14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021) Review Roundup: What the Pros Deserve

New MacBook Pro

Ahead of the new MacBook Pros going on sale, the first set of first impressions, reviews, and unboxing of the new machines have gone live. The first impressions are overwhelmingly positive, with publishers appreciating that Apple has listened to user feedback and incorporated the changes they wanted. Check out our MacBook Pro review and first impressions roundup below.

The Verge

The design of the new MacBook Pros is actually a throwback to the 2015-era MacBook Pro.

Design wise, they’re a slight new direction for Apple laptops — the concepts are all familiar, but the execution is a little more squared off, a little thicker, a little more aggressive. They share an overall sensibility with that 2015 MacBook Pro, with a hint of the titanium PowerBook G4 from 2001. The “MacBook Pro” name is now stamped on the bottom, along with four raised feet — there was some early discussion about these feet, but in practice they are barely noticeable.

As for the notch on the display, it is not going to be an issue:

And yes, the display has a notch, which we know will be polarizing, but I very quickly stopped noticing it, just like everyone stops seeing the iPhone notch. We’ll see how I feel after another few days with this thing.

The publication has only shared its first impressions so far, so it did not talk much about performance.

Inside you’ve got Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors, which are much more powerful versions of the M1 chip that have much more serious GPU capabilities. We’re doing a lot of performance tests to see what’s what with these chips, but I can tell you right now that the 16-inch Pro with M1 Max clocked the fastest time ever in our Adobe Premiere 4K export test… by over a minute.

The Verge MacBook Pro
Image Credit: The Verge

CNet

The design of the new MacBook Pros definitely stands out, especially since they are thicker and heavier than their predecessor.

The first thing you notice about the new 16-inch MacBook Pro is its build is slightly thicker and heavier than its predecessor. And unlike some earlier MacBooks, this version doesn’t try as hard to hide its size with curves and tapers. It’s proudly angular, with thicker sides for more ports and chunky rubber feet on the bottom. It’s also about a half-pound heavier, which ain’t peanuts. It embraces an almost retro style on the outside, while offering something new on the inside.

MagSafe is a useful addition:

In practice, MagSafe is just as good as I remember it; the magnetic plug end, which looks very similar to the older models, snaps right on easily and stays in place unless you give it a good tug.

The new FaceTime camera is excellent and brings a notable jump in image quality.

The camera will also spoil you quickly if you’re used to the lower-res 720 cameras in other Macs (and most Windows laptops as well). In our era of non-stop web meetings and remote conferences, your webcam matters. These new laptops join the 27-inch (Intel) iMac and M1 24-inch iMac, as well as some other computers like the Surface Pro 8, in adding a full HD camera, with a 1,080 lines of horizontal resolution. Once you start using a better camera for web meetings, it’s impossible to go back.

The new MacBooks are a beast when it comes to performance.

…the new Macs completed that task more than twice as fast as either a standard M1-powered Mac or a 2019 MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i7 CPU and AMD Radeon 5300M graphics. With this quick initial test, I didn’t see much daylight between the Pro and Max versions of the chip, but I’m going to continue to test with more intense workloads and will update these charts as needed.

Engadget

Engadget MacBook Pro

The heft and size of the new MacBook Pros are definitely noticeable.

Both notebooks still look like MacBook Pros, with sleek unibody aluminum cases. But lean in a bit closer and you’ll notice some retro flourishes. They’re slightly thicker, with more bulbous edges that hearken back to Apple’s notebooks from the 2000’s. They’re also heavier than you’d expect: the 14-inch model comes in at 3.5 pounds, while the 16-inch varies between 4.7 and 4.8 pounds, depending on the chip you choose. That’s about half a pound heavier than the last 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The Liquid Retina XDR displays are a pleasure to look at.

Really though, you don’t have to think about all of the technology going into Apple’s Liquid Retina XDR displays. Just know that they look incredible, with eye-watering brightness in sunny HDR scenes and inky black darkness in night shots. These aren’t OLED screens, but mini-LEDs get Apple pretty close to that level of contrast.

The notch is a worthy trade-off for a better FaceTime camera.

I’ll happily give up a bit of screen real estate, though, if it means Apple can finally squeeze in a decent camera. And judging from the dozens of video calls I’ve been on over the past week, it’s a huge upgrade. There’s a clear leap forward in resolution, sharpness and detail compared to my 2017 MacBook Pro. And it definitely looks better than the M1 MacBook Air, which had a few tweaks, but was still stuck at 720p. It would have been nice to see FaceID on the MacBook Pro though, which would have brought it on-par with Windows Hello-equipped PCs. For now, you’ll still have to rely on the TouchID sensor on the power button.

The battery life of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros is very, very impressive.

Don’t worry though, the efficiency of the M1 chip’s ARM design leads to great battery performance. The 14-inch MacBook Pro lasted 12 hours and 35 minutes in our benchmark, while the 16-inch went for 16 hours and 34 minutes. That’s over five hours longer than the last Intel model.

Check out some video unboxings and first impressions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro as well.


The new MacBook Pros definitely seem very impressive if you can look past the blocky design and heft. Do you plan to buy one?