M1 Max MacBook Pro Review: Truly Next Level!

M1 Max MacBook Pro Review: Truly Next Level!

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(upbeat music) - So when these new Mac Pros got announced, my first thought was, "Huh? I wonder if we can retire the Travel iMac." 'cause some of you might not know this, but whenever I'd go for the past couple of years to a tech event that I planned on making a video at, I literally packed up a maxed out iMac Pro, put it in a huge Pelican case and lugged it with me. Like there's countless times y'all would catch me rolling this huge box behind me through the airport. And that's because it's been the smallest machine that I could take with me to one of those events that could render and edit and export a video that wouldn't take overnight. Now this Apple Silicon transition for Macs has been pretty impressive. And I think this is the first time I can truly say something is actually next level. These laptops have been next level. So these are the new 14 inch and 16 inch 2021 MacBook Pros. And they're incredible for a number of reasons. Now, at the end of the day, they're just tools used to get a job done.
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And the fact is everyone has a slightly different thing that they want to get done. For me, it's making these videos. So we'll get to that in a second, but man, they have made a big jump both on the inside and the outside of these laptops. So let's start on the outside. So these laptops have a new top-notch design, it still looks like a MacBook Pro, but I like pretty much all of the changes they've made. So the whole shape is squared off a bit and it resembles those old aluminum Powerbooks, just more modernized. And just aesthetically, you can see they've made these laptops thicker, like noticeably thicker, and that is totally fine with me. And it has plenty of benefits and it also stands up a little bit higher on those taller feet, which seemingly gives it a bit more room for those back and side vents for better ventilation. Although I've never heard the fans spin up audibly on these laptops. The Apple logo on the back, slightly larger. And there's a little engraving at the bottom now where they carved in the MacBook Pro text. That's kind of nice, but functionally, as you've probably noticed, yeah, there's ports now.
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There are real ports and this really shouldn't be a big deal, but this is one of the few things that Apple has actually walked back from the last few years of MacBook Pros that haven't had these ports. So while it feels like kind of silly to celebrate them, I am happy that they're back. So on the right side, that's a full-sized HDMI port, welcome back. And you have one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports and a full-size, half-depth SD card slot. This is beautiful. I use an SD card for audio every time I make a video. I use 'em all the time and it's been a long time since I just plugged an SD card straight into a computer. So this is fun. Then around the left side, you have two more Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack and the magnetic MagSafe charging port has made its return. So, okay a couple of thoughts on this port selection. First of all, MagSafe has made its return, but it's different. I've never used a MagSafe machine full-time in the past, but this is a newer, thinner and actually stronger MagSafe. It's got a lot more lateral strength that it takes to pull it out of the machine.
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So the second there's any angle on it, it snaps out much easier, but still feels pretty MagSafe to me, definitely safer than just if USB-C was plugged straight in. And then you get this huge charging brick. So this is the 96-watt power adapter that comes with the 14 inch MacBook Pro, which is already an upgrade from the 67 watt of the base model. And then there's this huge rectangular 140-watt charging brick for the 16 inch MacBook Pro. But it is pretty nice that the brick is separate from the braided USB-C cable with MagSafe on the other end, but I am not sure why the space gray laptop doesn't also come with a space gray MagSafe connector. That would have been a nice touch. 140 Watts though that is a lot of power. And so you can fast charge these laptops through MagSafe if you want to. It's about half charge in half an hour, which is pretty convenient, but even if you don't want to, you can unplug and just plug in via USB-C. If you're a one charger for everything kind of person like me, it'll still be about 96 Watts. So not as fast, but still pretty good. Now the headphone jack,
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you might've caught during Apple's presentation that they mentioned that the headphone jack this time would support high impedance headphones. What does that mean? Well, if you have to ask, it probably doesn't apply to you, but there's a whole ecosystem of headphones out there with much higher levels of power required to get real volume out of them. They're known as high impedance headphones. I've got a couple pairs here at the studio. So normal pair of wired headphones, just think about like your Beats or ATH-M50s might have 20-50 Ohms impedance. The high impedance headphones can go well over a 100 Ohms. And so they won't really sound like much. They'll be very low in volume if you plug them into almost anything with a headphone jack. And so people who use these headphones will have to carry an external Thunderbolt deck, just a little thing to plug in. And so if these headphone jacks are high powered enough, in theory, that's one less dongle you have to carry, right? So for my audiophiles out there, the pre-amps here are impressive and there are definitely pushing out more power, but this isn't some incredible, super clean deck
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or anything crazy. With these Beyerdynamic DT 770 PROs for example, which are 250 ohm headphones, MacBook Pro M1 at absolutely maxed out hundred percent volume sounded comfortable. And these new MacBook Pros hit that same level at about 65% volume. So there was an improvement. They don't sound better than the dedicated amp you would have to bring, but in a pinch, if you've only brought one pair of headphones, you can plug them in straight. And that's kind of neat, which is just saving you a dongle. And that's kind of the theme of all of these ports, to be honest, like the HDMI port is only actually HDMI 2.0, not 2.1, I don't know why. And it's kind of annoying that such an expensive computer doesn't have the latest, highest end part, but HDMI 2.0 still does 4K 60. So it's great for any projector or TV. It's good in a pinch, one less dongle. The SD card slot is XDXC. It's only UHS-2 speeds. So it doesn't support the newer faster UHS-3 but UHS-2 is still 300 megabytes per second. That's pretty good in a pinch, one less dongle.
