Looking from a distance, it seems that nothing has changed. After all, we are talking about a notebook with the same 13-inch Retina display, the same aluminum design and the same size as the predecessor, without any millimeter more or less. But for the first time in 15 years, there is no longer an Intel chip inside a MacBook Pro. And this could be the most significant change in the PC market in the past decade.
The Apple laptop leaves the Intel Core and brings the first chip for Macs created by the company itself, the M1, with the same architecture used in iPhones and iPads. The battery capacity has hardly changed, but the promise of autonomy has doubled to 20 hours. Is performance all that? I’ve used the new 13-inch MacBook Pro in the past few weeks and count my impressions below.
Review of MacBook Pro (2020) with Apple M1 on video
O Tecnoblog is a technology-independent journalistic vehicle that helps people make their next purchase decision since 2005. Our product reviews are opinionated and have no advertising intent. For this reason, we always transparently highlight the positive and negative points of each product.
No company, manufacturer or store has paid the Tecnoblog to produce this content. Our reviews are not reviewed or approved by external agents. The MacBook Pro was provided by Apple on an indefinite loan. The product will be used in future content before being returned to the company.
Design and connectivity
On the outside, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is identical to the old one, which means that we have a notebook with an aluminum body, a giant glass-covered trackpad and a Touch Bar whose existence I only notice when I mute the speakers. On the sides, Apple kept the headphone jack and only two USB4 ports, which support speeds of up to 40 Gb / s for the Thunderbolt 3 and an external monitor with 6K resolution at 60 Hz.
For me, connections (or the lack of them) are the big drawbacks of the latest MacBooks Pro. Intel versions still allow you to choose a four-port configuration, but notebooks with M1, at least in the initial batch, only have a choice of two ports. It’s little, especially considering that one of them will be used most of the time to keep the notebook plugged in. And, five years later, I still haven’t overcome the extinction of MagSafe and the memory card reader.
Screen and sound
The MacBook Pro’s 13-inch Retina display remains one of the best on the market, standing out mainly for its brightness, which is strong enough to see the image in any lighting condition, thanks to the good contrast level. The black is quite deep and the volume of colors is most likely greater than that of your TV. The resolution of 2560 × 1600 pixels requires no introduction and makes it almost impossible to see individual pixels with the naked eye.
The speakers are good, although they don’t have the same vigor as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which reaches higher volumes. The mids are clear, favoring the voices and creating that pleasant sensation of defined sound. The bass is far from impressive, but it’s already a snap if you want to watch a movie on Netflix without using headphones.
Keyboard and trackpad
After being criticized and forced to run several repair programs, Apple didn’t let the keyboard ruin the whole party. Although I had no problems with the butterfly keyboard and liked the thinner and quieter buttons, it is a fact that the scissor mechanism is more familiar to most people. In the new MacBook Pro, the keyboard works without surprises, has backlit keys to help typing in the dark and remains with the American layout, without cedilla.
The trackpad, on the other hand, has remained one of Apple’s biggest hits for years. It responds well to multi-touch commands, has a glass finish that favors the sliding of the fingers and brings the Force Touch technology, which is very transparent to the user: if no one said that the trackpad does not move when clicking, no one would notice. I usually use an external trackpad to keep the notebook taller on a stand, but the integrated trackpad is more than enough for you to get around.
Performance and battery
So we came to the most important point of the new MacBook Pro. Apple showed good hardware numbers, promising 2.8 times more performance compared to the Core i7 quad-core used in the previous generation, in addition to an integrated graphics card five times faster than Intel Iris Plus. These jumps would be impressive in themselves, but they still came with a doubled autonomy, from 10 to 20 hours, maintaining practically the same battery, which had a marginal increase from 58 to 58.2 watts-hours.
After four weeks using the new MacBook Pro, you can say that yes, the Apple M1 is all of that. For the past few months, I’ve been using a 16-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Core i9 octa-core and AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics card. It is a setting that makes many people drool and that, on the Apple website, costs absurd R $ 35,299. I am not the type of user who would benefit most from Apple Silicon, as video editors or developers, but I would switch architecture without blinking because everything is noticeably faster and more efficient.
