[REVIEW] 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021): back to the good old days

The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro are proof that everything used to be better. The two laptops take us back to the glory days of Apple laptops. Laptops that managed to turn the entire market upside down with today’s technology. The MacBook Pro is back for the Pro’s and the good old days are back.

After a two full weeks of testing, Mark explains to you in this review what the strengths of the new MacBook Pro are and what areas the laptop still leaves out.

MacBook Pro (2021): our prayers have been heard

Man, how long we had to wait for this MacBook Pro. In the past few years, I got the strong impression that the glory days of Apple laptops were behind us. The arrival of the M1 MacBook Pro was a relief. But the fact remained that the biggest disadvantages of the current-gen MacBooks still remained.

Indeed, the laptops took quite a beating. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the fragile display, rickety keyboards or the introduction of the Touch Bar: the MacBook Pro was no longer the premium product it once was. Something we really can’t say about the M1 Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro. If only because the name sounds so imposing.

Which model did I test?

There are many different MacBook models for sale in the Apple Store. Also the new series which Apple introduced during the Unleashed event. In this article you can read which models are for sale.

I have tested one of them myself and I think it’s important you know which model this review is based on. My M1 Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro is equipped with the following specifications:

Display: 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display (3456 x 2234 Pixels | 254ppi)
Chip: Apple M1 Pro
CPU: 10-core CPU (8 performance and 2 efficiency)
GPU: 16-core
Neural Engine: 16-core
Memory bandwidth: 200 GB/s
Working Memory: 32GB
Storage Capacity: 1 TB
Price Configuration: €3439

Whether I feel like the binkie with 32GB of working memory in my backpack Oh, yes I do!

On your favorite website (Image: Mark Hofman / OMT)

MacBook Pro (2021): back to the good old days

With the Macbook Pro (2021) we go back to the good old days. The time when Apple put efficiency above a sleek design and thus also the time where USB Hubs were not an issue. Although that’s not quite the case now. Where your MacBook Pro has an HDMI cable, an SD card slot and three USB-C ports, it’s not possible to directly plug a USB-A device into your laptop. In some cases you’ll still need a Hub, but in general you’re good to go.

Although there are a few things you need to take into account. The HDMI connection is for example a HDMI 2.0 port and not a 2.1 port. A 4K resolution with 60fps is therefore achievable, but you cannot get the best of the best with this Pro model. This also applies to the SD card slot. It supports XDXC, but not UHS III. I also have to say that I find it a missed opportunity that there is no Ethernet connection to be found anywhere. Just like with the current iMac, this connection could have been included in the adapter.

What the MacBook Pro (2021) does have is High Impendance support. This is integrated in the 3.5mm headphone jack. This functionality is especially nice for the audiophiles among us, because it eliminates the need for an amplifier or special adapter for professional headphones.

An excellent keyboard

Apple admitted last year that the butterfly keyboard may not have been as big a success as the company first made it seem. The M1 MacBook Pro and Air featured a keyboard with a scissor mechanism. A huge success that this year is set to add to.

On your favorite website (Image: Mark Hofman / OMT)

The MacBook Pro (2021) has in fact said goodbye to the Touch Bar. From now on, it’s possible to make full use of the function keys, without a lot of hassle. Of course, it is a shame that the Touch Bar never really reached its full potential.

We can’t say the same about this keyboard, by the way, because it really is divine to type on this device. The keyboard is excellently lit and the travel is just right in my opinion. There is also an updated Touch ID button on the MacBook Pro (2021). This one is a bit more solid and I personally like that.

A screen to match

By the way, the new MacBook Pro (2021) also comes with a new display. It is a 10-bit mini-LED display of 16-inch (in my case) with HDR and Promotion. This combination makes for razor sharp, clear images and I can enjoy them quite a bit. Editing videos, photos or watching movies or series: it’s really nice on this display.

