On January 17th of 2023, Apple made a few unexpected announcements. The long-awaited MacBook M2 Pro and MacBook M2 Max along with the Mac Mini would soon be joining the Apple product slate. The next day, they made another new announcement: a revamped Home Pod was on the way, as well.
With so much news in so little time, it can be hard to keep track of what it all means. As such, it’s worth breaking them down — starting with the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max. How do the two new MacBook Pros compare, and how are they different?
MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max: Side-by-Side Comparison
|MacBook M2 Pro||MacBook M2 Max|
|First Released||January 24th, 2023||January 24th, 2023|
|Available Screen Size(s)||14 inches; 16 inches||14 inches; 16 inches|
|Measurements||14-inch model: 12.31 in. x 8.71 in. x 0.6 in. |
16-inch model: 14.01 in. x 9.77 in. 0.66 in.
|14-inch model: 12.31 in. x 8.71 in. x 0.6 in. |
16-inch model: 14.01 in. x 9.77 in. 0.66 in.
|Weight||14-inch model: 3.5 lbs|
16-inch model: 4.7 lbs
|14-inch model: 3.5 lbs|
16-inch model: 4.7 lbs
|System-on-a-Chip (SOC)||M2 Pro||M2 Max|
|CPU Options||10-core; 12-core||12-core|
|GPU Options||16-core; 19-core||30-core; 38-core|
|Unified Memory||16 GB; 32 GB||32 GB; 64 GB; 96 GB|
|Memory Bandwidth||200 GB/s||400 GB/s|
|Storage||256 GB – 8 TB||1 TB – 8 TB|
|Battery Life||22 hours||22 hours|
|Wi-Fi Supported||Wi-Fi 6E||Wi-Fi 6E|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 5.3||Bluetooth 5.3|
|Display||Liquid Retina XDR display||Liquid Retina XDR display|
|Peak Brightness||1600 nits||1600 nits|
|External Display Support||Up to 8K resolution||Up to 8K resolution|
|Number of Ports||3 USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports||3 USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports|
|Sound||6 speakers (with Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio)||6 speakers (with Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio)|
MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max: What’s the Difference?
Clearly, we have quite a number of technical specs to report about the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max. There are plenty of crossovers to be found between the two new MacBook Pro configurations, but what about the differences between the two?
Let’s outline the greatest points of variance below, paying close attention to things like price and key internal specs.
- Sleek 16.2-inch Retina display
- Exceptionally long battery life (up to 22 hours)
- 32GB unified memory, and 1TB storage
- M2 pro with 12 CPU cores for exceptional performance
- Compatible with Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft 365, and iOS apps
- 1080p HD camera and amazing audio system
Firstly, let’s cover what is quite likely the most obvious difference between the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max. These two new MacBook types have very different price points, and they only increase as you jump from the 14-inch options to the 16-inch options.
The M2 Pros begin at $1,999 for the most basic 14-inch model, then increase to $2,499 for the boosted version with greater internal specs. The 16-inch M2 Pro starts at $2,499 for its basic model, then jumps to $2,699 for its boosted version. Comparatively, the 14-inch M2 Max costs $3,099, while the 16-inch costs $3,499.
While internal specs are not as obvious to discern as a price point is, they’re nevertheless worth mentioning here. The difference in GPUs (or graphics processing units) is actually quite drastic with the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max.
The M2 Pro offers two options: a 16-core GPU or a 19-core GPU. By comparison, the M2 Max increases that number exponentially. The M2 Max’s options jump up to either 30 cores or 38 cores. That’s a pretty drastic difference — and one that will have a direct impact on performance between the two new MacBook versions.
Now, memory bandwidth might not be talked about as much as something like graphics or price. But, the differences between the MacBook M2 Pro and MacBook M2 Max in this regard definitely deserve some attention.
The M2 Pro model delivers 200 GB/s of memory bandwidth, while the M2 Max doubles that to 400 GB/s of memory bandwidth. The better your memory bandwidth, the better your computer’s overall performance will be. With this in mind, the M2 Max is essentially twice as good as the M2 Pro in this category.
Going hand in hand with memory bandwidth is unified memory. (This is Apple’s preferred form of RAM, which combines the hard drive and the RAM into the same big memory pool.) The MacBook M2 Pro offers just two options, both on the lower end: 16 GB and 32 GB.
The MacBook M2 Max, by comparison, blows the M2 Pro’s options out of the water. The M2 Max offers three choices: 32 GB, 64 GB, and a whopping 96 GB. The lowest-end M2 Pro option and the highest-end M2 Max option have a difference of 80 GB between them.
- Powered by the Apple M2 Max chip
- Up to 22 hours of battery life
- 12-core CPU, 38-core GPU
- Upgradeable to 8TB storage
- 16.2-inch liquid retina XDR display
Storage is another place where the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max differ pretty significantly. The MacBook M2 Pro has quite a few options, beginning at 512 GB and stretching all the way up to 8 TB. All in all, the M2 Pro gives you five options to choose from between the two: 512 TB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, and 8 TB.
The M2 Max, by comparison, begins at 1 TB and goes up to 8 TB. Important to note is the fact that the M2 Max’s base configuration is 1 TB, which is nearly double that of the M2 Pro’s base configuration of 512 GB.
External Display Support
Lastly, let’s touch on the differences in external display support between the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max. While both have the same number of ports — an SDXC card slot, an HDMI port, a MagSafe 3 port, and three USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports — they do not have the same number of supported external displays.
The M2 Pro supports just two external displays at a resolution of 6K or less. The M2 Max, on the other hand, supports up to four external displays. Of these four, up to three can be at 6K resolution.
