MacBook Pro 14-inch review: M2 Pro model has just gotten more powerful

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in Current Mac Hardware edited April 2023
It's been roughly three months since AppleInsider favorably reviewed the M2 Pro-equipped MacBook Pro 14-inch. Months later, the shine hasn't yet worn off the powerhouse notebook.

M2 Pro-powered 14-inch MacBook Pro
M2 Pro-powered 14-inch MacBook Pro


Back in February, we looked at the just-launched M2 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch, which was ultimately a spec bump update from the M1 Pro and M1 Pro Max version.

We considered it a "fine" release at the time since it started with a solid base. It had a great design borrowed from its predecessor, great specifications, and -- thanks to M2 Pro -- a massive amount of performance on tap.



A quarter of a year later, our opinions of the portable powerhouse remain largely unchanged.

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MacBook Pro 14-inch: An unchanged exterior

The MacBook Pro 14-inch is a neatly-designed yet performance-heavy notebook, and a lot of that comes from its inherited design. Apple didn't change the outside at all, which was both a blessing and a curse.

Doing so saved Apple from introducing changes for change's sake, which meant less spent on altering manufacturing processes. The design also still feels fresh after only being introduced on the last-gen unit.

Apple could only do so because the design remains exceptional in the crowded notebook market. As a 0.61-inch thick slab of rectangular aluminum, it's unmistakable as one of Apple's top-tier notebook offerings.

That body is married to the excellent 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display, with its high 3,024 by 1,964 resolution being more than enough for most people to work with. That it has a massive million-to-one contrast ratio and up to 1,600 nits of brightness for HDR content are welcomed bonuses, too -- on top of ProMotion.



The ever-present notch hasn't changed anyone's opinions over whether it's a good or a bad thing for the display, as you're still going to love it or hate it after three months of usage. Indeed, you'll probably learn to live with it and be less angry, and more ambivalent about the thing.

Around the edge, the port selection continued Apple's tradition of not going as far as a stereotypical PC notebook in terms of variety. Keeping the selection small was a good idea for the M1 edition, and it's still serviceable here in the M2.

Sure, if you want a few more ports than what's available, you can always go down the route of attaching a dock. But unless you have a burning need to use USB-A or some other more exotic connection, you probably won't need it.

Keyboard on the 2023 14-inch MacBook Pro
Keyboard on the 2023 14-inch MacBook Pro


The keyboard is, as usual, Apple's fantastic-feeling Magic Keyboard, which still feels great to type on after months of abuse. Touch ID lives in the top-right corner, though we still mourn the loss of the Touch Bar -- even if it's been a few years.

Apple didn't incorporate any new elements into the MacBook Pro design, though didn't need them. Months of use later, we aren't missing any would-be-nice aspects.

It is an elegantly well-designed notebook, and while flashy additions could've been nice, they aren't necessary. We certainly don't feel like we're missing out here.

CleanMyMac X banner

MacBook Pro 14-inch: More than enough power

The whole point of the release, if not to change the outside, was to bring a new inside to the world.

M2 Pro and M2 Max offered creators a bit of an upgrade from the previous M1 Pro and M1 Max. Higher Apple Silicon performance means they can edit videos or work on other projects faster.

Ports on the 14-inch MacBook Pro
Some of the ports on the MacBook Pro 14-inch


On our M2 Pro, this included a generous memory bandwidth at 200GB/s, along with either a 10-core CPU with a 16-core GPU or a 12-core CPU and a 19-core GPU on the M2 Pro side. All benefiting from the usefulness of Unified memory.

That's not to mention the 16-core Neural Engine that's 40% faster than the M1 version. Nor the Media Engine which gains a bit more performance when compared to its M1 counterpart.

These are all great additions and a gradual improvement over the previous version. However, it's just that. Gradual.

If you're hammering the CPU and GPU regularly, then these gains will be most appreciated. Except most people won't be tormenting the chips with tasks of that magnitude all of the time.

Sure, Joe Public may not see the benefits of blistering speed when browsing the Internet on it. But on the rare occasion when they have to wait for Adobe Premiere to export a project, the few seconds could be all the difference they need to justify the upgrade.

Besides, those who need complete and utter insanity when it comes to performance will be buying the M2 Max variants anyway.

(Lack of) memory and SSD slowness

The only real two areas of disappointment would be the limitations of M2 Pro over M2 Max. Chiefly one of the memory options.