Video meetings are one of the most mundane tasks we have discovered in the pandemic. At the Tecnoblog, we use Google Meet, which consumes unbelievable processing and easily activates the 16-inch MacBook Pro fan, which doesn’t last much more than three hours out of the socket doing something so routine. The new MacBook is not even warm, and estimates say I could hold the meeting for eight or nine hours (but I hope that never happens).
Another task that gives an idea of the power of the Apple M1 is in Affinity Photo, image editing software that I use on a daily basis and is already compiled for the new architecture. I have a simple macro that resizes a group of images in 4K to Full HD, adds a watermark and applies sharpness, saturation and contrast filters to all of them. The Core i9 was obviously fast at that and was able to process 15 images in eight seconds. But the M1 completes the same action in two seconds.
Although I no longer edit videos on Tecnoblog, I had to run something heavier to see how far the M1 could go against a 16-inch monster with a dedicated graphics card. So, I installed Final Cut Pro, created a 21-minute project and exported everything in 4K at 30 fps with ProRes 422 codec, creating a final file of more than 90 GB. The Core i9 with the Radeon Pro 5500M rendered everything in 10min29s. The M1 did everything in 8min32s.
There is one more detail: this test was done with the two MacBooks unplugged and with 100% battery. The 16-inch MacBook Pro with Intel ended the process with 85% of battery remaining, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 was still at 100% battery. That’s right, the hand didn’t even move (but it’s worth noting that the charge dropped to 99% a minute later).
In addition, during heavy processing, one of the MacBooks remained silent and gave a light “warmth”, while the other heated up a lot in the region above the keyboard and made a loud fan noise. This shows that both processing power and energy efficiency are out of the curve, and that we are facing a rare significant advance in the industry.
In a simpler battery test, I was able to get close to the autonomy promised by Apple. On Safari, running a 4K video at 60 fps on YouTube in full screen, with brightness at 300 nits (equivalent to about 80% of the maximum), the 16-inch MacBook Pro with Core i9 spent 8h34min to reach 10% of charge, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 took 14h20min to reach the same level.
It is obvious that the larger MacBook screen consumes more energy, but we are still talking about a six hour difference. In addition, it should be noted that the 16-inch MacBook Pro has a huge 100 watt-hour battery, the maximum capacity allowed in an airplane cabin and almost double the 58.2 watt-hour on the 13-inch model . So, you can see that size is not a document.
The MacBook Pro’s autonomy with M1 is also impressive on a typical workday. On none of the days, after nine hours on, with Slack, email application, text editor and five or ten tabs on Safari, I ended up with less than 30% battery power. I remember having similar, but still less, autonomy on a MacBook Air. On a MacBook Pro, this is the first time.
All tests were carried out with final versions of macOS Big Sur, which finally leaves 10 aside to adopt 11 as the version number. For those who have a Mac with Intel, the big change is in the look, which approaches iOS and brings a Control Center in the menu bar and remodeled widgets. But those who have already left for the M1 have the bonus of the App Store, which allows you to install iPhone and iPad applications on the Mac.
I didn’t have much expectations about these iOS apps running on the Mac, and in fact, they don’t seem to be a priority for either developers or Apple. The interfaces made for mice are very different from those made for touch screens – and the sensation of gambiarra is very present in a few iPhone and iPad applications that I tested on the MacBook, such as Overcast and Any.do, which require making some gestures that are counterintuitive on the trackpad.
I was able to test a few iOS apps because most developers, especially the well-known names like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, chose not to allow their iPhone and iPad apps to be installed on Macs. Considering the only satisfactory usage experience of those in the store, you can understand why. So don’t expect to see YouTube, Instagram or Netflix anytime soon running on a native MacBook application.
