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2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max: Recommended Models and Accessories

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Unsure which Mac to get or how to configure it? Consult with Lloyd, and see recommended Macs for photographers and videographers.

MPG tested the Apple 16.2" MacBook Pro with M1 Max Chip Z14X000HR, a maxed-out model in all ways except 4TB SSD instead of the maximum 8TB SSD.

2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max

2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max — Conclusion

Incredible performance from the 2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max! A laptop leaving the fasted Intel-based iMac 5K systems well behind on most tests, and losing out to the 28-core 2019 Mac Pro only when all those CPU cores can be fully utilized, and not losing by much.

Only two tests failed to impress:

  • A Photoshop bug with Smart Sharpen causes the MBP M1 Max to lag badly because a single CPU core is used. Ironically, Photoshop runs 3.2X faster for Smart Sharpen in emulation (Rosetta), so once Adobe fixes the bug the MBP will stomp the competition for Smart Sharpen also.
  • The other exception is poor hashing speed. This might never improve, the difference stemming from special hardware support in Intel chips that makes them about twice as fast for special hashing operations. It appears that the M1 Max CPU lacks such specialized instructions.

Which model?

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Decide whether the 16-inch or 14-inch model is the priority. The 16-inch model might perform a little better under sustained load due to better cooling.

For those not too price conscious: max-out everything, then choose the appropriate size SSD. It is hard to go wrong with a 4TB SSD, and for many users 8TB SSD will be overkill. Strictly avoid anything less than 2TB.

For serous use, MPG advises the M1 Max chip, along with a minimum of 32GB memory, 2TB SSD (internal flash drive), 24-core GPU. SSD capacity can be a hassle if too small (external storage), so 4TB offers a lot better long-term value. But only 32GB memory could hamstring the machine which would be much worse, so always prioritize 64GB memory first and foremost if there is any chance that 32GB might not suffice.

View: current Mac wishlist and all current OWC wishlists.

See the 2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max models at B&H Photo. B&H Photo Payboo pays sale tax for most states.

CLICK TO VIEW: Recommended MacBook Pro Configurations


Backup, peripherals, etc

Budget for peripherals as well as AppleCare.

Memory UpgradesExternal SSDInternal SSDExternal StorageHard DrivesPort ExpansionCables


Everyone should have an absolute minimum of two backups drives and preferably four: two always-attached, and two offsite. Single drives are best for offsite backup (separable and multiply redundant on power supply).

The OWC Thunderbay 4 makes an excellent “always attached” backup unit for Time Machine and clones spread across its 4 drives (use the drives individually, not RAID).

See the OWC storage wishlist.

Primary storage

Most photographers are going to need large storage like the OWC Thunderbay 4 or OWC Thunderbay 6.

See the OWC storage wishlist.

Port expansion

To attach Mini DisplayPort display, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is best.

See the OWC port expansion wishlist.

See also OWC Offers Dual DisplayPort and dual HDMI Adapter for Thunderbolt 3 Macs or PCs.

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