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2021 MacBook Pros compared: how Apple’s laptops stack up

2021 MacBook Pros compared: how Apple’s laptops stack up

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Apple’s whole laptop lineup plus yesteryear

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Apple just announced new versions of its 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro explicitly designed around their new Arm-based M1 Pro and M1 Max CPUs. Both models are configurable with either CPU and can be equipped with up to 8TB of storage. Models that use the M1 Pro can have up to 32GB of unified memory, while models that have the M1 Max can be configured to have up to 64GB. They also feature more powerful speakers and a greater selection of ports, making them more versatile than the MacBooks that only offered USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4. (You no longer need a dongle for HDMI or SD cards.)

The last generation of MacBook Pro still has plenty of power, and for a while was the best option in terms of connectivity for Apple laptops. However, the advent of the M1 CPU in last year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro has changed what we expect from our MacBooks, a new bar that currently can’t be met by the older Intel and AMD-based MacBooks in most ways. If you’re a long-time Apple user, it’s hard to go wrong by upgrading to anything that uses the Apple Silicon architecture.

While all of the MacBooks currently available on the Apple store use some form of the M1 CPU, they’re all just a little bit different, so to help you weigh your options, we’ve put together charts comparing every current MacBook you can buy on the Apple Store, as well as another chart comparing current models to their predecessors if you’re someone that’s been waiting to upgrade. We even threw in the last MacBook Pro that included an HDMI port to show just how far we’ve come since 2015.

Here’s how they compare to older models

Specification14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)MacBook M1 Air (2020)16-inch MacBook Pro (Late 2019)15-inch MacBook Pro (Early 2019)15-inch MacBook Pro (2015)
Starting price (at launch)$1,999$2,499$999$2,399$2,399$1,999
Display14.2-inch16.2-inch13.3-inch16-inch15.4-inch15.4-inch
Resolution3024 x 19643456 x 22342560 x 16003072 x 19202880 x 18002880 x 1800
True ToneYesYesYesYesYesNo
Touch BarNoNoNoYesYesNo
Pixels per inch254 PPI254 PPI227 PPI226 PPI220 PPI220 PPI
Brightness1600 nits (peak brightness)1600 nits (peak brightness)400 nits500 nits500 nits300 nits
Refresh rateAdaptive refresh rates up to 120HzAdaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz60Hz60Hz60Hz60Hz
Dimensions12.31 x 8.71 inches14.01 x 9.77 inches11.97 x 8.36 inches14.09 x 9.68 inches13.75 x 9.48 inches14.13 x 9.73 inches
Thickness0.61 inches0.66 inches0.63 inches0.64 inches0.61 inches0.71 inches
Weight3.5 pounds4.7 pounds (M1 Pro), 4.8 (M1 Max)2.8 pounds4.3 pounds4.02 pounds4.49 pounds
Quoted battery life (wireless web)11 hours14 hours15 hours11 hours10 hours9 hours
Quoted battery life (video)17 hours (Apple TV app)21 hours (Apple TV app)18 hours (Apple TV app)11 hours (Apple TV app)10 hours (Apple TV app)9 hours (iTunes movie playback)
CPUApple M1 Pro 8-core or 10-core or M1 Max 10-coreApple M1 Pro 10-core or M1 Max 10-coreApple M1 CPU 8-coreUp to 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 CPU (6-core)Up to 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 CPU (6-core)Up to 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 (4-core)
GPUApple M1 Pro 14-core, 16-core or Apple M1 Max 24-core, 32-coreApple M1 Max 24-core, 32-coreApple M1 7-core, 8-coreUp to AMD Radeon Pro 5300MUp to AMD Radeon Pro 555XUp to AMD Radeon R9 M370X
RAM16GB, 32GB or 64GB16GB, 32GB or 64GB8GB or 16GB16GB, 32GB or 64GB16GB or 32GB16GB DDR3
StorageUp to 8TB NVMe SSDUp to 8TB NVMe SSDUp to 2TB NVMe SSDUp to 8TB NVMe SSDUp to 4TB NVMe SSDUp to 1TB PCIe flash storage
Ports3 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 3 Port3 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 3 Port2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support4 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 34 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 32 x Thunderbolt 2, 2 x USB 3.0, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 2 Port
Number of speakers662622
3.5mm headphone jackYesYesYesYesYesYes
Front camera1080p1080p720p720p 720p 720p
BiometricsFingerprint readerFingerprint readerFingerprint readerFingerprint readerFingerprint readerN/A
Power adapterType-C, 67W or 96WType-C, 140WType-C, 30WUSB-C, 87WUSB-C, 96WMagSafe 2, 85W
ColorsSilver, GraySilver, GrayGold, Silver, GraySilver, GraySilver, GraySilver
Wireless optionsWi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2

First the old

The new Pros have made some excellent strides in terms of their displays, with 120Hz refresh rates in all the available models, as well as improving the resolution and significantly raising the max brightness. The webcam has also received an upgrade to 1080p. While it’s no surprise that the new versions of the MacBook Pro trump their predecessors in just about every category in terms of performance, the race gets a little more competitive when stacking up the models that you can currently get on the Apple Store.

