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Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch review: Huge amounts of power at a pro price

Apple’s (AAPL) MacBook Pro line has always been designed for the creator class. Photo and video editors who needed that extra oomph to tackle all of their graphics needs turned to the MacBook Pro for years as their laptop of choice. But Apple is increasingly marketing its Pro line to a broader set of consumers ranging from everyday users to small-business owners and gamers.

The latest versions of the MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch are easily the best the company has produced to date. Equipped with Apple’s new M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max chips, the laptops are sleek, powerful, and capable.

But they’re also expensive. The base Pro starts at $1,599. The average consumer can likely stick to the MacBook Air with Apple’s M2 chip for $1,099. My wife and I just bought one ourselves a few weeks back.

But if you’re in the market for the best portable power Apple has to offer, the MacBook Pro is easily the way to go.

New color, same look

Apple has kept the latest MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch relatively unchanged versus the prior generation of both models. You get the same number of connectors — three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, a full-size HDMI connection, an SD card slot, headphone jack, and MagSafe port — and the same 1080p webcam and six-speaker setup.

Apple's latest MacBook Pro is incredibly powerful, but comes with a hefty price tag. (Image: Apple)
Apple's latest MacBook Pro is incredibly powerful, but comes with a hefty price tag. (Apple) (Apple)

You’d be hard pressed to spot any differences between Apple’s latest Pros and the 14-inch and 16-inch versions Apple introduced back in January. There is, however, one distinction. If you opt for a 14-inch or 16-inch Pro with an M3 Pro or M3 Max, you can choose Apple’s new Space Black color scheme. The company says the Macbook has an anodization seal that keeps handprints from sticking to the aluminum.

It’s a nice addition to the package, and it works incredibly well. My MacBook Air regularly picks up fingerprints, but the Pro doesn’t. It’s a small thing, not at all something that will make or break your decision to purchase the Pro.

Tons of power

The review unit I’ve been using is a MacBook Pro 14-inch with an M3 Max chip, 64GB of unified memory, and 2TB of storage. But this isn’t the standard version of the M3 Max. The one in this Mac is a stepped up model. Rather than the 14-core CPU and 30-core GPU in the normal M3 Max, the version in the review unit has a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU. It’s the very top-of-the-line chip Apple currently offers, and it’s an absolute beast. It also costs $4,299.

Apple debuted its latest MacBook Pros during its Scary Fast event. (Image: Apple)
Apple's latest MacBook Pros get the company's new M3 line of chips. (Apple) (Apple)

I ran the game “Baldur’s Gate 3” while also downloading the game “Lies of P,” listening to Spotify, having the Edge browser open, and running the Cinebench 2024 GPU benchmark test, and the MacBook Pro still managed to handle itself without much issue. Yes, “Baldur’s Gate 3” slowed down here and there, but the fact that it could play it at all with so much going on in the background was impressive in and of itself.

Without all of the extra nonsense going on, the game ran like a dream. “Lies of P” ran equally well, buttery smooth, without any hiccups. It’s impressive to see Apple diving deeper into gaming, and it could serve as a means of expanding its market share and further growing the Mac brand.

Apple hasn’t traditionally had much luck in gaming outside of mobile games on the iPhone and iPad, but with the latest Macs it’s clearly making a run at the segment. And with the kind of performance I saw from the MacBook Pro 14-inch, it can easily handle some of the biggest games out there.

The company, however, will need to get more game developers and publishers behind its efforts if it hopes to become a gaming juggernaut like Microsoft’s Windows. It’ll also need to ensure that users won’t need to spend as much as this particular MacBook Pro costs to get a quality experience.

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Sign up for the Yahoo Finance Tech newsletter. (Yahoo Finance)

Outside of gaming, the MacBook Pro 14-inch proved incredibly capable when doing everything from browsing the web to listening to music to streaming video. And for a system with a ton of power, the computer’s fans only spun up when I was gaming or running some other kind of benchmark test.

As for battery life, the MacBook Pro 14-inch is a champ. It’ll easily last you throughout your workday and then some. I only noticed significant battery drain while gaming and outputting to a separate monitor.

Should you get it?

Overall, the MacBook Pro 14-inch is a beastly machine in a compact package. The particular model I tested, however, isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s more meant for people who want huge amounts of power for video editing, CAD modeling, working with AI software, or high-end gaming.

The average person can certainly get away with the entry-level $1,599 MacBook Pro, which features an M3 chip, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of storage. I do wish Apple added more memory to the model though.

Still, when it comes to Pro laptops, the MacBook Pro 14-inch is an exceptional piece of technology. If you’ve got the cash.

Daniel Howley is the tech editor at Yahoo Finance. He's been covering the tech industry since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @DanielHowley.

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