Apple Turbo-Charges MacBook Pro with M1 Pro, Max Chips

Apple unveiled the long-awaited upgrade to its MacBook Pro, which comes in 14- and 16-inch display configurations with mini-LED screens (what the company calls Liquid Retina XDR). The new laptops are powered by Apple’s homegrown M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, which the company calls “the first pro chips designed for the Mac.” Improvements such as stronger battery life, ports galore and eradication of the dreaded Touch Bar have been largely well-received by Mac bloggers. Apple says the 32 GPU cores on the M1 Max provide power that rivals the Nvidia RTX 3080 high-end gaming class laptop chip. The 14-inch model starts at $1,999 and the 16-inch at $2,499.

The “reimagined” MacBook Pro is designed for developers, photographers, filmmakers, 3D artists, scientists and music producers, among others. Apple’s announcement touts the Liquid Retina XDR display, 1080p FaceTime HD camera “and the best audio system in a notebook.” The devices run the soon-to-be-released macOS Monterey, engineered to fully optimize the capabilities of the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

Both the 14- and 16-inch models are expandable to up to 64GB of memory, and a whopping 8TB of what Apple claims is the fastest PCI Express storage on the market, reading at 7,400MB per second. Added ports include one for HDMI, an SD card slot, and one for the returning MagSafe charging cable. There are also three USB-C and Thunderbolt 4 connectors, which The Verge calls “the most capable port around.”

In terms of keyboard layout, function keys replace the unpopular Touch Bar. The screens have a 120Hz refresh rate and The Verge says the displays “theoretically offer the benefits of OLED without some of the compromises.”

Apple says the 16-inch model offers “the longest battery life ever on a Mac notebook,” although The Verge notes the benchmarks — 11 hours per charge for the 14-inch and 14-hours for the 16-inch — rely on Apple-friendly specs, like “playing back video in its own Apple TV app” and Apple’s own wireless web test, and don’t take into account critical variables like screen brightness.”

But for the Apple base of creative professionals that have been “closely clutching their 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina Displays for all these years” or “defected to Windows when they saw the writing on the wall, today must feel like a brand-new day,” The Verge concludes. “It took five years to turn this ship around, but Apple is clearly listening to the pros.”

The new MacBook Pro was unveiled at Apple’s “Unleashed” product event, where the company also announced it has refreshed its popular Final Cut Pro (10.6) and Logic Pro (10.7) media editing software to take advantage of the new laptop hardware.

Final Cut now offers up to seven simultaneous streams of 8K ProRes and five-times faster export, “no mean feat for a laptop,” Engadget points out. Color-grading for 8K HDR footage is now possible using only the built-in MacBook Pro screen and a new Object Tracker links animated effects to faces and objects. “You can easily edit Cinematic Mode video from the iPhone 13 series,” notes Engadget.

Among the announcements from Monday’s “Unleashed” event: