How the new M2 Pro and Max MacBook Pros compare to M1 models | Cult of Mac

How the new M2 Pro and Max MacBook Pros compare to M1 models

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2023 MacBook Pro in 16-inch and 14-inch sizes
Apple's M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pros pack the right improvements, but there's a lot of overlap with the M1 models.
Photo: Apple

How do the new M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pros stack up against their M1 predecessors? Besides the new SoC, are they worth the upgrade?

Here’s a look at how Apple’s M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pros compare against the M1 Pro/Max models.

Compared: M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pro vs. M1 Pro/Max MacBook Pro

Dimensions and Weight: Unchanged

  • 2021 MacBook Pro14-inch: 1.55 x 31.26 x 22.12 cm; 1.6 kg; 16-inch: 1.68 x 35.57 x 24.81 cm; 2.15 kg for M1 Pro, 2.16 kg for M1 Max
  • 2023 MacBook Pro14-inch: 1.55 x 31.26 x 22.12 cm; 1.6 kg for M2 Pro, 1.63 kg for M2 Max; 16-inch: 1.68 x 35.57 x 24.81 cm; 2.15 kg for M2 Pro, 2.16 kg for M2 Max

The dimensions and weight of the 2021 and the 2023 MacBook Pros remain unchanged. They are the same machines from the outside, with no design changes.

Display: Beautiful Liquid Retina XDR panels

  • 2021 MacBook Pro – 14.2-inch or 16.2 mini-LED backlit display, 1000 nits sustained full-screen, 1600 nits peak, 120Hz ProMotion technology, Wide color, True Tone
  • 2023 MacBook Pro – 14.2-inch or 16.2 mini-LED backlit display, 1000 nits sustained full-screen, 1600 nits peak, 120Hz ProMotion technology, Wide color, True Tone

Apple’s 2023 MacBook Pro packs the same 14.2-inch and 16.2-inch mini-LED display panels as their predecessors. There’s no change in their brightness levels, size, refresh rate, or resolution. This should not be a cause of concern since the MacBook Pro’s display is still among the best on the market.

SoC: M1 Pro/Max vs. M2 Pro/Max

M2 Pro and M2 Max are next-generation chips going into multiple Apple computers.
M2 Pro and M2 Max bring a notable performance uplift.
Photo: Apple
  • 2021 MacBook ProM1 Pro: Up to 10-core CPU, Up to 16-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, Media engine, ProRes encode/decode engine; M1 Max: 10-core CPU, Up to 32-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, Two Media engines, Two ProRes encode/decode engines
  • 2023 MacBook ProM2 Pro: Up to 12-core CPU, Up to 19-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, Media engine, ProRes encode/decode engine; M2 Max: 12-core CPU, Up to 38-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, Two Media engines, Two ProRes encode/decode engines

Apple’s next-gen M2 Pro/Max chips are based on TSMC’s second-gen 5nm manufacturing process. This allows TSMC to pack 20% more transistors and perform better than the previous SoCs. The new M2 Pro/Max SoCs come with four efficiency cores, up from two found on the M1 Pro/Max. Due to this, the total CPU core count has increased to 12 on the new chips.

Apple claims the M1 Pro’s 12-core CPU performance is up to 20% faster in multi-threaded tasks. It can also finish Xcode compilations up to 25% faster. With a larger cache and three additional GPU cores, the SoC provides a 30% uplift in image processing in Photoshop.

Like the M1 Pro, you can configure the chip with a maximum of 32GB of unified system memory.

With the M2 Max, Apple is further pushing the performance envelope. It claims the M2 Max is the “world’s most powerful and efficient chip for a Pro laptop.”

The SoC can be configured with up to 38-core GPU and a whopping 96GB of system memory. That’s up from the 32-core GPU and 64GB RAM on the M1 Max. Apple says such configurations will allow the MacBook Pro to run apps that were previously not possible.

Battery life: Longest-lasting MacBook Pros yet

  • 2021 MacBook Pro14-inch: Up to 11 hours of wireless web browsing, up to 17 hours of Apple TV movie playback; 16-inch: Up to 14 hours of wireless web browsing, up to 21 hours of Apple TV movie playback
  • 2023 MacBook Pro14-inch: Up to 12 hours of wireless web browsing, up to 18 hours of Apple TV movie playback; 16-inch: Up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing, up to 22 hours of Apple TV movie playback

Despite packing more powerful SoCs, Apple’s M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pros last an hour longer than the outgoing models. The company claims the 16-inch MacBook Pro can provide up to 22 hours of Apple TV movie playback. This is the longest ever battery life ever offered by a MacBook Pro.

You also continue to get fast charge support. With a 96W or 140W USB-C power adapter, the 2023 MacBook Pros can be topped up to 50% in 30 minutes.

Ports: Same but better

HDMI, Thunderbolt 4, and SDXC card slot on MacBook Pro
M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pro features an upgraded HDMI 2.1 port.
Photo: Apple
  • 2021 MacBook Pro – 3x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, SDXC card slot, HDMI 2.0 port, 3.5mm jack with high-impedance headphones support, MagSafe 3
  • 2023 MacBook Pro – 3x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, SDXC card slot, HDMI 2.1 port, 3.5mm jack with high-impedance headphones support, MagSafe 3

There’s only one major difference between Apple’s 2021 and 2023 MacBook Pros in terms of ports. The newer model features an upgraded HDMI 2.1 port that supports 8K monitors running at 60Hz or 4K/240Hz. The 2021 MacBook Pro was limited to powering 4K/60Hz monitors through its HDMI port despite packing a powerful GPU.

Connectivity: Faster Wi-Fi, better Bluetooth

  • 2021 MacBook Pro – Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
  • 2023 MacBook Pro – Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3

The M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pros are among the first Macs in Apple’s lineup to feature Wi-Fi 6E support. The new Wi-Fi standard promises more than double the bandwidth for faster speeds. However, to take advantage of this new connectivity standard, you must connect the MacBook Pro to a Wi-Fi 6E router.

Apple has also bumped the Bluetooth version to 5.3, which promises lower power consumption and better signal quality.

Price: Same as before

2023 MacBook Pro.
The M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pro costs the same as the outgoing models.
Photo: Apple

Despite rising inflation and some key internal improvements, Apple has priced the M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pros at the same level as the previous models. There’s no price increase in the US, so you can get the 14-inch MacBook Pro for $1,999. Prices for the 16-inch MacBook Pro start from $2,499.

Should you upgrade from the M1 Pro to the M2 Pro MacBook Pro?

Unless you have a demanding workload that requires 96GB RAM or you really need that HDMI 2.1 port, there’s no reason to upgrade to the M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pros. If you already own the M1 Pro/Max MacBook Pro, there’s no reason to upgrade. The newest Mac laptops from Apple only pack yearly improvements, which won’t positively impact your workflow in a big way.

But — Apple’s newest MacBook Pros are ideal for anyone still using an Intel-powered Mac. If you have an older Mac, you’re going to be blown away by these new machines.

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