. The M1 Pro is more than capable of handling less taxing footage; most people aren’t editing clips from RED cameras.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Max does have exclusive access to a High Power Mode, which enhances performance for more graphics-intensive projects like editing 8K footage, according to Apple. Its larger chassis lends itself to better airflow and cooling, and it also trumps the 14-inch in battery life. The 14-inch MacBook Pro lasted about one hour while editing the aforementioned footage, whereas the 16-inch Mac was only at 70 percent after the same amount of time. The bigger size means you’ll get a few extra hours of battery life. 

Those who work on CPU- and GPU-demanding projects all day and are in need of a computer that won’t buckle under the pressure of gigantic files should opt for the 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Max. If your workload isn’t as intense (but you still think you need more power than the MacBook Air), the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro will more than satisfy you. 

Apple MacBook Pro (M2, 2022)

The Middle Child

Photograph: Apple

As with its predecessor, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 sits in an awkward spot. Aside from the new M2 chip (the same one that’s in the new MacBook Air), it doesn’t offer any major upgrades. It still comes with the same 13.3-inch display, 720p webcam, and two Thunderbolt ports. The only difference is added support for high-impedance headphones in the audio jack, providing slightly more fidelity. 

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