The MacBook Pro 2023 is a sturdy, beautifully finished laptop, with a mini LED screen that provides a beautiful (HDR) image and is also well calibrated. The response times are unfortunately poor for a 120Hz screen. The 2023 update brings a 20 percent faster processor than the M1 and an approximately 25 percent faster GPU. Furthermore, Wi-Fi 6E and HDMI 2.1 are now available. It is a pity that this relatively modest update is accompanied by a price increase of two to three hundred euros. The upgrades have also not become cheaper.
- Beautiful HDR rendering
- Good battery life
- silent cooling
- High additional cost upgrades
- bad response times
When Apple presented its new 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro in 2021, it was accompanied by a lot of fanfare. The laptops were presented at a major event. Things went a little differently with the 2023 models that will be delivered from January 24. No event, just a press release and a video on Apple’s own website hinting at the new models. Fairly or unfairly? To find out, we had Apple send us the (almost) most expensive MacBook Pro, with a 16-inch screen, M2 Max processor, 4TB of storage, and a bizarre 96GB of RAM.
Those specs just mentioned are the most significant change to the MacBook Pro. If you are curious about that, check the next page. There is not much new to tell about the outside of the laptop, because the housing isthe sameas that of the 2021 model. For the sake of completeness, we will go through that exterior and discuss a visible and an invisible change to it.
With the introduction of the 2021 model, the MacBook Pro received a new housing, which was broadly similar to that of the previous year’s model. It is made of metal and has become slightly thicker than the 2019 model. The Touch Bar, the touchscreen strip at the top of the keyboard, was replaced by physical keys, and the top right key became a slightly larger fingerprint scanner. On either side of the keyboard are the speakers, which provide an impressive sound for a laptop. There is a ‘full’ sound from the six speakers in total, with more bass than you would expect from a laptop. You can also put them pretty hard. It’s no better than a good set of external speakers, but for laptop-integrated audio, these are top notch.
The housing is otherwise as you would expect for this price and given Apple’s reputation. The metal feels sturdy and the different parts of the housing fit together almost seamlessly. The hinge for the display rotates smoothly, but offers enough resistance so that the display does not wobble when opened. At the top of the screen is the webcam with 1080p resolution, which is also unchanged from the 2021 model.
New: HDMI 2.1 and colored MagSafe
There is an innovation in the connections and that is one that you should know, because it is not listed. The HDMI connection is on the right. With the 2021 model that was an HDMI 2.0 connection and with the 2023 MacBook it has been upgraded to 2.1. Although ‘HDMI 2.1’ has become a collective name, this connection offers the full bandwidth of 48Gbit/s. Good for a 4k screen at 240Hz or an 8k screen at 60Hz.
Of course there are also USB4 connections, three in total, to which you can also connect screens. The number of screens you want to connect is important when choosing between an M2 Pro and M2 Max processor. If you opt for an M2 Pro, you can connect two external screens with a maximum resolution of 6k. With the M2 Max, the maximum is four screens. You can then connect up to three 6k screens via USB4 and a 4k144 screen via HDMI.
Another innovation is… drum roll… the MagSafe connection. The magnetic charging port isn’t new, but the cable and connector are now the same color as the laptop, just like the MacBook Air. If your MacBook is Space Grey, your magnetic connector is now also dark grey. If you don’t have your MagSafe charger with you, you can also simply use the USB-C ports to charge the laptop. Finally, there is an SD card reader on the right side.
Specifications and Benchmarks
Apple supplies the MacBook Pro with a screen diagonal of 14.2″ or 16.2″. The processor is an M2 Pro or an M2 Max and there are also different versions. The M2 Pro is available with ten or twelve cores. If you take the version with ten cores, you get six fast P-cores and four more efficient E-cores. The P-cores run at a maximum of 3.7GHz, while the E-cores run at a maximum of 2.4GHz. There is also an M2 Pro chip with twelve cores. That gives you two extra P-cores. The M2 Max processor always has twelve cores. Compared to the M1 Pro and M1 Max, the clock speeds have been increased. The P-cores in the M1 ran at a maximum of 3220MHz, while the E-cores ran at 2064MHz.
