2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch) Review

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9.4 Total Score
EXCELLENT

The Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is, so far, the best laptop for creative professionals who need all-out powerful performance, class-leading battery life and the best screen you’ll find on a laptop.

PROS
  • Blisteringly-fast performance
  • Gorgeous mini-LED display
  • Epic battery life
  • HDMI, SD memory and MagSafe return
  • Comfy Magic Keyboard
  • 1080p webcam
CONS
  • Screen may be a bit small for some
  • Overkill for regular users
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The 14-inch Apple MacBook Pro is the smaller of the two new MacBook Pros that Apple unveiled in late 2021, and it’s a major debut that won’t disappoint at all. Both versions are powered by a choice of M1 Pro and M1 Max, Apple’s most powerful chips so far, making this hands-down the best laptop for creative professionals we’ve reviewed, combing the best design and power that the folks at Cupertino can muster in a sleek, portable shell.

In the past, Apple has shoved design over functionality to its users, forcing us to accept previous MacBooks with scanty ports for the sake of staying thin and light. This time around, it looks like Apple has taken the cue from the Asus ZenBooks or Dell XPS 13s of this world.

As a result, we now have a 14-inch MacBook Pro (‎MKGP3LL/A model), a super-compact laptop with an ample selection of ports – offering three Thunderbolt ports, one HDMI, an SDXC slot, and a MagSafe 3 charging port – and immense power inside.

By creating the MacBook Pro 14-inch specifically for professionals looking for a true workhorse, and leaving the incredibly thin, light, and svelte design to the more mainstream MacBook Air, Apple has managed to craft a device that’s more niche, but far more appealing and successful.

If you’ve gotten tired of tagging along with dongles and hubs for your peripherals and connected devices, you’ll certainly appreciate this upgrade.

2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch) screen

That said, the new MacBook Pro isn’t going to be the ideal laptop for most people. Its power offering is more than most people will ever need, and its starting price will likely be too expensive for most as well.

To be specific, professional creatives will find real value here. The sheer firepower enshrined in this MacBook is ideal for anyone in need of a laptop that can edit 8K footage, arrange elaborate music scores, compile complex code, and do pretty all other complex tasks. If that describes your kind of work, then you simply can’t find a better laptop.

Apart from upgrading the MacBook’s internals, Apple has overhauled the screen as well. It’s now larger than the 13-inch model, and now features a Liquid Retina XDR display backed by mini-LED technology – the same technology used in the iPad Pro, offering a massive 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.

Other extras include ProMotion technology that pushes refresh rates up to 120Hz, which can be adapted depending on the motion of the content on the screen. This not only makes videos look great but even scrolling through websites gets better, feels smooth and responsive. Like previous MacBook Pro screens, the 2021 versions support the P3 wide color gamut.

2021 Apple MacBook Pro Specs

Laptop ClassProfessional, Multimedia
Screen14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3024×1964 pixels, 254ppi)
ProcessorM1 Pro (8-core CPU, 14-core GPU or 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU), with optional M1 Max with up to 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU
Battery size70Wh
Battery life (claimed)Up to 16 hours of web surfing over Wi-Fi
Storage512GB to 8TB
Memory16GB to 64GB
PortsThunderbolt 4 (x3), HDMI, MagSafe 3, headphone jack, SD memory card slot
Webcam1080p FaceTime HD camera
Wi-Fi802.11ax Wi-Fi 6
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0
Dimensions12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight3.5 pounds

Price and Availability

Simply a very expensive laptop. The new MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is an ambitious project laptop both in terms of hardware and design, and is very niche specific. It’s aimed at creative professionals who need kickass mobile hardware, and that makes this an expensive laptop.

The 14-inch model is available in two iterations: The MacBook Pro 14-inch (‎MKGP3LL/A model), with an 8-Core CPU, 14-Core GPU M1 Pro, 16GB unified memory, and 512GB SSD storage starts at around $1,999 (but can score deals and get it for less on different online stores, though). The more powerful 10-core CPU, 16-Core GPU M1 Pro with 16GB Unified Memory, and 1TB SSD storage will set you back a hefty ~$2,499 (MKGQ3LL/A model).

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2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, Apple M1 Pro chip with 8‑core CPU and...
  • Apple M1 Pro or M1 Max chip for a massive leap in CPU, GPU, and machine learning...
  • Up to 10-core CPU delivers up to 3.7x faster performance to fly through pro workflows...
  • Up to 32-core GPU with up to 13x faster performance for graphics-intensive apps and games

Still, you can configure your MacBook pro of choice with more RAM and storage space, with either 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB unified memory, and up to 8TB SSD storage, all of which add to the base price. You can as well upgrade from the M1 Pro chip to the much more powerful M1 Max chips, and that brings faster memory and doubles the graphics performance.

That, right there is a lot of money for the new MacBook Pro, so you’ll want to really consider is you need all the power that it offers. If you don’t, but still need a modern laptop for professional work, then there’s always the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) that comes with a less powerful M1 chip, but still an impressive performer, capable of even editing 8K videos, but with a lower starting price. For ~$1,299, you get the 256GB SSD/8GB RAM model, with an M1 chip with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU.

Design

As Apple fan #45, a redesign of the MacBook Pro is something I have always wanted, and with the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), a new look is finally here. This is, by far, the biggest overhaul of the lineup that Apple has done – and it feels like they’re once again getting passionate and excited about the MacBook Pro – and as users, we can’t be happier.

The most notable design change is the new 14.2-inch screen size, up from the 13.3-inch display available in the MacBook Pro 13-inch. This is almost one is of real estate, which gives you a much larger area to work on, but it comes without increasing the overall size of the laptop too much. Well, if the 16-inch MacBook pro feels too big, the 13-inch feels too small, then the 14-inch could easily be the perfect compromise.

