Updated Jan 29th: article originally posted Jan 28th
With the launch of its new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, Apple brought more power to its professional-grade laptops. For an audience eager for more performance, this was a welcome addition. Yet these latest macOS machines are not all they seem. Apple has made some massive decisions around the MacBook’s performance, and not all of them favour the consumer.
Update: Sunday 28th Jan. The team at NotebookCheck has been testing the new MacBook Pro 14-inch and found the increased specs across the laptop generally keep pace with the upwards trend in the mobile computing market. For all the gains Apple has made, arguably, the competition has made the same gains.
One curious decision Apple has made is to throttle back the process when both the CPU and GPU are under heavy load. NotebookCheck has been wondering why this might be the case:
“…either battery performance shouldn’t differ from mains operation, even in this extreme case, or the MacBook Pro simply shouldn’t get too loud. In any case, potential is being wasted here and since the graphics unit of the new M2 Max (38 GPU cores) alone is able consume more than 50 watts in the MacBook Pro 16, the large M2 Max in the smaller MBP 14 is hardly worth it.”
It’s another decision that hobbles the smaller machines to a greater extent than you would expect, given the more linear application of the chip performance.
Apple’s narrative of these being “brand new MacBook Pro laptops” is a tough sell. The core of the system – the Apple Silicon chipset – has certainly been bumped up, and it’s notable that Apple has removed the M1 Pro and M1 Max-equipped MacBook Pro laptops from its lineup. In terms of other functional changes, there’s very little here except for some nominal changes to keep the spec sheet in line with the Windows-powered competition.
Every reviewer has picked up on this. If you’re already in the Apple Silicon world, then these laptops are not aimed at you – they’re for those moving over from the Intel worlds of macOS and Windows. Just as it did with its minor biennial iPhone updates, Apple has created the MacBook Pro ’S’ series… but is marketing it as a full release.
There’s also the awkward reality of Apple’s decision around the entry-level MacBook Pro models, which has resulted in significantly slower read/write speeds. While the more expensive machines are benefitting from faster read/write times to the SSD, the configuration of the multiple SSD chips on the entry-level machines halves the speed of these machines compared to their more expensive brethren. It also leads to the curious part of this specification… it’s slower than the M1 Pro laptop it replaces.
Remember that these entry-level laptops are priced at $1,999. Do you expect a laptop that is effectively a personal workstation to have systems running at half the speed of the next machine? In the biggest and best MacBook, delivering the best possible experience in a way that only Apple can?
As an aside, the entry-level MacBook Air laptops have the same hobbling of the SSD. This approach is something Tim Cook’s Apple is clearly comfortable with.
Staying on the prices, how much would you expect to pay for an extra 16 GB of RAM? Apple’s upgrade on the MacBook Pro is an eyewatering $300. Another 512 GB of storage? $200. Apple will even hit you rip for another $20 if you want the faster 96W charger to access the quick charge facility.
An upgrade of the processor specs that adds enough performance to be different but not earth-shattering; a decision to weaken the entry-level performance of a $2000 laptop; and a nickel-and-dime approach to upgrade pricing that feels out of place with Apple’s much-vaunted customer-first messaging.
The latest MacBook Pro laptops are competent machines and are arguably closer to enterprise workstations than any other Apple laptop. They are not for everyone/ Yet Apple’s decisions around pricing and specs feel like a disservice to those looking to seriously invest thousands of dollars in a new laptop.