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Review MacBook Pro 16 – M1 Worth The Hype?


Is the MacBook Pro 16 with Apples new M1 chip worth all the hype? Lets find out in this review! My configuration has Apples M1 Pro 10 core CPU with 16 core GPU cores and 16 gigs of unified memory. Theres also a 16 screen and 500 gig SSD, but most of the components can be changed when ordering through the Apple store. The MacBook Pro 16 is available with either space grey or silver finish, and Ive got space grey here.

The aluminum build feels amazingly solid, and the metal corners and edges dont feel sharp.

The laptop alone weighs about 2.15kg or 4.7lb, then 2.5kg or 5.

5lb with the included 140 watt charger, not too heavy and definitely portable. Its fairly small for a 16 machine, smaller than a number of 15 inch gaming laptops I typically test while also being on the thinner side. This is in part due to the thin 6.5mm screen bezels on the sides and top. The 16.

2 Liquid Retina XDR Display is just Apples marketing for a HDR Mini LED screen with 10,000 local dimming zones. Its a 14:9 panel with a random resolution and I measured excellent color gamut, it looks quite nice. Screen brightness was above 500 nits at maximum, however my tools are only capable of measuring SDR content. Tim at Hardware Unboxed measured Apples claimed 1600 peak brightness with HDR content. Ill link to his detailed MacBook screen test video in the description.

The screen has a 120Hz refresh rate with ProMotion enabled, however I measured it with a relatively slow 23ms average grey-to-grey response time. Now while this clearly isnt a gaming laptop, I did still notice some blurriness at times like when scrolling around on a web page. The average result isnt a whole lot different to other laptops though, obviously not quite as fast as gaming laptops available for similar money, but alternatives like Dells XPS 17 down the bottom of this graph were a fair bit slower than the MacBook.

The screen has a glossy finish, and although I usually dont like that due to reflections showing up, it wasnt really something I found myself noticing. Theres no backlight bleed when displaying pure black, its just off, however you can see some bloom or halo effect around the mouse cursor, but honestly during actual normal use I never noticed this at all.

Theres a 1080p camera above the screen in the middle, but theres no FaceID despite the notch. Id say the camera looks above average, but what I thought was even better was the microphones, they just sound great compared to any other laptop, and this is what it sounds like while Im typing on the keyboard. Personally I didnt have any problem with the Notch, but Ive used a Pixel 3 XL for years. Your mouse cursor just goes behind it as if it was still screen space. There are ways to make the whole top a black bar instead should you prefer, but the way I see it it’s just extra screen space for menu options.

Typing on the keyboard felt nice, the keys have a clicky tactile feel despite not pressing down too far. All keys and secondary functions are lit up with white backlighting, and brightness is adjusted with a slider through software. Theres an ambient light sensor which can be used to automatically adjust keyboard and screen brightness, or you can disable that if you prefer. Theres no room for a numpad and no touch bar at the top like previous generations, instead the physical function keys are back. The top right key is the power button and also the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which I found to work very fast and accurately.

There are front facing speakers on either side of the keyboard with a total of 6 speakers all up. My first thought when I accidentally started playing some random music video on YouTube was holy shit. They sound amazing compared to any other laptop Ive ever tested, easily the best.

The touchpad is massive and mostly worked well. I can see what all the hype is about, but honestly I dont think its for me.

I just like something with a deeper feeling click, and I had random problems like not being able to drag and drop files properly without disabling force click and haptic feedback, but this just could be one of those things Im too Windows user to be doing properly. On the left from the back weve got the magsafe 3 port for charging, two Type-C Thunderbolt 4 ports and a 3.5mm audio combo jack which Apple says can support high-impedance headphones. On the right theres an SD card slot, a third Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port and HDMI 2.0 output.

Normally this wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but Apple has been missing this sort of I/O for years.

All three Type-C ports can also be used to charge the laptop, granted the 140 watt magsafe charger isnt exactly large. For the most part magsafe works well, it connects with magnets and comes out if someone trips over the cable without taking the laptop with it, but depending on the angle the cable is pulled and amount of force applied the laptop can definitely still move quite a lot. The light on the tip is orange if the laptop battery is charging, or green when fully charged. All three Type-C ports also offer DisplayPort output.

The M1 Pro version Ive got can run up to two external 6K 60Hz screens, while an upgrade to M1 Max allows for this plus a third 4K screen. The front has an indent in the center so you can easily get your finger in to open the lid. Theres almost no flex to the lid as its solid metal and the hinges felt solid too, only extremely minor screen wobble when walking with the laptop.

The main chassis itself is also rock solid, one of the best built Ive ever used. Its a bit easier to slide it around on a flat surface as the feet arent as grippy as some other laptops, but this wasnt actually an issue during normal use.

Getting inside requires removing 8 P5 screws. In 200 plus laptops, Apple is the only company Ive seen use these pentalobe screws, but the iFixit kit I use, link in the description, had the right bit.

