Is the new 16-inch MacBook Pro a pro-only machine?

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Apple’s latest MacBook Pro launches offer high performance for creative professionals, but is it really only for those who need the performance, or can those who can afford the purchase justify it by bragging and knowing that they have the best available Mac?

The new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models have signaled a happy return to the shape of Apple’s most professional laptop. High performance, improved screens and the return of much-needed ports are definitely benefits for those looking for a portable workstation.

This is especially true of the 16-inch version, thanks to its large screen and the recent discovery of a High Power Mode ‘for GPU-intensive work.

It certainly seems to be the epitome of a professional computer. Mean it?

What does a MacBook Pro do at a time when Apple Silicon has completely rewritten the script for performance, power efficiency, and democratization of computing power?

More importantly, what if you just want a 16-inch MacBook Pro for nothing more than the kudos that come from owning one?

An acquired taste

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is great in every sense of the word. The new square and chunky design language is matched by the heavy weight and presence of the 16-inch version.

This notebook clearly means business, but it also feels far larger than the 2019 Intel version, despite being only 0.02 inches thicker and 0.4 pounds heavier.

If the 16-inch MacBook Pro is too big, there is always the 14-inch model.

The 16-inch MacBook is therefore an acquired taste and will be far too cumbersome for many people – especially those who travel regularly with their notebook.

If your intended use of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is not in the professional realm, it may pay to get your fingers in one first to assess the size and weight. Do you really want to drag someone around just to brag and know you have it?

Professional video work

We all have different definitions of what is professionally needed for a laptop and there is no right or wrong answer.

For example, let’s take a professional video editor. They will spend most of their time on 16-inch MacBook Pro in applications like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro.

Basically, these people are sharpening up on special options within M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. The laptop itself simply becomes a tool for the job, with an identical workflow applied to it on a daily basis.

The new M1 Max chip can surpass a Mac Pro with the Afterburner card in video encoding and decoding.

The new M1 Max chip can surpass a Mac Pro with the Afterburner card in video encoding and decoding.

Specifically, this relates to the included Media Engine, part of the new chips that provide hardware-accelerated encoding and decoding of video in H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW. This element and the enhanced version of the M1 Max do pretty much the same work as the Afterburner card for the Mac Pro, and can also do so with a higher level of performance.

Conversely, a non-professional owner is more likely to throw a variety of tasks on the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Fiddling with creative work, playing the strange game, and editing family photos may not strain this hugely powerful notebook, but will make it a more interesting ownership experience than professional work that runs to the deadline.

“Needs” versus “desires”

There are two types of MacBook Pro buyers – those who need such a device and those who just want one.

The author of this article has stayed at both camps and can happily report that neither camp is a bad place to find themselves.

If you need a MacBook Pro for your business, it will always be a good investment – provided you make sense of your choice of specifications. It’s not that hard to think about the benefits you would get from buying a MacBook Pro with sky-high performance, but there may not necessarily be many benefits to some upgrades unless you absolutely need it, such as storage.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is a powerhouse, but also a status symbol.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is a powerhouse, but also a status symbol.

But at the same time, if you just want a 16-inch MacBook Pro because you love Apple products, there is no harm in placing your hard-earned money on the most expensive you can afford. It will be expensive and you will probably not be able to use it to its full potential, but it will easily handle the vast majority of tasks you can throw at it.

It’s also worth remembering that regardless of the Pro moniker, Apple does not make these laptops with professional, revenue-generating tasks in mind. It knows that a significant portion of its customer base just wants them as expensive, much-loved toys.

This was included at the start of the Unleashed event last month, where we were treated to the captivating sight of a young guy in his garage using a MacBook Pro to create a tune from Apple-inspired sounds.

So is the 16-inch MacBook Pro just a professional laptop? Absolutely not.

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