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Apple MacBook Pro M2 Max

re: Apple MacBook Pro
re: Apple Silicon

If I can get a loaner, I will review the new Apple MacBook Pro M2 Max.

There is a lot to like with the Apple MacBook Pro M2 Max, price excepted, which will keep me from buying one anytime soon.

Apple MacBook Pro M2 Max at B&H Photo
2023 Apple MacBook Pro M2 Max

The key features that I value as a photographer are:

  • Desktop replacement — while my 2019 Mac Pro with 384GB memory and 24TB internal SSD is darn nice, I pine for more processing power. I would actually consider hooking up my two displays to the MacBook Pro M2 Max as a desktop replacement, just so I could have one computer for home and travel combined. It would raise the issue of a larger display for travel in my Sprinter van, but I have a solution in mind.
  • Memory — unprecedented at least for Mac laptop is option up to 96GB. This makes working with my large Photoshop files, focus stacking, etc much more viable than 64GB (my minimum RAM for a desktop is 128GB). The unified memory system of the Apple Silicon chips suggests that 96GB will get my jobs done 98% of the time without running short, whereas 64GB was iffy.
  • CPU cores — only eight performance cores are not ideal, but adequate (the 4 efficiency cores are mostly worthless for intensive work). And maybe the M2 Max will do better enough so that it is like 10 performance cores of the M1 Max Past testing of the Apple Mac Studio shows that 16 performance cores is substantially better than 8 performance cores of the MacBook Pro M1 Max, but I could live with the compromise since in most cases those cores outperform my 2019 Mac Pro. Apple’s claim 20% faster performance than M1 Max, which at best means those 8 cores are equivalent to 9.6 M1 Max cores—pretty good.
  • 8K HDMI 2.1 port — don’t have an 8K display, and I am not a fan of HDMI vs DisplayPort/Thunderbolt, but it means there is a way to get an ultra high resolution display attached. Of which there are very few available as yet, but it’s coming.

Yawners

For some these might be meaningful. Not to me.

  • Long battery life — for travel especially this seems pretty awesome — 22 hours nominal life... except in my Sprinter van it has no value, since I’ll have need a dock and external display running off AC power anyway.
  • WiFi/Bluetooth — improved/faster = nil value in practical terms unless really more reliable.

Disappointments

There isn’t much to criticize since the feature set and capabilities of the MacBook Pro M2 Max far exceed that of most desktop computers. It’s mainly about what you can plug in (or can't‚ and the hassles that creates.

Having only three Thunderbolt/USB ports means the practical need for the OWC Thunderbolt Go Dock or at least the OWC USB-C Travel Dock E to be able to plug in things like card readers, external SSDs for backup, etc. Increases complexity and the crap one has to carry when traveling.

The cost of (non-upgradeable) Apple memory and SSD remains extremely high. And you are forced to buy the high-end M2 Max CPU in order to get to 96GB memory.

But at least for the SSD, there are cost effective high performance solutions, such as the OWC Envoy Pro SX and OWC Envoy Pro EX USB-C up to 8TB, perfect for clone backups of the internal SSD, or for additional storage. By all means if cost is not an issue or it’s your only system, go for the internal 8TB SSD. Otherwise the 4TB internal SSD buys you enough savings for two external 4TB SSDs.

B&H Photo will have most configurations available within a few weeks. THANK YOU for ordering through these links.

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