- Apple’s M2 Max chip makes the new MacBook Pro unlike any laptop out there, with power comparable to a traditional tower, though its looks haven’t changed much
- It renders 4K video easily and has no performance dip whatsoever when running on battery power. Prices start at US$2,499
When Apple announced in 2020 that it was ditching Intel in favour of its own chips for laptops, the personal computer industry raised its eyebrows. Then came the M1 MacBook (2022), which proved not only to be as powerful as Intel’s best machines, but much more energy-efficient.
That same astonishing combination of raw power and energy efficiency is taken up a notch in the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, which runs Apple’s latest M2 Max chip.
I’ve been using the laptop for the past two weeks on business trips from Asia to Europe, and the speed with which the machine can render videos and produce graphics is unmatched by any Intel laptop.
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You’d need a spec’d our desktop tower to get this level of performance out of a Windows machine. Apple gives it to us in a package that fits into the average backpack.
Design and Hardware
Other than the new chip upgrade, almost nothing has changed from the 2021 M1 Max 16-inch model, with the same vibrant Mini-LED display which can produce deeper contrast than typical LCD panels.
The notch returns at the top of the display, and it is still pretty unsightly, but it houses an excellent 1080p webcam that, when paired with tremendous microphones, make for high-quality video calls. An industry peer who’s familiar with consumer tech could tell immediately I’d switched over to this laptop from the way I looked and sounded on screen.
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The machine is full of useful ports, which is something that can’t always be said about Apple products. There are three USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a headphone jack, a HDMI slot, and most importantly for video content creators like myself, an SDXC card slot for camera memory cards.
This being a relatively large laptop, there’s ample room for a spacious keyboard and trackpad.
Basically, if you’ve seen a MacBook in recent years, this machine will look familiar. All the upgrades are internal.
Performance and battery life
The highlight of the new model is, of course, the new M2 Max chip. It’s a 5nm chip with four efficiency cores and eight performance cores, and either 30 or 39 GPU cores. It starts with a minimum of 32GB RAM, but can go up to 96GB. I’m testing a unit with the latter memory configuration.
If we’re talking raw power, the M2 Max matches or surpasses most 12th-generation Intel i9 processors, but where it really shines is energy efficiency and software optimisation.
The M2 Max is built like a smartphone chip: tiny in size and containing all the necessary computing bits in one place. Intel’s processors are structurally more complicated and larger, requiring multiple parts. This means mobile chips are always more energy-efficient than Intel chips, and the M2 Max is extremely so.
With all Windows laptops (whether running Intel or AMD processors), performance dips when you unplug from the power source and run on battery power. The fan also kicks in anytime you’re rendering 4K video longer than a couple of minutes.
The M2 Max MacBook Pro has no performance dip whatsoever when running on battery power, and even when exporting a 10-minute-long multitrack 4K video, the machine did not need the fan (and it rendered the clip in three minutes). In fact, in my two weeks using the machine, I have not heard the fan in the MacBook Pro start even once.
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You’d need to be doing graphic work the level of a Hollywood FX artist on this machine to hear the fan. For 99 per cent of us, this machine is overkill.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is an all-powerful machine for creatives who want to take their workstations on the go.
And while the starting price of US$2,499 (HK$19,799) for the base model and up to US$5,299 for the spec’d out model seems high, I’d argue this is the consumer product that’s worth it because it can be your main work machine.
For a digital nomad such as myself, I need a machine that can sustain heavy and long workloads, away from a power source, and not slow me down, and there’s no other machine that can do this right now.
I’m not traditionally a particular fan of Apple – I use an Android phone most of the year – but the MacBook Pro with Apple silicon is too good to ignore.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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