Current MacBook models compared

SpecificationMacBook M1 Air (2020)13-inch MacBook Pro (2020)14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
Starting price$999$1,299$1,999$2,499
Display13.3-inch13.3-inch14.2-inch16.2-inch
Resolution2560 x 16002560 x 16003024 x 19643456 x 2234
True ToneYesYesYesYes
Touch BarNoYesNoNo
Pixels per inch227 PPI227 PPI254 PPI254 PPI
Brightness400 nits500 nits1600 nits1600 nits
Refresh rate60Hz60Hz120Hz120Hz
Dimensions11.97 x 8.36 inches11.97 x 8.36 inches12.31 x 8.71 inches14.01 x 9.77 inches
Thickness0.63 inches0.61 inches0.61 inches0.66 inches
Weight2.8 pounds3.0 pounds3.5 pounds4.7 pounds (M1 Pro), 4.8 (M1 Max)
Quoted battery life (wireless web)15 hours17 hours11 hours14 hours
Quoted battery life (video)18 hours (Apple TV app)20 hours (Apple TV app)17 hours (Apple TV app)21 hours (Apple TV app)
CPUApple M1 CPU 8-coreApple M1 8-coreApple M1 Pro 8-core or 10-core or M1 Max 10-coreApple M1 Pro 10-core or M1 Max 10-core
GPUApple M1 7-core, 8-coreApple M1 8-coreApple M1 Pro 14-core, 16-core or Apple M1 Max 24-core, 32-coreApple M1 Max 24-core, 32-core
RAM8GB or 16GB8GB or 16GB16GB, 32GB or 64GB16GB, 32GB or 64GB
StorageUp to 2TB NVMe SSDUp to 2TB NVMe SSDUp to 8TB NVMe SSDUp to 8TB NVMe SSD
Ports2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 3 support2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 3 support3 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 3 Port3 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 3 Port
Number of speakers2466
3.5mm headphone jackYesYesYesYes
Front camera720p720p1080p1080p
BiometricsFingerprint readerFingerprint readerFingerprint readerFingerprint reader
Power adapterType-C, 30WType-C, 61WType-C, 67W or 96WType-C, 140W
ColorsGold, Silver, GraySilver, GraySilver, GraySilver, Gray
Wireless optionsWi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0

Everything new

The M1 Air is the most sensible option for users that want a budget-friendly laptop. Unless you need a brighter display, better audio, or battery life, there's little reason to go with the 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro. However, this new breed of MacBook Pro definitely makes a more convincing argument for spending the extra cash.

At the lower end of the spectrum, the starting configuration for the 14-inch MacBook Pro costs twice as much as the MacBook Air, but has a larger screen with better resolution and far more ports. You also get twice the amount of memory and storage right out of the gate. The main drawback of opting for the 14-inch Pro is that it's slightly heavier and won’t last quite as long between charges when compared to its smaller siblings.

$2199

The 14-inch MacBook Pro can be equipped with either the new M1 Pro or M1 Max CPU and can be configured to have up to 64GB of unified memory.

$2199

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is a creative powerhouse equipped with Apple’s latest silicon. Configurable with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max, the 16-inch screen can be lent out to up to three external displays and a 4K TV simultaneously thanks to its vast array of ports.

For an additional $500, the starting price of the 16-inch MacBook Pro will net you many of the same benefits, with the same amount of memory and storage to start, just with a slightly better processor. While the battery of the 16-inch Pro has more staying power, this model is easily the heaviest out of the bunch.

The MacBook Air is the most impressive laptop I’ve used in years

MacBook Air with M1 (late 2020)

$999.9915% off
$849.99

The MacBook Air is Apple’s entry-level laptop, which comes outfitted with the company’s new M1 chip in one of three different colors (silver, space gray, and gold).

Best Laptops 2020: Apple MacBook Pro (late 2020)
$1199

The Macbook Pro 13 is more powerful than the Air but more affordable than the 16-inch Pro.

There are plenty of reasons to spring for a new MacBook Pro, especially if you’ve been biding your time with an older model. The M1 CPU is certainly worth the investment, but unless you can’t live without a dedicated HDMI port, or need a particularly powerful laptop, the MacBook Air is probably the way to go. However, if you’re a power-user or creator that needs bleeding-edge performance, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro seems like the clear winner — we’ll find out for sure in our upcoming reviews.

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