All product photography by DL Cade.

By just about every metric you can come up with, Apple's transition to Apple Silicon on the Mac has been a success. The M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro put up performance and efficiency numbers that were hard to believe, at a price point that instantly placed Apple at the top of every "best entry-level creator laptop" list on the Internet.

But for many of the professional creatives in the audience – people whose livelihood depends on the performance and reliability of their computer – the M1 was just a taste.

With the release of the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros and the M1 Pro and M1 Max SOCs at their core, Apple has finally addressed our audience's needs by moving in two directions simultaneously: the company has undone the unpopular design decision that have plagued the MacBook Pro since 2016, while sending performance-per-watt into the stratosphere. We've been testing and benchmarking the M1 Max MacBook Pro for over a month, and all I have to say is buckle up: The superlatives in this review are about to get completely out of hand.



Key Specifications

For this first review of the new Apple Silicon Macs, we're testing out the flagship M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro – the most powerful laptop in Apple's current lineup. We hope to test some of the M1 Pro models in the coming months, but for now, this is what Apple sent over on launch day.

On the bright side, this gives us a chance to test the high water mark for performance for an Apple laptop. Any other Mac on the market should, in theory, perform worse than the computer we're testing today. On the not-so-bright side, this is one of the most expensive laptops money can buy, putting it out of reach for many prospective buyers.

As tested, our review unit with an M1 Max, 64GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage will set you back a wallet-searing $4,300. If you downgrade to 1TB of storage you can cut that down to $3,900, and the base model M1 Max with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage is $3,500, but no matter how you slice it this isn't a "bang-for-your-buck" or "entry-level" computer.

As Tested Less Storage Base Model
CPU M1 Max 10-core M1 Max 10-core M1 Max 10-core
GPU M1 Max 32-core M1 Max 32-core M1 Max 32-core
RAM 64GB Unified Memory 64GB Unified Memory 32GB Unified Memory
Storage 2TB Integrated SSD 1TB Integrated SSD 1TB Integrated SSD
Display

Liquid Retina XDR Display

100% Display P3

Liquid Retina XDR Display

100% Display P3

Liquid Retina XDR Display

100% Display P3

Price $4,300 $3,900 $3,500
As tested, our review unit with an M1 Max, 64GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage will set you back a wallet-searing $4,300.

That said, after running all of our benchmarks both on- and off-battery, and comparing the MacBook Pro against two of its closest competitors in both price and specifications, there is no question about it: you are getting what you paid for. The price is, dare I say it, justified. Not because there's an Apple logo on the back of the lid, but because this laptop can do things that no PC on the market can match.


Design, build and usability

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is noticeably thicker than the last Intel model... and that's a good thing.

We spent some time on design, build and usability in our first impressions a few weeks ago, but let's recap some of the major changes.

First and foremost, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro is noticeably thicker than the last Intel model. It's also somewhat "retro" looking, replacing the sharp edges of the past few models with rounded corners for an aesthetic that harkens back to the old plastic MacBooks or the 17-inch MacBook Pro that was discontinued after 2011.

The added thickness also makes room for two of the most important upgrades on this machine: the miniLED display and the return of several ports that Apple removed in 2016. The left side of the device contains a headphone jack that can power high-impedance headphones, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, each with its own bus, and a shallow MagSafe 3 port that can fast-charge the laptop to 50% in just 30 minutes:

On the right, you get an HDMI 2.0 port, one more independent Thunderbolt 4 port, and an SD card slot:

The pros are obvious. We get HDMI and an SD card slot back while giving up only one Thunderbolt port compared to last year's Intel models.

The cons are less obvious: the HDMI port is only HDMI 2.0 and not the newer HDMI 2.1 standard, and the SD card slot is only UHS-II, not the faster UHS-III we've seen on some high-end laptops. The lack of a single USB Type-A port is also a downside for some, but personally, I see it as the better of two options. If it's a choice between two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a USB Type-A, or three Thunderbolt 4 ports, I'll choose the latter every time.

