2021 MacBook Pro Review / Discussion


  • Apple finally fixed their biggest flaw (besides their contempt for repair shops) and added in proper I/O again.
  • Thunderbolt 4 ports x3 - Would be nice to just have one and replace the other two with USB 3 ports since most peripherals still don’t use Thunderbolt. You really only need one for docking. And if you don’t have a dock, the only other thing it’s really useful for is external SSD’s. So you really don’t need three of them. Maybe two to be safe, and swap one with a USB 3 port.
  • HDMI - supports 144Hz at 1080p. It may go higher, but that’s the highest refresh rate monitor I have. Anyways, it was nice to see that because my experience with external monitors with laptops in the past has not been great. It’s also probably not the most useful port because if you’re docked then you don’t need it, but it is nice to have for hooking up to TV’s in hotels or projectors and stuff like that without a dongle.
  • SD Card slot - I’m not sure what they were thinking removing it in the first place, other than trying to sell more dongles. This is an absolute necessity for photo/video work.
  • MagSafe - It’s one of the best things about Apple laptops IMO. Compared to previous models, this one hangs on a lot better. It’s more like the old MacBook Airs than the old Pros, and that’s good because the old Pros came off pretty easily. Never have to worry about tripping over the cable and breaking your power adapter, the little pin inside, or pulling your laptop off a table. Oh… and the cable is super thin and braided, so it’s very portable.
  • 3.5mm - Haven’t used yet, but according to Apple it can power high impedance headphones. I’ve just been using my AirPods Pro, which it automatically prompts me to connect to when nearby. BUT I have been wanting to do some audio work, and the idea of just being able to plug in headphone without an external gear sounds really nice.


  • I haven’t done any scientific battery tests yet, but it’s been awesome. I spent about 30 minutes typing notes in Pages last night and it stayed at 100%.
  • There is a low power mode in System Preferences, but there is a noticeable dip in performance (even just browsing the web) and the battery life is great even while not using it, so I’m not going to use it.

General Performance

  • I haven’t been doing any editing lately so I can’t really compare it to Windows.
  • Startup literally only takes like 10 seconds.
  • Waking up from sleep is almost instant.
  • Apple apps like Pages open in like half a second. So much nicer than MS Office or LibreOffice.

WoW Classic Performance

  • So far the only game I’ve played on it has been WoW TBC Classic. Steam library is pretty limited, and I don’t see if improving unless market share improves, but with a $2,000 starting price I don’t think it’s going to. Nobody is buying this laptop as a gaming machine. Here’s a comparison with my XPG Xenia 15.
  • To test this, I just took a flight path from Undercity to Arathi. It’s not the most scientific test, because there are definitely more graphically demanding areas like large PvP battles and raids. But I’m not high enough level to do those yet.
  • XPG Xenia 15 ($1,500, i7 9750H, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, 1660Ti) - With graphics completely maxed out at 1080P, it was able to maintain an almost constant 144 FPS when staying in one place, which is what I have the framerate capped at to match the refresh rate of the screen. It dipped to 116 FPS at one point, but just for a split second. Usually maintained around 130 FPS during the flight.
  • MacBook Pro ($2000, base model) - In Undercity, it maintained a constant 120 FPS, which is what the framerate is capped at to match the max refresh rate of the screen. During the flight path, the lowest it dropped to was 76 FPS, and that was just for a split second. Most of the time it maintained about 90 FPS. Not amazing considering price and how hyped up the M1 Pro chips are, but definitely playable. I also hooked it up to my 1080p 144Hz monitor and it gained about 20 FPS overall. Still not as good as the XPG Xenia, but better than the higher native resolution of the laptop screen.
  • ONE THING TO CONSIDER about the MacBook Pro is the whole time I was playing there was ZERO FAN NOISE. The fans literally didn’t come on the entire time. The Xenia fans were running pretty loud and it was still noticeably more hot to the touch.


  • The keyboard has a nice feel to it. The travel is pretty short, but probably about the same as most laptops. It’s not as shallow or clicky as the 2016 MacBook Pro, so that’s nice. There is zero keyboard flex, and the switches have a nice tactility and resistance to them which provides a very premium feel. There is more noise than an average laptop keyboard, but I think it sounds really nice.
  • The black background should help the keyboard look cleaner for longer. On previous models, the silver/grey background was pretty easy to see finger gunk.


  • FINALLY Apple put a high refresh rate screen in their laptops. This one goes up to 120Hz with ProMotion, which is just fancy speak for having the ability to reduce framerate when not needed to save battery.
  • Still doesn’t feel as good as 144Hz monitor with FreeSync on my desktop. And even compared to my Xenia, which doesn’t have GSync, the MacBook Pro doesn’t feel quite as smooth. I don’t think the extra 24 FPS would really make a difference. I’m assuming it’s because of the variable refresh rate VS a constant 144Hz.
  • In terms of color and sharpness it’s techcnially the best out of the three. But I still prefer matte screens, so it’s not as pleasant to look at as my desktop or Xenia screens.
  • There’s a tiny gap between the notch and top of the window (top bar extends past the notch a bit), and another one between the dock and bottom of the screen. This is only like a few millimeters total, but it would make more sense if there was no gap.

Fan Noise and Cooling

  • I haven’t been able to get the fans to kick on hardly at all, but they did come on while using Handbrake. They were extremely quiet, to the point where if I wasn’t really listening for them I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.


