2021 MacBook Pros compared: how Apple’s laptops stack up

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Apple just announced new versions of its 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro explicitly designed around their new Arm-based M1 Pro and M1 Max CPUs. Both models are configurable with either CPU and can be equipped with up to 8TB of storage. Models that use the M1 Pro can have up to 32GB of unified memory, while models that have the M1 Max can be configured to have up to 64GB. They also feature more powerful speakers and a greater selection of ports, making them more versatile than the MacBooks that only offered USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4. (You no longer need a dongle for HDMI or SD cards.)

The last generation of MacBook Pro still has plenty of power, and for a while was the best option in terms of connectivity for Apple laptops. However, the advent of the M1 CPU in last year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro has changed what we expect from our MacBooks, a new bar that currently can’t be met by the older Intel and AMD-based MacBooks in most ways. If you’re a long-time Apple user, it’s hard to go wrong by upgrading to anything that uses the Apple Silicon architecture.

While all of the MacBooks currently available on the Apple store use some form of the M1 CPU, they’re all just a little bit different, so to help you weigh your options, we’ve put together charts comparing every current MacBook you can buy on the Apple Store, as well as another chart comparing current models to their predecessors if you’re someone that’s been waiting to upgrade. We even threw in the last MacBook Pro that included an HDMI port to show just how far we’ve come since 2015.

Here’s how they compare to older models

Specification 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021) 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021) MacBook M1 Air (2020) 16-inch MacBook Pro (Late 2019) 15-inch MacBook Pro (Early 2019) 15-inch MacBook Pro (2015)
Specification 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021) 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021) MacBook M1 Air (2020) 16-inch MacBook Pro (Late 2019) 15-inch MacBook Pro (Early 2019) 15-inch MacBook Pro (2015)
Starting price (at launch) $1,999 $2,499 $999 $2,399 $2,399 $1,999
Display 14.2-inch 16.2-inch 13.3-inch 16-inch 15.4-inch 15.4-inch
Resolution 3024 x 1964 3456 x 2234 2560 x 1600 3072 x 1920 2880 x 1800 2880 x 1800
True Tone Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Touch Bar No No No Yes Yes No
Pixels per inch 254 PPI 254 PPI 227 PPI 226 PPI 220 PPI 220 PPI
Brightness 1600 nits (peak brightness) 1600 nits (peak brightness) 400 nits 500 nits 500 nits 300 nits
Refresh rate Adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz Adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz 60Hz 60Hz 60Hz 60Hz
Dimensions 12.31 x 8.71 inches 14.01 x 9.77 inches 11.97 x 8.36 inches 14.09 x 9.68 inches 13.75 x 9.48 inches 14.13 x 9.73 inches
Thickness 0.61 inches 0.66 inches 0.63 inches 0.64 inches 0.61 inches 0.71 inches
Weight 3.5 pounds 4.7 pounds (M1 Pro), 4.8 (M1 Max) 2.8 pounds 4.3 pounds 4.02 pounds 4.49 pounds
Quoted battery life (wireless web) 11 hours 14 hours 15 hours 11 hours 10 hours 9 hours
Quoted battery life (video) 17 hours (Apple TV app) 21 hours (Apple TV app) 18 hours (Apple TV app) 11 hours (Apple TV app) 10 hours (Apple TV app) 9 hours (iTunes movie playback)
CPU Apple M1 Pro 8-core or 10-core or M1 Max 10-core Apple M1 Pro 10-core or M1 Max 10-core Apple M1 CPU 8-core Up to 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 CPU (6-core) Up to 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 CPU (6-core) Up to 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 (4-core)
GPU Apple M1 Pro 14-core, 16-core or Apple M1 Max 24-core, 32-core Apple M1 Max 24-core, 32-core Apple M1 7-core, 8-core Up to AMD Radeon Pro 5300M Up to AMD Radeon Pro 555X Up to AMD Radeon R9 M370X
RAM 16GB, 32GB or 64GB 16GB, 32GB or 64GB 8GB or 16GB 16GB, 32GB or 64GB 16GB or 32GB 16GB DDR3
Storage Up to 8TB NVMe SSD Up to 8TB NVMe SSD Up to 2TB NVMe SSD Up to 8TB NVMe SSD Up to 4TB NVMe SSD Up to 1TB PCIe flash storage
Ports 3 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 3 Port 3 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 3 Port 2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support 4 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 3 4 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 3 2 x Thunderbolt 2, 2 x USB 3.0, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 2 Port
Number of speakers 6 6 2 6 2 2
3.5mm headphone jack Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Front camera 1080p 1080p 720p 720p 720p 720p
Biometrics Fingerprint reader Fingerprint reader Fingerprint reader Fingerprint reader Fingerprint reader N/A
Power adapter Type-C, 67W or 96W Type-C, 140W Type-C, 30W USB-C, 87W USB-C, 96W MagSafe 2, 85W
Colors Silver, Gray Silver, Gray Gold, Silver, Gray Silver, Gray Silver, Gray Silver
Wireless options Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2

First the old

The new Pros have made some excellent strides in terms of their displays, with 120Hz refresh rates in all the available models, as well as improving the resolution and significantly raising the max brightness. The webcam has also received an upgrade to 1080p. While it’s no surprise that the new versions of the MacBook Pro trump their predecessors in just about every category in terms of performance, the race gets a little more competitive when stacking up the models that you can currently get on the Apple Store.

