The MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 Review

Or, the laptop Apple should have given us in 2016.

I’m not much of a tech “reviewer”. In fact, I gave my own little review of the MacBook Pro M1 earlier this summer. At the end of that review, I said:

Ultimately, I am going to be returning this laptop back to Apple. As much as I want to keep it… It’s rumored that MagSafe is coming back… I’m hoping with the rumors I’m hearing about the M1X/M2, we’ll have a couple more [USB] ports. The M1 can only drive a maximum of two displays. … There are workarounds though using a DisplayLink dock, but ultimately I want the other stuff too. Ultimately, I am hoping the rumor mill is true and the M1X/M2 brings us the additional USB ports and dual display support. If that is true, I will be pre-ordering the second I am able to.

I kept to my word. I preordered the second the store opened.

I must say that I was excited watching the presentation. I pre-ordered a base-model 14″ M1 Pro.

? Magsafe
? Ports
? Drive more than 2 monitors???


Going on the first 24 hours with this thing, I can easily tell you that this is what Apple should have given us in 2016. Had this been released in 2016, the praise would have been better. Sure, we might have “dongle hell” but it wouldn’t be as bad. The thing I absolutely hate is the lack of USB-A because I still have some legacy devices. But honestly, Apple dragged people (albeit kicking and screaming) into modern day. In 2021, however, all you need now is a USB hub and a couple of these adapters.

“Thicc” Bois

So yes, these new laptops are thicker than the generation they replace. But they need to be! You can’t demand something thinner than paper but demand that it also include something thicker than the object itself.

Yeah, I have no idea what people actually expected. This wouldn’t have worked.

If you find yourself in the camp of people complaining that the new Macs are “too thick”, but also complaining that the old Macs are “dongle hell”, then you need to step back and ask yourself, “who has wronged me and why am I just an angry person?” Either plug in your dongle and stop whining or buy the new MacBook Pro and be grateful you have your ports back.

When I compared Mag Safe 3 to the previous generation, I think that would have worked. Mag Safe 3 is thin and I think Apple designed it so thin so they could bring it back to the MacBook Air, which will be thinner than these MacBook Pros and probably closer to the previous generation.

For some comparison, here’s my Early 2011 next to my 2021.

It’s not that thick.

And here’s the 2021 next to my 2020.

It’s marginal.

Differences between the M1 and M1 Pro

So here’s where things from my previous review don’t hold weight. While the M1 architecture is a great and very efficient platform, the M1 Pro is doing more than the M1. There’s also a larger, brighter, display and an amazing upgraded sound system to power. In turn, there is a big difference in battery life.

I’m currently working off of my last full charge. Some rough math, I’ve gone from 100% to 63% in ~6.16 hours. My Intel i7 2020 MacBook Pro has gone from 100% to 50% in less time. It spent yesterday afternoon unplugged from noon until 10:27 am today (now – as I’m writing this) with very little usage. That’s sad.

Honestly, I don’t think I’m going to see ~16 hours of on-screen time with a single charge, but it’s still better than what I had.

The Notch

I’m sure this is going to get most people. Unfortunately, the notch is here. And this goes back to my point about the thickness. You cannot have a 1020p image sensor in a thin bezel. When you complain the bezels are too thick and the web cam is “bad” (720p isn’t bad for some Zoom calls and Teams meetings), you can’t be surprised when Apple gives you both in a compromised package. Honestly, I don’t care about the bezels. I think the bezels on my 2020 MacBook Pro are fine. I never used the web cam anyways.

However, Apple might have an issue on their hands. In a picture posted to reddit, a user showed off their MacBook Pro running RStudio. However, if you look close, there’s a menu hidden by the notch.

How this is going to be handled, I don’t know. I’m not sure if the menubar is in restricted space or if developers have an API to control it. With adaptive resolutions, it could be an issue. Apple may have to build it into software to provide an option to push the menu bar down below the notch and black out the top of the display. We’ll have to wait and see.

Closing thoughts

The new MacBook Pros are beautiful, powerful machines. They really put the “pro” back in MacBook Pro.

The price is a bit steep, but expect similar features coming to the MacBook Air. Maybe not all the features (like HDMI, SD card reader), but I can see Mag Safe making a return for sure.

I’m just happy to have a laptop I can hold onto again.

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