Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1, 2021) Review

Apple’s new portable might be the best laptop ever made

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5

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1, 2021)

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

What We Like
  • Super bright and high-resolution screen

  • Ultra-long battery life

  • Very fast processor

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

  • Very pricey

  • No design innovation compared to previous models

Incredible balance of power and battery life make the MacBook Pro 16-inch a serious contender for Apple users.

5

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1, 2021)

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

We purchased Apple's new 16-inch MacBook Pro so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for the full product review.

The new MacBook Pro 16-inch M1 is the best laptop Apple has ever produced. 

The combination of terrific display, incredible speed, and stellar battery life make the Pro a must-buy for anyone who depends on their laptop to speed through demanding computing tasks. Of course, this level of performance comes with a high price tag, starting at $2499. The MacBook Pro offers a window into a new kind of computing experience for those who can stomach the hefty price.  

I’ve been using Apple portables ever since the Powerbook 100 was released in 1991. After spending several weeks with the new MacBook Pro, it offers the responsiveness previously associated only with iPads and iPhones, matched with the refined form factor of Apple’s best laptops. 

Design: Back to the future 

On the surface, the new MacBook Pro doesn’t look radically different from Apple’s previous Pro laptop models. It’s got a similar aluminum case, and the screen is about the same size as the 2019 model. 

However, the tiny details make all the difference in the design of the new MacBook. The Pro just feels nicer than any laptop Apple has ever made in many different ways starting with the incredibly smooth hinge mechanism when you open it up. 

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1, 2021)

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

The Pro could be considered a step back in some areas. For one thing, at 0.66 by 14 by 9.8 inches and 4.8 pounds, the MacBook Pro is chunkier and heavier than the model it replaces. This is definitely not a laptop you’ll forget you are carrying in your backpack. On the other hand, the heft of the new MacBook is reassuring and in keeping with its target market of professionals. 

Apple has also gone full circle and replaced the ports it removed in previous iterations of the MacBook. You get a MagSafe connector, headphone jack, SD card slot, HDMI port, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports, which should be enough for almost any user. There’s no USB-A port but most people won’t miss it. 

Keyboard: Precision is everything

The joy of using the MacBook Pro really becomes apparent when you start typing on the keyboard. It’s got a scissor key mechanism that feels precise and offers excellent feedback. 

Apple has ditched the Touch Bar, a strip that allows touch access to software functions.

The Pro has one of the best keyboards I’ve ever used on a laptop. But If I’m going to be picky, I would say that the key resistance is a little too strong, which can lead to finger fatigue during extended typing sessions. 

Just above the keyboard is another area where Apple has decided to go backward. The company has ditched the Touch Bar, a strip that allows touch access to software functions. As someone who used the Touch Bar for several years and never found a use for it, I say good riddance. 

Trackpad: Big and bold


There’s nothing not to like about the trackpad on the new MacBook Pro. It’s big and responsive, and you won’t notice it after a while, which is all you need in an input device. 

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1, 2021)

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

The new MacBook’s trackpad works perfectly, which is more than you can about the one on most Windows laptops. I had no trouble flicking the cursor accurately around the screen when spending hours editing documents. 

Display: Bright and beautiful

The Pro sports the best display I’ve ever used on any computer and might be a reason to buy this model all by itself. It screams quality.

Some users might object to the notch carved out at the top of the display, making room for a camera. But I found that I didn’t even notice the gap after using the Pro for a few hours. 

Along with the glorious display, you get a newly redesigned set of speakers with the Pro.

The display offers Mini-LED technology, which means that the display can turn off in sections, giving you deeper black levels than regular LED displays. You also get ProMotion which means a high refresh rate for a smoother look when you do things like moving the mouse. 

Along with the glorious display, you get a newly redesigned set of speakers with the Pro. The speakers are, in a word, terrific. They offer four woofers, which bang out sufficient bass to make most music sound lively. Movies sound close to theater quality. 

Text looks terrific on the Pro, and I ended up spending time gazing at Word documents just to admire the way words look so crisp and defined. Video playback was equally impressive, with the Mini-LED screen revealing a level of detail that made me want to rewatch my favorite movies. The no-glare coating also works very well, even when using the Pro in direct sunlight.  

Performance: Sizzling speed that stays cool

The MacBook Pro uses the same cutting-edge M1 chip, designed by Apple, that’s been powering some of the company’s other machines over the past year. 

