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M2 Pro & Max MacBook Pro review roundup: Impressive spec bump

16-inch MacBook Pro

The first wave of reviews for Apple's M2 Pro and M2 Max updates to the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro have been published, with the increased performance one of many high points for the releases.

The upgrades to the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro lineup happened on January 17 as part of the company's surprise press release-based launches, with Apple switching out the M1-series chips to the M2 Pro and M2 Max.

One day before the initial units of the new models are shipped to pre-ordering customers and to stores, reviews for the new models have started to surface online.

According to The Verge, the 16-inch MacBook Pro with M2 Max is initially characterized as a "boring meeting" to the reviewer, as it's "almost exactly the same" as the M1 version, save for the internal spec bump. It's warned that the M2 change is "not a good reason to buy the 2023 model if you already have the 2021."

Focusing on benchmarking the model, the synthetic CPU benchmarks of the M2 Pro and M2 Max were "neck and neck" within the margin of error. On the graphics side, the two are on "different planets," with it managing the fastest time the reviewer's seen performing a 4K Adobe Premiere Pro export test.

"Straight up awesome"

The TechCrunch review of the 14-inch model with M2 Max largely compares it against the MacBook Air, which the reviewer considers one of the best Macs produced. Again, performance is a big thing here.

"It's extremely impressive to see the gains made for notebook processors over the past two years," the review states, but while it touches upon the MacBook Pro having active cooling options, the user isn't "likely to trigger" the system with most day-to-day activities.

Tweaks to the image signal processor and a "straight up awesome" battery life, round off the impressions of a "perfect encapsulation of the new Pros." Though the reviewer is unswayed from their position on the MacBook Air being the near-perfect Mac, the M2 Pro will still "be plenty for most creative professions."

The Engadget analysis of the 14-inch model is deemed a "blessing for creatives," with the externals a locked-in design where Apple doesn't "mess with a good thing."

The chip upgrades show "phenomenal results if you're planning to use the MacBook Pro to its full potential," but there's an admission that you're not going to see any "major performance benefits" in everyday use. "That's not really a knock against the new computer, it's more a testament to how much Apple got right last time."

Video encoders and those with high computing requirements may be tempted to move over, the review continues, and that it is "definitely time to upgrade" for users with Intel-based chips. "You'll easily see a night and day difference in speed."

"It's no wonder Apple announced the new MacBook Pros without much fanfare. It's just a simple spec bump, not the sort of thing most buyers would get too excited about," the review concludes, but that the performance is enough for creative professionals to "stick with Apple instead of jumping to a PC."

CNet calls the M2 Pro version of the 16-inch MacBook Pro a "nice generation-over-generation uptick," with a "modest refresh from the more significantly redesigned 2021 model."

"The combination of the old and new enhances the veteran laptop's chops as a powerhouse computer for creation and development work," the review writes, though nitpicks remain for the MagSafe connector, the display notch, and the lack of Face ID support.

If you have the M1 version, you "needn't feel the FOMO" for the latest model, the review finishes, but offers it is more an appropriate upgrade for those still on Intel Macs.

TechRadar says the 16-inch model is a "productivity beast that's not for everyone," with the M2 Pro working without skipping a beat, even on battery. However, it does "such a good job that it's hard to see what the M2 Max can improve on" for normal usage.

The huge battery life and the best display on a notebook makes it a great option for anyone upgrading, but the review does highlight that 2021 model owners "should think twice" about an upgrade. "Sure, it's more powerful, but not by an amount that will make the upgrade worth it."