2021 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro vs M1 MacBook Pro: Should I Upgrade?

Apple recently unveiled its new MacBook Pros with the supercharged versions of last year’s M1 chip. If you thought the M1 chips were powerful, you’re about to have your mind blown because. Apple has taken its unique chip and upgraded it into two new versions, the M1 Pro and the M1 Max chip. In this comparison guide, we’ll be taking a close look at the differences between the 2020 M1 MacBook Pro with the M1 chip and this year’s MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip. The M1 Pro chip is the next step up from the original 2020 M1 chip and will be most accessible for people. The M1 Max chip is packed into a very expensive MacBook Pro whereas the MacBook Pro with the Pro M1 chip is on the more affordable side, starting at $1999.

First off, let’s look at the performance specifications of last year’s MacBook Pro and this year’s model.

Specifications

 M1 chipM1 Pro chipM1 Max chip
CPU cores88/1010
Performance cores46/88
Efficiency cores422
GPU cores7/814/1624/32
Neural engine cores161616
Memory supported163264
Peak bandwidth performanceN/A200400
ProRes accelerators012
Available onMacBook Air, iPad Pro (5th gen), iMac 24 (2021), Mac MiniMacBook Pro 14, MacBook Pro 16 (2021)MacBook Pro 14, MacBook Pro 16 (2021)

Design

The first thing to note about the new 2021 Macbook Pro with the M1 Pro chip is the design of the actual Macbook Pro. The 2021 Macbook Pro with the Pro M1 chip comes in two sizes; 14 inches and 16 inches.

The 2020 Macbook Pro has slightly sloped edges and a flat base whereas the 2021 Macbook Pro has flatter edges and little feet underneath to hold it in place.

The 2020 model is also a little bit slimmer in diameter whereas the 2021 model looks thicker from the side. This is likely due to the fact the 2021 model has more hardware to pack into its shell. The extra hardware inside the 14-inch model also makes it .5 pounds heavier than the previous year’s 13-inch model.

M1 MacBook Pro

The 2020 Macbook Pros included a 720p webcam however the 2021 14/16-inch model comes packed with a new 1080p webcam. The 2021 models have also done away with the divisive TouchBar altogether.

This is a big change in the design of the Macbook Pros going forward so if you were thinking of upgrading to the new M1 Pro chip Macbook, you should take this design difference into account. The 2020 Macbook Pros with the M1 chip came with two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a standard headphone jack whereas the new 2021 model comes with three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, and a MagSafe 3 port, going back to its roots to the joy of creatives everywhere.

Performance

The performance side of things is where you can see the biggest difference between the 2020 Macbook Pro and the 2021 Macbook Pro with the M1 Pro chip.

If we start with the storage space, the 2020 Macbook Pro with the original M1 chip came with up to 4TB of storage whereas the M1 Pro chip packs in up to 8TB. That’s double the storage right off the bat. This is the same for the memory. The 2020 M1 chip has 16GB of memory as a maximum, however, the 2021 Macbook Pro with the M1 Pro chip configures up to 32GB. So, if memory is your concern when you’re deciding whether to upgrade, this is an improvement two-fold.

The Pro chip also increases the number of cores across the board. The performance cores max out at 8, compared to the 2020 Macbook Pro M1 chip which is capped at four. GPU cores are also doubled in the latest model and go from the 2020s 8 up to 16. This increase in cores creates a more stable experience as your 2021 Macbook Pro distributes performance-related tasks more evenly. The increase in GPU cores means you’ll also experience a much smoother display whether you’re gaming or editing video.

M1 Pro MacBook Pro

Something else that separates the 2020 Macbook Pro from the new 2021 Macbook Pro with the Pro chip is the inclusion of the ProRes accelerator. This allows for a big acceleration in the video codec which means you can experience multiple streams in 4K or 8K ProRes whilst minimizing the drain on your Macbook 2021’s battery life. This was not included in the 2020 Macbook Pro with the M1 chip.

The battery life itself gets a bit of a boost compared to the standard Macbook Pro from last year.  Where the 2020 Macbook Pro with the M1 chip hovered around 13-14 hours of battery life, the new Macbook Pro with the M1 Pro chip goes up to closer to 16 hours of juice, depending on what you’re using it for.

When we compare some recent Geekbench scores, things look even more promising for the latest 2021 Macbook Pro with the M1 Pro chip.

Benchmarks

 Single-coreMulti-core
M1 chip15947534
M1 Pro chip16879954

2021 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro vs M1 MacBook Pro: The bottom line

When we compare the 2020 Macbook Pro with the M1 chip and the Macbook Pro with the new Pro M1 chip, there are obvious performance differences to take into account. The designs are not too different (with the exception of the TouchBar) but the increase in power is obvious. The Macbook Pro M1 Pro chip almost doubles the performance power compared to last year’s model with the original M1 chip. If you demand more storage and memory, then it’s probably worth it to upgrade. Just be aware that you’ll be paying more depending on what configuration you’re after. The 14-inch Macbook Pro with the M1 Pro chip comes out the gates at $1999. If you want to go one up and buy the 16-inch Macbook Pro with a Pro chip, you’ll be looking at $2499 to start with.

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