M2 MacBook Pro 2023 vs 2021: Which should you buy?
Still an awesome choice
The MacBook Pro version that finally brought the “Pro” back to the MacBook Pro. Other than an older choice of chips, this is nearly identical inside and out to its successor. Look for deep discounts — eventually.
- Same design
- Offers the same storage options and camera
- Likely cheaper
- Slower processors
- Fewer RAM options
- Slightly less battery life
Best, but …
The current MacBook Pro offers few new features over its predecessor. It’s a model for true professionals that won’t be swayed by discounts on the order model.
- Faster chips
- More memory options
- Better battery life
- Same storage options
- More expensive
- Overall, few changes
In October 2021, Apple finally listened to critics and released a MacBook Pro that (once again) included Pro features such as multiple ports, including MagSafe, an HD camera system, and much more. Less than two years later, the next-generation model has arrived, once again with either a 14.2- or 16.2-inch display. The MacBook Pro 2021 and MacBook Pro 2023 offer the same design and nearly the same internals. The differences between the two are basically confined to the available chips. Where the 2021 model provides the Apple M1 Pro and Apple M1 Max, the 2023 model includes either an Apple M2 Pro or Apple M2 Max.
MacBook Pro 2023 vs 2021: Breaking it down
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As you can see in the spec sheet below, the main differences between the MacBook Pro 2021 and MacBook Pro 2023 are limited to CPU, GPU, memory, and battery life. Storage availability remains the same on both models.
|Specs||MacBook Pro 2021||MacBook Pro 2023|
|Cost||From $1,999||From $1,999|
|Display||14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display, 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display||14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display,16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display|
|Resolution||3024×1964 pixels, 3456 by 2234 pixels||3024×1964 pixels, 3456 by 2234 pixels|
|Security||Touch ID||Touch ID|
|CPU||Up to 10-core||Up to 12-core|
|GPU||Up to 32-core||Up to 38-core|
|Memory||16GB 32GB 64GB (M1 Max)||16GB 32GB 64GB (M2 Max) 96GB (M2 Max with 38-core GPU)|
|Storage||512GB SSD 1TB SSD 2TB SSD 4TB SSD 8TB SSD||512GB SSD 1TB SSD 2TB SSD 4TB SSD 8TB SSD|
|Ports||Three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) portsHDMI portSDXC card slot||Three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) portsHDMI portSDXC card slot|
|Camera||1080p FaceTime HD camera||1080p FaceTime HD camera|
|Audio||High-fidelity six-speaker sound system with force-canceling woofers||High-fidelity six-speaker sound system with force-canceling woofers|
|Headphone jack||3.5 mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones||3.5 mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones|
|Dimensions||0.61 x 12.31 x 8.71 inches, 0.66 x 14.01 x 9.77 inches||0.61 x 12.31 x 8.71 inches, 0.66 x 14.01 x 9.77 inches|
|Weight||3.5 pounds, 4.7 pounds||0.60 x 12.31 x 8.71 inches 0.66 x 14.01 x 9.77 inches|
|Battery Life||17 hours, 21 hours||18 hours, 22 hours|
Ultimately, the decision to purchase the MacBook Pro 2021 or MacBook Pro 2023 could come down to price. Because the former is no longer available through Apple, whatever stock that’s left will eventually be offered at decent discounts. You’ll receive the same display, storage, speakers, and ports as the newer model.
If you’re the type of person that always wants (or needs) the best MacBook Pro Apple can provide, the MacBook 2023 is undoubtedly the one for you. The 14- and 16-inch versions are precisely the same except for the display size (14.2 inches versus 16.2 inches) and battery life (up to 18 hours on the smaller model and up to 22 hours on the larger one).
From a chip perspective, the MacBook Pro 2021 comes with either an Apple M1 Pro or an Apple M1 Max silicon chip. Conversely, the MacBook Pro 2022 comes with an Apple M2 Pro or an Apple M2 Max chip.
The Apple M2 Pro includes 40 billion transistors, which is 20% more than the M1 Pro and twice that of the M2. There’s also double the memory bandwidth of M2. The Apple M2 Max comes with up to 96GB of unified memory and 6 billion transistors. This is over 10 billion more than the M1 Max and over three times more than the M2. The M2 Max is also noted for delivering twice the memory bandwidth of the M2 Pro and four times that of the M2.
There are also additional performance cores and efficiency cores on the newer models. This includes up to 12 CPU cores and up to 38 CPU cores. In addition, the faster 16-core Neural Engine promises to execute up to 15.8 trillion operations per second.
MacBook Pro 2023 vs 2021: Which should you buy?
The best of the best is now the MacBook Pro 2023. It’s undoubtedly about to top the best MacBook list for the year. If price isn’t a factor, there’s no reason not to purchase the 2023 model. It’s the one with the latest Apple silicon chip, better battery life, and more. Better still: It’s priced the same as the old model was before it was retired by Apple.
If you want a 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro and wish to save cash, look for a discounted MacBook Pro 2021 model. These discounts might be challenging to find in the short term, however. When you find one, keep in mind that you’re still getting an incredible machine with 90% of the same features found on the newer version.
What about upgrading from the MacBook Pro 2021 to the MacBook Pro 2023?
Unless your 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 has become sluggish in performing your everyday tasks, there’s no reason to upgrade to the latest model. As noted above, the models are nearly the same. Instead, save money for the first MacBook Pro touch-screen models that could launch in 2025.
Still nearly the best
Your friends will still be impressed if you make this purchase. It looks wonderful and it’s internals still pack a bunch.