As expected Apple took the wraps off a bunch or new MacBook Pro laptops that are designed with creative pros in mind at an event on Monday 18 October. Here we are mostly concerned with everything you need to know about the new 16in MacBook Pro models - we have a separate story about the 14in MacBook Pro (read about that here: Apple reveals new 14in MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips).
The big news about the MacBook Pro is the details Apple revealed about its new processors - not the M1X as expected, but instead the M1 Pro and M1 Max. We cover these processors in more detail here: Apple's M1 Pro and M1 Max chip, but we do discuss them at length below.
Note, if you are reading on an iPhone please note that this may not be the latest version of this story. To see the latest version click here.
Price and availability
The great news is that you will be able to order the 16in MacBook Pro from Monday 18 October, with shipping starting on Tuesday 26 October.
There are three 16in MacBook Pro models:
- At the entry-level is an M1 Pro 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD model for £2,399/$2,499. This is the same price as the top-of-the-range 14in MacBook Pro (although the specs aren't entirely comparable). Order one here (UK) or here (US).
- There is also an M1 Pro 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD for £2,599/$2,699. Order one here (UK) or here (US).
- And, an M1 Max 10-Core CPU, 32-Core GPU, 32GB Unified Memory, 1TB SSD model for £3,299/$3,499. Order one here (UK) or here (US).
We're separately looking at where to buy the MacBook Pro 16 and Pro 14 (2021) in both the UK and US.
16in MacBook Pro: Screen
The screen will no doubt be one of the most important features for creative pros. Apple states that this is the world's best notebook display, which is a big claim, how well does it live up to that statement? Pretty well it seems.
This is a Liquid Retina XDR display with an extreme dynamic range. Apple says it is capable of 1,000 nits standard brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness. It also claims 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio for deeper blacks and more vivid colours.
The new screen brings ProMotion to the Mac (as seen in the iPad Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max). ProMotion offers a refresh rate of 120Hz, which means it can refresh images 120 times a second, but it can also vary the refresh rate to much less than that when it isn't required (which is more power efficient and means it can save battery life.)
The screen resolution of the 16in MacBook Pro is 3,456 by 2,234 pixels - that's 7.7 million pixels. In comparison the 2019 16in MacBook Pro offered 3,072 by 1,920 pixels. Interestingly, there are more pixels on the 2021 14in MacBook Pro than there were on the 2019 16in MacBook Pro.
16in MacBook Pro: Specs
At Apple's October event we learned that, rather than calling the successor to the M1 chip the M1X as was expected, Apple has two new chips: the M1 Pro and the M1 Max. This had actually been revealed in Bloomberg's Mark Gurman's newsletter the day before the event when he mentioned that developer logs had referred to the new chips as M1 Pro and M1 Max.
There are three configurations of the 16in MacBook Pro, as mentioned above, two feature the M1 Pro and one features the M1 Max. (The 14in MacBook Pro ships with the M1 Pro as standard, but can be configured with the M1 Max.)
The 16in MacBook Pro comes with the same 10-core CPU whether you pick the M1 Pro or the M1 Max (the 14in MacBook Pro also has an 8-core option). Apple claims that this CPU offers 70 percent faster CPU performance than the M1.
There are eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores in the 10-core version. By comparison, the M1 offers four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores.
Apple uses a 5-nanometer process technology, which enables it to pack in 33.7 billion transistors on the M1 Pro, which is more than two times as many as are on the M1. For the M1 Max Apple has packed 57 billion transistors on to the chip - 70 percent more than M1 Pro and 3.5x more than M1. As a result the M1 Max is the largest chip ever built by Apple.
If your concern is whether this Mac will be powerful enough for your needs, you may be interested that Apple claims that, compared with the latest 8-core PC laptop chip, the M1 Pro delivers up to 1.7x more CPU performance and achieves the PC chip's peak performance using up to 70 percent less power.
As we explained above, the processor isn't any different whether you pick the Max or the Pro, but there is a big difference between the graphics capabilities of the M1 Pro and M1 Max.
The M1 Pro offers a 14-core or 16-core GPU that Apple claims is up to 2x faster than the M1 and up to 7x faster than the integrated graphics on the latest 8-core PC laptop chip.
The M1 Max GPU, on the other hand, offers 32-cores - and Apple claims that the graphics performance is up to 4x faster than the M1.
Apple says that the M1 Max GPU can deliver performance comparable to a high-end GPU in a compact pro PC laptop, and it does so while consuming "up to 40 percent less power". That claim is up to 100 watts less power when compared to "the highest-end GPU in the largest PC laptops," according to Apple.
The M1 Max offers two ProRes accelerators (one more than the M1 Pro does). These should speed up video processing and make it more power efficient. Apple says that as a result the M1 Max in the MacBook Pro delivers up to 2x faster video encoding than M1 Pro.