M2 Pro and M2 Max Explained
While the announcement of the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips was definitely not predicted to arrive so soon in 2023, the development and eventual release of the two state-of-the-art chips was definitely expected for this year.
However, insiders had really been putting their faith in a spring 2023 announcement and release. This unexpected January debut was a welcome surprise. The MacBook M2 Pro and MacBook M2 Max mark a new dawn for the fifth-generation Pro model. Apple inexplicably returned to its fourth-generation MacBook Pro build back in the summer of 2022.
This makes the M2 Pro and M2 Max not only a return to form but also a drastic improvement over what came before it. Longtime Apple users will recognize the branding behind the chips immediately. The M2 Pro and M2 Max pick up on an earlier trend set forth by the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips (both released in fall 2021).
The M2 Pro and M2 Max improve upon these chips in just about every possible way. Apple isn’t wrong to claim their new chips as the most powerful ones ever placed in a pro laptop. The M2 Pro and M2 Max have an unprecedented number of CPU and GPU cores along with an equally impressive amount of unified memory.
While we’ve spent plenty of time pitting the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max against one another, it should be said that the two form a unified front against the competition. As a pair, the M2 Pro and M2 Max make for the most powerful and energy-efficient pro laptop chips on the market. You aren’t going to encounter a better laptop build from Apple. (And certainly not from any of Apple’s competitors, either.)
The History of the MacBook Pro
The new MacBook M2 Pro and MacBook M2 Max mark a much-needed step forward for the MacBook Pro line. First introduced back in January of 2006, the MacBook Pro name has been a part of the Apple family for 17 years now. Throughout this time, it has remained synonymous with Apple’s most powerful Mac notebook computer.
Bigger and more capable than the user-friendly MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro offers storage and computing power not found on any other MacBook model. Whether it’s the 13-inch, the 14-inch, or the 16-inch model, the MacBook Pro earns that “pro” name.
With this in mind, the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max debate marks the next level of this 17-year-long history of the MacBook Pro. Compared to the first-generation MacBook Pro, it’s clear just how far Apple has come with these new Pro variants.
That first generation Pro from back in 2006 merely depended on an old PowerBook design and some simple Intel Core processors for its internal makeup. Equipped with a basic webcam and the earliest form of MagSafe charger tech, the first-generation MacBook Pro only came in two sizes: a 15-inch and a 17-inch model.
Apple released the MacBook Pro second generation in 2008, then stuck to a four-year life cycle for the next two generations. The MacBook Pro third generation came in 2012, followed by the MacBook Pro fourth generation in 2016.
Apple then dropped that four-year life cycle (likely due to supply chain disruptions in 2020 and beyond) for a five-year one, releasing the fifth-generation MacBook Pro in 2021. The fourth-generation MacBook Pro was then re-released with Apple’s M2 chip technology back in the summer of 2022. Clearly, the M2 Pro and M2 Max are history in the making.
MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max: Pros and Cons
|Pros of MacBook M2 Pro||Cons of MacBook M2 Pro|
|Superior to the previous M2 chip technology||Decreased memory bandwidth compared to M2 Max|
|More affordable than the M2 Max||Less unified memory than the M2 Max|
|Better battery than the previous MacBook Pro models||Shorter battery life in comparison to the M2 Max|
|Many different configurations to choose from||Fewer GPU and CPU cores compared to the M2 Max|
|Pros of MacBook M2 Max||Cons of MacBook M2 Max|
|Larger CPU and GPU than the M2 Pro||Far pricier than the M2 Pro|
|More unified memory than the M2 Pro||Fewer customization options than the M2 Pro|
|Best laptop battery life in Apple’s lineup||The 16-inch model is nearly 5 pounds|
|Unbeatable memory bandwidth||For the price, you could easily build a more powerful high-end PC|
MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max: 5 Must-Know Facts
- The MacBook M2 Pro, the MacBook M2 Max, and the brand-new Mac Mini were all publicized on January 17th. But, contrary to past pressers from Apple, few saw this one coming. Typically, as with iPhone announcements, people know what’s coming from the tech giant. This was not the case here, as the press release was something of a surprise.
- There are 40 billion transistors within the new M2 Pro chip. That’s two times the number of transistors in the previous M2 chip. Furthermore, there are 67 billion transistors in the M2 Max chip. That’s more than three times that of the M2 chip.
- The M2 Max makes numerous key improvements over even the M2 Pro chip. This almost makes it like the “pro” version of this new Pro chip. All in all, it offers a whopping 38-core GPU, as many as 400 GB/s in total unified bandwidth, and a unified memory as large as 96 GB.
- The M2 Pro is more than 30% faster than the M1 Pro. The same goes for the M2 Max, which is also 30% faster than its M1 Max counterpart.
- The M2 Pro and M2 Max chips can handle up to 15.8 trillion operations in a single second. Compared to the M1 Pro and M1 Max, you’re looking at 40% faster operations in all.
MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max: Which One Is Better?
Before choosing a winner between the MacBook M2 Pro vs MacBook M2 Max, it should be said that these two Pro builds are the best in Apple’s history. No matter which you go for, it’s going to be more powerful and more impressive than any other Apple laptop by a tremendous margin.
But, if a winner has to be chosen, then that winner is without a doubt the MacBook M2 Max. This is the best laptop Apple has to offer, without question. The next-best option would be the M2 Pro. Together, the two chips make for one of the most impressive debuts from Apple in the 2020s.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©WeDesing/Shutterstock.com.