Having more memory is generally good -- especially for a system with Universal Memory, as it impacts so many areas. Increasing memory effectively does so for the CPU, GPU, and other areas simultaneously.

The upgraded HDMI port of the 14-inch MacBook Pro port
The upgraded HDMI port of the 14-inch MacBook Pro


Starting with 16GB of memory is nice, and the option to go to 32GB is certainly useful, but that's where you're stopped. If you want 64GB or even 96GB, you have no choice but to go for an M2 Max model instead of an M2 Pro.

Again, this is a power user issue, as there can be situations where a massive amount of memory could be useful. But it's not necessarily something that has to go hand-in-hand with the chip performance.

Having had the option to add more memory, going beyond 32GB would be nice, but even so, that's still a lot for the average user to require.

Less forgiving is the SSD speed of the lowest 14-inch MacBook Pro configuration. At the time of the review, it was observed that, by using fewer flash chips, the base specification has a speed issue.

While an M1 Pro with a 512GB SSD could offer read and write speeds in excess of 5,000MB/s, while the same storage configuration in the M2 Pro is below 3,000MB/s.

Again, unless you're doing significant reads and writes to storage, it's not a massive problem. Months down the road, it feels like an odd limitation to have.

We said at the time that, sure, you could reclaim the speed by paying an extra $200 for 1TB of storage, but you shouldn't have to deal with this if you're shelling out $2,000, to begin with. This point still stands and is probably the biggest argument against going for a base-model configuration.

MacBook Pro 14-inch: Still worthwhile

After a few months of usage, it's fair to describe what Apple did with the M2 Pro MacBook Pro was worthwhile. It had a great base to work from and simply added more performance to the mix.

There are no real negatives to harp on about here since it's a very familiar design that didn't need any changes made to it. That it can chew through tasks quicker too, is nothing to complain about.

The only issues we've encountered in our time with the 2023 MacBook Pro have been software related. There were a few niggles when we went to log into the machine and it just froze.

The new 14-inch MacBook Pro with the lid closed
The new 14-inch MacBook Pro with the lid closed


After a few moments, it got its wits about itself and entered the password we'd typed. This is attributed to macOS Ventura versus any hardware limitations.

At launch, any AppleInsider editorial team member would've said the M2 Pro MacBook Pro was a worthwhile purchase for anyone wanting a MacBook Pro, but not necessarily needing bleeding edge performance.

Getting to know the notebook for a while and using it practically every day doesn't change that viewpoint at all.

Apple made a cracking notebook here. It may not offer as much memory as the M2 Max variant, and it may have storage foibles, but other than that it's a great way to get an all-in-one multitasking powerhouse that you can slip into a rucksack.

M2 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch Pros

  • Design still feels new and looks great

  • Good CPU and GPU gains over M1 models

  • Connectivity future-proofing

  • Memory maximum has increased for bigger workflows

M2 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch Cons

  • FaceTime camera is only adequate

  • A $2000 machine should have better SSD speeds than this
Rating: 4 out of 5 as reviewed.

Where to buy Apple's 14-inch MacBook Pro at a discount

Every 2023 MacBook Pro 14 configuration is up to $250 off with promo code APINSIDER at Apple Authorized Reseller Adorama. The same coupon also knocks $60 off AppleCare for the 14-inch laptop.

At press time, the MacBook Pro deals range from $100 to $250 off MSRP, so whether you're looking for the lowest price on the configuration in this MacBook Pro 14-inch review or prefer a top-of-the-line model with 96GB memory, the cheapest prices are at your fingertips in our 2023 MacBook Pro 14-inch Price Guide.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,842member
    It’s the model we are looking at for my partner to update their 2013 MBP. Do they need the power? Well, no, but they want the 14” screen, and tbh it’s future proofing. The 2013 model was way more than they needed when we got it too. Now it feels really slow, mind you they push it to do more stuff than they dreamed of a decade ago. If we went with this hypothetical 15” MacBook Air that rumours have it might be coming out this year, I’m not sure we’d get the life out of it. 

