Apple 14in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro (2021) vs Apple 16in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro (2021) full review

Apple has unveiled two new MacBook Pro for 2021: a brand new 14in MacBook Pro model now joins an updated 16in MacBook Pro. Apple has made multiple changes to the designs of both, including increasing the screen size and increasing the number of ports. Best of all these new Macs include Apple's M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, which Apple is making some pretty big clams about - we'll be testing their claims as soon as we can get our hands on the 2021 MacBook Pro.

The interesting thing is that, even with prices ranging from £1,899/$1,999 to £3,299/$3,499 these Macs share many of the same features. You don't have to choose the 16in MacBook Pro to get the ultimate MacBook. In this article we will examine how the 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro compare.

For more advice about which MacBook to buy, including the MacBook Air, 13in MacBook Pro as well as these two MacBook Pro read our Which MacBook Buying Guide.

(We're also separately looking at where to buy the MacBook Pro 16 and Pro 14 (2021) in both the UK and US.)

And of course, you can read our reviews here:

Design

Apple has made the same design changes to the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro. As a result both have gained a larger screen - even the 16in model has seen a slight increase: it's now 16.2in. To achieve this bigger screen Apple has reduced the bezels around the display, but it's also made one design change that will probably be the most notable, at least when the screen is turned on: Apple has given the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro a notch.


The notch is probably going to attract some criticism, just like the notch on the iPhone has. Apple has designed the software around it though, so it will appear to be built into the menu at the top of your screen rather than biting into the project you are working on.

The next design change will be apparent if you look down at the keyboard: there is no Touch Bar. The Touch Bar it is a feature that Apple brought to the MacBook Pro back in 2016. The idea was that different apps required different controls and that the specific controls for each app could be incorporated onto the keyboard via a multitouch display strip in a way that was context sensitive. In theory it made some sense: when using Photoshop an image editor might want access to things like brushes, layers and various control; while a video editor might benefit from the incorporation of editing tools, audio controls, and controls for trimming, or navigating a timeline.

The problem with the Touch Bar was that you had to look away from the screen to the keyboard to touch the control you needed. In a world where most people touch type this seems very out of touch. It made us think that the most logical place for the Touch Bar was the screen of the Mac in fact, because that is where we are usually looking.

Five years later and Apple seems to have admitted it was wrong and removed the Touch Bar, in its own words: "bringing back the familiar, tactile feel of mechanical keys that pro users love." If you want the Touch Bar in your life you might want to consider the 13in MacBook Pro with M1 - Apple hasn't removed it from there… yet.

MacBook Pro sides

Now to the sides of the 2021 MacBook Pro models. Apple has reversed the trend of the past decade of so where it would remove ports in order to make its Macs slimmer and slimmer. This time it has listened to pro users and returned a number of ports that creatives had been craving. You will find an HDMI port and a SDXD card reader. Plus Apple has brought back MagSafe to the Mac so you can charge your MacBook safely - the main draw of MagSafe was that it would disconnect itself from your Mac if someone tripped over the cable, rather than allowing your Mac to fall to the floor. We can only imagine that this used to happen a lot based on the way that Apple promoted this feature.

As you can see the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro are pretty much cut from the same template, the key difference being the dimensions: how big and heavy the Mac is and the size of the screen.

  • 16in MacBook Pro 2021: 1.68cm x 35.57cm x 24.81cm, 2.1kg, 16.2in display
  • 14in MacBook Pro 2021: 1.55cm x 31.26cm x 22.21cm, 1.6kg, 14.2in display

That means the 16in MacBook Pro weights half a kilogram more than the 14in model, which may be off putting if you have to carry it around a lot.

Screen

The screen size is different which means that the number of pixels are different, but the screen tech is the same in all the 2021 MacBook Pro models.

MacBook Pro screen

We'll start off with the pixel count since that's an obvious difference between the two sizes of MacBook. On one side we have 7.7 million pixels, on the other we have 5.9 million pixels.

