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Following the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro's recent hardware refresh that added the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, what exactly do the latest machines bring to the table and is it worth upgrading from the previous generation?

Apple-MacBook-Pro-M2-Feature-Blue-Green.jpg

The current 14-inch model starts at $1,999 and the 16-inch model starts at $2,499. Upon the launch of the latest models, the 2021 MacBook Pros were discontinued and are no longer available from Apple's main storefront. Units of these slightly older machines are likely to still be available via Apple's refurbished store and third-party retailers for significantly reduced prices. Buying a 2021 model second-hand is also an option.

First-time MacBook Pro‌ customers or those upgrading from a much older device may be wondering whether it is worth buying a 2021 model, so it will be important to weigh up exactly what was added with the latest version. Likewise, existing users of the 2021 MacBook Pro may be wondering if it is worth upgrading to the latest model or sticking with their current device.

See the detailed breakdown below for each new feature, change, and improvement that was added with each ‌high-end Apple silicon MacBook Pro compared to its direct predecessor:

2023 MacBook Pro

  • M2 Pro or M2 Max chip
  • Up to 12-core CPU with eight performance cores and four efficiency cores with M2 Pro and 12-core CPU with eight performance cores and four efficiency cores with M2 Max
  • Up to 19-core GPU with M2 Pro and up to 38-core GPU with M2 Max
  • 16GB or 32GB unified memory with M2 Pro and 32GB, 64GB, or 96GB unified memory with M2 Max
  • Wi‑Fi 6E (802.11ax)
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • HDMI 2.1 port
  • Battery life of up to 18 hours with 14-inch model and 22 hours with 16-inch model

2021 MacBook Pro

  • M1 Pro or M1 Max chip
  • Up to 10-core CPU with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores with M1 Pro and 10-core CPU with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores with M1 Max
  • Up to 16-core GPU with M1 Pro and up to 32-core GPU with M1 Max
  • 16GB or 32GB unified memory with M1 Pro and 32GB or 64GB unified memory with M1 Max
  • 802.11ax Wi‑Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • HDMI 2.0 port
  • Battery life of up to 17 hours with 14-inch model and 21 hours with 16-inch model

Final Thoughts

With only a minor update in 2023, the 2021 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models are still a very good option if you can get them for a sufficiently low price. It is only worth paying more to get the latest model if you want a future-proof device to keep for the long term, where slightly better performance, battery life, and specifications like Wi‑Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, and HDMI 2.1 are likely to be more beneficial through successive software updates and as connectivity needs with other devices evolve. Even then, it is difficult to recommend buying a 2023 MacBook Pro at full price over an equivalent, heavily discounted 2021 model.

  • New to Apple silicon MacBook Pro: Buy 2021 model over 2023 model unless future-proofing is vital
  • 2021 MacBook Pro user: Don't upgrade to 2023 model unless peak performance and expanded capabilities are required

If you already have a 2021 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro, it is unlikely that upgrading to a 2023 model will be worthwhile. The latest model's improved performance, additional hour of battery life, and improved connectivity specifications are unlikely to make a meaningful difference to most users. Only professionals who require absolute peak performance with the M2 Max chip, a 96GB memory option, or an HDMI 2.1 port to connect to 8K or 240Hz external displays will see substantial benefits. It is also worth noting that in many countries outside the United States, the 2023 MacBook Pro models come with a hefty price hike – meaning that it will also likely be more economical to stick with 2021 model you already have.

Article Link: 2021 vs. 2023 MacBook Pro Buyer's Guide
 
Last edited:

bradman83

macrumors 6502
Oct 29, 2020
466
914
Buffalo, NY
For computers it's almost never worth it to upgrade a single generation unless there's something specific you need like more RAM or storage that your current machine lacks. If you're on an M1 Pro or Max system today you likely won't see a noticeable increase in real-world performance (to justify the price of a new machine) until we hit the M4 or M5 generation.
 

sw1tcher

macrumors 68040
Jan 6, 2004
3,771
10,036
Up-to 40% improved performance is a massive productivity boost that will easily pay everyone to upgrade.
Is Apple really making this up to 40% improved performance claim?