Apple claims that pros can edit up to 30 streams of 4K ProRes video or up to seven streams of 8K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro with the M1 Max. That's more streams than on a 28-core Mac Pro with Afterburner!
The ProRes accelerator also enables playback of multiple streams of high-quality 4K and 8K ProRes video, all while using very little power.
Professional Mac users who were concerned that Apple wouldn't offer sufficient RAM have no cause for alarm. Both the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro will ship with 16GB Unified Memory that is upgradable to 32GB, for an extra £400/$400, or 64GB (if you opt for a M1 Max chip) for an extra £800/$800. Note that only the M1 Max can support the 64GB RAM.
Apple uses fast unified memory, which is shared by the CPU and GPU, but because everything is on the same chip it can be shared efficiently and quickly.
Apple claims that the M1 Pro Apple delivers up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth (nearly 3x the bandwidth of M1), while the M1 Max offers an even higher memory bandwidth of 400GB/s. That is 2x that of M1 Pro and nearly 6x that of M1. The extra bandwidth is why 64GB RAM is possible with the M1 Max.
Apple claims: "Having this huge amount of memory available is game-changing for pro workloads."
Battery life and power efficiency
Both the M1 Pro and M1 Max offer industry-leading performance per watt and incredible power efficiency, according to Apple. As a result Apple says it manages to get 21 hours battery life out of the 16in MacBook Pro - which is 10 hours more than the last generation offered. (The 14in MacBook Pro claims 17 hours of video playback - seven hours more than the predecessor.)
Also of interest to pro users will be the fact that Apple claims that the 2021 MacBook Pro delivers the same level of performance whether it is plugged in or using the battery.
The company also explains that because power use is managed so efficiently there is less heat generated, which means the fans run quietly and less often, allowing for longer battery life.
16in MacBook Pro: Design
We were anticipating a redesign for the new 14in MacBook Pro - after all the screen size was widely predicted to be larger. But the 16in MacBook Pro was only redesigned in 2019, leaving the idea that it could change dramatically in doubt.
However, the 16in MacBook Pro has seen some significant design changes that mean the screen is now fractionally larger than it was (16.2in rather than 16in). The dimensions of the laptop have changed very slightly. They are now 1.62cm x 35.79cm x 24.59cm, which is slightly wider but smaller in every other way. Apple has also managed to shave off a tiny bit of weight: it's now 2.0kg rather than 2.1kg.
Other notable changes are also seen on the 14in MacBook Pro. Both MacBooks include a 'Notch' at the top of the screen - this is how Apple has been able to reduce the size of the bezel at the top of the MacBook and fit in a larger display. The Notch is where the camera sits - it doesn't house Face ID capabilities, unfortunately. Apple has engineered the menu around the notch, so it shouldn't feel like it impacts too much, but there are bound to be those that hate it.
The keyboard has also changed. Most notably Apple has removed the Touch Bar (is that a cheer we hear?) In the keynote Apple pretty much admitted that the Touch Bar didn't suit creative pros - it seems that Apple is still listening to pros as it said it would a few years ago when it admitted it had messed up with the Mac Pro. Apple describes how Physical function keys and a wider escape key replace the Touch Bar, "bringing back the familiar, tactile feel of mechanical keys that pro users love."
Another change can be seen on the sides of the MacBook Pro. Over the past few years we have seen Apple remove port after port in an attempt to slim down the MacBook Pro, but this time the company is adding more ports.
Yes, Apple has finally recognized that ports might be more important to people than a slim laptop!
The ports include three Thunderbolt 4 ports, the return of the SDXC card slot and HDMI port and an improved headphone jack that supports high-impedance headphones.
If you are wondering where your fourth Thunderbolt port is, fear not: we also see the return of MagSafe for charging. MagSafe 3 supports more power and means that you will be able to fast charge the Mac - up to 50 percent in just 30 minutes, according to Apple.
The new MacBook Pro models will also offer Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
16in MacBook Pro: Camera & Audio
Some will see the notch and assume it conceals a Face ID camera. It doesn't. The notch does include a 1080p FaceTime HD camera like that found in the M1 iMac launched earlier in 2021. And about time too!
The new camera offers double the resolution of the predecessor and should lead to improved low-light performance. The camera system also works with the image signal processor (ISP) and Neural Engine of M1 Pro and M1 Max to enhance video quality.
Apple has also improved the audio capabilities of the MacBook Pro with studio-quality mics that offer a lower noise floor and should reduce thermal noise and result in clearer calls and better recordings.
There is a six-speaker, high-fidelity sound system with two tweeters and four force-cancelling woofers. Apple claims 80 percent more bass. The sound system also supports spatial audio for a "three-dimensional listening experience".
That's all for now, but why not read the rumours and judge how far off the mark they were on the next page.