The biggest difference between the M2 Pro and the M2 Max is the structure of the chip. The CPU part is the same, but the M2 Max has a larger GPU and a memory controller that is twice as wide. The memory bandwidth of M2 Max chips is 400GB/s, while the M2 Pro has to make do with 200GB/s. That memory is unified , which means that the CPU and GPU cores share it. Compared to the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, the memory bandwidth is unchanged, but the amount of memory is not. The M2 Pro has a maximum of 32GB, but the M2 Max can now be equipped with 32, 64 or 96GB of RAM.
Of course, all this beauty comes with a hefty additional price. To be able to opt for the 96GB, you will in any case have to opt for an M2 Max processor, with the fastest GPU with 38 cores. This is possible for an additional cost of 840 euros on the cheapest 14 “model or 460 euros on the cheapest 16” model. Then you pay another 920 euros to increase the memory from 32 to 96GB. Do you want a larger SSD? That will also cost you a lot of money. The entry-level model of almost 2500 euros has a meager 512GB of storage for that amount. Doubling the storage costs you 230 euros, but if you want 2TB, you even pay 690 euros. That increases to an additional cost of 2760 euros for the 8TB SSD. For all these parts, you cannot replace them yourself,
Finally, the aforementioned GPU has been upgraded. With the M1 Pro, the GPU had 14 or 16 cores, while the M1 Max had 24 or 32 cores. Cores have been added to the M2. The M2 Pro is only available with 16 or 19 GPU cores on the 14″ model. You always get 19 GPU cores on the 16″ model with M2 Pro processor. The M2 Max processor is equipped with 30 or 38 GPU cores. The GPUs have not only received more cores, there is also more L2 cache. Apple does not say how much larger that cache has become. The clock speed of the GPU has also increased slightly. It now taps at a maximum of 1.4GHz and with the M1 Max that was still 1.3GHz.
|Apple MacBook Pro 16|
|Processor||Apple M2 Max|
|cores/threads||12 (8P + 4E) / 12 threads|
|max. clock frequency||3.7GHz (P cores) 2.4GHz (E cores)|
|GPU||M2 Max 38 cores|
|Random access memory||96GB Lpddr5|
|SSD||Apple AP4096Z 4TB|
|Wi-Fi||Airport, Wi-Fi 6E|
|Screen||16.2″, 3456×2234 pixels, glossy, 120Hz, miniled, 2554 zones|
|Operating system||macOS 12.3|
A final change that should not go unmentioned is the WiFi chip. It now supports Wi-Fi 6E. This means that the MacBook Pro can also use networks on the 6GHz band. Although such access points are not yet ubiquitous, almost all high-end Windows laptops were already equipped with 6E network cards last year, so it is nice that Apple is now also following suit.
What do you gain with the upgrade from M1 to M2? With the MacBook Air, which will make the switch from M1 to M2 in the summer of 2022, the difference was about 10 percent. With the MacBook Pro, Apple promises that the switch will yield a maximum of 20 percent faster CPU and a maximum of 30 percent faster GPU. Of course we started with a number of benchmarks, starting with Cinebench. In a number of benchmarks, we also noted the score the system achieves when running on battery. Apple insists that thanks to its efficient processors it is just as fast on the battery as when the laptop is connected to the mains. In general, Windows laptops are more energy efficient and therefore run slower if they are not connected to their power supply. We have not stored any data on this, so a 1:1 comparison cannot be made, but as the results below show,
Cinebench 23 runs natively on the Arm hardware of the MacBook and can therefore be compared with laptops running Windows. The single test shows that the M2 Max has become about 9 percent faster. Not only the individual cores are a bit faster, two cores have also been added, so that the M2 Max as a whole, as Apple promises, is indeed about 20 percent faster in this benchmark. The twenty M1 cores in the Mac Studio are still faster and a laptop with an Intel Alder Lake processor is also faster than the M2 Max in this test. When the MacBook Pro 2021 was introduced, ten cores were still quite exotic, but that is no longer the case. Intel also announced processors in early January that will appear in laptops this year andhave a maximum of 24 cores .