by Dustin Bucher
This upgrade has been a long time coming. Up to this point, the 13-inch has always felt less like a “MacBook Pro” and more like a “MacBook Air+”. This year, Apple chose not to fix it (the M1 13 inch is still sold and in stock), but instead they decided to create a laptop that fits the needs of a better 13 inch Pro, with the MacBook Pro 14 Inch.
Before getting any further in this review, I feel it is important to give perspective; this upgrade for me came from the 2019 MacBook Pro 13-inch with a butterfly keyboard sporting an i5 and 8 GB of Ram. My new laptop is the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro, 16GB of Ram, and a 1TB SSD
The first thing you will notice when picking this laptop up is it feels thick. In reality, it is not much thicker than an older MacBook Pro, and it is the same thickness as the M1 MacBook Pro. This is not and does not feel like a MacBook Air, and I would even argue that is a good thing, from starting design alone, it removes itself from that class in a way that previous Macs had not. It feels substantial without compromising on portability.
Of course, we didn’t get this thickness without reason; This laptop runs cool as a cucumber, and in my one week of owning it, not once have I heard a fan despite various installations and virtual machines (using UTM). The second and most obvious reason is to accommodate the ports we get: 3 ThunderBolt 4’s, MagSafe, Headphone Jack, HDMI and the SD Card Reader. Despite being slightly upset that I lost a Thunderbolt 4, having more options and now going out knowing that I won’t need an adapter is nice. And given that I still can (and do) charge, using Thunderbolt on either side or on MagSafe is more than enough. One thing to note, however is that this MagSafe port is not like the old MagSafe; it is stronger, so strong that at times I question its purpose, matched with slippery feet, I have a similar fear that if I tripped over the nicely braided cable, I could end up with a shattered MacBook. In the end, this laptop feels like a MacBook at its core in some of the best possible ways.
In feeling this is an awesome keyboard, but it has some questionable design elements. To begin with, the awesome: the keys feel nice and look awesome, and there is a nice black background that while I didn’t like in photos, in person looks correct. Then whats wrong? The function row is a little… different, and I am not simply talking about the Touch Bar being gone (thankfully). The function row is huge, (not the least is the escape key) in a way that is slightly offsetting if you’re used to keyboards that are similar to the MacBook Air. And speaking of the MacBook Air, they switched up the function row keys from what had been previously established on the MacBook Air, and the original MacBook Pro 13 inch without Touch Bar (2016). Gone are the days of changing your keyboard brightness or opening Launchpad straight from a single keyboard button. Instead they replaced them with a button for Spotlight Search (understandable), Siri (okay?), and Do Not Disturb (???). Was anyone strongly requesting to toggle Do Not Disturb from the keyboard? And if so, did those same people want it to ONLY toggle Do Not Disturb and not even give you the option to switch into a focus mode? What Menu Bar icons were in the running? Wifi? Bluetooth? the Battery Indicator? Joking aside and despite the weird choices made, this keyboard is a pleasurable experience and definitely an upgrade.
This screen is simply stunning, it is everything you could want: a higher resolution, brighter, and bigger with smaller bezels. This comes at a cost; the notch finds its way in the Mac Lineup, starting with the newest Pro’s. Is it a big deal? No. Does it cause issues? Depends on how many apps you like to have in your menu bar. It handles menus phenomenally, but actual apps, not so much. It has a tendency to hide them behind the notch if you have too many. This issue will not affect a large number of people, but for those like me it just might. I recommend using an application like Bartender 4 if you need a quick fix, or just wait for it to possibly get fixed via software update.
The M1 Pro and Max are the same game-changers that the M1 was but even better. More cores, more GPU computing cores and more RAM. All of these allow multiple choices so you don’t pay for what you won’t use. And they are able to operate all those cores with incredible battery life and fast charging. The great thing about the battery life is that I know longer think about my battery life. If I am at home at my desk, I charge it. If I am not, I am always fine. There is no concern of running out, or fear that I might not have my charger in my day-to-day, and that is how a laptop should be. In comparison to my Intel Machine (which still had one of the best battery life to any laptop I had ever owned before) it is a peace-of-mind improvement that now I could not live without. Being able not have to worry how much of my day I will need my webcam and how badly it’ll drain my battery is incredible. And speaking of the Webcam, it no longer looks like a potato, it is 1080p, how it should be, and in my experience now it is just as suitable as using your iPad or iPhone for a FaceTime call. Its a nice touch. These are a more than suitable upgrades to the M1 However, one thing that must be noted is if you value having the ability to plug into greater than two external displays, you must get an M1 Max. I have yet to see any DisplayLink solutions work on these laptops, and even then, they are not officially supported. Everything on this Mac loads quicker and feels quicker than on my Intel Mac. from display scaling to even just installing and loading apps. On top of that, the ability to load iPhone and iPad Apps is a nice touch to give just one more quality of life improvement.
Should You Get It?
If you want a powerful laptop with a sharper, larger screen, then of course. It does everything it should do, and while some of Apple’s decisions were weird, as previously discussed, none were bad, making this laptop easy to recommend. HOWEVER, if your needs don’t require the GPU cores, if you don’t need 3 Thunderbolt Ports, and perhaps you only want one or fewer external monitors, do consider the M1 MacBook Air. It does not have the new design, but it does have enough of the features and all of the battery life that makes this laptop incredible and only at a fraction of the price. Regardless I have 0 problems recommending this machine.