Games have also never been a strength of the Apple platform and this should not change, not least because the situation has gotten a little worse with the architectural change. With an Intel chip, you could still install Windows on a MacBook and run the countless PC games, although I find that a waste of money, since Apple has never bothered to put video cards optimized for games on Macs. With the M1, the best solution for now is, perhaps, to buy a PlayStation 5.
As for the architecture transition, the process is being very fast on the part of the developers. All Apple applications are obviously already compiled for the M1, which includes Final Cut Pro and Xcode. But Adobe, Microsoft, Serif and other large companies that create professional software were also quick to adopt the new architecture.
I just couldn’t run Google Drive File Stream, which creates a virtual disk drive on macOS and replicates the folder structure in the cloud on a local file system; this software depends on an extension (more specifically a kext) that has not yet been developed for the new architecture. All other programs I use have already been ported or run smoothly with the Rosetta 2 translator.
As a rule, I do not recommend buying any first generation products: they always have some negative point that will certainly be corrected in the successor. But the Apple M1 is an exception. The first MacBook Pro with the Apple chip not only met my expectations, it surpassed all of them. And look, I was eager to get my hands on Macs with ARM architecture well before they came true: the first time I fanned this idea was in 2015, when the Apple A9X on the iPad Pro surprised the market.
Apple followed a conservative path on the MacBook Pro, changing the engine without moving the chassis. But the internal changes have been so positive and significant that it is difficult to even think about buying a notebook with Intel again. The Apple M1 surprises by its strong sustained performance without even getting warm. And the battery impresses because it lasts even longer than I would expect on a MacBook Air, only with much more power.
Everything that could go wrong on Apple’s first MacBook Pro with a chip didn’t. On the developers’ side, the transition is fast, with most applications already running natively on Apple architecture. And even those who still depend on Intel x86 instructions perform flawlessly with Rosetta 2: it is only possible to note that this is not an emulated application when analyzing the Activity Monitor, because the performance loss is imperceptible in practice.
Not all users are served by the first batch of Macs with Apple Silicon, like those that use external GPUs or run software that requires more than 16 GB of RAM. It is a matter of time before Apple launches computers for these audiences; if the schedule is met, iMacs, Macs Pro and a larger MacBook Pro with a more powerful chip should arrive by 2022. From what the M1 has already delivered, I look forward to knowing what an M1X or M2 with 12, 16 or 20 cores will have to offer.
It is true that the MacBook Pro remains a very expensive product and there is no sign that this will change in the future. But the truth is that it came to show how beneficial an optimized set of hardware and software can be. For a company or even a professional who depends on a lot of processing capacity on a daily basis, the cost becomes marginal and the machine pays for itself with performance gains.
Anyone who was already a Mac user and had the ability to buy such a machine in the Intel era, now does not even have to look back. If this was the first demonstration by the Apple processor team, I can’t wait to see the next ones.
MacBook Pro (Apple M1)
- Battery lasts a long time (even)
- Amazing performance
- Compact and well-finished design
- So cold that the fan won’t even turn on
- Trackpad remains one of the best on the market
- Display with high brightness and excellent definition
- X86 apps that need deeper access won’t work
- I miss the time that the MacBook Pro had enough ports
- Operational system: macOS 11.1 Big Sur;
- Screen: 13.3 inch IPS LCD (Retina) with 2560 × 1600 pixel resolution, 500 nits brightness, DCI-P3 color range, True Tone technology;
- Processor: Apple M1 octa-core up to 3.2 GHz with eight-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine;
- RAM: 16 GB;
- Storage: 1 TB flash memory;
- Connections: two USB4 ports (Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort), 3.5 mm headphone jack, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0;
- Camera: FaceTime HD with 1280 × 720 pixel resolution;
- Drums: 58.2 watts-hour (up to 17 hours of browsing and up to 20 hours of video playback) with 61-watt USB-C charger included;
- Size: 30.41 × 21.24 × 1.56 cm;
- Weight: 1.4 kg.