The Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 has arrived and reveals some problems
The new MacBook Pro 14 we orderd last week in Apple's online store has finally arrived (no press sample from Apple). It is the entry-level SKU of the MacBook Pro 14 with the new M1 Pro SoC, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB PCIe-SSD storage as well as the new Mini-LED panel including 120 Hz refresh rate (ProMotion technology). We share our initial impressions of the device in the article below before the comprehensive review will be published in a couple of days.
Case - Like an old MacBook Pro, but bulkier
As soon as you unpack the new MacBook Pro 14, you will notice the bulky and heavy chassis. This is primarily because the chassis is not tapered, and a comparison with the old MacBook Pro 13 (2013-2015, with MagSafe, HDMI, and card reader) is very interesting. The old model appears much sleeker and more compact in a direct comparison, even though the footprint as well as the weight (around 1.6 kg) are almost identical. The current MacBook Pro 13 on the other hand is much more compact. Thanks to the pretty sharp front edge and the high base unit, you might also get problems with imprints, which can get uncomfortable.
The build quality is on the familiar high level, but our test unit actually has a small dent underneath the MagSafe connector. The new MagSafe cable is silver, even when you get a space gray chassis. The new keyboard, which is now completely black (also the spaces between the keys) is definitely a matter of taste, but we prefer the old design with black keys and silver spaces. The addition of familiar ports is good, but such a high chassis could have easily accommodated a regular Type-A USB connector as well.
Display - 14-inch Mini-LED with Notch and PWM
Let's start with the camera notch, which is located in the upper area of the screen and it is obviously immediately visible. Apple basically uses a 16:10 panel with additional space next to the notch, which are used for the menu bar. When you use apps in fullscreen mode like Safari with YouTube, for example, this area disappears and you use the regular 16:10 screen. The subjective picture impression of the panel is very good and you can also notice the 120 Hz compared to the regular 60 Hz mode.
Like the Mini-LED screen on the current Ipad Pro, we can once again detect constant PWM flickering at 14.8 kHz at all brightness levels. The frequency is very high, but it might still cause problems when you are sensitive to the flickering. We are still testing the brightness, because our first results showed that the luminance is capped at just 500 nits for SDR contents.
Performance - M1 Pro with 8 CPU cores
Last year's Apple M1 was equipped with four efficiency cores and four performance cores. The base model of the new M1 Pro gets two efficiency and six performance cores. This means the single-core performance is comparable, only the multi-core tests show an advantage of around 30% over the regular M1 SoC. The graphics performance is better, even though it looks like a scaling effect (8 to 14 GPU cores).
Apple uses a new speaker system with 6 modules and the sound is very good, but we cannot notice a major difference to previous MacBooks, which already had very good speakers. We will obviously continue tests and measurements, but you should not expect too much when you already have a MacBook.
First Impressions - Are the expectations too high?
The expectations are very high, but the results are somewhat sobering after a couple of hours with the new device. The panel brightness in particular is still tricky and there is also PWM flickering at every brightness level, which is already familiar form the Mini-LED panel of the iPad Pro.
The chassis is very bulky for Apple's standards and the high base unit with the sharp front edge can be a problem when you are typing. The performance of the entry-level M1 Pro is not that great, either, but we will continue our tests and benchmarks (and check the efficiency) before we can give a final verdict.
Please leave a comment if you have suggestions for the full review and we will try to implement them for the review, which will probably be published this weekend.