MacBook Pro 16-inch vs. MacBook Pro 14-inch: All the differences, explained

Apple has just released the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro notebooks during the Apple Unleashed event. Both based on the new M1 Max chip, they have more in common than the previous iterations of MacBooks, but they also have their fair share of differences.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is a new arrival on the market, with a bigger screen size than the previous 13-inch model. The 16-inch model is a refresh of the existing MacBook Pro, but there are enough changes to call it a new laptop entirely. Both of them are worthy of being listed amongst the best MacBooks out there, especially the one we tested in our MacBook Pro review. The question is, which model is right for you?

Design

If you’ve taken a close look at the previous iterations of MacBooks, examining the new ones will show you a couple of small changes. However, comparing the 14-inch to the 16-inch doesn’t produce any massive design difference apart from the size of the notebook.

Both the Macs feature Apple’s new flat-edge design. A few years ago, the brand has slowly started to revert its products to the design it used before, and the new MacBook Pros continue that trend. This means drifting away from the curved edges we’ve all grown used to.

However, the change is pretty minimal in the new MacBooks, as the edges don’t appear sharp. The main difference is that the top half of the notebook now matches the bottom half. You could easily compare this design choice to what Apple has done with the iPhone or the iPad Pro ranges.

In terms of cooling, both the Macs utilize the same heat pipe design that was previously used in the MacBook Pro 16. The size of the heat sink has been increased by 35% to accommodate the equal parts powerful and heat-prone components that are found inside. For the 16-inch Mac, this is simply the retention of a previously used technology. For the smaller 14-inch model, this is a huge upgrade.

One thing Apple has said goodbye to with the new MacBooks is the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar was somewhat controversial and often left unused, so the decision to replace it with a set of physical function keys may have been the right step for Apple.

Both the laptops feature the Magic Keyboard, and whether you go with the 14-inch or the 16-inch model, the keyboard remains the same. They also benefit from an upgraded webcam, both bringing the much-needed 1080p quality to replace the 720p that was used in previous versions.  The downside of the webcam? The notch at the top of the screen — although the apps fold neatly around it, so it doesn’t actually obstruct the screen.

Display

While the two new Macs don’t vary much in terms of design, they certainly do when it comes to their displays. Apple has entered a new era with the release of these notebooks, upgrading their screens to utilize the mini-LED technology. This applies to both models.

The use of mini-LED makes the Liquid Retina XDR displays of these new Macs brighter than ever. Around 10,000 LEDs, each one smaller than 200 microns, are found within the thin, light, and colorful screens of the 14-inch and the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Switching to mini-LEDs was a smart move by Apple. What we get here is a wider color gamut with rich, satisfyingly vibrant shades, better contrasts, and deeper blacks. These screens are essentially very close to OLEDs, but they shouldn’t suffer from the same degradation and burn-in problems that OLEDs sometimes do.

Both the screens are beautiful, but they’re not the same size. The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros have a display resolution of 3024 x 1964 and 3456 x 2234 respectively. This is an increase over the previous models. The aspect ratios are as unusual as the resolutions are, adding up to the 16-inch Mac having a 1.55:1 aspect ratio, and the 14-inch — a 1.54:1.

Unusual as the sizing may be, it’s quite refreshing to see a taller screen on a laptop, and these Retina displays pack a lot of pixels to make them seem even bigger. The pixel density has been increased to about 250 pixels per inch, sharpening the image and adding clarity.

As far as refresh rates go, there are no differences between the new MacBook Pros. ProMotion technology is in use here, meaning that the refresh rate is adapted to what you are currently doing. At the lowest level, you can expect a refresh rate of 24Hz, but it can go all the way up to a respectable 120Hz when necessary. This design choice will help preserve battery life while still allowing for smooth performance during gameplay and creative workflows.

Performance

It hasn’t been long since Apple introduced the M1 chip, switching from Intel-based systems to its own Apple silicon. To call that decision a hit would be an understatement, and things only get better from there, because the new MacBook Pros both can utilize either the M1 Pro or the M1 Max chip.

The new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips come with more cores, faster speeds, and extra Thunderbolt 3 channels. Apple’s engineers outdone themselves with these chips, somehow combining fantastic performance with power consumption and good thermals. It’s fast, it’s reliable, and it’s great for productivity, creativity, and most other things you might want to throw its way.

Although MacBooks have never been particularly known for their gaming capabilities, these two new notebooks will hold up in a lot of titles, provided you’re not a hardcore gamer in need of a monster gaming PC — but then, not many users turn to Apple for gaming purposes.

You will be able to get the same specifications out of the 14-inch MacBook Pro as you might get in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. As both are equipped with the very same chip, both are capable of the same kind of performance.

The upgraded M1 Max/M1 Pro chip comes with a 10-core processor. Those 10 cores are split into eight high-performance cores and two efficiency cores. When it comes to GPU cores, there’s a choice of up to 32 cores.

Alongside the beastly processor and integrated graphics, we’re getting an upgrade in RAM. Both the notebooks support up to 64GB of memory, up from a maximum of 16GB on the M1 chip. Choosing the amount of memory affects the price, but it’s definitely nice to be able to get more than 16GB, especially on such productivity-oriented notebooks. On the other hand, 16GB continues to be the standard in the base configuration of the MacBook Pros, and it will be sufficient if you don’t want to splurge.

In terms of storage, the standard is 512GB for both the 14-inch and the 16-inch models. It can be upgraded if you find yourself in need of extra space for all your files.

Portability

The new MacBook Pro 14 is similar in size to the MacBook 13 that it is replacing. Measuring 15.5 mm and weighing 3.5 pounds, the notebook is thin and portable. The increase in the display size stems from the fact that Apple slimmed down the bezels and got rid of the MacBook Pro label at the bottom.

