I’ve had both the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro in my studio, rucksack, and hands. And, although they share pretty much identical spec choices, they are very different laptops.
If you’re reading this, you want one. I get it. I did as soon as the new design was revealed back in October.
But it’s far too easy to make the wrong decision with this laptop. The big screen and domineering presence of the 16-inch might tempt you in. The compact-yet-satisfyingly-chunky form factor of the 14-inch might look like the perfect laptop for you.
One of those statements is right, but it depends entirely on three considerations, which we’ll quickly run through now.
This is, after all, a boatload of cash you’re about to spend.
First consideration: size
Have you owned a 15” or 16” MacBook Pro before? Were you one of the original 17-inch MacBook Pro owners?
If so, you sit within a special group of people. These are impressive but unwieldy laptops. They fit in rucksacks, and you can use them on your lap, but boy do they make their presence felt. The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is no different. It is a massive computer.
I used to take my 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro everywhere with me, therefore it is entirely possible for this size of a laptop to be as portable as its 14-inch sibling. But whether it’s the passing of time or the fact I’m older and creakier, I cannot bring myself to transport my new 16-inch MacBook Pro anywhere but between my house and studio. For everything else, I take the MacBook Air.
I think this comes down to the perceived additional heft of the new design. It’s actually only a fraction heavier than the Intel version, but that new design just makes it feel more cumbersome. It’s hard to describe until you get your hands on one.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, is entirely portable. It’s a chunky little thing, sure, but that’s part of what makes it so immensely satisfying to sling under your arm or pop into a rucksack. It means business, and it doesn’t destroy your back during daily travels.
Screen size should of course be considered. That big 16-inch display is utterly wonderful to use – particularly if you’re a video editor. But it feels rather too big for most other tasks, especially if you’re plugging the laptop into a monitor while sitting at your desk. My feeling is that, for most people, the equally beautiful 14-inch screen is an ideal size.
Guidance: if you’re a constant mover – get the 14-inch
Second consideration: price
For a great many people, this will be the first consideration. However, as soon as you decide to buy a MacBook Pro, you’re inevitably going to spend a lot of money. It’s worth it, trust me, but it’s still a lot of cash, and it’ll rarely feel like a ‘no-brainer’ when hitting that checkout button.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at £1,899/$1,999. The 16-inch starts at £2,399/$2,499. If you want to spend the least amount of money possible on a new MacBook Pro or ensure you get as much for your money as possible when adding extras, you have no choice but to go for the 14-inch.
That’s not a bad decision at all. Having used both the base spec 14-inch and a hold-onto-your-trousers M1 Max 16-inch, there’s very little difference between the two until you start digging into very specific use cases.
For most people, that base spec 14-inch is a killer of a machine and a brilliant investment. Chuck in a bit more storage on your way to the checkout, and you’ve got a laptop that’ll last many years.
Happy to spend more? Then focus intently on the first and third considerations in this guide.
Guidance: those who want to spend the least possible will find a gem of a machine in the base-spec 14-inch MacBook Pro
Third consideration: spec doesn’t matter
This is the easiest consideration of the lot, but one that’s easy to forget.
Historically, Apple has reserved some of the higher-spec options and features for its bigger devices. This has been true across most product lines, from the iPhone to the iPad, and, indeed, the MacBook Pro.
This isn’t the case anymore. Both the 14- and 16-inch versions of Apple’s flagship laptop can be specced-up to Level Silly. The only difference resides at the bottom of the pile, where the 14-inch MacBook Pro offers an 8-core CPU/14-core GPU variant of the M1 Pro chip.
Actually, I lied – there is one more difference. The 16-inch MacBook Pro has something called ‘High Power Mode’. This option is only available if you have the M1 Max chip, and can be found in Preferences > Battery > Power Adapter. It enables the laptop to optimise performance to “better support resource-intensive tasks”. Whatever that means.
I’ve not tried High Power Mode because it feels a little bit like Ludicrous Speed on the Spaceball. I disagree with Dark Helmet on this one – light speed is fast enough. And the same goes for the speed of my M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro – I cannot think of a time I’d need to flick that switch, and the people who have tested this feature all appear to agree that it barely adds any value. So, I certainly wouldn’t let the presence of High Power Mode sway your decision.
Guidance: unless the price is a driving factor, remember that you can spec both laptops as ridiculously as you like
Conclusion (and a couple of useful guides)
The choice is, ultimately, up to you. But I’ll leave you with this thought.
If I wasn’t a video editor, I’d go for the 14-inch MacBook Pro, without question. I’d also probably grab the base spec version and add 1TB of storage. Maybe 32GB of unified memory if I was feeling fruity. But nothing more.
The 16-inch is suited to a very specific group of people, and if you’re unsure as to whether you fit in that bracket, trust me – you don’t (that’s no bad thing, either). But if you know, you know.
Lastly, once you’re done choosing between the two sizes, check out my guides for picking the perfect M1 chip to go inside your new laptop: