FAQ | Will Apple’s New 16-Inch MacBook Pro Be More Powerful Than the Smaller 14-Inch Model?

MacBook Pro Concept 2021 Credit: Konstantin Milenin / Twitter
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When Apple unveiled its first Apple Silicon Macs last fall, it offered us the first glimpse of what its product lineup was going to look like in a post-Intel world — a one-size-fits-all M1 chip that was like a breath of fresh air from the years of comparing Intel’s potpourri of different classes of chips and speed ratings.

For example, in stark contrast to the prior Intel MacBook Air, where users had to deal with deciding between a 1.1GHz Dual-Core i3 or a 1.2GHz tenth-generation Intel Core i7 that could Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz, the new Apple Silicon MacBook Air came in one CPU configuration — Apple’s M1 chip. Period.

In fact, much like it’s done with its A-series chips for years, Apple doesn’t even get into a discussion on GHz clock speeds and “Turbo Boost” speeds for its M1 chip. The only real spec that Apple was interested in talking about was how many cores the M1 chip had — an 8-core CPU with four high-performance and four high-efficiency cores, accompanied by an 8-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine.

Of course, talking about clock speeds in an entirely different architecture would be largely meaningless anyway, as you’re comparing Apples to oranges (or Intels in this case). All we really need to know is that it’s fast — and it really is very, very fast.

More significantly, Apple only has one major version of the M1 chip, and this went into the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini last year. While the entry-level MacBook Air has a slightly scaled-down M1 with only 7 GPU cores, this isn’t because Apple designed a different version of the chip for that model, but rather simply a matter of something known as “chip binning.”

Enter the ‘M1X’

Based on what Apple did with its M1 Macs last year, it shouldn’t be all that surprising to hear that it’s going to follow a similar playbook with the new higher-end 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro lineup expected to debut this fall.

Although the larger 15/16-inch MacBook Pro has traditionally been Apple’s powerhouse, that’s undoubtedly at least partially due to the demands of Intel’s hot and power-hungry high-end CPUs.

For example, when Apple added a 9th-generation i9 chip to its 2019 MacBook Pro back in 2019, it almost certainly needed the kind of space and ventilation that wasn’t achievable on a smaller computer. As it is, we’ve heard many reports from users experiencing heating problems, including thermal shutdowns and throttling when running the 16-inch MacBook Pro under load. It’s fair to say that this kind of thing would turn a 13-inch MacBook Pro into a pile of molten aluminum slag.

On the other hand, one of the most revolutionary things about Apple’s M1 chips is that not only are they faster than Intel’s, but they run much, much cooler too.

The M1 MacBook Air omits a fan entirely, and while the M1 Mac mini and MacBook Pro do have fans, it’s rare to hear them come on — in stark contrast to their Intel counterparts, which often feel like they’re at the end of a runway preparing for takeoff.

Although we’ve known for a while that Apple has been preparing a newer and more powerful M1X chip, there have been so many different takes on the specs for the new chip that many believed that Apple might produce different variations.

While it likely wouldn’t be nearly the kind of confusing mess that Intel’s selection of chips offers, some speculated there could be differences in GPU cores, with a “lower-end” M1X only offering 16 GPU cores, while the most powerful one would go with 32 GPU cores.

New 14- and 16-Inch M1X MacBook Pros Will Feature the Same Performance

A fairly reliable new leaker, who goes by the Twitter handle @dylandkt, has confirmed that both sizes of MacBook Pro that are coming this fall will “have the same chip and the same performance.”

Note that this doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of a variation in GPU cores, as we noted above, and another leaker chimed in suggesting that the 32-core GPU version will be limited to the 16-inch model.

Even if this is accurate, though, the extra GPU cores in the 16-inch MacBook Pro would likely be intended to compensate for the lack of a discrete GPU — something that’s been the norm in the larger model for years.

Since both models would feature the same number of CPU cores — some reports are suggesting we could end up with as many as 12 — the baseline performance between both models would be identical.

Notably, @dylandkt also suggested that this could make the 14-inch MacBook Pro more expensive than the 13-inch model, but to be clear, it appears he was comparing it to the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro, not the current 13-inch Intel models. In fact, he told MacRumors that it’s likely to be priced “around the current high-end 13-inch model,” but will be closer in price to the 16-inch model “due to their similar feature sets and performance.”

Reading between the lines, this suggests that the 16-inch MacBook Pro could become more affordable than it has been in the past, which seems reasonable considering that Apple doesn’t have to account for all the complexities of Intel’s more resource-intensive i9 chips.

So far, @dylandkt has a pretty solid track record when it comes to Apple’s M1 Macs. Last year, he correctly predicted that the 2021 iPad Pro would feature the same M1 chip as Apple’s fall Mac lineup, and also accurately called the arrival of the 24-inch iMac as the only new desktop model, featuring the same M1 chip, rather than a newer and more powerful M1X or M2.

New M1X MacBook Pro Specs

The new higher-end M1X MacBook Pro models are expected to land in November, featuring a major redesign, the return of HDMI video and MagSafe charging ports. They’ll likely come in configurations with up to 64GB RAM, an 8TB SSD, and four Thunderbolt 4 ports, making them replacements for the higher-end Intel models that have remained in the lineup, even as the much faster entry-level M1 MacBook Pro runs circles around them in terms of performance.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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