Photo by TheRegisti on Unsplash

A couple of thoughts about the M1 Max in a 14" MacBook Pro

Finally, Apple delivered the 14" MacBook Pro I ordered in late October 2021; receiving it just before year’s end. The bare facts: M1 Max because, why not. 32 GB RAM and a meagre 1 TB SSD. Nothing too outlandish, just having a peek into the powerhouse of the M1 series.

And it’s true: that thing appears to be way more massive than expected, even after watching a couple of YouTube-videos about it. It is heavier, but not really heavy. The 14" manages to have a more prominent bulk, without being as bulky as those ridiculously looking gaming laptops, while also being less obtrusive, which I like.

Things I like

The keyboard, now with black keys on a black background, is fine but a bit more noisy compared to the 13" MacBook Pro. Still one of the best on any laptop I’ve used so far. The much-hyped full-sized function keys are a waste of space, in my opinion, the half-sized ones were just fine. Not that I use them that much.

On the bright side: the display. Gorgeous. Better contrast, smaller bezels. The notch isn’t really worth mentioning, its there and that’s it. Never liked to have too many items in the menu bar, but if you love having a packed menubar, you might have some problems. Battery life is, as expected, spectacular. As is the performance. I just happen to have an older Blender project lying around I did in 2018, optimised for the somewhat odd resolution of 5460×1080. I did that on a Mac Pro at the time and I can safely report that the M1 Max, using Metal on a Blender alpha build, was more than twice as fast rendering all 28 seconds of animation. And finally, for the first time since Apple did release the M1 series, I was able to hear the fan. Bottom line: plenty of power there.

Things I like less

The elephant in the room: ports. It appears that everybody is happy with the ports on the machine. That is, everybody except me. I don’t need HDMI, SD-card or MagSafe. My main display at work is using USB-C, while also charging it; at home it’s Thunderbolt 3, charging it as well. The two presentations I had to do this year were online anyway, and I’d expect any venture I might travel to in the future to have a USB-C connector available. Talking about travelling, I’d also discard the MagSafe cable (not really, just keeping it in the box). Why I would add another single-use cable, apart from the one for the iPhone, to my luggage is beyond me, and I still hope for a USB-C iPhone.

Miscellanea

Speakers and microphones are also as good as expected, better even than those on the last 16" Intel MacBook Pro. Clarity has improved much, but my impressions might be a bit on the shady side, considering that Microsoft Teams was the main cause for the noisy fans on the 16", affecting the impression — and I use teams several hours a day. No fan noise was, apart from battery life, the most exciting experience with the M1, as it is with the M1 Max.

Moreover, and that is just my impression after two days of use, there are no bluetooth woes, so far. No stuttering using the Magic Trackpad, no odd disconnect-reconnect with my AirPods, nothing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here are my results

Do I need that kind of performance? No. That poor MacBook Pro will probably shut down the eight performance cores permanently within the next couple of days, being offended by me not using its power properly, or at all.

Is it worth the upgrade if you already have an M1?

How would I know that? I do like the larger and better display. That alone might be worth it, if you’re using it for a lot of hours each and every day like I do. The added heft is something else, if you’re used to what an Air is weighing. Maybe waiting for next year’s successor to it is an option, yet Apple hasn’t really announced anything, and the rumour mill is just that — rumours, nothing I’d take serious. And then we’re finally back to where we were before the first M1 MacBook saw the light of day — the price. For a basic 14" you can get two M1 Airs. Just saying.

Just for comparisons’ sake: What I do all day.

Writing. Lots and lots of writing. Occasionally compiling some custom software I did create for my work, which happens to be administering a rapidly growing estate of Macs. Doing very light graphics very rarely, and, even more rare, the odd training video. Remoting on employees Macs and on the servers I’m responsible for. Endless video calls using Microsoft Teams. Keeping a large software catalogue current using munki. That about sums it up, nothing heavy. Performance of any M1 so far exceeds my needs in any conceivable way, for now. Will I keep the M1 Max? You bet I will. It’s the display, in all honesty, which I immediately fell in love with. It is that good. Heck, give me an 14" with the regular M1, and I’d probably as happy as the fox in the henhouse.

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Macweazle Fischer

Macweazle Fischer

Current job: Macadmin. Former professions, unordered: soldier, salesclerk, showmen worker, writer, bartender, call center agent, tv director, editor, programmer