Apple MacBook Pro 14 review – top-notch device that has been long-awaited

We were really excited from the time rumors started appearing about the new Apple M1 chips. There was confusion about the name, their specs, and their performance. And now that they are here, it’s only natural to put them through their paces. Today, we have the MacBook Pro 14, which aims to be revolutionary. Not only for the SoC it houses, but because of what it is. It is the long-awaited machine, that breaks the gap between the 13-inch, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Weirdly, it has more in common with the latter.

This time, Apple has really produced a Pro model, that’s worth talking about. First and foremost, it can be equipped with 8 or 10-core M1 Pro, or with the 10-core M1 Max. This includes pretty much all of the graphics configurations. We dive deeper into the specs further down the review, but first, we have to pay tribute to the display.

The so-called Liquid Retina XDR panel has a 14.2-inch diagonal, 3024x1964p resolution, and a Mini LED backlight. Yes, ProMotion is here with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. We say “up to” because the frequency is changed depending on the content. Speaking of which, the usual suspect is here as well – True Tone.

You know, Apple threw all modesty in the garbage can when they unveiled this device and the new 16-inch MacBook Pro. And to do that, you have to be very confident in the product you have made. And you know what? This one doesn’t come cheap, whatsoever. Thankfully, you get an 8TB option, but we see this as a mortgage-worthy investment.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/apple-macbook-pro-14-late-2021/

Contents


Specs Sheet

Apple MacBook Pro 14 (Late 2021) - Specs

  • HDD/SSD
  • up to 8000GB SSD
  • RAM
  • up to 64GB
  • OS
  • Mac OS X
  • Battery
  • 70Wh
  • Body material
  • Aluminum
  • Dimensions
  • 312.6 x 221.2 x 15.5 mm (12.31" x 8.71" x 0.61")
  • Weight
  • 1.60 kg (3.5 lbs)
  • Ports and connectivity
  • 3x USB Type-C
  • 4.0, Thunderbolt 4, Power Delivery (PD), DisplayPort
  • HDMI
  • 2.0
  • Card reader
  • SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Ethernet LAN
  • Wi-Fi
  • 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth
  • 5.0
  • Audio jack
  • 3.5mm Combo Jack
  • Features
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Touch ID
  • Web camera
  • FHD FaceTime
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Microphone
  • Three Microphone Array
  • Speakers
  • 6x Speaker System with force-cancelling woofers
  • Optical drive
  • Security Lock slot

What’s in the box?

Thankfully, Apple was kind enough to include a charger inside the box. And there’s no way of doing otherwise since the laptop comes with a MagSafe cable. Our unit features a 67W USB Type-C charger, while 10-core M1 Pro and M1 Max models will be bundled with a 96W power adapter.


Design and construction

Although it has made questionable decisions in the past, Apple has always delivered on build quality. This device is not an exception with its aluminum enclosure. Both the lid and the base are extremely robust and resistant to flex. We can see that the design features on the outside are extremely simplistic, with a glossy Apple log on top, and embossed lettering on the bottom. Interestingly, the bottom edges of the device are rounded, something quite reminiscent of the 2010 MacBook Pros.

Nevertheless, the machine is pretty thin at 15.5mm, while the weight of 1.6 kilos speaks of something going on on the inside. By the way, the glass cover of the display also adds to the weight, but greatly improves the structural support of the lid.

Speaking of the display, it is time to take a look at the biggest betrayal – that of Apple to their users. Yes, we are talking about the notch. It is absolutely useless in our view, although Apple states that the newly-designed camera makes good use of it. Perhaps they didn’t complete a FaceID system in time and will be bringing the feature in the near future? Of course, we are just thinking out loud, as there is no such information from Apple. If we exclude this nonsense, the display has incredibly thin bezels, with the top two corners being rounded – another rare thing to see on a laptop.

Thankfully, the hinge mechanism is the same as always – super smooth and stable, while allowing single-hand opening of the display.

Then, there is the base. There, you will find the keyboard, which is painted in a different color than the rest of the laptop. Without a doubt, this looks weird. However, the keyboard itself, is actually not bad, with average key travel, and very responsive and clicky feedback. Also, the power button houses the fingerprint reader, which is now matte, instead of the glossy one on the older devices. Additionally, there is no TouchBar here either.

Surrounding the keyboard, there are two speaker grills – something that is now synonymous with Apple. And below the keyboard, you will find the trackpad. It is not the largest out there, but it still has a decent size, super-accurate tracking, and the haptic mechanism we all love (or hate). Ultimately, this is one of the best touchpads on the market.

Turning the laptop upside down, we see a quartet of flat feet. Also, there are two slits on either side, that emit sound and let air in.

Ports

For the past few years, we’ve been really disappointed with the port selection on Apple devices. Now, things have changed – we are only mildly disappointed. Nevertheless, you get three Thunderbolt 4 connectors, an HDMI port, an SD card reader, an audio jack, and a MagSafe charging plug. Still, no regular USB Type-As, although they clearly have the space to do that now.


Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

To get inside of this device, you need to undo 8 Pentalobe screws. After that release the two clips holding it to the chassis by prying it through the two cutouts on the sides. Then pull the bottom panel and it will come off.