So that screen also features the ProMotion technology. This is the same technology that Apple uses for the iPhone and iPad. It makes the screen refresh faster, making everything seem a lot smoother. Personally, I’m a big fan of the technology on the iPhone and iPad, but don’t notice much of it on the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021). You can see the technology being used, but the benefits are less noticeable than on the previously mentioned devices.

Is the notch really that bad?

The notch is striking, by the way. When you see the laptop for the first time, you will immediately notice the notch in the screen. But while there are many online comments about the notch, I must honestly say that it did not bother me for a second. Does the software take advantage of it? No, it certainly does not. But it does result in much smaller screen edges and unlike the previous models, that’s a real gain. Moreover, just like the iPhone, you get used to it incredibly quickly.

The only thing I really regret about the notch of the MacBook Pro (2021) is the lack of Face ID. Where Apple itself envisions that consumers will mainly use Touch ID, I think Face ID would really be an added value. Now it is so that the webcam, the LED system, the Ambient Light sensor and White Balance sensor ensure that the notch is already pretty full. But I still hope that Apple could find something on that in the future.

The new 16-inch model (Image: Mark Hofman / OMT)

MacBook Pro (2021): incredibly fast, powerful and a whole lot more

It feels a little unnecessary to say that the M1 Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021) is incredibly fast. Then again, that’s kind of the thing about this laptop. Professionals will, without a doubt, find this device to be excellent. The laptop is not only faster than you could have imagined, but maybe even dreamed of.

To give you a good impression of how fast the MacBook Pro (2021) actually is, I’m listing a few examples:

Code | It is possible to run 8 Testing Scripts at a time on the laptop. For example, the 16-inch MacBook Pro model with an Intel chip can only run three at a time
3D designing | In Cinema 4D, a project with 4,300,000 polygons is excellent to edit. From Flat Shades to Realtime Shadows: everything can be edited directly and without problems.
3D spaceship | In Octane X it is possible to edit a project with a whopping 136,000,000 polygons. The project in question was 35GB in size and almost impossible to open due to previous laptops. I was able to edit and view this project without any problems.
Music | The professional who wants to use his MacBook Pro (2021) for music projects is in an awfully good position. On my model I have a project ready in Logic Pro with no less than 1500 different tracks. Again, I experience little to no problems
Video | The last example is focused on video, considering many professionals will use this laptop for that. An 8K project with HDR is child’s play for the laptop. I even opened a project using one where there were 7 images in view simultaneously. These played back without a hitch and were adjustable without a hitch.

Like I said, the MacBook Pro (2021) models with the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are absolute beasts.

The imposing display (Image: Mark Hofman / OMT)

The battery that deserves it

By the way, a laptop with such performance also deserves an impressive battery. Thankfully, the MacBook Pro (2021) got it. I tested the laptop extensively to get its full potential, but editing 8K videos or creating 3D animations isn’t something I do every day for work.

That’s why I can only properly state what this 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021) has to offer for me. On a daily basis, I regularly edit images, do research, am on (video) calls a lot, review content, and primarily write texts. With these activities I have been able to do an average of one and a half workdays with a full charge. An extremely impressive result that ensures I can do my work anytime, anywhere.

If that battery does need to be recharged, that’s a piece of cake too. The 140W charger that came with my laptop makes it possible to half charge it within 30 minutes. Enough to get through almost the entire working day. Ideal!

Tightly packed (Image: Mark Hofman / OMT)

MacBook Pro (2021): finally back for the Pros

The MacBook Pro (2021) is significantly more expensive than its 13-inch predecessor. That’s a bitter pill for some people, but realize that we’re dealing with an absolute Pro model here. That may take some getting used to after the past few years, but this is easily the very most powerful laptop you can get on the market.

The MacBook Pro (2021) is an absurd laptop that only true professionals can use to its full potential. And even then, you’re a very big boy if you can get the fan turned on at all. It’s starting to sound a bit like buttock licking, but I just can’t ignore it. The new MacBook Pro is finally back for the Pros and takes us back to the glory days of Apple laptops.

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