Thursday, January 20, 2022
MacReviews

Yes, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is as good as you’ve heard

Here's my work set-up (though I've moved things around a bit for a better pic).

As a semi-one man show running Apple World Today, I bit the bullet and purchased one of the new MacBook Pros, so I can keep the website up even when traveling and on family vacations (yes, that’s how much I love you, dear reader).

My set-up

I bought a 16-incher with the M1 Pro 1TB of memory and 16GB of RAM. I don’t need the power of the M1 Max. I like plenty of SSD storage for all my photos/videos. And, as I’ve written before, 16GB of RAM is plenty for most of us. 

I went with the bigger screen because I like as much display real estate as possible. When traveling, I can use the 16-inch MacBook Pro and my 12.9-inch iPad Pro via Apple’s Sidecar feature and have a sweet work setup. (Sidecar, introduced with macOS Catalina, allows users to extend their Mac desktop by using their iPad as a second display or as a high-precision input device across creative Mac apps.)

In my home office, I plug the MB Pro into a 27-inch LG UlltraFine 5K display (I bought a refurbished model) and use HomePod minis paired for stereo as my speakers. 

Performance

This set-up works seamlessly. I have Pages, Safari, iTunes, Mail, Calendar, Photos, Messages, and Pixelmator Pro all open at the same time (and often Apple Music, as well) there’s never a hiccup in performance.

The display

The Liquid Retina XR display of the MacBook Pro is gorgeous. It boasts 7.7 million pixels, up to 1,000 nits of sustained, full-screen brightness, 1,600 nits of peak brightness (though it’s 500 nits under most circumstances), a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and extreme dynamic range. It has a P3 wide color gamut and supports one billion colors for smoother gradients. 

It’s a mini-LED display, which means the backlight is composed of 10,000 tiny LEDs, grouped into over 2,500 local dimming zones. Photos look vibrant and crisp. The MacBook Pro is a great system for watching movies, especially with its outstanding speaker system (more on that in a moment). 

ProMotion technology also comes to the Mac with the laptop revamp, featuring an adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz. ProMotion automatically varies the refresh rate to match the motion of a user’s onscreen content to help preserve battery life,. 

It also, as Apple says, makes tasks more fluid and even more responsive. Video editors can also lock in a refresh rate that is optimal for their footage, though I’ve not fiddled with the refresh rates.

What’s more, the new MacBook Pro finally ditches the weenie 72p FaceTime camera for a 1080p FaceTime HD camera.The camera system taps into the image signal processor (ISP) and Neural Engine of M1 Pro and M1 Max for computational video that enhances video quality.

The audio

The speakers on the MacBook Pro sound great. The six-speaker sound system features two tweeters and four force-cancelling woofers. The sound system also supports spatial audio, which creates a three-dimensional listening experience. 

The speakers are clear and crisp with thumping base. You can really crank up the volume with no distortion. Listening to your tunes or watching a movie in Dolby Atmos is an immersive, gratifying experience.

What’s more, Apple says the new MacBook Pro has industry-leading, studio-quality mics that have an even lower noise floor, resulting in clearer calls and voice recordings. I’ll take their word for it, as I’m not a podcaster. 

Other things to love. About the new MacBook Pro:

° It does, as Apple claims, run over 20 hours on a full charged battery. 

° The MagSafe charger has — whoo hoo! — made a comeback.

° Fast charge has come to the Mac for the first time, charging up to 50% in just 30 minutes. However, fast charge only works with the MagSafe charger.

° There’s more connectivity options: three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SDXC card slot, an HDMI port, and an improved headphone jack that supports high-impedance headphones.

However, you should note that the HDMI is 2.0, not 2.1, and the SD card slot is only UHS-II, not the faster UHS-III or SD Express. I’m not sure why Apple made these compromises on such a high end (and high priced) machine.

° The keyboard is solid and sees the return of full-height function keys. However, I was a fan (one of the few?) who likes the Touch Bar, which has vanished.

About the controversial notch

The new MacBook Pros sport an iPhone-like notch, which some folks apparently hate. The notch houses the 1080p webcam, the camera LED, the TrueTone light sensor, and the ambient light sensor at the top of the display. 

To be honest, the notch doesn’t bother me at all. Basically, the MacBook Pro has a 16:10 display with a little extra space at the top where the menu bar and the notch live. I don’t notice it any more than I notice the notch on my iPhone.

Gaming

I’m not a hardcore gamer, but Apple Arcade games run just fine on the 16-inch MacBook Pro. However, PCMag hardware analyst, Tom Brant, has tested whether Apple’s new MacBook Pros are good for gaming. Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max chips in the latest MacBook Pros have replaced the previous third-party graphics processors in many of its laptops and desktops.

Brant says the answer to whether or not the M1 Pro and M1 Max are good for gaming is: “It depends on the game.” Which is a significant triumph for Mac silicon, since it’s essentially the same answer to whether or not an Nvidia or AMD GPU in a Windows gaming laptop is good for gaming. Read Brant’s test results here.

the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.
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