Another benefit of the larger size is the larger keyboard, which trades the Touch Bar for a row of full-height function keys and a full-sized Touch ID button. Not much else to say about the keyboard – it's otherwise identical to the excellent "Magic Keyboard" on all the most recent MacBooks. The same goes for the massive glass trackpad, which is still among the best on the market in any laptop.

Neither of these has changed over the past few years, and they really don't need to. The only noticeable change is the black keyboard deck.

The controversial Touch Bar has been replaced by a full-height function row and a full-sized TouchID sensor.

Two more important design and usability touches worth mentioning are the Full HD camera and the exceptional speakers.

The previous 16-inch MacBook Pro already had arguably the best sounding speakers of any laptop on the market, and this model only improves on that. Whatever Apple's engineers are doing to get such a full sound profile out of laptop speakers, it's light years ahead of the competition. Every other set of laptop speakers sound tinny and small next to the MacBook Pro, including otherwise excellent speakers like the ones in the Dell XPS 17.

As for the camera, Apple combines Full HD resolution with some AI trickery to produce surprisingly good image quality for your Zoom meetings. It's not quite ready to replace your dedicated 4K webcam, and Apple's AI algorithms do a bit more skin smoothing than I personally prefer, but it's a huge step up from the 720p cameras in the vast majority of laptops on the market.

Finally, we can't talk about the camera without at least mentioning the notch. I addressed this in my first impressions, but I don't find the notch to be a very big deal. Weird early software quirks have mostly been fixed, and I appreciate the fact that there's a full 16:10 display underneath the notch. If Apple had chopped off a bit of my 16:10 display, I'd be annoyed. As it stands, they essentially added some room for the menu bar.

Of course, your mileage (and level of annoyance) may vary, so if it really bothers you there are a couple of solutions. Apple already lets you display the menu underneath the notch in full-screen mode on a per-app basis, and if you want to get rid of it all the time there are free utilities like Top Notch that will essentially extend the bezel down to the bottom of the notch, sacrificing that little bit of screen in order to hide it entirely.

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miniLED display

We have a lot of ground to cover with this display, but here's the TL;DR: this display's combination of 120Hz refresh rate, exceptional HDR performance, phenomenal color accuracy, and brilliant integration of all of the above into a seamless user experience makes the "Liquid Retina XDR" technology inside the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros the best option on the market for anyone who regularly switches between HDR and SDR workflows.

HDR performance

Similar to the display used in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the monitor in the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros is made up of a color-accurate IPS LCD panel that sits in front of a special backlight made up of 10,000+ miniLEDs arranged into over 2,500 individually controlled local dimming zones. This allows the screen to hit an incredibly bright 1000 nits typical brightness across the whole display and 1600 nits peak brightness on smaller patches for a limited time.

The "Liquid Retina XDR" display inside the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros is the best display on the market for anyone who switches between HDR and SDR workflows.

Already we're in uncharted territory. Before this display, the most dimming zones we'd seen in any computer monitor was the 2,000 miniLEDs in Dell's UP3221Q – a 2.5-inch thick 32-inch desktop display. The only other laptop with a miniLED display, the MSI Creator 17, has a paltry 250 dimming zones. Apple had to invent a whole new breed of miniLED backlight in order to make this display possible.

This exploded view shows the miniLED backlight, diffusion layers, and LCD panel that make up the Liquid Retina XDR display inside the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Photo courtesy of Apple

However, it's not just the technology that makes this display so impressive. What really puts it over the top is how seamlessly Apple has managed to integrate HDR performance into the standard SDR experience you get when viewing most content. Unlike using an external HDR display in either Mac or Windows, there's no need to check an HDR box or turn an HDR switch to "On" in the Display settings. HDR content simply... works.