Current MacBook models compared

Specification MacBook M1 Air (2020) 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021) 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
Specification MacBook M1 Air (2020) 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021) 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
Starting price $999 $1,299 $1,999 $2,499
Display 13.3-inch 13.3-inch 14.2-inch 16.2-inch
Resolution 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1600 3024 x 1964 3456 x 2234
True Tone Yes Yes Yes Yes
Touch Bar No Yes No No
Pixels per inch 227 PPI 227 PPI 254 PPI 254 PPI
Brightness 400 nits 500 nits 1600 nits 1600 nits
Refresh rate 60Hz 60Hz 120Hz 120Hz
Dimensions 11.97 x 8.36 inches 11.97 x 8.36 inches 12.31 x 8.71 inches 14.01 x 9.77 inches
Thickness 0.63 inches 0.61 inches 0.61 inches 0.66 inches
Weight 2.8 pounds 3.0 pounds 3.5 pounds 4.7 pounds (M1 Pro), 4.8 (M1 Max)
Quoted battery life (wireless web) 15 hours 17 hours 11 hours 14 hours
Quoted battery life (video) 18 hours (Apple TV app) 20 hours (Apple TV app) 17 hours (Apple TV app) 21 hours (Apple TV app)
CPU Apple M1 CPU 8-core Apple M1 8-core Apple M1 Pro 8-core or 10-core or M1 Max 10-core Apple M1 Pro 10-core or M1 Max 10-core
GPU Apple M1 7-core, 8-core Apple M1 8-core Apple M1 Pro 14-core, 16-core or Apple M1 Max 24-core, 32-core Apple M1 Max 24-core, 32-core
RAM 8GB or 16GB 8GB or 16GB 16GB, 32GB or 64GB 16GB, 32GB or 64GB
Storage Up to 2TB NVMe SSD Up to 2TB NVMe SSD Up to 8TB NVMe SSD Up to 8TB NVMe SSD
Ports 2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 3 support 2 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 3 support 3 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 3 Port 3 x USB 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4 support, SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe 3 Port
Number of speakers 2 4 6 6
3.5mm headphone jack Yes Yes Yes Yes
Front camera 720p 720p 1080p 1080p
Biometrics Fingerprint reader Fingerprint reader Fingerprint reader Fingerprint reader
Power adapter Type-C, 30W Type-C, 61W Type-C, 67W or 96W Type-C, 140W
Colors Gold, Silver, Gray Silver, Gray Silver, Gray Silver, Gray
Wireless options Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0

Everything new

The M1 Air is the most sensible option for users that want a budget-friendly laptop. Unless you need a brighter display, better audio, or battery life, there’s little reason to go with the 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro. However, this new breed of MacBook Pro definitely makes a more convincing argument for spending the extra cash.

At the lower end of the spectrum, the starting configuration for the 14-inch MacBook Pro costs twice as much as the MacBook Air, but has a larger screen with better resolution and far more ports. You also get twice the amount of memory and storage right out of the gate. The main drawback of opting for the 14-inch Pro is that it’s slightly heavier and won’t last quite as long between charges when compared to its smaller siblings.


14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

The 14-inch MacBook Pro can be equipped with either the new M1 Pro or M1 Max CPU and can be configured to have up to 64GB of unified memory.


16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is a creative powerhouse equipped with the new Apple Silicon CPUs. Configurable with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max, the 16-inch screen can be lent out to up to 3 external displays and a 4K TV simultaneously thanks to its vast array of ports.

For an additional $500, the starting price of the 16-inch MacBook Pro will net you many of the same benefits, with the same amount of memory and storage to start, just with a slightly better processor. While the battery of the 16-inch Pro has more staying power, this model is easily the heaviest out of the bunch.


MacBook Air with M1

The MacBook Air is Apple’s entry-level laptop, which comes outfitted with the company’s new M1 chip and in one of three different colors (silver, space gray, and gold).

There are plenty of reasons to spring for a new MacBook Pro, especially if you’ve been biding your time with an older model. The M1 CPU is certainly worth the investment, but unless you can’t live without a dedicated HDMI port, or need a particularly powerful laptop, the MacBook Air is probably the way to go. However, if you’re a power-user or creator that needs bleeding-edge performance, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro seems like the clear winner — we’ll find out for sure in our upcoming reviews.



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