  • The 16in screen offers 3,456 x 2,234 pixels (up from 3,072 x 1,920 pixels on the 2019 model). Sadly this still isn't a 4K display.
  • The 14in screen offers 3,024 x 1,964 pixels (up from 2,560 x 1,600 pixels on the 13in MacBook Pro.)

The new displays both offer up to 1,000 nits sustained (full-screen) brightness, 1,600 nits peak brightness, up from 500 nits brightness in both cases.

Perhaps the best news of all is that the new monitors feature ProMotion technology, bringing adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz (which means that the screen can refresh 120 times a second). We've seen this technology at work on the iPhone 13 Pro Max and it's might make as much of a difference to the experience as moving from standard to Retina displays did when Apple introduced that technology in 2012. The real benefit is that the refresh rate is adjusted depending on what is displayed on the screen, so it won't be refreshed 120 times a second if that's not required thereby drawing less power and preserving battery life.

One thing to bear in mind when deciding between laptops based on the size of their screen is that if you will be using the laptop at a desk most of the time you might as well plug it into an external monitor: you'll be able to connect up to two Pro Display XDRs with M1 Pro, or three Pro Display XDRs and a 4K TV with the M1 Max.

External monitors with MacBook Pro

Specs

You might be assuming that the 16in MacBook Pro offers the better processor options. While there is an 8-core CPU option for the entry-level 14in model, all the remaining MacBook Pro (14in and 16in) feature the same 10-core CPU, regardless of whether you chose the M1 Pro or the M1 Max. Both of the 2021 MacBook Pro sizes can be speched up with the same components to create the ultimate Mac laptop.

  • The ultimate build-to-order 14in MacBook Pro would include the following: M1 Max with 10-core CPU/32-core GPU, 64GB unified memory, and 8TB SSD. That would cost a staggering £5,799/$5,899.
  • The ultimate build-to-order 16in MacBook Pro would include the following: M1 Max with 10-core CPU/32-core GPU, 64GB unified memory, and 8TB SSD. That would cost a staggering £5,899/$6,099.

You'll notice that in the UK the 16in MacBook Pro when fully specced up like this only costs £100 more than the 14in model. In the US the price gap is slightly larger at $200.

The real difference depends on whether you pay extra for the M1 Max, rather than opting for the M1 Pro - standard on the 14in MacBook Pro (but is available as a built-to-order option). The M1 Max brings a few benefits: it can support up to 64GB RAM, while the M1 Pro maxes out at 32GB RAM, and it offers much better graphics options. We explain the difference between the M1 Pro and M1 Max in more detail here: 3801943

Graphics

If you need the ultimate Mac then the choice is between the M1 Pro and M1 Max, rather than the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro - although you may prefer the larger display of course.

The GPU in the M1 Max has up to twice the number of cores of the M1 Pro. There is a 14-core or 16-core GPU for the M1 Pro, while you can choose a 24-core GPU or 32-core GPU for the M1 Max.

Apple claims the GPU in the M1 Pro is 2x faster when compared to the M1 and up to 7x faster than the integrated graphics on the latest 8-core PC laptop chip.

For the 32-core option, Apple claims the graphics performance is up to 4x faster than M1. Apple says that the M1 Max 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.

MacBook Pro ProRes

The M1 Pro and M1 Max also benefit from a ProRes accelerator in the media engine that is designed to speed up video processing. The M1 Pro has one of these ProRes accelerators while the M1 Max has two, and because of that Apple says the M1 Max can deliver up to 2x faster video encoding than M1 Pro.

All this means it is possible to playback multiple streams of high-quality 4K and 8K ProRes video while using very little power.

These are the sort of features that will matter to you if you are regularly editing 4K or 8K video - in fact, Apple says that the M1 Max makes it possible to edit up to 30 streams of 4K ProRes video or up to seven streams of 8K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro. A 28-core Mac Pro with Afterburner can't edit as many streams.

Battery

There is one last area where the 16in MacBook Pro does outshine the 14in model: battery life. Obviously because the 16in MacBook Pro is larger, it can be equipped with a bigger battery and a bigger battery can store more power and last longer.

Apple claims that in its battery tests - which involve video playback - the 16in MacBook Pro lasted 21 hours - which is 10 hours more than the last generation offered.