Even so, an up to 40% improved performance doesn't mean an up to 40% productivity boost. No way this new MBP is going to cut my work day from 10 hours to 6 hours. 🤣
 

dumastudetto

macrumors 601
Aug 28, 2013
4,345
5,859
Los Angeles, USA
Is Apple really making this up to 40% improved performance claim?

Even so, an up to 40% improved performance doesn't mean an up to 40% productivity boost. No way this new MBP is going to cut my work day from 10 hours to 6 hours. 🤣

Yes Apple showed peak performance can exceed 40% gains over previous generation. With the right attitude and radically improved human approach, you could cut your work day easily if you properly immerse yourself in the technologies you use to get important work done. Apple can only provide you with the tools. You need to use them correctly.
 

Aggedor

macrumors 6502a
Dec 10, 2020
607
577
Yes Apple showed peak performance can exceed 40% gains over previous generation. With the right attitude and radically improved human approach, you could cut your work day easily if you properly immerse yourself in the technologies you use to get important work done. Apple can only provide you with the tools. You need to use them correctly.
This website is hilarious.
 

Akrapovic

macrumors 65816
Aug 29, 2018
1,006
2,100
Scotland
Yes Apple showed peak performance can exceed 40% gains over previous generation. With the right attitude and radically improved human approach, you could cut your work day easily if you properly immerse yourself in the technologies you use to get important work done. Apple can only provide you with the tools. You need to use them correctly.
You're hilarious, my guy.

----

Anyway, these laptops are a decent incremental upgrade. MBP workhorses don't need to reinvent the laptop every year or two. They just need to add speed and minor feature updates. That's what we got here. After 4-5 revisions, the jump from what you bought before to what is current is large enough to justify.
 

wigby

macrumors 68020
Jun 7, 2007
2,488
2,312
Up-to 40% improved performance is a massive productivity boost that will easily pay everyone to upgrade.
That's only the neural cores. Productivity boosts are always great (especially when they don't cost more) but unless you are rendering and outputting video or animation files all day, I really don't think there's much of a noticeable saving of time here. I just bought the 2021 model so maybe I'm bitter, but I do know I saved at least $700 buying a custom build that I can barely justify as it is. I believe I represent a large chunk of MacBook Pro owners out there - 70% of time spent browsing, word processing and emailing and 30% of time spent working in pro apps like FCP, PSD and Indesign.
 

bobbydaz

macrumors regular
Jan 24, 2009
194
52
UK
Yes Apple showed peak performance can exceed 40% gains over previous generation. With the right attitude and radically improved human approach, you could cut your work day easily if you properly immerse yourself in the technologies you use to get important work done. Apple can only provide you with the tools. You need to use them correctly.
but we're humans, not machines. We will always find ways to waste time on meaningless, less important stuff regardless of how performant our Macs are :)
 

whitby

macrumors regular
Dec 13, 2007
135
128
Austin, TX
Is it worth upgrading from the M1 variants to the M2 variants? My view is that no, it is not worth upgrading, but that if you are upgrading from an older 2019 or earlier machine, you should buy the new machines. Obviously if you are new to Apple, then the latest versions are the best choice. I use iStat to monitor my machine (M1 Max 16' MBPro in this case) and it shows how much CPU, memory etc. you use over time and it is surprising how little I use most of the time. Occasionally I saturate the CPU e.g. focus stacking work but for most of the time I am probably using only 10 to 25% of all those cores. The machines are a nice upgrade but will probably not make a material difference to how I use my machine or what I do with it, which is the definitive measure, to me.
 

sw1tcher

macrumors 68040
Jan 6, 2004
3,771
10,036
Yes Apple showed peak performance can exceed 40% gains over previous generation. With the right attitude and radically improved human approach, you could cut your work day easily if you properly immerse yourself in the technologies you use to get important work done.
Or just be a quiet quitter 🤣
 
Ill say it again. Apple could have differentiated if they had released a 14 & 16" MacBook Pro in Midnight. But they didn't.

