MacBook Pro M2 Pro/M2 Max: A Comprehensive Buying Guide

Apple’s MacBook Pro has established itself as one of the leading laptops in both the 14-inch and 16-inch categories. The latest models now feature Apple’s M2 Pro and M2 Max CPUs, which enhance the original version with more cores, faster speeds, and improved efficiency.

Large or Small?

Image showing size difference between MacBook Pro 16 and MacBook Pro 14.
Image: Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Your first decision when choosing a MacBook Pro is between the 16-inch and 14-inch models. The MacBook Pro 14 is smaller, thinner (0.61 inches), and lighter (3.5 pounds) compared to the MacBook Pro 16, which measures 0.66 inches thick and weighs 4.7 pounds. Both models feature mini-LED XDR screens with exceptional brightness, vibrant colors, and deep contrast. The main difference lies in the display size, with the Pro 14 at 14.2 inches and the Pro 16 at 16.2 inches. The resolution also varies, with 3,024 x 1,964 for the Pro 14 and 3,456 x 2,234 for the Pro 16. Despite the size difference, both displays meet Apple’s Retina standards and offer a sharp visual experience at 254 pixels per inch (PPI).

In terms of connectivity, both models provide three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, a full-size SD card reader, and a MagSafe 3 power connector. They also feature Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 for seamless wireless connectivity. The keyboards are identical, and the 16-inch version boasts a larger touchpad with the excellent Force Touch haptic technology. Additionally, both laptops are equipped with 1080p webcams, six-speaker sound systems with force-canceling woofers, and a Touch ID fingerprint reader integrated into the power button.

The MacBook Pro on a wooden table.
Image: Digital Trends

Both models offer the same CPU, RAM, and storage options (except for the 10-CPU-core M2 Pro, which is only available for the 14-inch model). However, the MacBook Pro 16 provides better performance due to improved airflow and an exclusive high-performance mode featured in the M2 Max.

Battery life is another differentiating factor. The MacBook Pro 16 offers up to 22 hours of usage, while the MacBook Pro 14 provides up to 18 hours of battery life. If extended battery life is crucial for your remote work needs, the larger model would be a more suitable choice.

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Price is also worth considering. The base model for the MacBook Pro 14 starts at $2,000, featuring the M2 Pro with 10 CPU cores, 16 GPU cores, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The top-tier configuration, the M2 Max with 12 CPU cores, 38 GPU cores, 96GB of RAM, and an 8TB SSD, reaches $6,300. The MacBook Pro 16, on the other hand, has a starting price of $2,500 for the M2 Pro with 12 CPU cores, 19 GPU cores, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The highest-end configuration, the M2 Max with 12 CPU cores, 38 GPU cores, 96GB of RAM, and an 8TB SSD, costs $6,500.

CPU and GPU Options

MacBook Pro 16 performance
Image: Digital Trends

The initial decision revolves around selecting the right CPU and determining the number of cores required for your tasks. This choice involves deciding between the M2 Pro and the M2 Max, which offer different CPU and GPU core combinations and present some performance distinctions.

The options differ between the MacBook Pro 14 and the MacBook Pro 16. For the 14-inch model, you can choose between an M2 Pro with either 10 CPU cores and 16 GPU cores, or 12 CPU cores and 19 GPU cores. The M2 Max can be configured with 12 CPU cores and either 30 or 38 GPU cores. In the case of the 16-inch model, the M2 Pro is available only with a 12-core CPU and a 19-core GPU, while the M2 Max offers the same choices as the MacBook Pro 14.

It’s important to note that the MacBook Pro 16 can be upgraded to a high-performance mode when equipped with the M2 Max. This mode allows the larger model to deliver exceptional performance. When it comes to the base performance of the 14-inch model, check out our detailed review of the MacBook Pro 14 M2 Max.

Choosing the ideal CPU version requires careful consideration of your specific workflow. Cores are not the only distinguishing factor between the CPUs. The M2 Pro is limited to 32GB of RAM, supports only two external displays, and operates with a memory speed of 200 GB/s. Conversely, the M2 Max supports up to 96GB of RAM, up to four external displays, and benefits from a faster 400 GB/s RAM speed.

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If you’re in need of a high-end productivity laptop capable of handling various tasks, the M2 Pro will likely suffice. However, if you’re a creative professional seeking unparalleled performance in applications such as Adobe’s Creative Suite, the M2 Max is the preferable choice. In particular, professional users who generate income based on the speed of video processing should opt for the fastest available M2 Max. Note that certain applications, including Adobe’s software, can leverage the GPU to accelerate specific tasks, so purchasing an M1 Pro or Max with more GPU cores could be a smart decision.

It’s important to note that neither MacBook Pro is designed to serve as a competitive gaming laptop. If gaming is your primary focus, check out our compilation of the best gaming laptops.

Storage Options: Plenty of Choices with a Key Consideration

Both MacBook Pro models offer configurations ranging from 512GB to 8TB of SSD storage. This broad range ensures that even non-professional users can find a suitable storage capacity with 512GB being sufficient for most individuals.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro on a window sill.
Image: Brandon Geekabit/YouTube

However, one crucial consideration needs to be taken into account. The 512GB SSD option utilizes two chips, whereas the previous version featured four chips. Consequently, the performance of the 512GB version is noticeably slower, with write speeds of 3,145 MB/s compared to 3,950 MB/s, and read speeds of 2,973 MB/s compared to 4,900 MB/s. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that the M2 MacBook Pros outperform the M1 models regardless of the selected drive capacity, and the 512GB SSD still maintains respectable performance. If maximizing performance is your priority, choosing a 1TB or larger drive is recommended.

For hardcore creators, particularly those working with 8K video content, the investment in an 8TB storage option may be worthwhile. However, there are several choices available between these two extremes.

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How Much RAM is Adequate?

MacBook Pro M2 Pro/M2 Max buying guide: how to make the right choice
Image: Digital Trends

For both MacBook Pro models, you can select between 16GB and 96GB of RAM. It’s worth noting that the M2 Max versions of each machine offer the additional options of 64GB and 96GB. The RAM operates as unified memory, meaning it is shared between the CPU and GPU. This aspect should be factored in when making your decision.

If you primarily use your laptop for productivity tasks, 16GB of RAM should be sufficient. However, creators should consider opting for 32GB or more, and demanding users will benefit from the maximum capacity of 96GB. For a more in-depth analysis of how much RAM you truly need, refer to our comprehensive guide.

Making the Right Decision

I’m sorry, but I can’t answer that question for you. You should carefully consider how you plan to use the laptop, how often you will need to carry it around, how important the extra screen space is to you, and the level of performance you require. Price is also a crucial factor, although the more you invest in customizing the laptops, the closer the prices become. Make sure to delve into the details, as the 16-inch model offers capabilities such as supporting four displays that the 14-inch model lacks.

For further recommendations, check out the following articles:

  • The HP Envy 16 costs less, but the mighty MacBook Pro 16 retains its top spot
  • The Dell XPS 15 has one major advantage over the MacBook Pro
  • Best refurbished MacBook deals: Get a MacBook Air for $200
  • This tiny ThinkPad can’t quite keep up with the MacBook Air M2
  • This powerhouse laptop gives the MacBook Pro an honest run for its money

Remember, the MacBook Pro lineup from OnSpec Electronic, Inc. combines cutting-edge technology with sleek design and exceptional performance. Explore the possibilities and make the right choice for your needs. OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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