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So it's an expensive computer. I could have easily had the higher end ports. It's definitely a knock on them, but like I said, it's kind of just like the convenient in a pinch type thing. And you know what? I might as well since we're talking ports, you know what would've been cool? EtherNet on the power brick. Remember what they did with the M1 iMac where they have like gigabit ethernet built into the brick. I think MacBook Pro users would be more likely to want ethernet without a dongle on the laptop like they did here, but they didn't. But anyway, there's just something hilarious about them going backwards on the last four years of MacBook Pros and actually adding ports back to it. It's not something they do all the time. So I'm giving a thumbs up on that. Speaking of going backwards though, no touch bar. So there's a new keyboard on these MacBook Pros and it's all buttons, all real physical keys. So they've replaced the touch bar with a full row, full height, physical function keys at the top. It's really a shame the touch bar never reached its full potential and I'll miss the like two times I thought it was useful with audio fitting shortcuts inside
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Final Cut Pro or fast-forwarding scrubbing through Instagram videos on the desktop, but these buttons really are better. And the whole keyboard is an improvement from previous year's too. It's backlit, the keys feel good and travel decently well like their keyboards from five years ago, the touch ID button in the corner works super quickly and reliably and it's subtle, but the whole keyboard is inset in this black, anodized rectangle and I love it. It's a nice touch. Black keys will definitely still show fingerprints and a little bit of skin oils more than the lighter keyboards out there on other machines, but I'm willing to deal with that. The speakers absolutely incredible, especially on the 16 inch, still the biggest, fullest, best speakers I've ever heard in a laptop on the bigger one. And the studio microphones are also now improved, but that brings us to the front of this laptop. So let's talk about the front. So these new displays are on paper and in real life, pretty incredible. They are 10 bit panels. They're mini LED, HDR, 16 x 10,
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almost 4K high refresh rate displays. I mean, it's just all of the boxes checked and then there's the notch up top. Okay so the screens are amazing. It's basically a mini pro display XDR, but with even higher pixel density and higher refresh rate, I mean it doesn't look that different from previous MacBook Pros. Most of the time you're using it, but it does hit that 1600-nits max brightness while watching HDR content, which is awesome. And the thinner bezels all the way around were long overdue and underneath the menu bar, I'm also happy that it is still, it's the taller 16 x 10 aspect ratio. And then ProMotion is interesting. So we know this as the adaptive refresh rate. It's not always maxing out here at 120 Hertz, even when flying around the UI, Max, we're already decently smooth at 60, but I can tell this is not going to 120 Hertz all the time. So like scrolling in Safari, for example. Apparently Safari still needs an update to support the highest of this adaptive frame rate. But there are a couple areas where you really notice
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a higher refresh rate. I mean, moving your mouse around a lot, moving a lot of bigger animations, like swiping between spaces and other big flowy stuff like the genie animation for minimizing that stuff. I mean, it's awesome. Moving around a Final Cut timeline. That's very smooth too. That's where the higher frame rate is noticeable and the extra smoothness is appreciated. So this isn't the first mini LED display. This isn't the first HDR laptop ever. It's definitely not the first high refresh rate screen in a laptop, but just combining all of these things, the 10-bit display the thinner bezels, all of it, it is a great display. So let's talk about the top notch design, shall we? There's only a few things up here in the notch. It's the new 1080P webcam, which looks perfectly decent now, thanks for catching up Apple. And there's a little ambient light sensor and a little LED light, and that's pretty much it. There's no way the notch needed to be this big for that hardware. I mean, I'll wait for the iFixit teardown, but there's no way you needed this much space.
