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Hey there listeners. It’s Mike Snider here and welcome back to Talking Tech. Brett Molina is off today, but I have a special guest with us: Joanna Nelius, the senior editor for [email protected], which is part of the Gannett family along with USA Today. You can find her and her colleagues content on tech.usatoday.com and reviewed.com. Joanna, thanks for joining me.
Hello. Thanks for inviting me, Mike.
Well, I’m glad you could be here. And not that I didn’t want to say hi and chat with you anyway, but one reason I asked you to be on Talking Tech is that like myself, you got to spend some time with the new 14-inch MacBook Pro recently. That laptop, your review of it is on tech.usatoday.com and on reviewed.com, as I mentioned earlier. But you gave it a tougher hands on test than I did. I’m not a professional reviewer; I give impressions. But why don’t you tell us a bit, Joanna, about some of the MacBook Pro strengths you found?
Absolutely. A biggest strength by far is its integrated graphics performance. I think in all the history of laptops, we haven’t seen this level of performance from an integrated graphics card. So to test that, I ran it through some of our usual gaming benchmarks that we use for gaming laptops. So for instance, in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I had turned the graphics all the way up to the highest setting, put it on 1080p and just let it run the in-game benchmark. And what it came out was an average of 44 frames per second. And that’s the equivalent of an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 discrete graphics card.
I used to think that Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics was a big step, but Apple just kind of took that and ran with it. The graphics performance on these new chips are just absolutely incredible. The new MacBook Pro’s also excel… Their power consumption is less, only for processing performance though. It gets cut about in half from the MacBook Pro 13-inch with just the regular M1 chips. But because the integrated graphics card is a bit beefier, if you’re running graphically intensive tasks like video games, it’s going to pull a lot more power. But overall, it definitely excels at lower power consumption, for sure.
So when you say the graphics of this laptop are exceptional, what type of user might want this type of a computer?
Anybody who does any kind of photography or video editing type work, where maybe they don’t want to render 3D images with the CPU, they want to render them or transcode video with the graphics card. I know NVIDIA graphics cards, they also have that option as well. Sometimes it just runs faster than whatever processor you have. And now that Apple’s graphics are that much better, I would think that anybody who needs to do those sorts of tasks would be able to render things faster and transcode and things, and things like that.
Now you mentioned battery life. Is that a weakness or a drawback for those who might be looking to upgrade or get a new laptop? Or were there other things you found that maybe made this not so good a selection, or something that a consumer might want to think twice about?
Sure. So to start with the battery life, the battery life on the 14-inch with the M1 Pro processor is interesting. In our battery rundown test, we got an average about 10.5 hours, 10 hours and 25 minutes to be precise, which is not as much as a 13-inch MacBook Pro and not as much as the MacBook Air, both of which have the M1 chips in them. If you’re just looking for a machine because you need to do emails or you need to write a dissertation for your English class or something like that, 10.5 hours is still incredible life. In a thin and light laptop like the MacBook Pro’s, we want to see something that’s over eight hours, that can get you through the entire day, because who wants to lug around their charging cable.
But with that said, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro’s with the M1 Pro processor, they’re sort of in this niche, middle ground for users. They are too powerful for basic everyday tasks. But if you are a professional photographer or a filmmaker and want something that’s light and portable, they’re not powerful enough. It’s for a very niche crowd. If you are doing some light video editing task and things like that, you could get a good amount out of the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip. But if you’re just doing those basic tasks and writing and checking Twitter and all that fun social media stuff, you’re much better off going with the 13-inch MacBook Pro or even the MacBook Air and saving yourself hundreds of dollars. Sure, you’re not going to get the same kind of graphics power, but you’re going to get basically the same processing power as long as you also have an 8-core chip in there.
So it sounds like in a way you came to a somewhat similar conclusion that I did, that this laptop is powerful and spiffy and probably more laptop than I need for what I do. I mean, I do some podcast processing and occasionally do some light video editing, but I’m not a power user. And maybe there’s competing laptops from Apple itself that are better deals for the average person, but if you have the money, this is a fun machine. Anything else you would tell consumers?
Yeah. I mean, exactly that. If you have $2000 to throw down and you just really, really, really love Apple and you want this and you didn’t like the Touch Bar, yes, absolutely go for this model. I personally really love the Touch Bar as a journalist and as a fiction writer. It just makes editing myself a little bit more easier. But I think the keyboard on the 14-inch and the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s are just a bit snappier. I like it better for writing just because of the feel of it. But like I said, if you are definitely on a budget and you just need something that’s going to get you from point A to point B… I mean, even if you’re a podcaster, the 13-inch in the MacBook Air is going to serve you well.
One thing that I forgot to mention was, if you are a musician and you do a lot of very precise sound editing work, composition and things like that, the speakers on the 14-inch and the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s, they’re not the greatest thing out there. There is a lot more bass compared to the 13-inch, but the bass is better. The treble sounds a little bit tinny. Some songs with heavy bass can get a little bit muddy. So there are better options out there in terms of content creation laptops, like HP’s ZBook Create G7, which has a Bang and Olufsen sound system in it that sounds absolutely incredible. It’s the best that I have ever personally heard. But of course you’re going to have to run Windows instead. So if you don’t mind that… And also that laptop is pretty pricey as well. But if you need something with really good speakers, there are much better options out there than the MacBook Pro, for sure.
All right. Well, Joanna, thanks for being with us today and giving consumers a breakdown of what you went through using the MacBook Pro. Remember folks, you can get more content from her on Twitter @JLNwrites and on tech.usatoday.com and reviewed.com. Listeners, let’s hear from you. Have any thoughts, comments, questions, show ideas, anything you want to say about the MacBook Pro or any questions you have, you can find me on Twitter @MikeSnider. Please don’t forget to subscribe and rate us or leave a review on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere you get your podcast. You’ve been listening to Talking Tech. We’ll be back tomorrow with another quick hit from the world of tech.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Another look at Apple’s new MacBook Pro: Talking Tech podcast