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Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M2 Pro, 2023) review: The ultimate mobile workstation

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £2699
inc VAT (base model)

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is a beast of a laptop – but that ferocious power doesn’t come cheap


  • Superb screen
  • Loads of video editing power
  • Incredible battery life


  • £300 more expensive than last year
  • Heavy

The Apple MacBook Pro 16in is a stupendous laptop. Equipped with either of Apple’s new M2 Pro or M2 Pro Max processors, a glorious 16in XDR display and the usual bombproof aluminium chassis, it takes almost every task you throw at it in its stride.

It’s not a dramatic upgrade in the physical or visual sense. The chassis is the same as introduced in 2021 with the first M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros, right down to the selection of ports and overall look and feel.

And, no, Apple hasn’t got rid of the notch at the top of the screen. Instead, it has focused on boosting power, performance and battery life. The result is the best MacBook Pro we’ve ever reviewed.

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Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M2 Pro, 2023) review: What you need to know

The 16in MacBook Pro is the pinnacle of what Apple offers in its laptop ranges. It’s the largest laptop the company currently produces with a 16.2in, 3,024 x 1,964 Liquid Retina XDR display.

It’s configurable with Apple’s most powerful processors – the M2 Pro and M2 Max – and, if you’re looking for a way to spend your latest bonus, up to 96GB of RAM and 8TB of SSD storage. Despite a huge hunk of extra processing power, Apple says the battery life has improved, claiming up to 22 hours of use without having to top up the charge. That’s nearly three full working days without having to plug in.

Other than that, there’s nothing much new to talk about. The chassis is classic Apple: quietly refined and solidly built. The keyboard and touchpad are unchanged. As are the webcam, speakers and microphone. The selection of ports remains the same, too. And, yes, photographers rejoice, there’s still an SD card slot.

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Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M2 Pro, 2023) review: Price and competition

Configuration reviewed: Apple M2 Pro (12-core CPU, 19-core GPU); 16in 3,456 x 2,234 Liquid Retina XDR display; 2TB SSD; Price: £3,699 inc VAT

Apple sells the 16in MacBook Pro in a wide selection of options and configurations, but every build begins with one of three standard models with the following specifications and prices:

  • M2 Pro (12-core CPU, 19-core GPU); 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD; Price: £2,699
  • M2 Pro (12-core CPU, 19-core GPU); 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD; Price: £2,899
  • M2 Max (12-core CPU, 38-core GPU); 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD; Price: £3,749

These are just starting points, however, as there’s a whole lot more flexibility to the configuration process. For instance, looking at these three builds, you might think there were only two processor options available but that’s not the case.

There are, in fact, two versions of the M2 Max Processor, one with a 38-core GPU as above and a slightly cheaper one with a 30-core GPU. And, as mentioned above, you can also up the RAM to 96GB if needs be, and the internal storage to a huge 8TB.

If you take the M2 Pro (12-core CPU, 19-core GPU) model as a base (at £2,699), you’ll pay the following premiums to upgrade:

  • M2 Max (12-core CPU, 30-core GPU) – £250
  • M2 Max (12-core CPU, 38-core GPU) – £450
  • 32GB unified memory – £400
  • 64GB unified memory – £800 (only available from M2 Max with 30-core GPU)
  • 96GB unified memory – £1,200 (only available on M2 Max with 38-core GPU)
  • 1TB SSD – £200
  • 2TB SSD – £600
  • 4TB SSD – £1,200
  • 8TB SSD – £2,400

The obvious competitor to the 16in MacBook Pro in my mind is the new Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra. Equipped with the latest Intel 13th Gen H-series 45W CPUs, 4000-series Nvidia graphics and a glorious 16in 3K OLED display, Apple might well have some serious competition on its hands. I doubt that the Samsung will be able to compete with the Apple when it comes to battery life, though, and it doesn’t come close for RAM and storage options, either.

The same applies to other rivals in the Windows domain as well, at least the models we’ve reviewed in the past. Laptops such as this year’s updates of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 and the 2023 Razer Blade 16 are on a par with the MacBook for power and best it on the gaming front but can’t match its battery life or specialist video editing capabilities.

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Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M2 Pro, 2023) review: Design and features

The last significant overhaul to the MacBook Pro’s design came with the first generation of Pro 14in and 16in laptops in 2021. I wasn’t expecting any changes with this generation and so it proved.

Not that this is a huge problem – there’s little left to refine. The chassis is rigid and sturdy to the point that it feels almost over-engineered; the keyboard and Force Touch touchpad are beyond reproach, and there’s even a modicum of physical connectivity on offer, with one full sized SDXC card slot, one Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port and an HDMI output on the right side and two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports plus a 3.5mm headset jack and MagSafe 3 for charging on the left. Apple has also upgraded the wireless connectivity in this machine, offering Wi-Fi 6E speeds to those with compatible wireless networking hardware along with Bluetooth 5.3.

The webcam isn’t the car crash it once was and the speaker and microphone systems are among the best you’ll come across on any laptop. I’ve used the three-microphone beamforming microphones to record voice overs for TikTok videos during testing with excellent results and there’s a surprising amount of body and bass to the audio the six-speaker audio system kicks out. It’s quite the all rounder.

But it still isn’t quite a perfect ten. As I mentioned above, the bathtub notch housing the 1080p FaceTime HD camera is still, in my view, an unnecessary compromise. The fact that there’s no USB-A port is an annoyance, too. I understand Apple has to draw the line somewhere, otherwise there would be no end of holes littering the edges of its otherwise pristine devices, but one small nod to legacy devices is surely not too much to ask.