    And for the record, the 2013 MBP is still using the original battery. Still gets usable life out of it off plug. 
    sphericAlex1N
  • Reply 2 of 16
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 18,020member
    There is no way most users are going to notice an SSD speed of 3GB vs 5GB.  Anything one copies from external media is not going to approach those speeds.  I routinely import 50-100GB from microSD cards (captured drone video).  I have an M1 Pro 14", and it's more than enough.  As for power, I work with iMovie extensively for prosumer video editing.  It blows the doors off my 2015 MBP and doesn't slow me down.  My point is I'm a prosumer/semi-pro user and even last generation machine is more than enough.  If you want bleeding edge, that's fine, but get out your wallet.  
    williamlondonsphericAlex1Njas99
  • Reply 3 of 16
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,781member
    My issue with the machine is the insane cost of RAM and that Apple nickel and dimes £10 for the 96w PSU. To go from 16 to 32GB is an absurd £400. It should be half that cost at most, you can get 16GB DDR5 for £60 retail. I was going to get the upgrade for my M2 but there was no way I was being ripped off with those prices. 
    Alex1N
  • Reply 4 of 16
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 907member
    It seems like EVERYONE has reported on "SSD-gate," i.e., the slower SSD speed specs for the 512GB configuration for the MBP. (Which follows the previous outrage over slower SSD speeds in the 256GB configuration of the M2 MBA vs the M1.) And we know that the slower speeds in the MBP are the result of a 1x512 SSD configuration instead of the 2x256 configuration used in the M1 MBP.  Further, we know that the change in configurations was driven by tightening supplies and higher prices for the lower capacity 128GB and 256GB chips. But the question NO ONE answers is the most important one for prospective buyers: what's the real world impact of these slower SSD specs on the work done by a typical buyer of a base model MBP 14'? I'll go further with that question: is there ANY real world impact at all? I suspect it's so minimal as to go unnoticed in actual use. 

    Yes, I'm sure that if you threw a workload at it that was more typical for the buyer of higher spec'd MBPs, then real world differences might show up. But those buyers aren't buying base model MBPs, so what's the point? 
    williamlondonsdw2001Alex1Nchiajas99
  • Reply 5 of 16
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,842member
    charlesn said:
    It seems like EVERYONE has reported on "SSD-gate," i.e., the slower SSD speed specs for the 512GB configuration for the MBP. (Which follows the previous outrage over slower SSD speeds in the 256GB configuration of the M2 MBA vs the M1.) And we know that the slower speeds in the MBP are the result of a 1x512 SSD configuration instead of the 2x256 configuration used in the M1 MBP.  Further, we know that the change in configurations was driven by tightening supplies and higher prices for the lower capacity 128GB and 256GB chips. But the question NO ONE answers is the most important one for prospective buyers: what's the real world impact of these slower SSD specs on the work done by a typical buyer of a base model MBP 14'? I'll go further with that question: is there ANY real world impact at all? I suspect it's so minimal as to go unnoticed in actual use. 

    Yes, I'm sure that if you threw a workload at it that was more typical for the buyer of higher spec'd MBPs, then real world differences might show up. But those buyers aren't buying base model MBPs, so what's the point? 
    A very salient point. If you are doing video with huge files where FCP is reading and writing to disk all the time, then yes it would be an issue. But if you are working with a document that stays in RAM while you are working on it, then no, it should have no impact. 
    Alex1N
  • Reply 6 of 16
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,781member
    charlesn said:
    It seems like EVERYONE has reported on "SSD-gate," i.e., the slower SSD speed specs for the 512GB configuration for the MBP. (Which follows the previous outrage over slower SSD speeds in the 256GB configuration of the M2 MBA vs the M1.) And we know that the slower speeds in the MBP are the result of a 1x512 SSD configuration instead of the 2x256 configuration used in the M1 MBP.  Further, we know that the change in configurations was driven by tightening supplies and higher prices for the lower capacity 128GB and 256GB chips. But the question NO ONE answers is the most important one for prospective buyers: what's the real world impact of these slower SSD specs on the work done by a typical buyer of a base model MBP 14'? I'll go further with that question: is there ANY real world impact at all? I suspect it's so minimal as to go unnoticed in actual use. 

