MacBook Pro M1 Max Initial Impressions

Last week I ordered a new MacBook Pro, and then a few days later, I changed my order to something even beefier. The net result was a ship date around Christmas. While I was okay with the idea of waiting for this dream Mac to arrive, I couldn’t help but check the local store on Tuesday’s public release, just in case. Since I’d upgraded to the loaded one, I figured there might be a chance. “Turns out” they had my exact build in stock: even my chosen color, Silver. So I canceled my online order and reserved the one in the store. A few hours later, I had a new precious on my desk. Here are a few thoughts after using the 16″ MacBook Pro M1 Max for a few days.

The Build

  • Everyone has made the Titanium MacBook comparison, but it rings true. Particularly with my silver color, it looks familiar.

  • The radius of the curves on the bottom is bigger than that on top. I expect that is because they don’t have the room on top, given that crazy screen, but I dig the look. Also, it’s effortless to pick up with that nice curve underneath.

  • It’s big and heavy compared to my prior M1 MacBook, but Apple makes it, so it is still pretty svelt and nothing like those massive gaming laptops on the market. Indeed, when I read reviews that list “big and heavy” as a downside of the MacBook Pro, it makes me want to throw something through the window. We finally got Apple to come around to the idea that “big and heavy” is a good idea for professional laptops. Please don’t give them a reason to go back “thin and light” (and underpowered).

  • There are big vents on the underside. If you would like to set your laptop on your lap, I’d caution against it. Instead, get a lap desk, so you don’t block those vents.

The Guts

  • Jason Snell called this MacBook Pro the Mac Pro that fits in your backpack. He was right. I’ve never used a computer so powerful. This shows itself in so many ways.

  • 4K Renders, no problem. I’m doing a lot more 4K video as of late, and the M1 was perfectly capable of handling it. However, it did require me to make tea and generally leave the computer alone for a while. I’m now getting 4K renders around three times as fast. Screencast renders are even quicker. It’s just ridiculous.

  • The other thing that stands out is disk access speed. Moving data on the internal SSD (even massive files) feels near-instantaneous.

  • Overall, all the paper cuts that came with delays resulting from multiple builds and render times are gone. All that forced downtime is gone too. Now I can make tea when my body needs a break, not because my computer forces me to.

That Screen

  • The screen is fantastic. I don’t know how else to put it. Vivid colors to the edge, all the way around the screen. Whether you are watching a video or working on your task list, you will love this screen.

  • A separate point about the screen is the text sharpness. I’ve been using an M1 MacBook for the last year, and I never had any problem with how it rendered text, but the MacBook Pro renders text just that little bit sharper (because it is genuinely a 2x screen), and it was immediately noticeable. It’s like when you go to the optometrist, and they flip the lens in their lens doohicky, and suddenly everything is really clear.

  • Apple has a lot of statistics about the screen, but I’d recommend going in and looking at one at a local Apple Store if you can. I expect folks will buy these computers without needing all the processing power but just because they want that screen. It is that good.

  • I’ve heard from readers who say they won’t buy this machine because of the notch. I disagree. The only reason the notch exists is that they pushed the screen so close to the top edge. It’s been a few days, and I don’t think about it. It is, however, to play hide and seak with the mouse pointer behind the notch. (You can do that.)

The Ports

  • Nice to have them back. I’ve got the new MacBook Pro hooked up to all my gear. The only dongle is an Ethernet to USB-C adapter.

  • The SD Card reader is really shallow. If third parties try to make a flush mount USB storage card, they aren’t going to have much real estate to work with.

Heat and Fans

  • The fans, when they run, are not loud.

  • So far, I’ve only noticed the fans running when doing long 4K renders.

Battery Life

  • As with all Apple Silicon Macs, the battery life is excellent. Especially when you consider how much more power this M1 Max chip requires.

  • I ran it all day yesterday off the battery. That included a full day of work and a bunch of test renders. I made it through the day fine.

  • I think the M1 Pro/Max chips are being stingy about harnessing all that extra compute power. For most tasks, I expect it’s doing most of the work off the two efficiency cores and turning off the more powerful cores until it genuinely needs them.

Comparison with M1

  • This is a professional laptop made for heavy lifting. It is shockingly better at big compute projects than the M1 (and the M1 is no slouch).

  • I can detect no performance difference between this fully loaded expensive MacBook Pro and my M1 MacBook for low-performance tasks like web browsing, writing, email, and the like. I expect that is because (as mentioned above) that work is not taxing and being done on the more power-efficient cores. Put simply, if that is the only type of work you do, the MacBook Air and fully loaded MacBook Pro are going to perform about the same for you.

  • The screen, however, is much better than the M1 MacBook screens. If that is the selling point for you, get the lowest-priced MacBook Pro (but make sure to get enough storage). If I were not doing so much video work these days, that is what I would have done.


I love this Mac and the options it gives me. I think Apple nailed the balance between power, efficiency, and battery life in my initial testing and usage. The screen is the biggest surprise for me. I knew it was better but had no idea how much better until I started using it.