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Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M2 Pro, 2023) review: Display

Another thing that hasn’t changed all that much is the display. And again, that’s no bad thing. The Liquid Retina screen measures 16.2in across the diagonal, has a resolution of 3,456 x 2,234 for a pixel density of 254ppi, runs at up to 120Hz and can deliver a claimed 1,000cd/m2 of sustained brightness and up to 1,600cd/m2 peak brightness during HDR playback.

Those are some darned impressive specifications, particularly those peak brightness numbers but you do need to be aware that there are specific circumstances under which the display will hit the higher brightness levels. Specifically, you’ll only see 1,600cd/m2 in HDR playback and when the ambient temperature is below 25°C. While testing, I was unable to boost the brightness beyond around 1,300cd/m2 – that’s plenty bright enough for watching any HDR content, but suggests you won’t be seeing the quoted 1,600cd/m2 all that often.

Perhaps more impressive is the number of pre-calibrated colour profiles Apple supplies with the laptop and, from a spot check of a couple, they’re very colour accurate. The sRGB “Internet and Web” profile, for instance, returned an average Delta E colour variance of 0.84, while the HDR Video (P3-ST 2084) mode returned an average Delta E of 0.56.

Some are brightness locked, according to the standards they’re calibrated to, which is the correct way to do it. The sRGB profile is, for example, locked to around 80cd/m2, while the HDTV (Rec.709) profile is set to cap out at 100cd/m2 and the “Photography (P3-D65)” mode is set to top out at just over 160cd/m2.

However, the lower brightness caps mean these modes aren’t particularly useful for viewing content, so you’ll be spending most of your time with the Apple XDR Display (P3-1600nits) mode for browsing and watching streaming content. That’s fine, though, as this is plenty colour accurate for casual browsing. I recorded an average Delta E of 0.93 compared with Apple’s Display P3 standard, and an average Delta E of 2.2 versus sRGB.

I’m also surprised there’s no AdobeRGB colour calibration mode, which would be useful for professional photographers. However, it is otherwise a staggeringly good display capable of delivering enough brightness and colour accuracy for professional content creators from all walks of life. And it’s also great for watching a little streaming video once you’ve finished work for the day.

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Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M2 Pro, 2023) review: Performance

I can’t comment on the M2 Max chipset’s performance levels in this review as Apple supplied an M2 Pro (12-core CPU, 19-core GPU) for testing. If my results are anything to go by, though, most users won’t need anything more. As with the M2 Pro Mac mini, this is an absolute beast of a machine, that will take everything from 8K video editing, colour grading and editing to 3D rendering in its stride.

It has 12 CPU cores for the grunt work, comprising 8 performance cores running at up to 3.5GHz and 4 efficiency cores for tasks demanding less power. That’s two more cores in total than the maximum you could get with the M1 Pro and four more than in the Apple M2. There’s also a 19-core GPU, three more than on the M1 Pro and nine more than on the M2.

In benchmarks, it’s a beast. You can see where it sits in comparison to other M1 and M2 Macs I’ve tested previously in the charts below. Suffice it to say, though, it’s faster than every other Mac we’ve tested so far, apart from the M1 Ultra-based Mac Studio:

The only thing you might want to upgrade to the M2 Max for is if you’re doing lots of ultra heavy-duty video editing and rendering. This is because the Max has two video encode/decode engines (for accelerating HEVC and H.264 video) and twoProRes video encode/decode engines, where the M2 Pro only has one.

The Max also has double the memory bandwidth at 400GB/sec versus 200GB/sec for the M2 Pro. As I said, however, the M2 Pro MacBook Pro is more than powerful for most users. It’ll still play back multiple streams of ProRes video and render out jobs in double quick time. 

I loaded it up with 17 simultaneous clips of 8K H.265 video and used DaVinci Resolve to output to 4K ProRes 4444 XQ and it popped out in 4mins 5secs. Compared to my M1 Mac mini, which completed the same task in 9mins 31secs, that’s seriously fast.

SSD performance is hugely impressive, too, the 2TB drive in my review sample returning 5,291MB/sec and 6,457/MBsec for sequential reads and writes. Bear in mind, though, that SSD performance will vary depending on the capacity you choose. The smallest 512GB SSD is spread across fewer NAND chips than the 1TB and larger drives, and that means slower reads and writes. Indeed, various reports from around the internet suggest the 512GB SSD is around half the speed of the larger drives.

Apple laptops continue to beat all comers when it comes to battery life. Despite the huge amount of power available to the M2 Pro MacBook Pro, it lasted 17hrs 21mins in our video playback test. That’s about par for a modern Apple silicon laptop and it’s way, way ahead of the sort of battery life you’ll get out of equivalent high-powered Windows machines. The 2022 Asus ROG Zephyrus M16, for instance, only lasted 6hrs 50mins in the same test.

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Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M2 Pro, 2023) review: Verdict

The MacBook Pro 16in is a fantastic workstation laptop. The display is bright and colour accurate; the performance levels are superb, regardless of whether you buy the M2 Pro or M2 Max version; and battery life is phenomenal.

The one fly in the ointment here is the price. Starting at £2,699, it’s the most expensive laptop Apple has ever made and £300 more expensive than the base M1 Pro 16in MacBook Pro. With prices rising across the board in 2023, however, I suspect that it may appear more reasonable in a few months’ time.

As it stands, though, there’s no denying that this is the best laptop of its kind. If you can afford it, there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t buy one.

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