Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) review – Apple teaches the industry a valuable lesson with this one

Can Apple take the crown for the best performance laptop on the market? We are going to answer this question, and a lot more in the following paragraphs, but first we want to talk about why this device is really special. Usually, manufacturers rely on Intel or AMD when it comes to processors and AMD and NVIDIA for their graphics cards. The truth is, Intel was in its own league for a long time, and this led to only incremental upgrades being made. Of course, Apple didn’t like that. The result of this is the M1 chip. And now, it has found its way to the 16-inch MacBook Pro and is more powerful than ever.

We were able to get ourselves a version packed with the M1 Max SoC with the largest available 32-core graphics card. It is significantly bigger than the M1 Pro, and the M1, but it aims to fight with the best of the best currently on the market. And although the graphics card is “integrated”, Apple states that it will beat the RTX 3080 in some productivity applications. Spoiler alert – tried gaming on it, and it’s a beast.

But a laptop isn’t only about performance. When it costs an arm and a leg, you need to have more than one reason to buy it. Well, due to the efficiency of this chip, Apple speaks about 21 hours of video playback. This would be insane. Especially, when you have a 16.2-inch nearly 4K display. It is branded as a Liquid Retina XDR, which translates to a Mini LED backlight, which offers a super high contrast ratio. Also, you get the ProMotion – another marketing gimmick, which means that the refresh rate of the panel is 120Hz. But what makes the deal sweeter is that it has a variable refresh rate.

There is too much to talk about, so as usual, let’s take the laptop out of the box, and see what we get to play with.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/apple-macbook-pro-16-late-2021/

Contents


Specs Sheet

Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) - Specs

  • HDD/SSD
  • up to 8000GB SSD
  • RAM
  • up to 64GB
  • OS
  • Mac OS X
  • Battery
  • 100Wh
  • Body material
  • Aluminum
  • Dimensions
  • 355.7 x 248.1x 16.8 mm (14.00" x 9.77" x 0.66")
  • Weight
  • 2.10 kg (4.6 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

All Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) configurations

#CommissionsEarned

What’s in the box?

Inside the package, you will find a USB Type-C to MagSafe cable, a 140W power adapter, and the MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021).


Design and construction

Do you know what is interesting? The laptop feels clunkier than it actually is. There may be a ton of reasons for that, but we feel that the main one is the rounded corners on the bottom panel, as well as the size of the keyboard deck. Nevertheless, the MacBook Pro 16 is only 16.8mm thick and weighs 2.2 kg (2.1 kg for the M1 Pro model). Needless to say, the structural integrity of the laptop is amazing, with practically zero flex from the base, and little-to-no bend from the lid.

As ever, the lid opens easily with a single hand. The motion is smooth, while the hinges are stable not to bounce too much when you bump the screen. By the way, there is a sheet of glass protecting the display. There is no protection for your eyes, however, when you see the notch cut out in the middle of the top part of the screen. As we said in the 14-inch MacBook Pro review, this might be to house an eventual introduction of FaceID, but we can’t know that for sure. Generally, the software handles it well, as it turns everything around it black in full screen, or uses the surrounding pixels for the toolbar.

Yet, we had an occasion or two, where some menu items would be hidden beneath it, or as it happened with the monitoring software we used, whole sections could remain unseen. Nevertheless, this was more of an issue with the smaller 14-inch laptop, than this one, because the screen real estate is quite big. Something further enhanced by the thin bezels around the display, and the awkwardly satisfying rounded top corners.

Now that we take a closer look at the keyboard, we are pretty sure this is the reason for the illusion of clunkiness. So, the typing experience isn’t something super impressive as other people would tell you. Yes, it is miles better than the ill-fated butterfly one, but a regular ThinkPad will offer a much more pleasant experience in our view. Nonetheless, the feedback is clicky, while the key travel is average. Thankfully, the fingerprint reader is not matte, and won’t be smudged every single day.

Since we’ve mentioned the Lenovo ThinkPad series, we can’t help but state the obvious – it is a bit unfortunate that Apple still doesn’t provide spill-resistance to their keyboards, even when the price tag is this high. Given the fact that most of the people using this laptop will surely need coffee 24/7, it’s like flying to the Maldives in a paper airplane.