When you pull up HDR content, the backlight automatically brightens to DisplayHDR 1000 levels, but only under the content you're viewing. If you have a video up on only part of the screen, the rest of your desktop remains locked at the SDR maximum brightness of 500 nits. The result is a seamless integration of HDR into an SDR experience, which finally makes HDR usable for day-to-day content viewing because you don't have to pick one or the other.

The only other laptop with a miniLED display, the MSI Creator 17, has a paltry 250 dimming zones – one tenth what Apple offers.

The combination of industry-leading HDR performance and seamless integration makes the laptop a no-brainer for anyone who spends time working on HDR content. Nothing in a laptop even comes close, and I'm including OLED displays simply because they can't get bright enough. You will get some very slight blooming around sharp-edged bright objects, but with so many dimming zones and such an intense max brightness I'd still pick this display over an OLED with pixel-perfect contrast.

Gamut coverage and color accuracy

The new "Liquid Retina XDR" display covers 99% of the DCI-P3 color gamut (left) and 85% of AdobeRGB (right).

Panel gamut is good, but not industry-leading. The latest OLED displays and LCD panels used by some of Apple's competitors offer better AdobeRGB coverage with equal or better Delta E. In our testing, we measured 99% coverage of DCI-P3 and 85% coverage of AdobeRGB with a maximum Delta E 2000 of 1.85 when the MacBook Pro was set to "Apple XDR Display" mode in the Settings.

Panel gamut is good, but not industry-leading. The latest OLED displays and LCD panels used by some of Apple's competitors offer better AdobeRGB coverage with equal or better Delta E.

However, as you can see below, there is a substantial Delta E of over 4.0 between the measured and target white point in this mode. The white point is a little colder than D65, even when the laptop is set into to one of its many "P3 D65" reference modes. And since "Apple XDR Display" mode is not fine-tunable in settings, what you see is what you get.

Fortunately, Apple allows you to take a lot more control over your display primaries if you switch out of the XDR Display mode by selecting a different preset, fine-tuning that preset, or even creating a custom preset. Various reference modes exist, including:

  • Digital Cinema (P3 - DCI)
  • Digital Cinema (P3 - D65)
  • Design & Print (P3 - D50)
  • Photography (P3 - D65)
  • Internet & Web (sRGB)

Each of these modes gives you access to a "Fine Tune" option that allows you to input the measured white point and luminance of your display and change them to a target white point and luminance that you'd prefer. As measured, the white point of the Photography (P3-D65) reference mode was still a little bit off – too much blue and not enough red, pulling the color temperature of the white point over to 6600K.

Apple gives you the option to fine-tune your preferred reference mode of the built-in XDR display, allowing creatives to dial in the perfect luminance and white point.

Using the fine-tune feature, I simply input the un-calibrated white point coordinates from my colorimeter under "measured" and the D65 CIE coordinates under "target," set my target luminance to 150 nits, and instantly the primaries and luminance of the reference mode both corrected themselves.

It's great to have this kind of control over a laptop display. Most PC laptop's I've tested don't give you any such control, and if they do it requires fiddling with RGB gains inside of a proprietary piece of display software until you hit the appropriate chromaticity coordinates – a daunting prospect for anyone who isn't already familiar with color space.

Once I got the white point fixed to my liking, I re-calibrated and got the results below:

I did have to give up a little bit of gamut coverage to hit my target white point, but it's a worthwhile trade-off in my opinion. The final numbers were much more satisfying:

  • 98.4% DCI-P3
  • 83.9% AdobeRGB
  • 0.46 average Delta E
  • 1.39 maximum Delta E
  • 0.69 measured vs target white point Delta E

Pro Motion

The last impressive bit of tech inside the Liquid Retina XDR display is Apple's ProMotion adaptive refresh rate technology. Microsoft is working on something similar, but nothing on the Windows side is close to matching this kind of seamless experience... at least not yet.

Essentially, the display can turn the refresh rate all the way up to 120Hz, but it only does so adaptively when something is moving quickly across the screen. If you're playing a game or scrolling quickly through an article, the higher refresh rate kicks in; otherwise, the display will slow down to save battery and GPU resources.