2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch_ design

Apple did not only increase the screen size, but it also increased the resolution from 2,560 x 1,600 on the 13-inch to 3,024 x 1,964, boosting the pixel density from 227 pixels per inch (PPI) to 254 PPI. Not only is this a larger screen, but also sharp as well.

For years, we’ve complained of the thick bezels surrounding the MacBook Pro’s screen, and in the new MacBook Pro they’ve slimmed down as well. The MacBook Pro no longer looks outdated, better still, it can compete with Dell’s Infinity Edge screens with thinner bezels around the screen.

So, the thinner bezels are much welcome. Not only do they make the laptop look more modern, but it also means you have more screen real estate without making the MacBook Pro any larger. It measures 12.31 x 8.71 0.61 inches, which isn’t much bigger than the 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. When you factor in the bump in screen size, this is pretty remarkable.

Another major redesign feat reveals itself when you open the lid: the Touch Bar that runs along the top keyboard is gone. Phew! The thin display was included in various MacBooks from 2016 onwards, but now the physical functions are back. The Touch Bar was a little gimmicky and third-party app makers didn’t create apps that could utilize its full potential. The Touch ID button is still available for logging in using just your fingerprint.

2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch) keyboard

The rest of the keyboard is the likable Magic Keyboard available in recent MacBooks. It feels great to type on and is very responsive. It remains as reliable as ever, coming in the backdrop of Apple’s issues with the older Butterfly keyboards in older MacBooks that were prone to breaking if crumps or dust got anywhere near them.

Finally, the new MacBook Pro gets a whole lot of new ports: three Thunderbolt 4 ports, one HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, and a MagSafe 3 port. With all these ports, you can connect up to three Pro Display XDRs and a 4K TV, without requiring an extra dongle. However, the new ports mean the MacBook Pro 14-inch is now chunkier than previous models, but for a good reason.

Performance

The new design on the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is one of the most exciting aspects of this product, but the hardware tweaks Apple made under the hood is even more exciting. Last year, Apple wowed us with the debut of its M1 chip, the company’s own laptop silicon, after years of using Intel components, marking an assured and successful showing. As a result, Apple treated us to a MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) with enough raw power to edit 8K videos, while boasting the best ever battery life.

So, when we heard that Apple was launching, not one but two new chips at the MacBook Pro 14-inch launch event, we just knew something bigger was in the works. The M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are both present in the MacBook Pro 14-inch and offer better performance than the M1.

Regardless of the processor you choose, both the M1 and M1 are better versions over the existing M1 chip, and the M1 chip wasn’t a slouch either.

Our review model of the Apple MacBook 14-inch has the M1 Pro that supports up to 32GB of unified memory, with a corresponding bandwidth of 200GB/s, which is three times as much as the bandwidth of the M1.

2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch) charging

The M1 Pro chip features eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores, and the M1 Pro will switch between these for optimized performance depending on the tasks you’re running. For graphics, the M1 Pro comes with 14-core GPU with 2,048 execution units, and a performance of 4.6 teraflops, which, according to Apple, deliver two times faster graphics compared to the M1.

If you have more money to spend on a MacBook Pro, or some really demanding applications to run, then you can opt for the M1 Max instead. This flagship chip supports up to twice the memory of the M1 Pro and is made up of 57 billion transistors, almost double that of the M1.

For a daily use laptop, MacOS Monterey is incredibly fast and responsive, and when just browsing the internet, the MacBook Pro’s ProMotion display, with an up to 120Hz refresh rate, makes scrolling up and down webpages really smooth.

Of course, you want a laptop of this caliber to do more than browsing, and for heavy-duty professional-grade creative work, the MacBook Pro really pops. Thanks to the new screen, which is a Liquid Retina XDR display featuring mini-LED technology, which can deliver up to 1,000 nits of sustained, full-screen brightness, 1,600 nits of peak brightness, and a 1,000,000: contrast ratio and a P3 wide color gamut, all your 8K edits look great.

Battery Life

When launching the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020), Apple boasted that it had the longest battery life ever in a MacBook, but with the new MacBook Pro 14-inch, you have a whopping seven hours, over the 13-inch’s already excellent battery life.

Apple claims that the MacBook Pro can last up to 17 hours when playing full-screen videos, and 11 hours of wireless web browsing. In our tests, we played a looped video for an impressive 15 hours and 59 minutes, not far from Apple’s 17-hour claims, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) lasts 13 hours and 24 minutes in the same test.

Verdict – Blazing performance and stunning display

The Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is a truly capable mobile workstation, with incredibly powerful performance and offers exceptional battery life. In addition to a beautiful redesign, it packs a beautiful screen, excellent speakers and built-in microphone, and pretty everything else you’d need of a do-it-all workstation.

For the creative professional, this laptop boasts the best screen on a laptop, while the boosted specs make this an awesome device for doing heavy-duty creative work on, including 3D animation and music production. Once again, the screen on the Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch is the best you’ll find on a laptop right now.

That said, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is very expensive, and might not be the best investment if you don’t need the power. The M1 Pro chip is likely overkill for a lot of people, and if you’re not going to chuck complex workloads at it, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) remains the best laptop for you.

Last update on 2022-07-02 at 03:51 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

OUR PICK

2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, Apple M1 Pro chip with 8‑core CPU)

$1,999.00
$1,799.00
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as of July 2, 2022 3:52 am
2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch) Review
2021 Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch) Review
$1,799.00 $1,999.00
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