Let’s put this aside, and focus on something more positive though – the touchpad. It is so big, that we are sure we’ve seen smaller dogs. And although the keyboard was far from the best, the trackpad is literally the best the laptop world has to offer. It is super precise, the gliding is smooth, and it has pressure-sensing capabilities, which allows you to draw with it. Not bad. Another not bad feature here is the Audio. There are two grills – one on each side of the keyboard. Their main purpose is to let you sharpen your pencil, but also to let the sound from the speaker come out.

This is not the only speaker cutout though, as the bottom panel has two slits on its sides. They also let cool air inside the laptop, while the warm one is being pushed through two vents on the back.

Ports

This year, the Apple MacBook Pro 16 offers a MagSafe charging plug, three Thunderbolt 4 connectors, an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and an audio jack. This matches the I/O on the 14-inch MacBook Pro.


Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

Getting inside of this laptop is pretty easy, provided you have a Pentalobe screw bit. So, there are 8 screws holding the bottom panel in place. After you undo them, lift the sides of the panel with a plastic tool until you hear a pop. Now that you have released the clips, just slide the panel out of the machine.

Unfortunately, there is nothing much to do here, except for peeking inside. The battery has a 100Wh capacity. On its flanks, you will find the speaker setup.

Storage-wise, there are configurations spanning from 512GB all the way up to 8TB, with the chips (and the empty SSD chip space) visible above the battery.

What’s next is the cooling solution. Apparently, Apple thinks that one heat pipe is enough for the M1 Max, as they provide two heat sinks, and two turbine-stile fans with a quite big profile. Thankfully, the memory is also cooled by a metal heat spreader.


Display quality

Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021)’s display is equipped with a next-generation Liquid Retina XDR panel. Its backlight comprises 10216 Mini LEDs spread across 2554 local dimming zones. This allows for a very high maximum brightness and an exceptional contrast ratio for true HDR content.

It has a 16.2″ (41.1 cm) diagonal and 3456 x 2234 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 16 (Late 2021) 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 494 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 16 (Late 2021)’s color gamut coverage.

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

Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) 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 16 (Late 2021)’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.


Sound

Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) possesses the most powerful speaker setup on a laptop. There are no deviations across the frequency spectrum, while the sound is deep and loud.


Storage

We got the 1TB version of this laptop, and its storage was extremely quick. Surprisingly, the Read and Write speeds were really close to each other with 5288 MB/s and 5251 MB/s respectively.


Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This device’s 100Wh battery delivers a whopping 22 hours and 18 minutes of Web browsing, and 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 paired with a 10-core M1 Pro, or a 10-core M1 Max SoC. Both of them sport 8 performance, and 2 efficiency cores, and are built on the ARM architecture.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) CPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the CPUs that can be found in the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which Apple MacBook Pro 16 (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)

As you can see, when it needs to rely on Rosetta to translate the apps, the performance is downgraded. However, looking at the natively-supported Cinebench R23, the results are pretty impressive. The ARM-based M1 Max is slightly behind the Core i7-11800H, and the Ryzen 9 5900HS but only if they are cooled properly.

CPU Benchmarks Cinebench R23
Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) M1 Max (10C/32C) 12390
Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 Pro (8C/14C) 9564
Dell XPS 15 9510 11315
Dell XPS 17 9710 12155
ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16 GU603 14038
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503 13451
CPU Benchmarks single/multi Geekbench 5
Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) M1 Max (10C/32C) 1778/12672
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

In the graphics department, you get the 16-core GPU with the M1 Pro, and you have a choice between the 24 and 32-core graphics card for the M1 Max.

3DMark Wildlife Extreme
Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) M1 Max (10C/32C) 20276
Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 Pro (8C/14C) 9142
Lenovo Legion 5i (17″ Intel, 2021) [RTX 3060 (130W)] 18176
Dell XPS 15 9510 [RTX 3050 Ti (45W)] 8633
MSI Sword 15 [RTX 3050 Ti (60W)] 10618

Our unit was equipped with the most powerful version, and you can see that it outperforms the RTX 3060 (130W) in the cross-platform 3DMark Wild Life Extreme.

