2021 vs. 2023 MacBook Pro Buyer's Guide
Following the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro's recent hardware refresh that added the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, what exactly do the latest machines bring to the table and is it worth upgrading from the previous generation?
The current 14-inch model starts at $1,999 and the 16-inch model starts at $2,499. Upon the launch of the latest models, the 2021 MacBook Pros were discontinued and are no longer available from Apple's main storefront. Units of these slightly older machines are likely to still be available via Apple's refurbished store and third-party retailers for significantly reduced prices. Buying a 2021 model second-hand is also an option.
First-time MacBook Pro customers or those upgrading from a much older device may be wondering whether it is worth buying a 2021 model, so it will be important to weigh up exactly what was added with the latest version. Likewise, existing users of the 2021 MacBook Pro may be wondering if it is worth upgrading to the latest model or sticking with their current device.
See the detailed breakdown below for each new feature, change, and improvement that was added with each high-end Apple silicon MacBook Pro compared to its direct predecessor:
2023 MacBook Pro
- M2 Pro or M2 Max chip
- Up to 12-core CPU with eight performance cores and four efficiency cores with M2 Pro and 12-core CPU with eight performance cores and four efficiency cores with M2 Max
- Up to 19-core GPU with M2 Pro and up to 38-core GPU with M2 Max
- 16GB or 32GB unified memory with M2 Pro and 32GB, 64GB, or 96GB unified memory with M2 Max
- Wi‑Fi 6E (802.11ax)
- Bluetooth 5.3
- HDMI 2.1 port
- Battery life of up to 18 hours with 14-inch model and 22 hours with 16-inch model
2021 MacBook Pro
- M1 Pro or M1 Max chip
- Up to 10-core CPU with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores with M1 Pro and 10-core CPU with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores with M1 Max
- Up to 16-core GPU with M1 Pro and up to 32-core GPU with M1 Max
- 16GB or 32GB unified memory with M1 Pro and 32GB or 64GB unified memory with M1 Max
- 802.11ax Wi‑Fi 6
- Bluetooth 5.0
- HDMI 2.0 port
- Battery life of up to 17 hours with 14-inch model and 21 hours with 16-inch model
With only a minor update in 2023, the 2021 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models are still a very good option if you can get them for a sufficiently low price. It is only worth paying more to get the latest model if you want a future-proof device to keep for the long term, where slightly better performance, battery life, and specifications like Wi‑Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, and HDMI 2.1 are likely to be more beneficial through successive software updates and as connectivity needs with other devices evolve. Even then, it is difficult to recommend buying a 2023 MacBook Pro at full price over an equivalent, heavily discounted 2021 model.
- New to Apple silicon MacBook Pro: Buy 2021 model over 2023 model unless future-proofing is vital
- 2021 MacBook Pro user: Don't upgrade to 2023 model unless peak performance and expanded capabilities are required
If you already have a 2021 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro, it is unlikely that upgrading to a 2023 model will be worthwhile. The latest model's improved performance, additional hour of battery life, and improved connectivity specifications are unlikely to make a meaningful difference to most users. Only professionals who require absolute peak performance with the M2 Max chip, a 96GB memory option, or an HDMI 2.1 port to connect to 8K or 240Hz external displays will see substantial benefits. It is also worth noting that in many countries outside the United States, the 2023 MacBook Pro models come with a hefty price hike – meaning that it will also likely be more economical to stick with 2021 model you already have.