Apple finally releases the handbrake: The M1 Pro and Max MacBook Pros

I’ve been very happy with my little M1 MacBook Pro over the past 9 months. It may only have 8Gb of RAM and 512Gb of storage, but for the most part, it gets things done with very little fuss. The biggest problem is buggy macOS Big Sur – the latest annoyance is that after using Nvidia’s GeForce Now app to play a session of Fortnite, CoreAudio becomes unstable and I need to restart the service. To do that:

sudo kill -9 `ps ax|grep 'coreaudio[a-z]' | awk '{print $1}'`

My M1 iPad Pro from EE, on the other hand, is a beast. It has 16Gb RAM and 2Tb of storage. I love it, and it’s by far the best tablet Apple has ever made – no doubt about it. But Apple has put the brakes on the device – it can never really live up to its full potential because the number of applications that can take full advantage of its processing power and generous memory are few and far between. None of Apple’s “pro” apps have yet been released to iPadOS – Final Cut Pro, Logic, etc.

The M1 iPad also suffers from poor external display support. The resolution and aspect ratio doesn’t adjust accordingly while you’re running productivity apps, or just navigating the home screen. Things do change when playing back media – everything fills the screen – but this still isn’t good enough for a product that’s been labelled “Pro”. Speaking of lack of “Pro” facilities: while iPadOS can read and write Apple formatted external hard drives (and read from Windows NTFS drives), it lacks the ability to format them. On the plus side, my Anker USB-C hub is supported and I can charge the device through the USB-C passthrough port whilst using its HDMI port, ethernet connection (rather than Wi-Fi) and USB-A/USB-C ports with supported peripherals (which is very limited). I can change between my M1 MacBook Pro and M1 iPad Pro at my desk just by swapping them out – the only thing is that I need to use a different keyboard (but I can use my Bluetooth Logitech MX Master 3 mouse which supports up to three devices).

Given last Monday’s Apple Event in which the 14″ and 16″ Apple Silicon MacBook Pros were announced with two upgraded M1 chips – the M1 Pro and the M1 Max. These chips are able to go against some of the highest-end Windows laptops – and even the Intel Mac Pro to a degree – with its beefed-up processing, unified memory bandwidth, and video transcoding/decoding functions. With the return of the MagSafe power cable and port, an HDMI port, 3 Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports and an SD card slot – this returns the MacBook Pro back to the much favoured 2015 design, with a few tweaks here and there.

I’d like to be able to upgrade – I really could do with 16Gb of RAM at least (maybe 32Gb as I need to run Linux virtual machines – ARM64 versions of Debian under Parallels have been fine for my work) and much more storage as working with 512Gb is .. fun. But given the cost, it’ll take me about a year to get the funds together. No keen on destroying my credit file with another entry just yet. (Every little helps? No, it does not).

But what gets my goat in all of this – my 16″ Intel MacBook Pro which cost me more than £4k is now worth about £700 to Apple. Maybe even less if I buy an M1 Pro machine this time next year. I’ve struggled to sell it given the current situation with the Intel to Apple Silicon transition. That’s the thing with Apple – it is always so bloody difficult to tell what they’re about to do that it makes it VERY hard to plan ahead sensibly. The PC market, on the other hand, is much more predictable (though the only unpredictable thing – to a lesser degree now at least – is still finding a new Windows 11 compatible PC – Windows 11 is still too new).

The thing is – I could happily live entirely with the M1 iPad Pro if it had better external monitor support (and could operate with a covering over the thing – I realise it’s a touch device first and foremost – but why would Apple release a £349 keyboard and trackpad accessory if it weren’t going to be used as a more traditional computer too?), the ability to run Final Cut Pro for the few times that I edit video (which could be more often if the iPhone 13 Pro Max ever turns up – I’m very keen to start using ProRes – yes, I know there’s iMovie..), the ability to support virtual machines (a biggie – I can’t use the underlying FreeBSD-like operating system and terminal like macOS – and I need Linux for better compatibility anyway), and Microsoft introduced more advanced tooling in their Office suite for iPad. Word feels too basic – it’s as if I’m using Notepad!

Coming up soon on this blog – I reinstall Windows 11 on my HP Omen laptop for a clean start, and I talk about Windows 11’s Ryzen problem.