If you're editing video and need to turn this off, you have the option to lock the refresh rate at 60Hz, 59.94Hz, 50Hz, 48Hz, or 47.95Hz. For everyone else, it gives you the benefits of a high refresh-rate display without the battery drain that usually accompanies it.


Performance benchmarks

The M1 Max MacBook Pro is the fastest creator laptop we've ever tested, and it's just as fast on battery as it is plugged in.

Apple made some pretty big claims about the performance of the M1 Max SOC at their keynote, with some impressive (but vague) charts comparing this chip against the most powerful Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs you can get inside a PC laptop. According to Apple, the M1 Max can just about match the performance of these components while consuming a fraction of the power, allowing the new MacBook Pros to run at full speed even on battery.

To test this claim, we put the M1 Max MacBook Pro 16 up against two of the computers it's actively competing against in the PC space: the MSI Creator 17 and the Dell XPS 17.

You can see the full specs of our three test machines below:

MacBook Pro 16 MSI Creator 17 Dell XPS 17
CPU

M1 Max

10-core CPU

Intel Core i9-11900H Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU

M1 Max

32-core GPU

NVIDIA RTX 3080

16GB VRAM

NVIDIA RTX 3060

6GB VRAM

RAM 64GB Unified Memory 32GB DDR4-3200MHz 32GB DDR4-3200MHz
Storage 2TB Integrated SSD 2TB PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe SSD 1TB PCIe 3.0 M.2 NVMe SSD
Display

miniLED 4K LCD

1000 nits

100% DCI-P3

miniLED 4K LCD

1000 nits

100% DCI-P3

4K UHD+ LCD

500 nits

100% AdobeRGB

Price $4,300 $3,800 $2,800

In order to test Apple's efficiency claims, we actually ran all of our usual benchmarks twice: once while the computers were plugged in and fully charged, and then again while all three computers were running on battery. In order to keep the battery test as fair as possible, all three laptops were charged to 100% and unplugged moments before we started each run.

We obviously wanted to know how much performance dropped (or didn't) when the computer were on battery, but we also kept track of how much battery each benchmark chewed through from start to finish. This should give us a sense of how realistic it is to use any of these machines on battery – if importing, editing, and exporting 100 high-resolution Raw files demolishes a full charge, you probably won't ever wander very far from an AC outlet.

Adobe Lightroom Classic

For our Lightroom benchmark, we import 100 copies of the studio scene image from the 20MP Canon EOS R6, the 47MP Nikon Z7 II, the 61MP Sony a7R IV, and the 100MP Fujifilm GFX 100. This benchmark always takes the longest, simply because Lightroom is the most poorly optimized. You can learn more about that in our Lightroom Classic vs Capture One Pro comparison.

Right out of the gate, the import test – which relies mostly on CPU performance – shows that the M1 Max is about on par with Intel's 11th generation Core i9-11900H, one of the most powerful x86 processors on the market. As a result, the MacBook Pro and the MSI Creator 17 traded blows on this benchmark.

Plugged In Canon EOS R6 Import Nikon Z7 II Import Sony a7R IV Import Fujifilm GFX 100 Import
MacBook Pro 1:24 2:17 2:23 5:55
MSI Creator 17 1:23 2:24 2:37 5:44
Dell XPS 17 1:26 2:25 2:39 5:51

On battery, the MacBook Pro's performance stayed rock solid, never changing more than one or two seconds in either direction. That's well within a reasonable margin of error. By comparison, both the Dell and the MSI saw noticeable dips in performance, allowing the Mac to take the lead in every category.

On Battery Canon EOS R6 Import Nikon Z7 II Import Sony a7R IV Import Fujifilm GFX 100 Import
MacBook Pro 1:23 2:17 2:24 5:55
MSI Creator 17 1:35 2:43 2:49 6:29
Dell XPS 17 1:49 2:55 3:03 6:51

That all changes at export. Thanks to the Mac's 64GB of blazing fast unified memory, it makes minced meat of both PCs, cutting export times in half across the board.

