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It's Apple's best laptop, but you probably don't need the new MacBook Pro
Apple unveiled the new MacBook Pros last week and after a long wait, we finally have a MacBook Pro lineup that comes with a lot of the things many former “Pro” owners have been asking for after half a decade of frustration. The port selection is not purely USB-C anymore, HDMI makes a comeback, there’s an SD card slot, and no Touch Bar!
With so much to like about the new Macbook Pros, even despite that notch, it feels like a compelling purchase — the upgrade you’ve been waiting for. But I’m here to tell you that you probably don’t need a new MacBook Pro, and nor do I. Here’s why.
The reviews are tempting, but the MacBook Pro is probably too Pro for you
Reviewers have been putting out their impressions of the MacBook Pro, and they’re overwhelmingly positive. Yes, the new MacBook Pros are great, but I’m saying that they’re perhaps a bit too great for us mere mortals.
The new Apple Silicon chips, the M1 Pro and M1 Max, are stellar. They have the promise of great performance on paper, and the real-life output so far seems equally as solid. However, it’s the sort of power that would be wasted on most of us. This sort of extra power would come in handy for uses like video editing, making motion graphics, or working with some super-detailed CAD files.
Related: Apple MacBook Air (M1) review
Unlike the MacBook Pros of the past, which seemed like a small bump ahead of the Air, Apple is going for a clear demarcation this time around.
The M1 itself blew most mobile chipsets out of the water and still does. For the everyday user, even the fanless M1 MacBook Air would be more than good enough. It already has more than enough power to cut through the typical home, office, and student workflows without breaking a sweat.
The pricing speaks volumes, and it’s not volume pricing
There’s also the cost vs value balance to consider. The new MacBook Pros come with a price bump, putting them squarely in the professional workstation category. The base model of the 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,999, as opposed to the $1,300 price tag the last-gen 13-inch model had. Not to say that they’re overpriced — not at all. It’s fair pricing for what these computers are offering. Apple knows where it wants to aim these new machines, and its pricing strategy is loose proof that it’s not targeting the mainstream folks with the new MacBook Pros.
The M1 Macs are clearly still in the regular user bracket, with the price to performance ratio staying rather sweet for most buyers.
For general home and office users, the M1 will still perform really well while costing you a lot less. Apple knows that.
The M1 Pro and M1 Max are not M1 replacements
Part of the confusion here stems back to the silicon itself. This isn’t just a generational upgrade of the M1, these new chips are intended for much more demanding workloads. Apple is cranking up the wattage and core counts to squeeze more performance out of its silicon. When you look at Apple’s own graphs, you can see that the M1 gets pretty close to a higher-TDP laptop processor in terms of performance while consuming way fewer watts of power.
Though these new chips may be successors to the M1, they’re not designed to replace the M1. The M1 machines like the MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and iMac, are all solid computers that will hold up really well for a few years. Even when the replacement does arrive, it will be something like an M2, which will offer a performance bump while keeping prices in check.
Think of it like this — these new chips are like the X and Z versions of Apple’s A line of chips. Like the A12X Bionic, which went into the iPad Pro, and not the iPhone. It was for a reason, and the reason was that the iPhone didn’t need that extra power. Similar is the case with the MacBook Pros. They need the power for the professional workloads, but most of us will never need or use it.
New MacBook Pros: A classic case of need versus want
At the end of the day, it comes down to your usage. The shiny new machines are great enough to make us all want one. The richer displays with high color accuracy, the super-high bandwidth numbers, and that shiny new silicon — all worth inspiring the want. However, this time, I think most of us should focus on the need.
Related: The best MacBook deals
The new MacBook Pros are not made for most of us, and they’re not priced considering most of us. Most of us need a solid, reliable computer that can get through the daily tasks of mostly browsing, emailing, some media consumption, and communication, and do so while having a solid battery life. The M1 MacBook Air satisfies all of these criteria, and despite our want, it is the only one we need.
The new MacBook Pros are for just that: the pros. Apple knows it, the pros know it, and so should we. If you’re a pro-level user, go for it. If not, save your money — get an Air.