The 4 screws at the back are longer than the front, so keep track when reassembling. Nothing in here is easily user upgradeable, despite how nice it looks, so youll need to buy with the future usage in mind as you cant just add more RAM later for example. Of course this also means things are much harder to repair.

Ive actually got this new graph where I attempt to give points to the amount of upgradeability thats possible, and its no surprise that the MacBook Pro 16 is right at the bottom of the list. I give a point if the laptop is easy to open, and while the bottom panel wasnt too hard to get off, I went with half a point due to the uncommon screw type. Its not clear who makes the Wi-Fi chip, but I recorded the slowest speed out of any laptop tested so far.

Definitely usable, just not as fast as others Ive used. There are also speakers underneath towards the front on the left and right sides.

Theres space cut out presumably to allow sound to escape, but at times I found this area to feel a little sharp depending on how I hold the laptop. The MacBook Pro 16 is powered by a 100Wh battery, the biggest you can get in a laptop, and combined with the power efficient M1 chip it lasted for almost 20 hours in my usual YouTube playback test with the screen at half brightness and low power mode enabled. This is an excellent result, and the longest Ive ever recorded out of any laptop by quite a large margin. Optimized battery charging is enabled by default which slows down charge speed above 80% to help improve battery longevity. Lets check out thermals next.

There arent any air intake vents underneath like most other laptops, Im guessing the side speaker holes double as intake, then warm air gets exhausted out of the vents below the screen.

There arent any performance modes built in with the M1 Pro model that Ive got, but if you upgrade to the M1 Max chip you do get the option of enabling high power mode for increased performance. Theres no way of controlling fan speed by default, however Ive installed TG Pro which gives you some basic options, including the option to max out the fans for a cooler but louder system. At idle both the CPU and GPU were sitting in the low 30s while the laptop was completely silent, well have a listen to fan noise shortly. If we run a combined CPU plus GPU stress test to represent a worst case, were now looking at around 90 degrees Celsius on the CPU and low 80s for the GPU.

If I manually set the fans to max speed using TG Pro then were able to lower the temperatures quite a bit. This definitely isnt required, as performance was the same in my testing both on auto fan speed and with max, so I guess it just depends on how paranoid you are about higher temps. CPU performance was quite good considering the thinner size of the machine.

The 10 core 10 thread M1 Pro was sitting between a number of 8 core 16 thread options from both Intel and AMD, though these are now considered last generation. For now Ive just got one result from Intels new 12th gen up the top which is outperforming everything by a fair margin both in terms of single and multi core performance.

Make sure you’re subscribed for some upcoming comparisons between the M1 chip against AMD’s new Ryzen 6000 and it tells new 12th gen processors. Where the MacBook absolutely destroys is when running the same test on battery power. With the same selection of laptops as the last graph, it now moves up to third place, only just slightly behind that far thicker and louder MSI GE76 in terms of multi-core score. This is an incredibly impressive result because the performance is essentially the same whether its running on battery power or wall power, so both amazing battery run time and performance on battery.

When just sitting there idle the palm rest and keyboard area were barely getting to the mid 20 degrees Celsius, cooler than the usual 30 from other gaming laptops I normally test.

With the worst case CPU plus GPU stress test running, the palm rest was still comfortable, only a little warm. The middle of the keyboard was definitely warm now, but not hot to the touch. With the fans maxed out were seeing a big change, around 10 degrees Celsius lower right in the middle.

This was a big improvement, but higher fans means a louder system, lets have a listen. This is another seriously impressive result.

Even with a full on stress test, at stock without any custom software to modify the fan speed the fans were barely audible. I noticed this throughout all of my testing too, whether I was running Cinebench for half an hour or my Adobe Premiere benchmarks, I could hardly even hear it. It was quieter in these real world tasks than the worst case stress test we just listened to, and even that wasnt too bad. As for manually setting the fan to maximum, personally I wouldnt bother. Honestly Id just leave it on auto fan speed as it works great while being relatively quiet.

Alright Ive seen a lot of people talk about how amazing the new M1 chips are for content creators, so lets find out how true that is. Adobe Premiere was tested with the Puget Systems benchmark, and the MacBook would have taken out first place if I didnt just get Intels new 12th gen in for testing.

MSIs larger GE76 with Intels top end 14 core 20 thread i9-12900HK CPU and Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti graphics was doing the best, but its worth noting it also runs way louder. Given the size and quietness of the MacBook, this is an extremely impressive result. I normally also test Adobe Photoshop, but unfortunately right now the Puget Systems benchmark only works with the x86 version, and given there is an M1 native version of Photoshop available for this laptop it doesnt really make sense to test the one that no one really has a reason to use.

Likewise, unfortunately the Puget systems DaVinci Resolve benchmark doesnt currently work on M1, but Ill probably end up making my own Resolve benchmark when I compare the M1 Pro against both Intel 12th gen and AMD Ryzen 6000 processors in future comparison videos. So make sure that youre subscribed for all that content.