    Yes, I'm sure that if you threw a workload at it that was more typical for the buyer of higher spec'd MBPs, then real world differences might show up. But those buyers aren't buying base model MBPs, so what's the point? 
    Well since 16GB RAM is pretty constrained for a pro machine, they may well notice when it runs out of memory and starts swapping furiously. Mine spends a lot of time with 50%+ memory pressure. Safari is the main culprit. 20 or so tabs and somehow that's 7.5GB. Close them all and it still uses 2.5GB. Apparently full of memory leaks.
    edited April 2023 h4y3ssphericAlex1N
  • Reply 7 of 16
    elijahg said:
    charlesn said:
    It seems like EVERYONE has reported on "SSD-gate," i.e., the slower SSD speed specs for the 512GB configuration for the MBP. (Which follows the previous outrage over slower SSD speeds in the 256GB configuration of the M2 MBA vs the M1.) And we know that the slower speeds in the MBP are the result of a 1x512 SSD configuration instead of the 2x256 configuration used in the M1 MBP.  Further, we know that the change in configurations was driven by tightening supplies and higher prices for the lower capacity 128GB and 256GB chips. But the question NO ONE answers is the most important one for prospective buyers: what's the real world impact of these slower SSD specs on the work done by a typical buyer of a base model MBP 14'? I'll go further with that question: is there ANY real world impact at all? I suspect it's so minimal as to go unnoticed in actual use. 

    Yes, I'm sure that if you threw a workload at it that was more typical for the buyer of higher spec'd MBPs, then real world differences might show up. But those buyers aren't buying base model MBPs, so what's the point? 
    Well since 16GB RAM is pretty constrained for a pro machine, they may well notice when it runs out of memory and starts swapping furiously. Mine spends a lot of time with 50%+ memory pressure. Safari is the main culprit. 20 or so tabs and somehow that's 7.5GB. Close them all and it still uses 2.5GB. Apparently full of memory leaks.
    On my machine, it's the "Per-Tab Web Processes" which Safari spawns which are the culprit in that it doesn't close them when you switch between tab groups. I suspect because it wants to keep the last version you saw available for when you switch back.

    You can turn of this function in the debug menu, or simply quit and relaunch Safari to release the memory.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 8 of 16
    amar99amar99 Posts: 181member
    Headline vs Article Question:
    Headline: "M2 Pro model has just gotten more powerful"
    Article: Maybe I just didn't read carefully enough, but I can't find where it plainly states what has changed, and when.
    blurpbleepbloop
  • Reply 9 of 16
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 907member
    amar99 said:
    Headline vs Article Question:
    Headline: "M2 Pro model has just gotten more powerful"
    Article: Maybe I just didn't read carefully enough, but I can't find where it plainly states what has changed, and when.
    It's a weird headline for sure. The M2 Pro model has NOT "just gotten more powerful," which implies some change made in the present. Nope, that didn't happen. It has simply been more powerful since release in January vs the M1 Pro MBP it replaces and nothing has changed since then. In terms of how much more powerful, Apple Insider seems to go out of its way to minimize expectations, calling it "a bit of an upgrade" in one paragraph and "a gradual improvement" in another, and then continues by emphasizing the word "gradual" for readers. But these characterizations do align with previous assessments of the M2 chip as being a very incremental upgrade over the M1--more of a stopgap measure for marketing purposes until the M3 arrives and certainly nothing like the jaw-dropping performance improvements we saw when the M1 replaced Intel chips. 
    edited April 2023 Alex1N
  • Reply 10 of 16
    We are not going to get jaw dropping improvements with every generation. There is only so small you can make the chips due to physics. 
    Alex1N
  • Reply 11 of 16
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,617member
    amar99 said:
    Headline vs Article Question:
    Headline: "M2 Pro model has just gotten more powerful"
    Article: Maybe I just didn't read carefully enough, but I can't find where it plainly states what has changed, and when.
    From the article: 

    "…either a 10-core CPU with a 16-core GPU or a 12-core CPU and a 19-core GPU on the M2 Pro side. All benefiting from the usefulness of Unified memory. 

    That's not to mention the 16-core Neural Engine that's 40% faster than the M1 version. Nor the Media Engine which gains a bit more performance when compared to its M1 counterpart. 

    These are all great additions and a gradual improvement over the previous version. However, it's just that. Gradual. 