Plugged In Canon EOS R6 Export Nikon Z7 II Export Sony a7R IV Export Fujifilm GFX 100 Export
MacBook Pro 2:27 5:11 6:39 11:06
MSI Creator 17 3:34 7:55 10:08 22:50
Dell XPS 17 3:42 8:03 10:19 25:45

This lead only gets larger on battery. Again, the Mac stayed rock solid, only changing performance by a second or two in both directions. The MSI and Dell, on the other hand, had their performance tank. The Dell in particular suffered badly on the longest export run, adding 10 full minutes to the time it takes to export the edited Fujifilm GFX 100 raw files.

On Battery Canon EOS R6 Export Nikon Z7 II Export Sony a7R IV Export Fujifilm GFX 100 Export
MacBook Pro 2:26 5:11 6:37 11:08
MSI Creator 17 4:15 9:21 11:52 26:45
Dell XPS 17 3:59 8:42 10:59 35:46

Finally, let's talk battery drain. A full Lightroom Classic export run on the MacBook Pro drained 23% of the battery, while the same run on the Dell XPS 17 and the MSI Creator 17 soaked up a whopping 83% and 81%, respectively. It's safe to say the PC's are essentially unusable for anything more than a quick edit session in LRC before you seriously risk killing your battery mid-export.

Capture One Pro

Using the same benchmarks from Lightroom Classic in Capture One Pro 21, at import, the MSI pulls ahead of the MacBook Pro. The Creator 17's Intel Core i9 CPU paired with some hardware acceleration from the NVIDIA RTX 3080 GPU consistently posts faster numbers than the Mac, while the Dell just about matches the Apple laptop step-for-step:

Plugged In Canon EOS R6 Import Nikon Z7 II Import Sony a7R IV Import Fujifilm GFX 100 Import
MacBook Pro 0:43 1:04 1:17 2:00
MSI Creator 17 0:41 0:52 0:59 1:26
Dell XPS 17 0:43 1:08 1:29 2:03

Once we unplug, the Mac mostly closes the gap with the MSI, while the Dell sees a very noticeable drops in performance.

Unlike just about every other benchmark we ran, the Creator 17 managed to stay ahead of the Mac in three of four import tests while on battery, only losing 10 or so seconds of performance depending on file size. The Dell, however, nearly doubles its export time on every run, losing out badly to the other two.

On Battery Canon EOS R6 Import Nikon Z7 II Import Sony a7R IV Import Fujifilm GFX 100 Import
MacBook Pro 0:43 1:04 1:17 2:01
MSI Creator 17 0:47 1:02 1:10 1:40
Dell XPS 17 1:01 2:24 3:17 4:52

Once we move on to exports, where RAM once again plays a major role, there is absolutely no contest. The M1 Max MacBook Pro pulls way ahead of the competition, consistently exporting fully edited variants 1-2 minutes faster than either the Dell or MSI laptops, even when plugged in:

Plugged In Canon EOS R6 Export Nikon Z7 II Export Sony a7R IV Export Fujifilm GFX 100 Export
MacBook Pro 0:53 1:59 2:23 4:14
MSI Creator 17 1:30 3:08 3:48 6:10
Dell XPS 17 1:40 3:33 4:14 6:54

This gap only widens on battery, where the MSI slows down by a little bit and the Dell slows down by a lot. By the time we get to the GFX 100 export, the Mac's lead jumps to 4 minutes over the MSI Creator 17, and a full 5 minutes over the Dell XPS 17.

On Battery Canon EOS R6 Export Nikon Z7 II Export Sony a7R IV Export Fujifilm GFX 100 Export
MacBook Pro 0:53 1:58 2:21 4:18
MSI Creator 17 1:46 3:43 4:22 7:14
Dell XPS 17 2:25 4:58 5:42 9:25

Finally, battery drain is a lot kinder than Lightroom, but we see the same pattern. The Mac makes it through all of our imports, edits, and exports for a full run with only 4% battery drain, while the Dell and MSI laptops lost 36% and 38%, respectively.