The 14in MacBook Pro managed 17 hours in the same tests - seven hours more than the predecessor. We'll be running our own battery tests, but this does give you an idea of the differences between the two units.

The reason why Apple can achieve such good battery life with the new MacBooks is down to the industry-leading performance per watt and incredible power efficiency of the M1 Pro and M1 Max, according to Apple. The company claims 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.

An other interesting thing to note is that the 2021 MacBook Pro delivers the same level of performance whether it is plugged in or using the battery. So you don't need to sacrifice anything if you are using it unplugged.

MacBook Pro

Price

The MacBook Pro you choose will inevitably come down to how much money you (or the company you work for) have to spend. The ultimate MacBook Pro with the M1 Max, 64GB RAM and the biggest SSD going (8TB) might sound attractive, but you might not want to spend up to £5,899/$6,099 to get it.

As you would expect the 14in MacBook Pro is cheaper than the 16in MacBook Pro, but actually that's slightly deceptive - the flagship 14in model is the same price as the 16in model. In that case the choice is 1TB vs 512GB on one side, and the larger screen and longer battery life on the other. Everything else is the same including the £2,399/$2,499 price.

One other thing to note is that the starting price has increased compared to the last generation. An entry-level 14in MacBook Pro costs £100/$200 more than the 2.0GHz predecessor did, the second 14in MacBook Pro costs £500/$500 more than its predecessor did.

14in MacBook Pro pricing:

  • M1 Pro 8-core CPU/14-core, 16GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD: £1,899/$1,999. Order one here.
  • M1 Pro 10-Core CPU/16-Core GPU, 16GB Unified Memory, 1TB SSD: £2,399/$2,499. Order one here.
  • If you want to add an M1 Max with 24-core GPU to a 14in MacBook Pro it costs from £200/$200 extra as a build to order option (it costs more to upgrade the entry-level model). If you want to add an M1 Max with 32-core GPU to a 14in MacBook Pro it costs from £400/$400 (again, it costs more to upgrade the entry-level model). There are also various other build-to-order options, including 64GB RAM and 8TB SSD.

Here's the best 2021 14in MacBook Pro (16 core GPU) pricing right now (the best deals for the entry level model is at the top of this article):

Retailer Price Delivery  

Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide

16in MacBook Pro pricing:

  • M1 Pro 10-Core CPU/16-Core GPU, 16GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD: $2,499/£2,399. Order one here.
  • M1 Pro 10-Core CPU/16-Core GPU, 16GB Unified Memory, 1TB SSD: £2,599/$2,699. Order one here.
  • M1 Max 10-Core CPU/32-Core GPU, 32GB Unified Memory, 1TB SSD model for £3,599/$3,499. Order one here.
  • There is also a M1 Max 10-Core CPU, 24-Core GPU option from an extra £200/$200 if you'd prefer to update the standard M1 Pro option. As with the 14in MacBook Pro there are also various other build-to-order options, including 64GB RAM and 8TB SSD.

Here's the best 2021 16in MacBook Pro pricing right now:

Retailer Price Delivery  

Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide

Read all you need to know about the new 14in MacBook Pro and 2021 16in MacBook Pro in our separate articles. 

Verdict

As you can see from the above, the decision about whether to choose the 16in MacBook Pro or the 14in MacBook Pro isn't about power or capability, because both models can take advantage of the same M1 Pro or M1 Max chips. The choice is between a larger 16in display and longer battery life, or a lighter Mac laptop. The size of the display is less important if most of the work you will be doing on it will be at a desk with an external monitor plugged in, similarly battery life only matters if you are often away from a power source.

The real decision is about whether you need the M1 Pro or M1 Max. If you only need the basic M1 Pro offering, with 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU then only the 14in MacBook Pro offers that option. If on the other hand you need the ultimate M1 Max you can get that with either the 14in or 16in MacBook Pro - and choosing the 14in MacBook Pro will save you money.

The element that will probably effect your decision most of all is your budget, and basically you can get more for your money if you choose the 14in MacBook Pro.

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