Apple has had a troubled past with its MacBook Pro lineup of laptops and how they’re perceived by the creative community. Make no mistake, for any fanboy or a lost soul in the Mac ecosystem, you didn’t have much of a choice but to lap up whatever Apple served, including butterfly keyboards and meaningless touchbars. But it’s now that Apple's own silicon truly gets the matching hardware it deserves, without compromises.
Apple MacBook Pro 16 (M2 Pro, 2023) review
Slice of the super silicon
A bit too familiar, this design is still ace when it comes to function and form, but it’s about time Apple took some risks with colourways beyond shades of grey. The 16in review sample weighs in at a substantial 2.2kgs and while the jump in screen real estate over the MacBook Air is greatly appreciated, it also makes its presence felt if you’re working with the machine on your lap. Although the side vents for the internal fans never got a chance to spew out hot air, just the footprint of the big Mac warms you up.
The upside to all this chonkiness is, of course, lots of ports and lots of power, thanks to the new Apple M2 Pro processor somewhere in its innards. It’s a big leap from the M1 and even a measurable one from the regular M2 chip I’m using on the MacBook Air. The spec sheet on our review sample read 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, 16GB memory and 1TB of superfast and to put that in perspective, it can be up to 2-3 times as fast as the last Intel-based generation of the MacBook Pros just two years back!
The biggest chink in the armour has been gaming support for AAA titles, but Apple has been quietly working away at being more inclusive of its own gaming platform, Arcade. Games designed for iOS work seamlessly with the MacOS too and if you’re inclined to unleash all the power of Metal and maximise the Liquid Retina XDR screens ProMotion refresh rate, you can use an emulator or scour around for the handful of Mac-compatible titles.
Apple’s unibody construction of the MacBook Pro still feels like the gold standard when you pick it up, with zero flex in the body and a high-quality, built-to-last feeling that just cannot be matched by any Windows-based laptop. So proud is Apple of this ageing design that it even gets an engraving on the underbody. Yes, it’s ageing, but finely so. New bits include an iPhone X-esque notch for the 1080p webcam, blacked out and deep-dish keyboard with shortcuts for dictation and focus modes, along with a TouchID power button.
On the sides, MagSafe charging port makes a welcome comeback and along with the 140W charger included in the box, it makes for fast charging along with a visual indication of a full charge. Even the HDMI port has been upgraded to support high-bandwidth 8K video throughput to a pair of Pro Display monitors.
Gains from the M2 Pro processor are expected of course and within my workflow, the most obvious difference was felt in going through an entire stack of Adobe InDesign files that have embedded high-resolution images of over 300MB. Faster file opening is a given, but what is overall a more wholesome wow factor is the coming together of the amazing display with bezels that literally melt away, the large trackpad with precise haptics that make you more connected to your work and the immersive six-speaker audio system that sounds larger than any laptop speaker I’ve ever heard. Within my scope of work which involved light movie and photo editing, Arcade gaming and the usual barrage of everyday apps we all use, the fans never made themselves heard or felt, so I’m certain i’m not the ideal user for this level of MacBook.
ProMotion really comes in handy when compiling text and data from various sources and you soon start realising how easy 120Hz scrolling is on your eyes. Combined with the staggering HDR performance of the display and you can easily hit 1000nits of brightness on videos and stills shot on your iPhone. With a peak brightness of 1600nits, the MacBook Pro has no trouble being visible even in the brightest outdoor conditions, but more importantly, it shines on video content when indoors. Blacks approach OLED levels and even with 10,000 mini-LEDs doing their thing behind the screen, blooming is only a fallacy.
Perhaps the biggest surprise as an outcome of the M2 upgrade, even over the M1, is its phenomenal battery life attributed to the performance-per-watt figures of Apple’s latest silicon sorcery. This literally is an all-day workhorse, even if your workday is 20hrs long! I consistently clocked 15-16 hours with all sorts of tasks, including playing music via the built-in speakers most of the time and having the screen brightness at 50% or higher! This is in a class of its own and easily the defining reason why anyone should consider upgrading from an older Mac or even an M1-based laptop. Let’s not even compare this to what the Windows junta has to live with.
MacOS Ventura brought the Apple ecosystem closer together than ever before and the finest manifestation of that can be seen in continuity features. If you have an iPad or another Mac closer by, you can simply drag the mouse pointer over the edge of your MacBook Pro and use the trackpad to control the other device..just like that! Similarly, while the 1080p FaceTime cam is much improved with a wider aperture and larger sensor, bring your iPhone close to it and a prompt instantly pops up, urging you to use the iPhone’s rear camera as the FaceTime cam. The switchover is seamless and like most things Apple…it just works.
Spec up the M2 Pro or M2 Max models and you can be looking down the barrel of an entry-level hatchback price for a laptop. Is it worth it? Yes, in the same way a Porsche is. Not everyone needs that level of performance but if you do, it is engineered to the highest degree. So yes, if you have the budget, or even have to stretch a bit, the M2 Pro-based MacBook Pro is more of an investment for the long term rather than an indulgence to jump on the Apple silicon bandwagon. It comes fully connected with one of the finest displays ever on a laptop and THE best battery life of any laptop ever made. That should be reason enough for the well-heeled.
Big on size and big on performance, the 16in MacBook Pro might be too much for too many. But just right if you love quality!
|Apple M2 Pro (12-core CPU, 19-core GPU)
|Liquid Retina XDR (3456 x 2234 pixels)
|Thunderbolt 4 x 3, HDMI 2.1, SDXC, 3.5mm audio, MagSafe 3
|14 x 0.66 x 9.77in