Photoshop

To test Photoshop performance, we use version 0.8 of Puget Systems' PugetBench benchmark. As we've explained in previous reviews, we use v0.8 because this the last version that included a photo merge test, and the results are split into helpful category scores that are well correlated with CPU, GPU, and RAM performance.

By this point in the review, you can probably predict what's coming. The Mac posts the best performance of the group in in every Category score, logging the highest Overall score we've ever seen at 1253.9. Admittedly, some of the MacBook's impressive Overall score is due to the insane PhotoMerge score, but there isn't a single category where the MSI or Dell are able to pull ahead.

Even in the GPU score, where the RTX 3080 should outperform the M1 Max's 32-core GPU, the MSI Creator 17 falls just shy of beating the MacBook Pro with a score of 113.8 compared to the Mac's 115.9.

Plugged In Overall General GPU Filter PhotoMerge
MacBook Pro 1253.9 123.9 115.9 108.8 161.4
MSI Creator 17 1019.6 111.4 113.8 84.5 117.9
Dell XPS 17 959.9 104.7 102.4 80.0 110.4

This only gets worse on battery, where the Mac experiences an ever-so-slight drop in General and Filter category scores but otherwise posts identical numbers. The MSI and Dell laptops, meanwhile, both see a significant drop, with the XPS 17 once again suffering the bigger drop. Every category suffers, and the Dell's Overall score drops from 959.9 to a paltry 692.7.

On Battery Overall General GPU Filter PhotoMerge
MacBook Pro 1238.1 121.4 115.9 107.4 161.4
MSI Creator 17 805.0 84.7 87.1 62.9 107.2
Dell XPS 17 692.7 73.0 71.7 52.9 94.6

The difference in battery drain was also more drastic in this test, perhaps because the load is split more equally between the CPU, GPU, and RAM. While the Dell and MSI saw battery losses of 34% and 40%, respectively, the Mac was still at 100% battery after a full run of PugetBench. For the sake of putting a bar on this graph, let's assume the MacBook Pro lost a full 1% of its battery capacity:

Premiere Pro

The last of our Mac vs PC benchmarks shifts from photo to video editing. To test Premiere Pro performance, we render and export this 4K sample video shot and edited by DPReview's own Richard Butler using 8K footage shot on the Sony a1. We render the full timeline, export the master file using previews, export an H.264 file, and export an HEVC H.265 file. To wrap things up, we also test how long it takes Premiere Pro to Warp Stabilize a 15-second clip.

This is, perhaps, the most impressive performance of all for the Mac. It absolutely makes mincemeat of both the Dell XPS 17 and the MSI Creator 17, cutting render and export times nearly in half. Whatever Apple is doing with the new H.264 and HEVC encoders on the M1 Max SOC, it's working. That, combined with the speed of the unified memory, makes for startling performance:

Plugged In Render All Export Master File Export H.264 Export HEVC/H.265 Warp Stabilize
MacBook Pro 2:04 00:05 1:42 1:42 1:48
MSI Creator 17 3:45 00:06 3:35 3:30 2:32
Dell XPS 17 4:01 00:08 3:56 3:52 2:48

On battery, the difference only gets more drastic. The Mac experiences no performance drop whatsoever while the MSI, and especially the Dell, add 30 seconds to 2 minutes to each of their times. The table and graph below tell the story better than I can:

On Battery Render All Export Master File Export H.264 Export HEVC/H.265 Warp Stabilize
MacBook Pro 2:05 00:05 1:40 1:43 1:48
MSI Creator 17 4:24 00:32 4:11 4:09 2:54
Dell XPS 17 5:19 00:26 5:23 5:08 4:06

Battery drain performance ends up looking a lot like PugetBench. A full run of all these tests, one right after the other, drains the MSI and Dell batteries by 36% and 37%, respectively, while the Mac loses just 3%:

Final Cut Pro

Our last benchmark is a Mac exclusive, comparing the M1 Max MacBook Pro against the M1 iMac and a fully loaded 13-inch Intel MacBook Pro with a Core i7-1068NG7, Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics, and 32GB of LPDDR4X RAM. You can learn more about our Final Cut benchmarks here, but long story short: the M1 Max cuts rendering and H.264 export times in half, and does almost as much for HEVC encoding.