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So it's an odd choice. And it's really easy to complain about this when you're not actually using the laptop, but two things. One, I think Apple is actually finding this to be like a part of their design language now. Like this is a recognizable laptop silhouette because of the notch. However, we feel about that, it is what it is, but then also turns out it's okay to put a notch right here in the part of the screen that you really don't notice very much when you're actually using a laptop. The mouse goes underneath it for those who are wondering, and the software seems to basically treat the screen like there is no notch. Like if you take a screenshot or do a screen recording, it's still drawing the display there with all of its pixels. And anytime you go full screen with anything, it just turns the entire menu bar black. And it looks like the bezel at the top basically gets slightly thicker and it's very deep black with the mini LED. The notch literally never cuts into any content. Basically think of it as cutting into the extra display
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that you actually didn't have before. And they've just shoved the menu bar up there into that extra display. You know, there are some weird quirks when you have an app with enough menu bar items, it runs those things right underneath the notch and things clearly to be patched up with a software update, maybe making them scrollable or like adding an expansion button or something like that. So at this point it's like, oh, people are making the custom apps to totally black out the top part of the display to hide the notch, which I mean, if you hate it that much sure you have that option. But like I promise you when you actually start using the laptop and you're in apps and thing's full screen, it never cuts anything off. Like you're paying attention to what's on the screen. It disappears even more than it did on the smaller screen of the phones. But that being said, if the next version of this laptop still has a notch this big and doesn't add face ID, I'll wear socks and sandals for a day like Linus. They gotta be planning on putting it there eventually, right? It almost feels useless to talk about how it feels just spinning around Mac OS Monterrey,
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because of course, it's fine. Like I got the improved notification management, it's got the rounded corners up top. It's got the quick, mouse-over at the bottom corner to get to Quick Notes. We get all that, those nice features, but we're here for the performance. We want to know if it's actually as great as those graphs, Apple suggested at the Apple event. Spoiler alert. They're both really that good. So I've got a couple of different specs here. This is the M1 Pro in the 14 inch. I've also got a maxed out 16 inch that I've been testing. So I get to the differences between M1 Max and M1 Pro and all that in a second, but just know that yeah, they are very, very good. So when it comes to performance benchmarks, I feel like everyone's more or less looking for the perfect benchmark out there that will confirm to them that it will work best for their own workflow. Like I said, these are tools and from what I've seen, it feels like that benchmark result exists for pretty much every use case so far for these. So as far as synthetic benchmarks,
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it dropped the highest single score Geekbench CPU score I've ever seen from any Mac. And multi-core lined it up right around the maxed out 18 core iMac. I also ran it through Cinebench and it had, again, very impressive single core scores, and here's how the multi-core stacks up. But when I say, when I tell you these laptops are next level, I mean that because the real world performance and the real world capabilities of these laptops is dramatically better than they have any business doing. So obviously we know about the way higher memory bandwidth. We know about the way higher number of GPU cores. And I love the 10, 15, 25% improvements that come across the board with all of that stuff. The vertical integration worked right? But there are parts of this chip that Apple has built with specific purposes in mind. And for those purposes, it's next level. So these laptop chips have a media engine and there's a ProRes accelerator as part of that. M1 Max has two of them.
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Video professionals, you can see where we're going with this. Working with ProRes at all with these laptops is dramatically better. I think an example was like encoding a video with compressor is 10 times as fast as it was with the Intel MacBook Pros. That's the next level. So like I said, these laptops are, that's why they got me excited. I work with video too. So let's see how it does with Final Cut Pro. So as I mentioned, I did edit the last video, the entire AirPods 3 review on the 16 inch M1 Max Mac Book Pro in various locations, both around the studio and at home, plugged in and on battery. And it handled it incredibly well like shockingly well. Keep in mind, this is 8K REDCODE raw footage. It's a mix of low and medium compression shots from the V-RAPTOR. And I'm able to bend the color and raw data and move all around the timeline and chop everything up pretty quickly and seamlessly without hiccups, just like on the desktop, on the Mac Pro. So playback was in high quality instead of high performance. So I'm getting a ton of resolution and really only dropping
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a couple of frames here and there again, just like the Mac Pro. One of my ways to measure if a machine is choking or struggling at all is like how long the delay is between pressing the play button, the space bar on unrendered footage. And when it actually starts to play back, and this delay, as you can see it's like less than a quarter of a second. That's as good as I've ever seen it in Final Cut. So the only thing that's caused me any concern was that a couple of times the audio waveform previews took longer to load when I was pinching and zooming into parts of the timeline. And I suspect that's RAM related. Of course, M1 Max only has 64 gigs of RAM versus the Mac Pro I've edited on has 768 gigs of RAM. So it makes sense that I saw a difference there, but when the edit was finished and it came time to export it, I of course, just for fun, copied the project across to multiple computers and just did the same export on all of them to see how it went. So the M1 Pro Mac Book Pro, the 14 inch, exported the whole thing in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. It's pretty good. The $50,000 28-core Mac Pro did the same thing
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in five minutes and 42 seconds. And then the M1 Max Mac Pro or MacBook Pro, did it in four minutes and six seconds. So the Mac Book Pro beat the Mac Pro handily at exporting the project. And it's not even like export times really matter all that much at this level, four minutes, five minutes, whatever. But the fact that it beat the Mac Pro already is ridiculous. And I also did that while not plugged in, which doesn't lose any performance on battery. And the battery dropped 2% from 96 to 94% while exporting. So you might've heard there's different performance profiles. And this is true on the 16 inch MacBook Pro was interesting playing with these. Most of the time, I just left it on automatic because it would just do its thing, no hiccups at all, and I could edit fine. But when I went to go export just for fun, I turned on the 16 inches high power mode, which in theory should let the chips run full throttle, more often, spin up the fans a little bit more, et cetera.
