Is the Base Model 14″ Macbook Pro M1 Pro Enough ?

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I have been using the new 14-inch base model Macbook Pro for over a month now and wanted to share my long-term review.

Before we begin, I’d like to mention that I enjoy creating long-term reviews because I believe that in order to provide an honest and detailed opinion of a product, you need to use it for a substantial amount of time and discover any issues or positive aspects that may not be immediately apparent.

Now, let’s dive into the review.

Design

In terms of design, the new MacBook Pro features a sleek aluminum chassis in a relatively thicker enclosure. It resembles a redesigned version of the mid-2000s MacBook Pros and is a perfect blend of old and new. Personally, I find it quite appealing.

This laptop is relatively lightweight, weighing in at 3.5 pounds, although it is heavier than a MacBook Air. Nevertheless, I find it to be easily portable.

One change that I particularly like is the black keyboard bed, which creates a great contrast with the aluminum.

Apple has removed the touch bar, which I consider to be a good riddance, as I was never a fan. Instead, we get some good old full-size function keys.

Typing on this MacBook is a good experience, with enough travel and slightly muffled keystrokes. The feedback is very precise, although I would have preferred longer travel. Overall, it’s a good typing experience.

The Touch ID fingerprint scanner is located in the power button on the top right corner and now has an additional ring, but its functionality remains the same compared to previous models.

Lastly, the engraving on the bottom of the laptop is really cool and adds that extra premium touch that one would expect from Apple.

Connectivity

Now we can see some really cool changes compared to the previous Macbooks. Since 2016, Apple was very aggressive with its move to replace every port with USB-C, which led to the birth of the dongle life. However, with this Macbook Pro, Apple has come back to their senses and realized that Pro users actually need some of those ports for their work.

This model features three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, one HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a MagSafe 3 port.

Unfortunately, the HDMI port is not version 2.1, but that may not matter for most people. The SD card reader supports UHS-II with speeds up to 250 MB/s. While it’s not the latest UHS-III standard, when I asked my filmmaker friends, they said it’s more than enough for their cameras.

With all of these ports at your disposal, you can connect up to two Pro Display XDRs with the M1 Pro.

Audio

The new sound system with six speakers is currently the best you can get in a mobile device, and it can easily replace inexpensive external speakers. Windows laptops don’t even come close to this level of clarity and loudness.

a laptop with a pair of headphones sitting on top of it

The modules are even louder and more powerful, and the improved bass coverage is well balanced with the rest of the audio.

These speakers support Dolby Atmos and Spatial audio, which aim to give you a surround sound feel. They also support 3D audio. Take a listen for yourself.

Specs & Battery

The base model MacBook Pro 14′ comes with:

  • Apple M1 Pro with 8-core CPU, 14-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
  • 16GB unified memory
  • 512GB SSD storage
  • 67W USB-C Power Adapter

At around 2000USD, it’s not a cheap laptop, but that’s why you’re watching this video, to know whether it’s worth it or not.

The M1 Pro uses two efficiency cores and six performance cores, with up to 200GB/s of bandwidth from its unified memory.

What’s really interesting this time around is that the M1 Pro and M1 Max have their own onboard Media Engine, which can decode and encode H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW in hardware. This gives you the advantage offered by the $2,000 Afterburner card in the Mac Pro, but built into the MacBook Pro. That alone is mind-blowing.

The M1 Pro can deliver up to 20 streams of 4K ProRes video playback, although fitting all of those streams on its display might be a challenge.

The MacBook Pro 14′ supports quick charging (both via MagSafe and USB-C), but not with the default 67W power adapter. When the device is idling, I recorded a charging time of 2.5 hours with the 67W PSU. If you use the MacBook during this time, it will take much longer.

In my battery benchmark, I played a looped 1080p video until the battery ran out, and I found that it lasted an impressive 16 hours, not too far off from Apple’s claim of 17 hours. Of course, the battery will drain faster if you use a higher brightness setting or if you are using the system to the max, for example, when editing 4K videos.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the battery life considering how much power is packed into the M1 Pro SoC.

