I’m going to provide some more detailed thoughts on the M1 Max 16” MacBook Pro in a couple of weeks, by which time I’ll have used it solidly for a month.
In my mind, that’s a decent amount of time to provide a more rounded opinion of this super-expensive laptop. Who is it for? Where does it excel? Did Apple’s backtracking make sense? Is all of that power worth it? Is it too big and heavy?
But, just like so many new devices, there’s one aspect of the 16” MacBook Pro that demands immediate exploration. And I can’t hold it in any longer.
It’s that damn battery.
No, I haven’t done any tests
Regular readers will know that I have a bit of an aversion to proper benchmarking and tests. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I find them incredibly boring. Secondly, I just can’t be bothered.
The benefit of this is that I have more time to invest in my actual work, which means I can provide a far more meaningful, real-world experience of how this stuff performs.
And, no, my ‘results’ won’t be for everyone. I primarily use my Macs for video editing, which is just one of countless use cases. But, just like developers, music producers, and data scientists, I’m putting this new MacBook Pro to work, and I think my experience with its battery tells a rather exciting story for anyone who is considering buying one.
To provide some context, I’ve been using the 16” MacBook Pro (specced-up with the most expensive M1 Max chip, 32GB of unified memory and a 2TB SSD), daily to create videos in Final Cut Pro. It travels from my home to the studio and nowhere else.
It is pretty much solely a mobile video editing rig. But I had no idea how big a part the battery would play in this.
Standby and in-use: a killer combo
I’ve written a lot about the M1 MacBook Air. In particular, I’ve gushed relentlessly about its stellar battery performance.
Don’t get me wrong – the in-use time is great. But it’s the standby time that is the real eye-opener on Apple’s most affordable laptop. Like a great pair of wireless headphones, it barely needs charging throughout the week. Go to bed with it at 40% battery, and it’ll still have 40% available when you wake up the next morning.
I’m happy to report that the 16” MacBook Pro continues this trend. But it goes a step further.
The standby time for this beast of a laptop feels identical to the MacBook Air; I have no worries about leaving it unplugged overnight. I know, that when I wake, the battery percentage will have lost – at the most – a percentage point.
But the big lad feels far more impressive than the Air when it comes to in-use battery performance. I’ll leave whether this is true or not to the people who conduct rigorous tests, but I suspect it’s largely because of what I put the 16” through, versus the MacBook Air.
As noted earlier, it deals with 4K video edits on a daily basis. This is relatively chunky stuff, shot on my Sony FX3 in 10-bit 4:2:2 colour. And I’m editing it in high-quality mode on Final Cut Pro (something I’d never done before, prior to getting the 16”).
I know I’m pushing that M1 Max chip a little, too, because the laptop gets warm and, occasionally, the fans spin up. It’s a far cry from the aircraft carrier-like Intel version, but it’s clearly working up a bit of a sweat.
That makes the battery performance all the more impressive. I reckon I could get through two full video edits on a single charge with a bit more battery to spare once finished. I cannot get my head around that.
Why this matters
Thinking back to Apple’s ‘Unleashed’ event last month, there were huge swathes of the presentation that focused on battery performance. Practically everyone who took to the virtual stage referenced power efficiency and the ability to get stuff done while unplugged.
At the time, I didn’t give it too much thought. If anything, their constant referencing of battery life was slightly irritating. I knew – or, at least, I I thought I knew – that, in the real world, this would be largely irrelevant, because every professional laptop user will keep their device plugged in, ninety-percent of the time.
As it turns out, that thinking is rather outdated. I have naturally morphed into a battery-powered creative workflow with my new MacBook Pro. Indeed, there have been days when I haven’t even bothered to take the MagSafe charger with me to the studio, because I know I won’t need it. Today is one such day.
That thought would never have crossed my mind prior to the 16” MacBook Pro’s arrival. Editing 4K video without a charger to hand used to be either nail-bitingly treacherous or entirely pointless.
Now, I’m free from that worry. I can edit on the sofa without an extension cable trailing dangerously across the entrance to the kitchen. I can even dash to the studio without wasting time looking for my MagSafe charger, safe in the knowledge that I’ll have enough juice to finish tomorrow’s video – even if the laptop has been left unplugged on standby overnight.
It’s liberating and makes the battery performance easily the most impressive feature of the new 16” MacBook Pro.
I never thought I’d say that.