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I still never heard the fans ever, but the export time was even faster, three minutes and 49 seconds, Jesus. And on top of all of that, the plugin suite that I use Motion VFX, is updating steadily all their stuff to support Apple Silicon, which is great. At this point honestly, I think it's a no brainer. The Travel iMac is now retired. I can safely edit everything on a laptop, but Final Cut Pro is just one use case. There's plenty of other stuff. If you watch The Verge's review, they did a lot of Adobe stuff and you can check out their incredible findings with the newest version of After Effects really finally taking advantage of multithreaded GPU rendering. They also showed it outperforming the mobile RTX 3080 when editing in Premiere. And there are some glowing reviews for music producers and sound designers who love having a whisper silent computer that can also process way more audio effects and that they can take with them. And Tyler Stalman did a great video, reviewing the laptop for photographers, where the M1 Max's laptop is importing and generating previews, et cetera, twice as fast as a 2018 MacBook Pro.
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And he also opens up every single app at once and streams a bunch of ProRes videos all simultaneously next to each other, and you guessed it. It doesn't even blink. And then there's also a great tweet from a staff engineer at Reddit. The machine is cutting build times for their Android app in half and a little napkin math says that buying a team of them, a bunch of these laptops, would end up saving them a lot more money than they'd spent. Basically these experiences are of course, all dependent on the apps you use as a professional and how optimized they are. All of Apple's apps are the first ones to be updated right out the box. So Final cut Pro that I use is great, but over time, more of them will continue to be updated and see those gains as well. And I didn't even talk about battery life, but it does all of this high-performance stuff while also being incredibly efficient. So you have the fast charging already if you want it. But I found that the 16-inch with the 100-watt hour battery lasts a bit longer than the 14 inch with a 70-watt hour battery and M1 Pro will last a bit longer than M1 Max. It turns out those GPU cores do run a little bit hotter
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and use more power. But ultimately if you want the longest possible battery life, that would be 16 inch M1 Pro. Nevertheless, they all get around the same battery life I've found as the M1 MacBook Pro, which is to say all day best in class. You can still kill it in like four hours if you're just sitting on battery editing video in high power mode the whole time, then yeah, then you can crush it. But again, the fast charging turns out to be very useful. So, you know what? Here's the recommendation. If you are a professional that works on your laptop and you're on an older version, or you find yourself reaching the limits of one of these, and you're thinking maybe you should try to look at one of these new MacBook Pros. I feel very confident saying, yeah, you could pick one up and be very, very happy. I think the real choice is between M1 Pro and M1 Max and 14 inch and 16 inch. Now for me, I'm going with a 16 inch M1 Max, just because I take advantage of the extra GPU cores. And I wish I could go with the 14 inch maxed out,
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which you can max out to the same exact specs as a 16 inch with maybe just small thermal differences, they'll perform about the same, but I really like having the bigger screen for editing video. So I'm going maxed out big laptop. So then for M1 Pro versus M1 Max. M1 Max is the most powerful, but it does nick a bit of your battery life. So I would upgrade only if you need those extra GPU cores and you'll know if your app supported. And I won't even pretend to game on a Mac. Some people do though. And if you do theoretically, the M1 Max would also handle that better. But like I said from the beginning, this is a tool and it happens to be a really, really good tool at what it does. And it happens to be next level at a couple specific things that it's been designed and optimized for. So there's gonna be a lot of professionals like me who are really happy with these. There's also gonna be a lot of people who totally don't need this power, but just have a lot of money to spend and just want to get a nice laptop. And it is a nice laptop. So I wouldn't blame you. That's fine too, but I'm just happy I can finally say that this is,
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I will be editing videos on a laptop, which is that's awesome. And yeah, I haven't been able to say something's truly next level in a really long time, but these are. It's one of my favorite products of the year, to be honest. I also really, really can't wait until the Apple Silicon Mac Pro desktop, that thing's gonna be wild. Either way, that's been it for the review of the laptops. Thanks for watching. Catch you guys in the next one, peace. (conclusion chiming)

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