The new chip makes all the difference. I never thought my old MacBook Pro from 2019 was slow until I started using the new model, and now I can’t try any other computer without thinking how sluggish it is. 

Apps start nearly instantly on the Pro. I have a bad habit of keeping too many browser tabs open while I’m working.  But even when I had dozens of tabs open in both the Chrome and Safari web browsers, the Pro didn’t slow down. 

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1, 2021)

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

For those who want to know the details, the PCMark benchmarking software found the following scores for the MacBook Pro: 

Single Core: 1749

Multi-Core: 11542

By way of comparison, here are the results of the same testing software on the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1):

Single Core: 1720

Multi-Core: 7552

Battery: Keeps on going and going

One of the benefits of the new M1 chip is its efficiency. Despite its power, the chip sips energy. The M1 Pro ran for 16 hours on its battery during continuous use, making it the longest-lasting laptop I've ever tried. 

There’s a significant practical gain from all this battery life. Essentially you don’t need to worry about bringing along a charger, even for a full day’s work. It’s a liberating feeling not having to worry about juice. 

The M1 Pro ran for 16 hours during continuous use, making it the longest-lasting laptop I've ever tried. 

Another nice thing about the efficient M1 chip is the fact that the MacBook runs cool. I’ve used it for dozens of hours, and it never felt more than slightly warm. Contrast that to my 2019 MacBook Pro that used to get so hot I was worried it would catch fire. 

Price: Cough, splutter?

The big hiccup for most potential users of the MacBook Pro is its high price tag. I’ve been using the lowest-end model, which starts at $2499. You get a 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD Storage for that price. 

To put that into perspective, you can buy the excellent MacBook Air, which also has an M1 chip for $999. The Air at that price point comes with an 8 core CPU, 7 core GPU, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD storage. 

I use my MacBook for hours every day for critical tasks, so spending big doesn’t phase me. I plan to keep the new Pro model for years and make sure I have a relatively futureproof setup. 

A less expensive MacBook will be just fine for many users who just need a light work and fun machine. But for anyone who wants arguably the best laptop ever made, only the new MacBook Pro will do. 

MacBook Pro (M1, 2021) vs. MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

There’s an excellent case to be made that for many people, the much less expensive MacBook Air is a better option than the Pro model. 

The Air offers many of the same benefits as the Pro, including the screaming fast M1 processor, which also means a very long battery life. You also get the tried and tested portability of the Air model, which makes it significantly slimmer and lighter than the Pro. 

But the Pro model does have many advantages over the air, and it’s a question of deciding whether they are enough for you to pay the extra money. For example, the Pro comes with many ports that can be handy for hooking up peripherals, whereas with the Air, you are pretty much stuck with USB-C. 

The screen of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is also leaps and bounds ahead of the Air model. The Pro display is much larger than the Air, of course, which means that you can see a lot more information at a time and can make working with large documents or spreadsheets easier. The screen also blows away the Air in terms of sharpness and resolution, which you’ll instantly notice if you have the two models side by side. 

If your main computing tasks are light web browsing and you value portability over raw power, the Air is a solid choice. But if you spend many hours a day looking at your laptop’s screen and want the flexibility of lots of ports, you won’t regret spending the extra cash on the Pro.

Final Verdict

An incredibly powerful laptop.

As one of the newest and more expensive laptops on the market, it’s no surprise that I’m giving the MacBook Pro top marks in practice. Blazing speed, a great screen, and all day and then some battery life make this a great laptop for almost any use. However, the design is back to the basics and road warriors might want to consider a lighter, less bulky model. But, if you depend on your MacBook for demanding tasks, this is a must-buy.

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Specs

  • Product Name MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)
  • Product Brand Apple
  • MPN MK183LL/A
  • Release Date October 2021
  • Weight 4.7 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 14.01 x 9.77 x 0.66 in.
  • Color Silver, Space Gray
  • Price Starting at $2,499
  • Warranty 1 year (limited)
  • Platform macOS Monterey
  • Processor Apple M1 Pro chip or Apple M1 Max chip, 10-core CPU, up to 32-core GPU
  • RAM Up to 64GB
  • Storage Up to 8TB
  • Camera 1080p
  • Battery Life Up to 21 hours
  • Ports 3x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C), HDMI, SDXC card slot
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