  • Feet pads feel like a weird plastic/cork combo. They’re kind of soft, but not grippy at all. Probably more durable than rubber

Why I might return it

  • So many of the apps in the App Store are subscription-based. MS Store is the same way. Linux is the place to be, but not available on M1 Macs.
  • I don’t like the idea of having to pay $80 a year for Parallels to run games because of lack of native support. This isn’t entirely Apple’s fault, but the fact of the matter is there aren’t many native games that I’m interested in.
  • Compatibility aside, it’s still not as powerful for gaming as a laptop that’s two years old and $500 cheaper.
  • The 14" screen feels surprisingly small compared to the 15" screen on my Xenia. I used to like the taller aspect ratio on Apple laptops, but I’ve kind of adjusted to 16:9 and I think it’s better for multiple windows. I have the same amount of usable screen height, plus about 1.75" more width on the Xenia. Of course the laptop is larger, but not so much that it matters.
  • While I hate the direction that Windows is going and I really like how well all the Apple stuff works together (I have an iPhone 12 Pro, Airpods Pro, and Apple Watch 6), I also don’t like the idea of being completely buried in the Apple ecosystem.
  • I don’t really like macOS styling, and Apple gives you very little customization options.
  • The 14" overall proportions feels pretty cramped. It’s definitely enough to work with, but coming from my 16" at work it feels like my hands are always going to slip off the edges.
  • Even though it’s a really nice computer, the idea that I practically can’t fix anything on it if something breaks is becoming a bigger turnoff the more I think about it.

So far I plan on keeping it, mostly because the battery life is awesome, it has good enough power, MagSafe, and it’s super quiet. It’s a great user experience. BUT I don’t really need it, so I’m still on the fence. I have until January 16th to return it thanks to holiday extended returns. So if there’s anything you’re curious about I might try it, as long as it doesn’t cost money or destroy my computer :stuck_out_tongue:


Things to add / consider >

Other software, instead of parallels perhaps crossover (The team behind WINE) Crossplatform support… Otherwise thanks for the review, :+1:


For now it says requires macOS 11 or older, so I’m not able to test it on the new computer because it comes with macOS 12. But if I end up keeping it, I’ll definitely give it a try.


Can you try video compression using handbrake and h265 codec? Both software compression and he accelerated (videotoolbox)?

I’ve been using pkgsrc from NetBSD on MacOS and its surprisingly good. I’m not a big fan of how Brew packages are installed as user writable.

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Yea probably not so sane defaults for brew, but that can be changed with some terminal tinkering or some other way…

Do you mean that you want to see a Type-A port? Because all of the Type-C ports support both TB4 and USB4 which in turn supports legacy USB.

The upsides to TB over USB are many… Can list a few…

TB has a bit more socket security, better / safer protocol security, (hardware/firmware level) much higher connection speeds / bandwith and also much higher output power delivery.

None which where USB comes close…


True, but regardless it’s physically impossible to plug my mouse into a TB port and have it still work.

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Dongle life; C to A for your mouse. Not that you’d want to anyway, MacOS has atrocious mouse acceleration.


Nah. That’s what kept me away from the 2020 M1.

I don’t have a problem with docks at home, but I’m not carrying dongles with me everywhere. Luckily the Razer Naga Pro has bluetooth and it’s good enough for gaming on the go.

I’m not sure which metrics you’re looking for exactly, but this shows the speeds at least. This is with a 25-second clip of 4K 60fps HDR video from the iPhone 12 Pro. Fans kicked on during the first time, but I had to like actually listen for them. They’re very quiet. For the second time using VideoToolBox I didn’t hear the fans come on and it was super fast.

I should have recorded the exact times, but you can kind of get an idea with the fps and also how much time and % is remaining.

homebrew https://brew.sh/

macos has a theme community but 11 and 12 dropped so fast alot of catchup is being made like windows 11 and rainmeter

this is my big fear too i had one hardware issue and grabbed apple care and hope the 4 years is worth it for my m1mm

linux support is in the works and the t2 ship was blown open a while back with a type c hack so soon everything will be avalible i wonder if the type c hack works on the new pros

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Oh cool :slight_smile: I wasn’t aware that it was possible to really customize anything other than the wallpaper, light/dark theme, and the dock.

Mostly I just want to get rid of the gap below the notch and the gap below the dock.

Ya I’m thinking I’m going to do the $99/year plan, once I decide whether or not I’m keeping it.

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its a unix based system if you poke you can edit everything like linux
the update speed with 12 and them changing ui still makes it not worth it

nearly every update ruins personal edits be warned as they are always “perfecting the ui” :face_vomiting:

but mac os X has a fuck ton of themes ui edits and more

there are also non app store dmg pkg files to do things

i use garage band osmixer https://mixxx.org/ audacity and alot of analog stuff for my sound making
you dont need to suck apples tit for everything you are just paying the early adopter tax of waiting for devs to do their work

personally i donate to a few projects hoping things roll faster

there will be vms other then parrelells soon enough im not worried

hell qemu is updated and emus windos fine

Ah, I’m not sure if there’s any point in even trying then tbh. I don’t like to wait on updates, except sometimes I’ll give the major OS upgrades a month or so to iron things out.

That I know of, I was just hoping the App Store would be a super neato place, but it feels more like it’s just a place for Apple to promote apps that are willing to give them a cut of the money.

im using 12 and homebrew installs just fine

I mean crossover specifically. It might work, I haven’t tried it, but it says macOS 11 or older.

installing cross over now on 12

got steam installed
valhiem installed
playing the game

any tests you want done?

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Okay. Seems legit I’ll compare both to my 4500u laptop. My 5820k used to get around 17 on software. I am hoping video toolbox gets native support.

Just out of curiosity, is that 1080p or 4K? If it is 4K that is dang impressive. In 4K my 5950x gets 12 ish via software transcode.

Alright cool :slight_smile: I’d be interested to see some comparisons with other laptops too. I think I’ll try it on my Xenia and desktop. I doubt it’ll beat my desktop though.

This was in 4K 60Hz HDR from the iPhone 12 Pro.