Inside, we see a 6-cell 70Wh battery pack.

Then, comes the storage. It is soldered to the motherboard, and you can see the chips being distributed on 4 spots above the battery. The
maximum configurable amount is 8TB. After that, you have the huge speaker elements, which surround the battery.

Here, you can see the cooling solution, which comprises a single heat pipe, two heat sinks, and two relatively small fans. Right beneath the cooling plate, there is the M1 Pro or M1 Max. The memory chips are placed above and below it. You can get the laptop with up to 32GB of RAM for the M1 Pro, and up to 64GB for the M1 Max.


Display quality

Apple MacBook Pro 14’s display is equipped with a next-generation Liquid Retina XDR panel. Its backlight comprises 8040 Mini LEDs spread across 2010 local dimming zones. This allows for a very high maximum brightness and an exceptional contrast ratio for true HDR content.

It has a 14.2″ (36.1 cm) diagonal and 3024 x 1964 resolution. Additionally, the screen ratio is 14:9, the pixel density – 254 ppi, their pitch – 0.1 x 0.1 mm. It has a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz (ProMotion), and it adapts depending on the content on the display. The screen can be considered Retina when viewed from at least 36 cm (from this distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).

Its viewing angles are great. We have provided images at 45 degrees to evaluate quality.

Also, a video with locked focus and exposure.

The peak maximum brightness of the Apple MacBook Pro 14 is 1600 nits with HDR content and 500 nits in the normal SDR mode.
In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from a uniformity perspective in the aforementioned SDR mode.
We measured a maximum brightness of 529 nits in the middle of the screen.

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people on HDTV and the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is an essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream device.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows Apple MacBook Pro 14’s color gamut coverage.

Its display covers 99% of the DCI-P3 color gamut.

Apple MacBook Pro 14 comes with very accurate presets with a pre-determined brightness, where the brightness slider is absent. However, Luminance can be changed by the user, and you can see the procedure in the images below.



Health impact – PWM / Blue Light

PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

Apple MacBook Pro 14’s backlight uses PWM for brightness adjustment. Moreover, it does so with a low fill coefficient. On the other hand, the negative effect is reduced by the high frequency of the flickerings. Yet, it still isn’t considered as very comfortable and safe for long periods of time in this aspect. The second image shows the results with the predefined brightness of three of the color presets.


Sound

Apple MacBook Pro 14’s six-speaker audio system sounds very good. It is one of the best out there, and we didn’t see any deviations across the entire frequency spectrum.


Storage

We got the 512GB version of this laptop, and its storage was extremely quick. We are talking about Read and Write speeds of 5449 MB/s and 4294 MB/s, respectively.


Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with the screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This device is equipped with a quite decent 70Wh battery pack. It lasted us for 17 hours and 10 minutes of Web browsing, or 15 hours and 40 minutes of video playback.

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.


CPU options

This laptop can be configured with Apple’s own M1 Pro and M1 Max SoC. They are built on TSMC’s 5nm node and come in configurations with 8 and 10 cores for the M1 Pro, and 10 cores for the M1 Max. Here, the results from Cinebench R20 are a bit deceiving, as the benchmark doesn’t have native support for Apple silicon. And although the scores in Cinebench R23 are closer, the 8-core M1 Pro is still on the back foot of the Core i7-11800H, and even the Ryzen 7 5800U.

Apple MacBook Pro 14 (Late 2021) CPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the CPUs that can be found in the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (Late 2021) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which Apple MacBook Pro 14 (Late 2021) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different CPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / CPU.

Results are from the Cinebench R23 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)

CPU Benchmarks Cinebench R23
Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 Pro (8C/14C) 9564
Dell XPS 15 9510 11315
Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro (14″) 9905
ASUS VivoBook Pro 14X OLED (M7400) 12608
CPU Benchmarks single/multi Geekbench 5
Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 Pro (8C/14C) 1764/9955
Apple MacBook Air M1 1732/7574
Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1 1727/7564
Apple iPad Pro 11 2020 1118/4636

GPU options

This year, Apple was quite generous with the graphics options, as it offers its M1 Pro chips with either a 14-core or a 16-core GPU, while the M1 Max can be found with a 24-core or a 32-core GPU.

3DMark Wildlife Extreme
Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 Pro (8C/14C) 9142
Dell XPS 15 9510 [RTX 3050 Ti (45W)] 8633
MSI Sword 15 [RTX 3050 Ti (60W)] 10618

You can see that in native tests, the 14-core GPU inside of the MacBook Pro 14 is sitting somewhere between the 45W and the 60W RTX 3050 Ti.