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 16 (Late 2021) M1 Max (10C/32C) 1285 fps 947 fps 758 fps 63590 65799
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

It appears that either the Rise of the Tomb Raider is well optimized, or GPU integrated into the M1 Max SoC is an absolute beast. It stacks up with the 100W version of the RTX 3080 up to Very High settings, with the difference being only 6% in favor of the NVIDIA GPU. At maximum details, something goes wrong for the M1 Max, and it drops behind with a significant margin.

cs-go-benchmarks

CS:GO 1920×1200, Low (Check settings) 1920×1200, Medium (Check settings) 1920×1200, MAX (Check settings)
Average FPS 151 fps 143 fps 133 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)
Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) M1 Max (10C/32C) [1920x1200p] 152 fps 124 fps 99 fps 58 fps
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503 [RTX 3080 (100W)] – fps 150 fps 106 fps 77 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/M1 Max 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) M1 Max (10C/32C) 62°C 72°C 93°C
Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 Pro (8C/14C) 58°C 64°C 92°C
Apple MacBook Pro 13 (M1, Late 2020) 38°C 48°C 71°C

Stability

Apple M1 First run Middle run Last run Amount of runs Score
Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) M1 Max (10C/32C) 12354 12347 12323 29 12348
Apple MacBook Pro 14 M1 Pro (8C/14C) 9553 9555 9547 22 9552
Apple MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020) 7688 6823 6660 16 6905
Apple MacBook Pro 13 (M1, Late 2020) 7591 7659 7631 18 7648

During this test, the M1 Max was drawing about 44-45W of power and gradually climbed in temperature to 93°C at the end of the test. What is interesting, is that the fans were super quiet, and ran at speeds of 1850-2050 rpm. Gaming, on the other hand, required 85W of power, with the fans ramping up to 3500 rpm, which made them audible, but still pretty quiet.

Comfort during full load

While the middle of the keyboard warmed up to about 44°C, the laptop remained really comfortable to use. Especially in the noise department.


Verdict

Without a doubt – the M1 Max is the most powerful chip ever to be put on a MacBook. This sounded an awful lot like Apple itself. Let’s paraphrase – the M1 Max is the best all-around laptop chip to be ever made. In certain applications, it is the fastest, while in others gets beaten by the Core i7-11800H, and the Ryzen 9 5900HS. However, with the 32-core graphics card trading blows with the 130W RTX 3060, and the 100W RTX 3080 in different applications and even games, we can’t express our admiration enough. And it turns into anticipation for the future, where AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA step up their game.

But do you know what really made the difference to us? The fact that the performance doesn’t deteriorate the slightest when on battery power. The M1 SoCs are so efficient, that they provide 100% performance, even when the laptop is not plugged into the wall. This, combined with the extremely quiet experience during heavy workloads, makes the MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021) the best productivity, content creation, workstation, etc. laptop on the market.

In addition to that, you get the 100Wh battery pack, which delivers more than 22 hours of Web browsing, or nearly 16 hours of video playback on a single charge.

Apple MacBook Pro 16 (Late 2021)’s display has a Mini LED backlight with impressively high maximum brightness, excellent contrast ratio, very high resolution, and wide color coverage. Ultimately, its presets allow the users to choose from various sRGB and DCI-P3 scenarios. Contrary to what most people think, brightness is adjustable, and the values you set in the customization options translate perfectly to the real world. Unfortunately, the panel uses a rather aggressive PWM, even though its frequency is high.

Of course, this is not the only disadvantage, as you won’t be able to upgrade your laptop down the line. The storage is soldered to the motherboard, while the memory is unified with the SoC. Yes, this provides a huge bandwidth for the CPU and the GPU, but future expansion is out of the question.

Usually, we would complain when we find this amount of I/O on a laptop. And we won’t be sparing Apple just because they have improved year on year. But interestingly, the SD card reader, HDMI connector, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports might be enough in a world of BlueTooth, and USB Type-C external hard drives.

At the end of the day, you get great build quality, premium feel (albeit from an old-looking shell), and arguably the best speaker system on a laptop, which puts some BlueTooth speakers to shame. This laptop is a game-changer. It definitely needs improvements in some areas, but given the fact how easy the macOS is to use, and the plug-and-play nature of the ecosystem, we think that Apple taught the entire industry a valuable lesson. And we expect (and hope) the industry to respond.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/apple-macbook-pro-16-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
  • The best speaker setup on a laptop
  • 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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