Display & Webcam

The controversy surrounding the MacBook Pro mainly revolves around its display notch. Personally, I don’t have an issue with it, and after a while, I got used to it. Additionally, there’s a neat trick with dark wallpapers that makes it disappear. However, I can understand why some people might be turned off by it at first glance. It was a fun subject for me to discuss, and my short video about the mouse cursor behavior went viral, gaining 145,000 views in just two days.

Apart from the notch, the display itself is gorgeous. It’s an XDR display, just like the Pro Display XDR, and comes with Mini-LEDs that can manage extremely low black values resulting in very high contrast ratios, very close to OLED levels. I’m impressed that it can reach a peak brightness of 1,600 nits, with a sustained brightness of 1,000 nits, but only when viewing HDR content in some programs like Safari or FCPX. In normal viewing experience, the display mostly runs at a maximum of 500 nits, which is the same as previous MacBook Pros.

This is a full coverage DCI-P3 Apple display, so color reproduction and accuracy are top-notch. With a DeltaE less than 2, there’s no need for calibration out of the box, so you can start editing your photos or videos straight away.

What really sold me on this display and the MacBook Pro itself is Promotion, with a variable refresh rate of up to 120 Hz. It’s a similar technology to what you would find on the iPad Pro or the new iPhone 13 Pro models.

The system automatically decides when to increase the refresh rate, like when you scroll through documents, while it is reduced for static images to save power. You can also set a fixed frequency if required in the Display settings. As a PC gamer used to a 144hz monitor, as well as my OnePlus 8 Pro at 120hz, this was a big deal for me and one of the reasons I held off buying a new MacBook Pro until they introduced Promotion. For most people, this may not be a big concern, but it’s like one of those things that once you try them, you can’t go back. (If you have no intention of buying it, don’t try it!)

1080p Webcam of the 14" Macbook Pro

The new 1080p webcam on the MacBook Pro isn’t amazing by any means. However, it’s a huge step up from the embarrassment of a webcam that shipped with the MacBook Pros for years. It’s more or less on par with the new 24-Inch M1 iMac now as far as quality. And that’s nothing to complain about, as you can see here in the B Roll. I still wish the MacBook came with FaceID because it makes so much sense on a laptop, and the Notch would be justified then.

Performance

Now let’s move on to the juicy part, the performance of the M1 Pro.

Geekbench 5

When running the typical GeekBench, We get 1760 for the Single Core and 9956 for the Multi Core score. OpenCl score is 34009 and Metal is 38776. The CPU numbers are impressive compared to the previous M1 and even my Beefy Intel Hackintosh, however the GPU performance is still less than on the Hackintosh with the 5700XT but of course more than double the M1. Remember these are just benchmark numbers.

CPU Stress Test and Temperatures

Using the CPU Stress test and TG Pro temperature monitor we can see that after 100% load in 5min, the average computer temperature reaches 74C and you can slightly hear the fans working. Overall great thermal performance.

Blackmagic Disk Speed Test

When it comes to SSD performance on this Macbook Pro. it’s one of the fastest I’ve ever seen on a laptop. With read and write speeds averaging between 5 and 6 GB/s, nothing you throw at it in terms of workflow can slow it down.

Blackmagic Raw Speed Test

This Benchmark is designed to test the speed of decoding full resolution Blackmagic RAW frames on the system. Multiple CPU cores and GPUs are automatically detected and used during the test. As you can see the results are quite pleasing, we get 22fps with 8k CPU decoding and 150fps with 8k Metal decoding, as for 4k decoding we get 88FPS with Cpu and 587fps with Metal. Basically if you are using Blackmagic Raw files, you don’t have to worry about performance.

Blender Benchmark

Blender’s CPU Render Benchmark test is based on one of Blender’s in-built Render Engines or “Cycles”. In this one we benchmarked the BMW scene. The rendering took 4m30s which is way less that what I got with the Macbook Air M1 which took more than 7 minutes.

