The MacBook Pro Could Signal the End of Apple’s Desktop Computers

MacBook Pro FTW

Key Takeaways

  • MacBooks are no longer compromised versions of Apple’s desktop computers.
  • The MacBook Pro is the perfect desktop computer, too.
  • Apple still doesn’t make a non-pro, non-super-expensive standalone display.
New MacBook Pro with expansive Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion


The new MacBook Pro is so powerful there's almost no good reason to buy a desktop computer ever again. 

It used to be that a laptop was a little flip-top box of sacrifices. It ran hotter, the chips were clocked slower to mitigate that heat and use less battery power, and the hard drives were much slower. But now, with Apple's mobile-first Apple Silicon systems, portable Macs are every bit as good as desktop Macs. For most people, there's no longer any reason to buy an iMac, a Mac mini, or even a PC—unless you prefer Windows or play games. 

"These new laptops will be a substantial step up in terms of what I can do on the move, while still providing excellent power and that second monitor for stashing reference apps when stationary," Mac user and enthusiast thefourthpope told Lifewire in a forum thread.


As mentioned, laptops have almost always been less powerful than desktop computers. That changed last year, when Apple used the same M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC) for its MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac. These machines are equally powerful, so you can choose based on form, not capability. 

The new MacBook Pro, with their M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs, takes it even further. They’re absurdly powerful, able to beat even Apple’s Mac Pro and iMac in many tasks. YouTuber Marques Brownlee has even ditched his travel iMac Pro—which he schlepped in a giant case—for an M1 Max MacBook Pro.

"Considering you can get an M1 Mini refurb for $589, it's a pretty easy entry point... "

The other historical advantage of desktop computers was expandability. You could fill them up with extra drives and graphics cards and plug in all kinds of peripherals. Intel-based MacBooks, meanwhile, struggled even to keep a reliable connection to an external monitor when used with the lid closed. 

Now, this, too, is solved. The M1 MacBooks, according to numerous forum threads I've read over the past year, are at least as reliable as an M1 Mac mini when used docked to a monitor and Bluetooth keyboard. And Thunderbolt solved expandability some years ago. It's possible to connect extra storage, multiple monitors, audio interfaces, and more to a Thunderbolt dock and connect it all to your MacBook with a single cable—a cable that also provides power. You can even buy a stand, like the BookArc from TwelveSouth, to keep it all tidy.

MacBook being held by the BookArc from TwelveSouth next to a monitor and iPhone


Even if you use your computer docked most of the time, it’s still a better choice because the laptop is portable and has an internal battery, so power outages don't matter. And thanks to the poor upgradeability of the iMac and Mac mini, you’re no worse off anyway. Although with a MacBook, you can keep the same external monitor when you upgrade the computer. Try that with an iMac. 

Desktop Pros

If it's not clear, we're talking about most users here. There will always be some people who really need the extra expandability of a Mac Pro, and when Apple's M1 Mac Pros finally arrive, they'll surely be incredibly powerful. 

But even then, the desktop still has a few advantages. Storage, for one. Because a desktop doesn't move, you can connect a lot of external SSDs. With a laptop, you have to disconnect those drives whenever you undock. Adding an extra 512 GB to double the base storage option costs another $200. Upping it to 2GB total costs $600. That's enough to buy another Mac.

"Considering you can get an M1 Mini refurb for $589, it's a pretty easy entry point, especially if you already have a display and peripherals," Mac user and enthusiast Wildsky told Lifewire in a forum thread. In fact, this brings up another advantage of a desktop machine. It's often cheaper than the equivalent laptop version. 

And some people just plain prefer the little Mac mini or the elegant iMac. If you never plan to move the computer, the iMac certainly looks nicer than a laptop, a dock, and an ugly third-party monitor. 

This brings us to displays. The MacBook Pro has the best display of any Apple device, so anything you plug it into, except maybe Apple's $5,000 Pro Display XDR, will look worse. 

Why doesn't Apple sell a cheaper display for regular users? That's a mystery that hasn't yet been solved.

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