The only benchmark that doesn't move quite so much is Final Cut Stabilize, which was already blazing fast on the original M1. Still, the M1 Max posts a 6-second improvement over the M1, stabilizing a 15-second clip in just 19 seconds.

Plugged In Render All Export Master File Export H.264 Export HEVC/H.265 Final Cut Stabilize
M1 Max MBP 2:43 00:45 1:15 1:10 00:19
M1 iMac 5:12 1:24 4:19 1:55 00:25
Intel MBP 9:57 2:07 6:55 2:59 00:55

We didn't do a battery comparison here, but we can confirm that Final Cut Pro on the M1 Max MacBook Pro runs at full speed whether or not you're plugged in to an AC outlet. And since this is the fastest and most efficient benchmark of all, you won't be surprised to hear that the M1 Max MacBook Pro was still at 100% at the end of a full run.

Performance takeaways

Taken individually, the CPU cores and GPU cores of the M1 Max can't quite keep up with the best that Intel and AMD can currently offer. But no computing task exists in a vacuum, and the combination of CPU speed, GPU speed, and unified memory with 400GB/s bandwidth that is fully accessible by both the CPU and GPU makes the M1 Max the fastest laptop we've ever tested on the vast majority of creative tasks.

With one or two minor exceptions, it outperformed the competition by a huge margin while draining far less battery and making far less noise. The fans barely ever spin up, and even when they do they make almost no noise. Meanwhile, both the MSI and Dell sounded like they were trying to take off from the desk during every export run, and you saw the battery drain figures for yourself, earlier in this review.

With one or two minor exceptions, the M1 Max MacBook Pro outperformed the competition by far, while draining far less battery and making far less noise.

There's no two ways about it, the M1 Max is the performance champ we expected it to be. It can legitimately cut your rendering and export times in half compared to the largest, most powerful, and heaviest PC laptops on the market... and it can do it on battery.

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Best creator laptop, period.

No other laptop on the market can compete with the new MacBook Pro's combination of power, efficiency, design and build quality. Select a different image
What We Like What We Don't Like
  • Incredible performance
  • Lots of ports, including SD card slot
  • Industry-leading high refresh-rate HDR display
  • Full performance even on battery
  • Top-shelf keyboard and trackpad
  • Full HD webcam
  • Thicker and larger than previous models
  • No USB Type-A port
  • HDMI port is 2.0, not 2.1
  • Card slot is UHS-II not UHS-III
  • Unnecessary display notch
  • No user-upgradable RAM or storage
  • VERY expensive

In any single category, you can find a PC that can match or exceed the M1 Max MacBook Pro for less money. There are more powerful CPUs and GPUs, the latest 4K OLED displays cover a wider color gamut, and Apple's own M1 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are far more efficient than the M1 Max. But no laptop currently in existence can match the M1 Max MacBook Pro step-for-step in more than one or two categories, much less across the board.

No laptop currently in existence can match the M1 Max MacBook Pro step-for-step in more than one or two categories, much less across the board.

Given what we saw from the M1, we expected great performance. We still didn't expect to see render times cut in half compared to one of the most powerful Windows PC laptops on the market. When you combine that with the ground-breaking display, the return of the ports, and the end of the Touch Bar, I genuinely had a hard time finding anything really significant to put in the "What We Don't Like" column other than the price tag.

After nearly six years of MacBook Pros that infuriated many professional users with a litany of design choices that ranged from mildly inconvenient to outright disruptive, we can confidently declare that the MacBook Pro is back... and it's back with a vengeance.

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