GPU Benchmarks GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 (1080p offscreen) GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 (1080p offscreen) GFXBench Aztec Ruins OpenGL (1080p offscreen) GeekBench 5 Compute OpenCL GeekBench 5 Compute Metal
Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 Pro (8C/14C) 818 fps 496 fps 394 fps 35262 38692
Apple MacBook Air M1 404 fps 273 fps 214 fps
Apple MacBook Pro 13 M1 407 fps 274 fps 215 fps

Gaming tests

We see a surprisingly good performance in gaming from the “slowest” graphics card of the bunch. We were especially impressed by the numbers in the Rise of the Tomb Raider, where it nearly matches the RTX 3050.

cs-go-benchmarks

CS:GO Full HD, Low (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, MAX (Check settings)
Average FPS 139 fps 130 fps 116 fps

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) Full HD, Lowest (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings) Full HD, MAX (Check settings)
Average FPS 117 fps 87 fps 51 fps 28 fps

Temperatures and comfort

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, using Cinebench R23 in loop mode. Keep in mind that because of Apple’s limitations we weren’t able to monitor the frequency of the Core. However, to assess the stability of the machine in long runs, we took the results it posted in the first, middle, and the last test it ran.

CPU temp.

Apple M1/M1 Pro 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
Apple MacBook Pro 14 58°C 64°C 92°C
Apple MacBook Air (Late 2020) 45°C 56°C 79°C
Apple MacBook Pro 13 (Late 2020) 38°C 48°C 71°C

Stability

Apple M1/M1 Pro First run Middle run Last run Amount of runs Score
Apple MacBook Pro 14 9553 9555 9547 22 9552
Apple MacBook Air (Late 2020) 7688 6823 6660 16 6905
Apple MacBook Pro 13 (Late 2020) 7591 7659 7631 18 7648

As you can see, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is really good at maintaining its performance for long periods of time. Interestingly, even the 8-core M1 Pro seems to be running quite hot. The reason for this is that Apple prioritizes comfort, as the fans can be barely heard. With third-party software, you will be able to max them out, but there is no particular reason to do so, especially with the SoC we just mentioned. If you were wondering, during the Cinebench R23 stress test, we were monitoring power usage of 34-37W.

Comfort during full load

Running the Cinebench R23 30-minute stress test was capable of putting this laptop to its limits. The maximum external temperature we measured was about 45°C in the middle of the keyboard, which coincides with the location of the SoC. Interestingly, during the first couple of minutes, the fans didn’t even spin up. Eventually, they did though, and the speed was between 2300 and 2500 rpm around the sixth minute, and 2800-3100 rpm at the 30th-minute mark. Even though it may seem fast, both fans were incredibly quiet to the extent of being barely audible. If you manually set them to their fastest speeds, they reach around 6000 rpm. Even in that setting, they qualify as pretty quiet.


Verdict

Perhaps the main reason you are here is to know if buying the MacBook Pro 14 is worth your hard-earned money. And let’s be frank – it is quite expensive. Even the base option will set you back some good $2000. First things first, we think that Apple once again outdid itself when it comes to the build quality. You get a 14-inch tank, which is extremely resistant to flex and has a premium feel.

Additionally, it sports pretty much the best speaker setup on the market, putting to shame the likes of Dell’s XPS 15 and 17. What is also expectedly great is the battery life. The 70Wh unit lasted us for more than 17 hours of Web browsing, or more than 15 hours and a half of video playback.

Apple MacBook Pro 14’s panel with a miniLED backlight is able to produce an impressive maximum brightness, excellent contrast ratio, high resolution, and super-wide color coverage. It features a lot of sRGB and DCI-P3-emulating presets, with the possibility to adjust the brightness to a specific value. Traditionally, we found that the values you set are extremely accurate in reality. Also, it makes use of a 120Hz “ProMotion” refresh rate, which results in a very smooth image (when you need it). On the other hand, the aggressive PWM can be considered as a disadvantage, even though the flickers have a high frequency.

Of course, there are other disadvantages. For some, the biggest one would be the lack of upgradability. You are stuck with what you get for the rest of this laptop’s lifeline (unless you are nimble with the soldering iron). Yes, the memory is fast, and the storage speeds are unmatched. But being forced to buy a more expensive product, because you will be limited down the line is simply uncool.

Also, there is a lack of USB Type-A ports. Thankfully, Apple was generous-enough this year to include an SD card reader and an HDMI port beside the three Thunderbolt 4 connectors. And then comes the notch. There is nothing to back it up here. On the other hand, the chances are high that if you buy this laptop, you probably own an iPhone. Apparently, Apple has found new ways to bring the devices in its ecosystem even closer together.

Jokes aside, the MacBook Pro 14 is a really good piece of machinery. With the number of natively supported apps increasing, M1 Pro is en route to becoming one of the best SoCs on the market. However, we still think that if you are a Windows user, you will probably stick to Windows laptops, and if you are a Mac user… Well, then you have one less reason to switch to another operating system.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/apple-macbook-pro-14-late-2021/

Pros

  • Exceptional performance from the new SoCs
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Three Thunderbolt 4 connectors + SD card reader and HDMI connector
  • Doesn’t use PWM
  • Great build quality
  • Very good battery life
  • Loud and dynamic speakers
  • 120Hz adaptive ProMotion display
  • 99% DCI-P3 coverage with a ton of presets
  • Mini LED backlight with high maximum brightness, and very high contrast ratio
  • Quiet during extreme workload


Cons

  • Still no USB Type-A ports
  • Soldered RAM and storage
  • Awkward notch on the display
  • Uses PWM

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