Unsurprisingly, the 16-inch Mac is larger. Measuring 16.88 mm and weighing 4.7 pounds, it’s more of a weight to carry around, but the larger size is made up for by the bigger display. It’s hard to pick a winner here — only you know whether you care more about better portability or a larger screen.

For most people, the difference in sizing is not going to be a dealbreaker one way or the other. Both the notebooks are relatively easy enough to carry. The 14-inch MacBook Pro has a slightly worse battery life, and that, more than the size, might affect the final decision. More on that below.

Ports

Many MacBook users have been longing for the return of the ports. At some point in 2016, Apple decided to rid its notebooks of all ports aside from USB-C. Fortunately, 2021 is when things are finally starting to return to normal, and the new notebooks sport a highly anticipated list of ports.

We’re getting the return of MagSafe, a technology that was on the brink of being forgotten, but it was always very missed. MagSafe magnetically attaches the charging cable to your Mac. Should you happen to pull on the cord, the tech will detach itself as opposed to pulling your notebook towards an early demise. As an added bonus, Apple gave MagSafe a facelift and also improved the charging speeds compared to the previous generations of Macs.

Connectivity on the new 2021 Macbook Pro. SD reader, USB-C port, HDMI port.

The new laptops both feature an HDMI port, a USB-C slot, and even an SD card reader, which is something we haven’t seen in a MacBook for years. The ports are evenly spread across the notebook, with two Thunderbolts and a MagSafe on the left side, and an HDMI port, another Thunderbolt port, and the SD card reader on the right.

This is a definite upgrade over the previous MacBooks. There is no winner in this category, and if we had to pick one, we’d say that both the 14-inch and 16-inch Macs are winners. They feature the same set of ports, bringing some much-needed relief to Apple fans who often needed to buy extra dongles to make the most out of their notebook.

Battery life

Each of the new MacBook Pros has a different battery, but both present improvements over the previous generation.

MacBook Pro 16-inch has a battery rated at 8,693 mAh/11.45V. It’s a straight-up gain over the previous MacBook Pro. Combined with the use of Apple silicon in this laptop, which has already tremendously increased battery life compared to older, Intel-based systems, we’re in for a treat.

Lifestyle image of someone using the new Macbook Pro 2021.

Compared to the previous MacBook Pro 16, the battery in this model is slightly smaller, but that has no negative impact on the battery life. Users can expect at least 20 hours during light computing.

The smaller, 14-inch MacBook Pro also features an upgrade in the battery over its 13-inch predecessor. The chassis allows for the use of a larger battery, and Apple made the most of it by installing one that’s rated at 6,068 mAh/11.47V.

When it comes to battery life on the 14-inch Mac, we can expect it to be shorter than what the 16-inch has to offer. It’s no wonder, considering that this notebook is smaller and just doesn’t have the space for a battery as large as the 16-inch. The 14-inch MacBook Pro should be able to last through around 17 hours of video playback before it’s time to plug it back in.

Laptop users know full-well that you don’t always get the most out of your notebook when not connected to a source of power. Apple is out to dispel that notion with the addition of High-Power Mode. This is an optional setting, present in both the laptops, that lets users boost the notebook’s performance even when it’s not connected.

On the other end of the scale, there’s the Low-Power Mode, which still lets you preserve some battery life by turning off unnecessary processes.

Pricing

Not many people turn to Apple products for the price — the brand remains aware of this by pricing both the notebooks higher than their predecessors. While both offer excellent quality, they’re not exactly cheap. Despite that, it’s hard to deny that by using the new chips, Apple managed to make these notebooks great value for the money.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is slightly more expensive than the 13-inch version that it replaced. It’s difficult to complain about this, as this notebook does offer a larger display while remaining virtually the same in size. The performance that it provides is also worth the higher price tag.

If you want to get your hands on the latest MacBook Pro 14, be prepared to spend at least $1,999 for the base configuration.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is priced higher than the previous version. To benefit from the various improvements that it provides, customers have to spend at least $2,499.

Both the laptops can be upgraded by adding more RAM and storage, so this could drive up the price a little bit further.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the winner here

But not by a large margin.

This time around, more than ever, it’s difficult to pinpoint the one true winner between these two MacBook Pros. This is because, in a lot of aspects, they are virtually the same.

Photographer using the new Macbook Pro.

Both of them run on the same chips, both have stunning displays, the same number of ports, the same amount of storage, and the same general design.

While both are very close, the 16-inch MacBook Pro does offer slightly better performance, if only due to the larger screen. In addition, it also has a longer battery life and improved airflow.

In terms of portability, we’re really not that far off. Of course, being bigger, this notebook can be a bit of a hefty weight to carry around. On the other hand, it’s still just about as thin as it can without turning into a pancake. Apple has done a good job when it comes to space-saving, and with the current tech, it would be difficult — if not impossible — to make this notebook any lighter or smaller than it already is, while preserving the screen size.

The larger size allows for a bigger screen and a higher resolution, making it a strong choice for creative workflows and entertainment alike. The new chip shines when paired with MacBook Pro’s 16-inch mini-LED display, allowing for more gaming than was ever possible on a Mac, and let’s be honest — the bigger screen certainly doesn’t hurt when playing games.

On the other hand, the 16-inch Pro is definitely more expensive, which is why it’s a win by a small margin. In terms of raw performance, both the laptops are very close, so the extra money spent on a bigger screen and the other benefits is a decision to be made on a case-by-case basis.

To wrap things up: should you prefer to save a few hundred bucks, you’re still getting an outstanding notebook in the 14-inch MacBook Pro. However, if you don’t mind the additional expense and just want the best that Apple currently has to offer, going with the 16-inch MacBook Pro is the way to do achieve that.

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