Cinebench R23

Cinebench R23 is a popular benchmarking tool to measure the CPU rendering performance. A benchmark of the 3D graphics rendering performance of the CPU; it renders a complex 3D model of a room. The scores are as follow : 1529 pts for Single Core and 9570 pts for Multi Core. Which puts it between the M1 and my Intel Hakcintosh.

Affinity Photo Benchmark

Affinity Photo includes a benchmark to test your device’s vector and raster performance**.** The benchmark assesses the capability of the CPU to perform vector operations, We got 14627 for the combined score, which is double the M1 score.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Heaven Benchmark is a GPU-intensive benchmark that hammers graphics cards to the limits. Even though it’s an old benchmark, it can be effectively used to determine the stability of a GPU under extremely stressful conditions. In this test we got 79 fps and a score of 1997, which is more than double the M1.

GFXBench 5 Metal

GFXBench is the first performance benchmark to support low-level APIs such as Metal, GFXBench is designed for measuring sustained, long-term graphics performance and render quality, In this test we got exactly double the M1 performance.

Final Cut Pro

I use Final Cut Pro for my own videos and while testing different files, I didn’t see any frame drops or stuttering. The first Test has 4k footage from BMPCC and the second one is from the infamous Canon R5 120fps footage that’s really taxing on the decoder. In both cases as you can see I’m using full resolution in the preview and the scrubbing is very smooth, even my beefy Hackintosh can’t match that. It’s mostly due to the New Media Engines inside the M1 Pro Soc.

Davinci Resolve

For Davinci Resolve, I wanted to test the 6k footage from the BMPCC and again the scrubbing was very smooth in full resolution as you can see, I guess that’s due in part to the optimized Blackmagic Raw Codec and the updated Davcinci Resolve that supports the M1 Pro.

Premiere Pro

I’m not a big fan of Premiere Pro but some of you might be interested in using it. I used the Red 8K footage to test and this is where things start to fall apart, the performance is not great in full resolution and in half resolution the stuttering is very obvious. I know that for editing 8k videos you can just use lower preview resolutions but this is a performance test after all.

Lightroom Classic

Importing Photos to Lightroom Classic took only few seconds and the preview was fast enough to jump in and the develop your photos immediately as you can see.

After Effects

I don’t know why but it seems that After Effects is not well optimized on the M1 Pro since I’m getting better performance on my Hackintosh with the same file. In fact most Adobe apps are poorly optimized even though they said they have 5 times the performance now.

Motion

Motion performance was incredibly smooth and didn’t see any stutter or longer render time. Which makes sense since we saw the same thing with Final Cut Pro.

Logic Pro Benchmark

In this Logic Pro test we see how many tracks the system can handle before being overloaded, in this case the M1 Pro with 16GB of memory can handle up to 118 tracks from 128. By comparison my hackintosh with 32Gb ram could handle all tracks easily.

Xcode Homebrew Benchmark [ Firefox ]

This is an Xcode build time test for Firefox using Homebrew. If you are a developer then this interesting for you. It was incredibly fast, it took only 84seconds to build the Nightly version of Firefox while the M1 was way slower.

Apps Lunch Time

So let’s assume you want to launch all the apps in your dock one after the other, with the M1 Pro you won’t see any slowdowns. This is expected since the M1 of last year was also so fast, it put Intel to shame.

Verdict

All in all the Base Model Macbook Pro 14 inch is more than capable in most tasks you throw at it. Unless you are a 3D designer or you work with a lot of 8K videos then there is really no reason to get the M1 Max. If you have the cash for it and you want to future proof your Macbook Pro, I would recommend spending more money on Ram than Storage. However for most of us the 16GB unified memory is more than enough as you have seen in the performance tests.

I hope this article and the video below answered your questions about the base model Macbook Pro 14.

I will be making a direct comparison of this Macbook Pro with the M1 Macbook Air as well as my Hackintosh.

Youtube Video:

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