Just one year ago, Apple Inc. introduced the M1, a revolutionary system on a chip that combined power and efficiency. With the M1 Pro, the MacBook Pro 14-inch base model sizzles with enhanced CPU and GPU power that fires on all cylinders.
Performance for the base model is instantaneous. The cheapest M1 Pro, which includes an 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU, is so energy efficient that even when unplugged the chip produces desktop-caliber performance across all apps. From Microsoft Word to Final Cut Pro, everything just flies.
Engineered for video editing, the M1 Pro includes a new ProRes encode and decode engine which accelerates render times. Our Final Cut Pro test between an iMac M1 and MacBook Pro M1 Pro found the latter besting the 1-year old M1 chip by more than 40 percent in render speed using the ProRes format.
The 14-core GPU also has enough muscle for some gaming. In our test, the M1 Pro base model ran CS:GO at max resolution (3024 x 1964) and high graphics settings between 75 to 80FPS. While the chassis did get warm, the game never set off the M1 Pro fans. The chipset’s ability to achieve solid graphics performance at a low wattage makes it a serious semiconductor competitor in the gaming tech space.
Working on the MacBook Pro based model is joy with the glorious 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display. Its high contrast and deep black color punctuate every part of the screen in HDR at 1000 to 1600 nits. The ProMotion 120Hz adaptive refresh rate is buttery smooth across most macOS apps, though Safari seems to be locked at a lower refresh rate for a choppier experience.
The camera module, or notch, remains polarizing but will quickly dissolve as you work on the computer. A transition to full screen mode masks the notch with the black bar to enhance focus on the content below. Still, the module’s intrusion into the screen can cause menu bar items to clutter and it will be up to developers to either truncate their menu bar or for users to eliminate system icons to prevent a virtual collision.
The Magic Keyboard, which replaces the Touch Bar with full-size function keys, is extremely solid to type on. The trackpad, which can click, swipe, and zoom with ease, is sturdy and responsive. The new six-speaker setup emits robust sound and more bass than prior models. The new FaceTime 1080p camera, which includes a larger sensor and wider aperture, provides good quality video and microphone capture.
Overall build quality is phenomenal. The MacBook Pro 14-inch chassis is a premium aluminum structure that pays homage to the PowerBook G4. It’s not as bulky in person and light enough for travel. In addition, the computer is return to form for pros with the inclusion of MagSafe, four USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, an SD card reader and an HDMI 2.0 port.
Battery life is impressive. Apple claimed 11 hours of web browsing for the 14-inch base model and we cranked out about 10 hours of constant use from browsing to editing to gaming.
The MacBook Pro M1 Pro base model is truly a computer purpose-built for creative professionals. From its outstanding performance to its stunning display, it is the perfect road warrior to edit, program, and create content. For all other users, the current MacBook Pro M1 and MacBook Air M1 have potent performance and cost between $700 to $1,000 less. And while CS:GO runs great, the M1 game library is still limited and core gamers should stick with a PC or console.