Now that kind of leads me into software support. For the most part, most of the applications I tested do have native M1 versions now, but that wasnt the case for everything. Honestly it wasnt really a problem because any older x86 applications just ran pretty much automagically through the Rosetta 2 emulation layer.

You just open them like a normal program and it works as expected.

Now although all of the applications that I personally used during testing worked perfectly fine on this laptop, that conversion with Rosetta 2 does use system resources – its not for free. So basically dont expect optimal performance from applications that havent yet been updated to support M1. Now obviously this thing isnt designed with gaming in mind, but apparently its got a half decent GPU in it, so lets see what it can do in some games.

I measured 48 FPS in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at max settings 1080p with the games built in benchmark, so the same as a GTX 1650 Ti gaming laptop from a couple of years ago, and slightly behind the even older GTX 1060.

There was some graphical artifacting during the test too which was a little distracting, but Id say its still certainly capable of some gaming, while of course the higher tier and more expensive M1 Max should do even better given it has double the GPU core count. Unfortunately most games just dont have native M1 support because as mentioned this isnt exactly a gaming laptop so not exactly a big priority for developers I imagine.

But yeah this does also mean that most games will also be slowed down by the Rosetta 2 emulation layer. While some games will at least run, dont expect amazing performance. This isnt a gaming laptop, thats what traditional gaming laptops are for.

The 512 gig SSD offers impressive read and write speeds, similar to the best PCIe Gen 4 options Ive seen in Windows laptops. The SD card speed was decent, not as fast as others as Ive seen 200 megabytes a second plus with other laptops.

The card sticks out quite a bit when inserted into the machine, so dont do what I do and accidentally bump it. Theres no bootcamp possible with the new M1 models, so no option of running another operating system like Windows or Linux natively. As for using MacOS itself, well, Ive been a Windows user for over 20 years now and I had to Google search how to do a lot of basic tasks, way more than Id like to admit.

Even after weeks of using the device I dont feel like I ever fully got used to the software. Maybe if I used it for more time or perhaps if I dropped Windows rather than trying to use both at the same time, but yeah a few weeks of use and MacOS just isnt for me personally over Windows. Now as youve probably been expecting, the MacBook Pro 16 definitely doesnt come cheap. Right now on Apples website were looking at $2500 USD for the base configuration that Ive got here. You can upgrade the M1 chip for more GPU power in $200 increments, while the memory pricing is approaching scam tier compared to how much memory costs for a regular laptop.

You can only go up to 64 gigs with the M1 Max chip, and youve also got the option of storage upgrades. Again dont forget theres no upgrading later, youve got to select your future needs when buying, though you could at least add more space later with an external Thunderbolt SSD. Alright lets summarize by considering both the good and the bad to help you decide if you should spend all your hard earned cash on Apples new MacBook Pro 16. Build quality of this thing is excellent, its easily one of the most solid, nice feeling laptops Ive ever used, despite it being relatively thin considering the high levels of performance on offer. The big screen looks great and this generation theyve finally brought back popular I/O like the SD card slot and HDMI port.

I dont really understand why the notch is there, sure if they had Face ID to let you log in Id get it, but they dont.

Battery life is on another planet, and performance when actually running unplugged is basically the same as being connected, very impressive. Although the Rosetta 2 emulation layer worked fantastically well, it still feels like were in a bit of a transitional period while a number of applications arent yet updated for native M1 support, so apps that are yet to be updated may not perform as well as they otherwise could. The M1 chip is clearly powerful, but it depends on the workload. Sure its got GPU power, but I wouldnt be looking at a MacBook for gaming for instance, as again performance is lost from emulation, not to mention the slow screen response time.

Thats fine though as the MacBook isnt made with gaming in mind, but if you want to do a little on the side, then hey it might be possible depending on the specific game.

Where the MacBook really shines is in content creator workloads. The screen looks great with high color gamut and gets bright, plus M1 native apps like Adobe Premiere perform extremely well, so its no surprise to hear that so many content creators have moved over to M1 hardware. As is typically the case with Apple, all of this comes at a high cost. If time is money and youre a creative professional who is cool with MacOS and ideally your apps have native M1 support, then I can definitely see the MacBook Pro 16 being worth its weight in gold.

For most other people, honestly there are other options out there that may be cheaper thatll get the job done while also having more user upgradeability and reparability options. Ill be comparing the M1 Pro chip in this laptop against AMD Ryzen 6000 and Intel 12th gen processors in future videos, so make sure youre subscribed for all of that upcoming content, but for now Ive already done some testing with Intels most powerful 12th gen i9-12900HK processor in this video over here. So Ill see you in that one next!

Read More: Intel i5-12400F vs AMD Ryzen 5 5600X – Best 6 Core CPU?

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