The new MacBook Pro lineup is seriously disappointing
Presented literally just now, the new laptops will likely face an outrage from all sides, because of their controversial changes across the board.
Apple silicon on steroids
Let's get the most major change out of the way quickly - Apple has fed their M1 SoC with steroids for the past 6 months and the results are . . actually impressive. Low package power, much higher performance and great scaling with both CPU and GPU core counts. Credit where credit is due!
The two variants can easily claim bragging rights in terms of specs, especially considering those sweet 64 gigs of unified memory. Unified being the key word, as the full amount of memory is available for the GPU to use as well as the CPU. And the memory bandwidths are seriously impressive. But here's where things are starting to take a turn...
As you can see from the picture above, the unified memory is not so unified anymore. It's not stacked vertically on the chip's die, like the basic M1 SoC used to be, but rather is sitting next to it. This has been made for one reason only - heat! Compared to the barely believable 5-10 watts, this monster consumes between 30 and 40 watts, which is more in-line with the current Intel/AMD mobile lineup and on paper is not that big of a deal. But it requires two fans and some hefty heat pipes, which would certainly raise the noise levels.
I won't go in-depth to discuss the numbers without having the machine for a proper review yet, but Apple were as always vague with their X times better performance than a powerful Windows laptop, without mentioning the exact hardware they were comparing. They are usually pretty accurate with those numbers, but I would love to have some clarity in the presentation itself.
A simple guide to what it is, how it works and what are the benefits for us, professionals. Spoiler - it's big enough deal to diss Nvidia!
Display, size and . . notch?
The rumours were true and there are two sizes available - 14 and 16 inches. Well, 14.2" and 16.2" if I have to be technical. The resolution has increased, the refresh rate is now variable between 24 and 120 hertz, which is a nice addition, but the big news is called mini-LED backlit. This means 1000 nits of sustained brightness and 1600 nits of peak brightness, which is insane on a laptop! Naturally the dynamic contrast gets a huge bump, the colour gamut has been wider than ever and HDR content from any variety is a go.
What's not immediately visible is the presence of a notch! No, your eyes are not deceiving you - there is now a massive notch on this MacBook Pro screen! Apple tried to get around it with the addition to their new 1080p camera, with bigger sensor and wider lens aperture, but no - there is no Face ID there. And this is a real bummer, because a simple web camera is just stealing your screen's real estate for no reason. Stupid move, Apple. But not as stupid as the next one!
Ports are back, but no USB
With the controversial Touch Bar now buried and forgotten, the ports are now back, sort of. Since Apple's "new" design is similar to the older MacBook Pro's design (it's a laptop, but aluminium), the new machines are thicker and bulkier, so there's plenty of space for ports. And just when people got used to charge their laptop from both sides with the USB type C - the MagSafe is back!
So charging only from the left side is now back to ruin that convenience. In fairness, Apple did mention that you can still use the type C port for charging, but that cable is not bundled in the box. Talking about e-waste... The SD card slot is a welcomed addition, so is the full-size HDMI, although Apple didn't specify neither standard or supported resolutions. So there's clearly enough space for some full-size USB-A ports, but Apple "bravely" left those behind, so the #DongleLife continues...
I'll just throw those out there as they are mostly incremental. Better speakers, better microphones, better SSD speeds, native hardware ProRes encode/decode, better machine learning, enhanced hardware security, up to 8 TB of storage, better battery life. The last one is actually big enough to mention, since Apple have been nailing those numbers consistently.
Naturally they would've included larger batteries in those thicker chassis, but they've also bumped the charging capabilities. The 14 inch MacBook Pro gets a 96 watts power brick, while the 16 inch goes all the way to 140 watts. More importantly - both laptops support fast charging, from 0 to 50 percent in 30 minutes, which is nice.
Covering the event, I got the impression that Apple is going back to their roots with the MacBook Pro lineup, offering the benefits of a capable package to creative professionals in a portable form-factor. And they were adamant about the performance being sustained without the need of plugging in the charger! This has been made possible in no small part to their own M1 SoC lineup, which is literally changing our perception for performance-per-watt, but sometimes all is in the details.
And this is where Apple is gonna take the major heat from Mac users like me. The notch with no Face ID, the missing USB-A ports, the proprietary and obsolete MagSafe . . even the "new" old design. And the price, which is double to what I payed for my fully specced Intel MacBook Pro 13" just three years ago.
The 14" is priced at $5899 with all the bells and whistles, while the 16" goes all the way to $6099. To their credit, you can spec the smaller size identically, but those prices are insane, even for Apple. All I can say in an early conclusion for now is that the approach is right, but the execution is poor. Expect a full review when I can get my hands on one.