June 23, 2022

Apple M2 MacBook Pro review: Is this the last hurrah for the old look?

categories : technology

Its performance is great but certain elements appear to be outdated while some desired upgrades are missing

Apple's new devices tend to generate a buzz — before they are unveiled and also after they hit the market.

The new M2 MacBook Pro, the latest entry in Apple's top-of-the-line laptop series, is due to be released later this week, with orders already being placed.

There has been chatter about the device's processor, battery performance and design.

We reviewed the laptop, and this is what we found.

What's new outside?

Nothing's changed on this front — or back, side or anywhere. Apple went with a design it introduced back in 2016 while also retaining the same space grey and silver colour options.

It still comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left and a 3.5 millimetre audio port on the right. Dimensions and weight also remain the same, despite the fact that the M2 chip is bigger than its predecessor, the M1. The 13-inch screen also sticks to the Retina display and has not been upgraded to Liquid Retina.

Considering there were expectations for at least some aesthetic changes to complement the upgrades inside, including slimmer bezels and more ports, the device falls short in the design area.

However, Apple has a reputation for going with minimalistic looks — and no matter what changes, that logo is still a sort of a badge.

A surprising inclusion is the Touch Bar, the digital strip on top the keyboard, which replaces the F keys. Sure, it is versatile, looks nice and Apple had to do a redesign when it was first introduced in 2016.

But it did not fully serve its purpose, being made redundant by what was on screen and forcing users to look down at it to make sure they were tapping on the right area (compared to the physical F keys that have become used to).

Apple obviously took note of the feedback, evident in the fact that it ditched the Touch Bar on the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros released last year. So, its inclusion on the new MacBook Pro is certain to leave users wondering what changed.

What's new inside?

The M2 chip, of course.

You have probably heard all the good things by now: compared to the M1, the M2 has an eight-core central processing unit that is 18 per cent faster (the M1 has a similar eight-core set-up), 10-core graphics processing unit that is 35 per cent faster (eight-core in the M1), up to 24 gigabytes of memory (compared to 16GB), 20 billion transistors (up from 16 billion), the same 16-core neural engine but now with 15.8 trillion operations per second (11 trillion in M1) and 50 per cent more memory bandwidth.

Those are good bump-ups from the previous generation but keep in mind that you will have to compare this to the base M1 and not the other higher-end options in its stable. We will come to that later.

These new specs translate into a really smooth computing experience, and the laptop does not heat up to alarming levels. It still uses macOS Monterey, so we are looking forward to what Ventura has to offer when it is released later this year.

How long does it last?

The new MacBook Pro remains at par with its predecessor, with up to 20 hours of battery life. Again, to hit this mark, several factors need to be in play.

In our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, the laptop lost only 7 per cent of battery life, which is impressive. For perspective, the M1 MacBook Air released in 2020 clocked in at 10 per cent. A 3 per cent difference may not mean much but you have to look at the ratio to appreciate that figure.

Coming to the daily grind, we discovered that after subjecting it to work and entertainment at half the brightness, we were able to squeeze out about 14 hours from the device.

A separate work-only run also showed that, by the end of a 9.5-hour shift, it still had more than a third of the juice left in the tank. It only required to be plugged in at around noon the next day.

All those battery numbers are pretty impressive — even if you most likely won't be able to go near the advertised 20 hours.

Are comparisons to the higher-end M1 chips fair?

Honestly, this is a tough one. But you have to consider that the M1 Pro, Max and Ultra chips are intended for the top end of Apple's products (the Ultra is basically two base M1 chips clubbed together), which is why they are used in the bigger MacBook Pros and the Mac Studio.

In simpler terms, the premium specs are being reserved for the premium products. Apple also unveiled the higher-end M1 chips in a relatively short time before the M2 was launched, so it could have been testing the market.

There is a high chance that the M2 will have its own Pro, Max and Ultra versions in the future. The base M2 — much like the base M1 — is the default chip on the entry-level device.

Early benchmark tests also show that the M2 is not a pushover: GFXBench says the M2 outperforms the M1 by up to 45 per cent — much better than Apple's advertised 35 per cent — and a Geekbench 5 test even indicated that it is better than the Dh23,000 ($6,262) Mac Pro.

The verdict

The Apple MacBook Pro with the new M2 chip is impressive — so as long as you take everything above into consideration. The M2 chip, as is the case with the M1, proved to be a standout right off the bat.

Still, we are wondering whether Apple's decision to stick to this design points to a final appearance of the Touch Bar and a signal that we are in for a refreshed version next time around? That is tricky to answer, since not all leaks in the past have been accurate. But we sure hope so, because the design feels outdated now.

As an added bonus, consider also that the M2 MacBook Pro starts at Dh5,499 — which is Dh3,000 less than the base 14-inch MacBook Pro. So, that is still value for money.

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