Going to wait for the re-designed 3nm M3 Macbook Pro 2024 (Midnight) hopefully. The 2021 & 2023 model looks very identical. Also, notice the battery life you are only bound to gain 1-hour extra battery life. I don't think that's compelling but it's something.
 

tstafford

macrumors 6502a
Sep 13, 2022
513
430
For computers it's almost never worth it to upgrade a single generation unless there's something specific you need like more RAM or storage that your current machine lacks. If you're on an M1 Pro or Max system today you likely won't see a noticeable increase in real-world performance (to justify the price of a new machine) until we hit the M4 or M5 generation.
This is where I'm at with the iPhone too. I'm now holding my iPhone 3-4 years and my computers about the same. Only exception was moving on from 24" iMac which was a bit of a disappointment.
 
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Akrapovic

macrumors 65816
Aug 29, 2018
1,006
2,100
Scotland
Just for those who don't understand productivity - as a developer, writing code doesn't go faster because my CPU goes faster. My build times are faster (let's say 40%), but I'm not building constantly. I only build a few times an hour, or even day. So I'm only getting the 40% boost during builds.

A faster CPU doesn't make a human type or think 40% faster.
 

sw1tcher

macrumors 68040
Jan 6, 2004
3,771
10,036
My main question is for me, is it worth going from my m2 air to a m2 14 inch pro.
If this new M2 Pro / M2 Max MBP offers up to 40% improved performance and the M1 Pro / M1 Max are faster than the regular M2 in your MacBook Air, then that means you'll see a more than 50% improvement in performance. Per dumastudetto, you can now cut your work day in half. Half!!! Get it. Now!!! 🤣
 

bradman83

macrumors 6502
Oct 29, 2020
466
914
Buffalo, NY
Ill say it again. Apple could have differentiated if they had released a 14 & 16" MacBook Pro in Midnight. But they didn't.

Going to wait for the re-designed 3nm M3 Macbook Pro 2024 (Midnight) hopefully. The 2021 & 2023 model looks very identical. Also, notice the battery life you are only bound to gain 1-hour extra battery life. I don't think that's compelling but it's something.

Apple is likely not going to expand color options for the Pro models, they've always restricted the Pros to silver and space gray. You'll be waiting for a while unless a 15" MacBook Air suits your needs.
 

whitby

macrumors regular
Dec 13, 2007
135
128
Austin, TX
Unfortunately upgrades like this are often an issue, especially when the new machines looks exactly the same as the old one. I am not suggesting that simply changing the externals without an internal performance enhancement will sell more machines but making some external changes will help sell new internal changes. Color, extra ports etc. all help. Iterative improvements to cars are usually accompanied by easy changes to the exterior (usually the plastic front and rear valances) and I know cars are definitely sold on appearance and not just improvements to engine and suspension etc. so the comparison is not completely valid, but you know where I am going with this.

So I can completely see that the idea that the new machines should have been accompanied by added color options or an added USB C port on the right hand side etc. might have helped the case for the people who want the latest machine come what may. But is not Apple's way. They tend to stick to the same design for years which makes sorting them out later on very difficult.... Professionals do not care, they just need the performance. However the prosumer and consumer may/do care and an aesthetic change would be a nice improvement for each iterative change to a machine. For me, the current drab utilitarian appearance of the new MBA and MBPro (note that this is my opinion only) needs updating. I use this sad grey slab which does a great functional job but is really boring. My yellow 24" iMac (to match the kitchen decor where it resides) is much better (again not to everyone's taste) and somehow is more fun. I am human after all....
 
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fbr$

macrumors 6502
Feb 6, 2020
488
959
Is Apple really making this up to 40% improved performance claim?

Even so, an up to 40% improved performance doesn't mean an up to 40% productivity boost. No way this new MBP is going to cut my work day from 10 hours to 6 hours. 🤣
Do you realize your math is flawed? In your math, a 100% improvement in performance would cut your work day from 10 hours to zero hours, and a 200% improvement would cut 10 hours to -10 hours (negative 10 hours).

The correct is: a 40% improvement relates to a 1.4 factor, so you have to divide 10 hours by 1.4, and you get 7.14 hours, not 6 hours.

In your math, you multiplied 10 hours by 0.6 resulting in 6 hours, but the 0.6 factor is related to a 40% decrease, not to a 40% increase. 😉
 
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