First MacBook Pro 2021 reviews: Apple has listened

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The MacBook Pro 2016 received considerable criticism due to the Touch Bar, the removal of all kinds of ports and the limited battery life. It didn’t feel like a laptop for professionals, but rather like a laptop for Apple’s dream image of a professional. Apple seems to have included all these critical notes in the design of the new model, and the result is a slew of decidedly positive MacBook Pro 2021 reviews.

New design

The design of the new MacBook Pro has become a lot more robust and industrial. Tech YouTuber Dave2D is positive: ‘It has become a lot thicker, but that’s a good thing: it means more space for ports, batteries and cooling.’

The design is reminiscent of the titanium PowerBook G4 from 2003, according to Nilay Patel of tech website The Verge. He also questions the design of the keyboard: ‘In our office, the all-black keyboard is the most controversial, which some think will get dirty quickly. So far it’s no problem.’

Notch and XDR display

Almost all reviewers agree: the ‘notch’, the bite from the screen where the webcam is located, is actually not a problem. It sits in an insignificant part of the screen (the menu bar), it disappears from full-screen apps and the mouse just flies through.

They also agree on the quality of the new XDR display. “The screen looks great” is a phrase we see on Engadget, Dave2D and The Verge. Dave2D goes into more detail about ‘blooming’, an effect that was visible on the iPad Pro 2021, where a kind of glow became visible with light elements on dark backgrounds. According to him, that is a lot less noticeable with the MacBook Pro 2021.

He is also impressed by the 120 hertz refresh rate, which feels quite unreal for a MacBook, especially during games. Finally, according to both Dave2D and The Verge, the HDR implementation is a lot better than on Windows: opening an HDR video in your browser works immediately, even with Chrome, without fidgeting with clumsy settings.

Performance: M1 Pro & M1 Max

Engadget, in particular, takes a deep dive into the performance of the MacBook Pro and the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. The ‘single core performance’, ie the performance per computing core, is about the same as with the M1. However, if you look at the performance of all cores together, you see amazing improvements. For example, the M1 Max’s ‘multicore’ score on Geekbench 5, a leading test for processors, is a whopping 80% higher than that of the M1. All this while the battery life with the M1 Pro and M1 Max is about five hours longer than with the previous Intel chips.

Graphically, the M1 Max doesn’t pass the Nvidia and AMD video chips, although it does come close in some situations. In most apps, it is comparable to the mobile version of the Nvidia RTX 3070, a very powerful chip that consumes much more power, according to Dave2D.

Webcam and speakers

The new 1080p webcam is a big improvement, but it still doesn’t come close to your iPhone’s front camera, The Verge concludes. The lack of Center, a function that allows the camera to follow you as we already know from the most recent iPad models, is also mentioned as a minus.

The new speaker system, consisting of two tweeters and four woofers, is ‘better than all competitors’, according to Dave2D. Engadget even compares them to bookshelf speakers, and The Verge is particularly surprised at how loud they are.

MacBook Pro 2021 reviews: conclusion

In general, the conclusion for the reviewers is the same: this is again a real pro laptop for pro users. The combination of the returned ports, good performance, impressive battery life and the excellent screen provide a nice total package. But, as Dave2D says, this is a MacBook for professionals with a pro price tag. So ‘normal’ users are better off with a Mac with an M1 chip.

Source: The Verge, Dave2D, Engadget

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