2021 MacBook Pro tests reveal M1 Max chip may not be worth the premium price

While Apple’s M1 Max chip is advertised as being twice as fast as the M1 Pro, a series of real-life tests and GeekBench scores reveal the chip may not offer a significant jump in performance for most users. Machines powered by the M1 Pro and M1 Max will show a difference in performance, but only in select cases.

M1 Max

Mainstream users may prefer to use Apple’s M1 chip rather than the M1 Max, tests reveal

CNET’s Dan Ackerman used a combination of benchmark tests and day-to-day usage of the new machines to determine how powerful the M1 Max is. While there is a clear advantage in using the more powerful chip, that is not the case for users who only dabble in video editing, 3D modeling, and Photoshop/Illustrator projects.

To measure the GPU differences between the two new chips, Ackerman a few cross-platform GPU tests. In the GeekBench 5 compute test using Metal, Apple’s graphics API, there’s a distinct difference, with the M1 Max getting a much higher score. The M1 Max also received a higher score in Wildlife Extreme the one benchmark within the larger 3D Mark tool that runs on M1 Macs, as well as Windows, iOS, and other platforms. 

Additionally, the M1 Max system is more responsive if you want to use your Mac for other activities while it is doing intensive tasks. 

I spoke to fellow Brooklyn resident Joseph Ibrahim, who specializes in lighting VFX and invited him to try out the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip and the 16-inch M1 Pro with the M1 Max chip. He rendered a scene in the 3D-design and animation software Houdini and found that the actual render time was the same on both the M1 Pro and M1 Max, but […] the M1 Max system felt much more responsive than the M1 Pro while using the software and he left the demo session ready to buy a fully upgraded M1 Max MacBook Pro.

M1 Max chip

But, mainstream users may not notice a significant performance difference. That includes the standard benchmarks used to judge a machine’s capabilities including GeekBench 5, Cinebench 23, and a quick 8K Premiere rendering test, according to Ackerman. 

For more casual video editors, Ackerman’s advice is to stick with machines powered by the first-generation M1 chip which includes the M1-powered MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, or 24-inch iMac. “If you just want a new MacBook Pro for the updated design, webcam or ports, know that you’re making what is essentially a vanity purchase,” Ackerman says. 

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About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.

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