MacBook Pro 2021 review: the perfect pandemic laptop

Ever since I became a Mac user many years ago, a lasting memory of winters in Delhi has been the feeling of cold aluminum against my knees every morning. Even as I transitioned from my first MacBook Air to newer, more powerful devices, that cold metal feel on my skin is something that reminds me of the promise of working on a Mac. In recent weeks, that sentiment has improved with the new MacBook Pro powered by Apple’s new M1 Pro chipsets.

Apple MacBook Pro 2021 Specifications: 14.2 inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3024x1964p, ~ 254ppi, up to 1000 nits) with ProMotion | Apple M1 Pro Chip (8-core processor with 6 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores, 14-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, 200 GB / s memory bandwidth) | 16 GB of unified memory | 512 GB SSD | 1080p HD FaceTime Camera | SDXC card slot, HDMI port, 3.5mm headphone jack, MagSafe 3 port, 3 Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports | 1.6 kg | macOS Monterey

Apple MacBook Pro 2021

The latest MacBook Pro also underwent a design change, which many would consider more retro than futuristic. Even I was initially unsure when I first started using the MacBook, especially the four rubber shoes that didn’t look so contemporary. The edges and curves are now much softer and when you run your hands along the sides you realize how the fans have been so well integrated into the curves under the body.

The rubber clogs manage to help with heat dissipation, and the “MacBook Pro” embossing in the center is a nice touch for avid fans. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan / Indian Express)

The clogs seem to be a way to let that heat dissipate easily without being deflected by the surface the MacBook rests on. Plus, the MacBook Pro’s embossing at the bottom seems like a great touch, especially to keep fans happy. Overall, the new MacBook Pro looks like something bigger, but it’s an illusion. It only weighs 1.6kg, which is actually a bit lighter for something with those specs.

If you’re into photography or video editing, it’s going to be hard to miss the punch of the new display from the MacBook Pro packs. The 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3024x1964p) offers vivid colors and is bright enough that you can work even in the winter sun. But there is more. Apple has added its ProMotion adaptive refresh rate technology to the screen and it can go up to 120Hz if you’re playing a game on Steam for example.

The 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3024x1964p) offers vivid colors and is bright enough that you can work even in the winter sun. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan / Indian Express)

I’ve moved all of my work from home to the new MacBook Pro over the past few weeks. I was mostly on an older MacBook Pro before and yes I could see it was faster. It’s not like the old one is slower, but somewhere the new is responding a little better.

But there was one aspect that was much better than before and that was the new Magic keyboard. It was a pleasure to type on this backlit keyboard which offered a bit of feedback which made it much more natural. The keys are nicely laid out with perfect spacing even in the 14in version I was reviewing. The trackpad is also pretty good, providing fine control for the selections.

Typing on the new backlit Magic keyboard was a pleasure, providing a bit of natural feel feedback. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan / Indian Express)

The TouchID is integrated in the upper right corner of the keyboard. This is also extremely responsive when you want to get back to work quickly. But I also noticed a quirk. Sometimes when you use the TouchID with a little squeeze, you get a prompt asking if you want to turn it off. I haven’t encountered this on another keyboard with Apple TouchID integration.

Although this MacBook Pro is powered by Apple’s new M1 Pro, I was never able to do anything or use any software because it was not compatible with the new chip. For example, I downloaded Vivaldi, which is gradually becoming my browser of choice for a lot of specific jobs, like tracking news on websites, and it set up smoothly. The same happened with more other things I needed to charge for work. This is a change from last year when some software was not initially compatible with M1.

One big change Apple has incorporated into the new MacBook Pro is the ports – bringing back the card reader as well as an HDMI port. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan / Indian Express)

One big change Apple has made in the new MacBook Pro concerns ports. Apple brought back a card reader as well as an HDMI port in 2021 in a departure from the path it took a few years ago. It seems Apple has taken notice of all the feedback it has received from consumers over the past few years about needing to spend on getting adapters to effectively use the MacBook. And while there is also a MagSafe 3 charger, this can also be easily charged using the USB-C ports so you don’t need to carry the charger wherever you go. I have a feeling that the extra thickness of this device is also an offer to accommodate these ports.

There is another game changer here. The MacBook Pro now packs a 1080p camera that other laptop makers have struggled to integrate despite the pandemic. The camera makes you stand out in any Zoom or Google Meet call and could actually impact your career by the time we’re back in the office as before.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is now the most compact business-grade computer you can buy. It’s not much bigger than a MacBook Air, but it still performs as well as an iMac. If you are a power user who needs to run powerful software that will push any computer at regular intervals, then this device is for you. Plus, for creative professionals, the stunning new display will make a huge difference as well. Yes, the 2021 MacBook Pro is pricey with the 14-inch version starting prices at over Rs 1,949,900. But then you gear up to work at home, in the office, and everywhere else for the next several years.

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