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Apple MacBook pro M2 16in review: Identical looks but unrivalled power

The upgrade features blisteringly fast M2 pro and M2 max chips and better battery life than any Mac to date

David Phelan
Tuesday 24 January 2023 12:35 GMT
The 16in model we reviewed boasts unrivalled 22-hour battery life, wifi 6E compatibility and 16GB memory
The 16in model we reviewed boasts unrivalled 22-hour battery life, wifi 6E compatibility and 16GB memory (The Independent)

The new MacBook pro models are here. While they look just the same as the ones released in late 2021, the performance has been enhanced, thanks to the latest additions to the Apple-made silicon chips.

Until last week, if you wanted a MacBook pro in 14in or 16in screen sizes, you could choose between the M1 pro and M1 max processor. Both were extremely fast, and way more powerful than the laptops they replaced, which had Intel processors. Now, the laptops have either the M2 pro or the even faster M2 max chips in them.

That sounds good on paper, but do the new machines live up to the hype? After all, the last ones were so good, frankly they’re a tough act to follow. But more importantly, do you need them? The cheapest laptop in the new range is £2,149, and you can pay much more if you plump for a higher specification model.

I’ve been putting the new 16in MacBook pro with M2 pro processor through its paces since just after the new models were announced. Performance is near-identical to the 14in model. The only real differences between the two are the size of screen, obviously, and therefore the laptops themselves.

The bigger one is a little heavier, unsurprisingly, and costs a bit more. Otherwise, all that’s said here about the 16in applies equally to the smaller model.

The design is indistinguishable from the MacBook pro M1 models launched in 2021 (David Phelan)

How we tested

Testing the MacBook pro laptop is never easy, because it’s just so powerful. Of course, ease of setup was part of my concerns, as was the simplicity of the user interface, convenience of carrying and using the laptop and the comfort of typing on the keyboard and using the mouse pad.

Then, I tested how quickly it worked, from the speed of opening programs, to how efficient it was with lots of them open at the same time. I tried advanced, demanding programs such as games, Photoshop and video-editing apps, as well as regular tasks such as word processing and web surfing. For video playback, I checked out the audio quality as well as the visuals. I also tested whether the new laptops really do have, as Apple claims, the longest battery life of any Mac.

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Apple MacBook pro with M2 processor, 16in

Apple MacBook pro M2 2023 review
  • Processor: Apple M2 pro
  • Display: 16.2in/3,456 x 2,234px/1,000 nits
  • Storage: 512GB/1TB
  • Memory: 16/32GB
  • Battery: Up to 22 hours video playback
  • Dimensions: 35.57cm x 24.81cm x 1.68cm
  • Weight: 2.15kg
Design and display

There’s no difference, literally none, to the way the new MacBook pro looks, compared with the M1 models that launched in late 2021. This is no bad thing, as the aluminium casing (with its flat lid and base) caused a stir when first released, and it looks just as inviting now.

It’s worth noting Apple has stuck with the connectivity options it introduced, or re-introduced, on the 2021 MacBook pro models. That’s important, because it was a big step up from what had gone before. There was the return of the SD card slot beloved by creatives, especially photographers; the return of an HDMI socket and, most enjoyably, the return of MagSafe. The latter is the magnetic power connector that Apple invented, and it is sublime. It’s fast and, best of all, it means if anyone trips on your power cable, it’ll harmlessly detach rather than sending your machine flying.

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The words MacBook pro don’t any longer appear at the base of the display. Since 2021, they’ve moved to the underside of the case, where they’re stencilled in. After all, you know which kind of Mac you bought, don’t you?

Removing the wording helps give the impression the screen is bigger, too. Which it is. Just as with the 2021 model, the display squeaks right out into the corners of the laptop, with a much slimmer bezel around the screen. So much slimmer, in fact, there’s no room for the front-facing camera, so the display has a small cut-out to accommodate it. It’s not intrusive, because it’s where the menu bar sits, so you barely notice it’s there.

Not least because the screen itself is so immersive. It’s a high-resolution panel and very bright, helped along by the LCD screen, which has miniLED backlights that make the images shine, especially for video playback with HDR content, for instance.

The keyboard is what Apple calls the magic keyboard. Though there’s no discernible wizardry involved, it remains the most effective keyboard I’ve ever used. The keys have stability and are gently grooved, so your digits find them easily. There’s also great travel, so they feel sumptuously comfortable under-finger. The trackpad is big, again making it easier to use, with taps and strokes navigating you easily across a document or web page.

Read more: Apple iPad pro and iPad 10th gen review

At the sides of the display are large speakers. These sound unbelievable, especially if you’re listening to spatial audio content, which offers sound that almost seems to envelop you, adding a real immersive quality.

Like other Mac laptops, this is a beautifully crafted gadget that has a balanced, thoughtful feel to it. All these elements came with the last MacBook pro and are rightly retained here.


While the outside remains the same, the internals do not. The big update is the processor, and you get to choose, again, between a pro and a max option. A regular Mac such as the MacBook air is powerful, so you might argue that even the pro is overkill. That’s not quite how it works, though, because the pro models have added stamina, enabling power-hungry applications to run for longer. Part of the success of the pro range is that it, unlike the air, includes a fan that can cool things down when extreme performance requires it.

In testing this laptop, I have not heard the fan spin into life, so power-efficient is the processor. No matter how many programs were open, I could flip between them instantaneously, push each of them hard, and still find there was enough headroom that the MacBook pro performed in perfect silence.

Performance levels on this laptop are off the scale – and that’s for the M2 pro, not the even faster M2 max. But while it’s true these machines are built so the most demanding pros are never disappointed, there are still benefits to be had for the rest of us. Not only does everything happen at speed, with no lag, no dawdle, but the power of the MacBook pro means there’s enough headroom that your future needs are almost certainly catered for as well.

The laptop’s power is also reflected in the battery life – now up to 22 hours on the 16in MacBook pro, with no drop in performance when it’s working on battery rather than the mains.

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The 22 hours refers to video playback time but, even for regular use, this laptop goes on and on. So much so, you rarely need to think of plugging it in – it’s more like a smartphone that you would charge nightly, rather than while you’re using it. Which is a breakthrough in itself.

It changes your approach to the Mac, so you feel completely confident leaving your power brick and charging cable behind, even if you’re going to be out all day. This is something that most computers could not handle even a few years ago, and it offers a real sense of freedom. Again, it’s down to the efficient power management of the processor.

There’s also compatibility with wifi 6E, a faster standard that can speed-up connectivity. You need the right router, though, and these are not yet widespread. Think of this as future-proofing.

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The verdict: Apple MacBook pro with M2 processor, 16in

The new Apple MacBook pro is sensational. It offers outlandishly fast speed and uncompromising power. It is a hugely capable, long-lasting laptop. Even if you don’t use the most extreme programs, the power offers sublimely smooth usage, with nothing slowing the MacBook pro down for an instant. If you want something lighter and more portable, the 2022 MacBook air with the M2 chip might well be enough for you – it’s cheaper, too. But if you’re after the ultimate laptop, look no further.

Not convinced by the new MacBook pro? Read our round-up of the best laptops for all budgets

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