Review – Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch

Apple's recently introduced MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch systems are upper-midrange notebooks that use Apple's M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. They replace the previous higher-end of the MacBook Pro 13-inch line (those with four Thunderbolt ports) and the MacBook Pro 16-inch systems, both of which used Intel processors. The introduction of these two systems completes the transition of Apple's notebook model line to its processors, which began in November 2020.

These heavily revised systems look very different from the previous MacBook Pro systems, and they are—the first new MacBook Pro case design in five years. Visually, the most distinctive new feature is a camera notch in the display, which allows for a thinner bezel like those seen previously in other high-end notebooks such as Dell's XPS series.

Also notable is the return of an HDMI port (now with HDMI 2.0 capability) and an SDXC slot, along with a MagSafe 3 power connector—back just as everyone has finally gotten used to USB-C power. Missing is the TouchBar, which never succeeded as Apple expected—Cupertino has replaced it with a "normal" set of physical function keys, but the TouchID/power button remains.

With the added specialized ports and slots, Apple has removed one of the four USB-C ports that previously existed. The three remaining USB-C ports have been upgraded from Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 4. Apple states that the analog eighth inch/3.5 mm headphone jack includes advanced support for high-impedance headphones.

Comparing the new 16-inch system to Apple's previous 16-inch system is instructive. The new system is slightly thicker and marginally smaller in width and depth. Perhaps more importantly, it is half a pound heavier—these systems mark the end of thin and light as Apple's only design direction. As with previous generations, these systems are available in Silver and Space Gray.

The included power adaptor (67 watts with the test unit) comes with a USB-C to MagSafe 3 cable. The cable itself is wrapped differently from previous Apple power cables, with the braiding hinting that Apple has been observing some of the better (and often tougher) third-party cables.

Mac Edition Radio has been testing a MacBook Pro 14-inch for over a month. The test system includes an Apple M1 Pro processor with an 8-core CPU and a 14-core GPU, 32 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD, a Retina (3024x1964) 14.2-inch display, and macOS 12 Monterey. Installed and tested third-party software includes current versions of Microsoft Office (including Teams), Adobe Creative Cloud (including Acrobat Reader), Claris FileMaker Pro, BlueJeans, Slack, WebEx, Zoom, Box Drive, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox.

With its 1080p camera, the MacBook Pro 14-inch is well-suited for video conferencing—an important consideration in late 2021. The video quality is quite good in all applications, and the six speakers give excellent sound reproduction—for a notebook. The general display quality is excellent with Wide Color (P3) and XDR support. The 1,000 nit display's brightness is outstanding—with peak brightness almost never needed. In practice, the much-discussed (and sometimes reviled) camera notch rarely interferes with functionality. Apple seems to have planned ahead to ensure that almost all menu items still fit, though we expect further adjustments in future versions of macOS.

Though improved, the keyboard remains far removed from the best-in-class components in high-end Lenovo ThinkPad systems. That said, the new keys do have a little bit more depth, and the physical escape key is welcome. The keyboard looks different because the entire keyboard tray is now anodized black aluminum, as opposed to the body-colored tray in previous models.

The MacBook Pro 14-inch system's overall performance is excellent in all tasks—demanding applications such as Photoshop run well, and the notebook rarely heats up significantly. Battery life is as expected, ranging from a high of eleven hours in light use to a low of between four and five hours in heavy video conferencing use. At Mac Edition Radio, we see the MacBook Pro 14-inch as an impressive and much-improved successor to the higher-end MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020, four Thunderbolt ports). Highly recommended, with a strong suggestion that the system be configured with 32 GB of RAM.