    If you're hammering the CPU and GPU regularly, then these gains will be most appreciated."
  • Reply 12 of 16
    SkepticalSkeptical Posts: 183member
    Does anyone expect Apple Insider to give a less than positive review to anything made by Apple? 
    neoncat
  • Reply 13 of 16
    XedXed Posts: 2,678member
    Skeptical said:
    Does anyone expect Apple Insider to give a less than positive review to anything made by Apple? 
    They have when it's warranted. What about this 14" M2 MBP do you think is less than positive in its performance?
    muthuk_vanalingamAlex1Nspheric
  • Reply 14 of 16
    Ok the M2 is out and then the M2x, then the M3 and the M3x... But honestly the problem is the OS and software are so incredibly problematic!  Has anyone noticed for example that Google docs and pages don't play well together?  And when my staff creates a pages document and send it to me on my new MBPro 13" I     can't open up the file?  When I    send a file to her she can't open it up either.  more and more of the documents that I    create or have created on all of my 16 Macs and 4 pcs simply don't share the information well despite cloud services etc.  My Power point files created 2 years ago can only open up as read files?? WTH?  Numbers won't upload spreadsheets to google docs??? So while the computers are getting faster the software that allows us to use them is deteriorating.  and for Gods sakes don't get me started on Mail!  Is anyone at apple working or they still on covid break?  The glasses?  Who cares when the software to use will probably be as exciting as the new "sketchy" program that apple created because it was so... exciting... (Yawn. zzzz.). If you need some innovation, Tim Cook, I    would suggest you start listening to some of your oldest and longest users. Mac128k inside signed by all the developers!  We want functionality!  I    want to search for a file and... the file actually pull up.  (Searched for file with "weight in the title and search didn't pull it up, took me 30 mins of searching through folders to find it."  I    know this is a rant but honestly who cares about power the OS and the platform are turning to .... well you know ... fill in the blank.  Any one else want to comment on the power play but software suck?  My daughter and son also have issues with the Mac Google and Microsoft file problem.  

    Alex1N
  • Reply 15 of 16
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,781member
    elijahg said:
    charlesn said:
    It seems like EVERYONE has reported on "SSD-gate," i.e., the slower SSD speed specs for the 512GB configuration for the MBP. (Which follows the previous outrage over slower SSD speeds in the 256GB configuration of the M2 MBA vs the M1.) And we know that the slower speeds in the MBP are the result of a 1x512 SSD configuration instead of the 2x256 configuration used in the M1 MBP.  Further, we know that the change in configurations was driven by tightening supplies and higher prices for the lower capacity 128GB and 256GB chips. But the question NO ONE answers is the most important one for prospective buyers: what's the real world impact of these slower SSD specs on the work done by a typical buyer of a base model MBP 14'? I'll go further with that question: is there ANY real world impact at all? I suspect it's so minimal as to go unnoticed in actual use. 

    Yes, I'm sure that if you threw a workload at it that was more typical for the buyer of higher spec'd MBPs, then real world differences might show up. But those buyers aren't buying base model MBPs, so what's the point? 
    Well since 16GB RAM is pretty constrained for a pro machine, they may well notice when it runs out of memory and starts swapping furiously. Mine spends a lot of time with 50%+ memory pressure. Safari is the main culprit. 20 or so tabs and somehow that's 7.5GB. Close them all and it still uses 2.5GB. Apparently full of memory leaks.
    On my machine, it's the "Per-Tab Web Processes" which Safari spawns which are the culprit in that it doesn't close them when you switch between tab groups. I suspect because it wants to keep the last version you saw available for when you switch back.

    You can turn off this function in the debug menu, or simply quit and relaunch Safari to release the memory.
    Yeah that will help, but then data entered in forms or dynamic websites will reset. Same if you quit and relaunch. 

    Closing /every/ tab results in it still using 2.5GB RAM. That is terrible. 
  • Reply 16 of 16
    Rogue01Rogue01 Posts: 165member
    sdw2001 said:
    There is no way most users are going to notice an SSD speed of 3GB vs 5GB.  Anything one copies from external media is not going to approach those speeds.  I routinely import 50-100GB from microSD cards (captured drone video).  I have an M1 Pro 14", and it's more than enough.  As for power, I work with iMovie extensively for prosumer video editing.  It blows the doors off my 2015 MBP and doesn't slow me down.  My point is I'm a prosumer/semi-pro user and even last generation machine is more than enough.  If you want bleeding edge, that's fine, but get out your wallet.  
    They will definitely notice it.  Combined with the small amount of RAM with the small SSD configuration, continuous read/write paging of memory to the SSD will have a big impact on performance.  It is not about copying files.  Also, you have the M1 Pro version, so your MacBook Pro doesn't have the crippled SSD.  So of course you are not affected by it.  The last generation is great.  The M2 with the slow SSD runs slower than the prior generation.  That is the problem, and a cheap shot for Apple to pull that stunt on every M2 Mac.
    elijahg
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