With the launch of Apple's M2 chip last year, it was only a matter of time before it hit the tech giant's laptop line-up. The MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023) isn't the game-changer its predecessor (in 2021) was in terms of its design, but it builds on its performance capabilities to firmly secure this model's position as Apple's most impressive portable laptop for creatives.
There's no doubt this laptop will take the top spot in our pick of the best laptops for graphic design (opens in new tab). But the question you really need to ask yourself is, do you really need it? What is driving your purchasing decisions? Is it just that it's Apple shiny new device, or do you actually need its, frankly, mind-boggling power? Will this enhance your workflow enough to justify the price tag? Let's take a closer look at what it can do to help you make an informed decision. I received a review unit and gave it a thorough test for Creative Bloq's Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023) review, living and working with it for a number of weeks.
Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023) review: Design and display
There's little to say about the design of the new 2023 version of the 14-inch Apple MacBook Pro, other than it remains pretty much identical to the previous iteration. All of the focus for this model has gone under the hood, and, honestly, this wasn't a surprise considering how much Apple put into the design of the 2021 version.
And I have to be honest, I'm really glad it hasn't changed. The 2021 MacBook Pro brought with it a new physical design, which included a number of highly sought-after new ports and subsequently a thicker laptop that I can't help but love – more so, and this is a bold statement, over my M1 MacBook Air. The new 14-inch MacBook Pro is super compact but feels super-robust, which makes it very satisfying to use.
The display also remains unchanged, which also isn't a bad thing as – it's one of the best screens you'll find on a laptop. Using this device to work in Photoshop and Premiere Pro (both of which it runs like a dream, I might add), for example, is a joy. The colour accuracy, depth and detail it produces is exceptional, so much so I have often opted to use this device over my desktop PC for my creative projects. The display remains easily one of the best things about the MacBook Pro.
Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023) review: Features
Here is the MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023) configuration sent to Creative Bloq for review:
CPU: Apple M2 Pro (12-core)
Graphics: Integrated 16-core GPU
RAM: 32GB Unified memory
Screen: 14.2-inch, 3,024 x 1,964 Liquid Retina XDR display (mini-LED, 1,000 nits sustained brightness, wide color P3 gamut, ProMotion technology)
Storage: 2TB SSD
Ports: 3x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C), HDMI, SDXC card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, MagSafe 3
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD webcam
Weight: 3.5 pounds (1.6kg)
Size: 12.31 x 8.71 x 0.61 inches (31.26 x 22.12 x 1.55cm; W x D x H)
As mentioned briefly above, the 2021 MacBook Pro (opens in new tab) brought with it a number of features that made fans of the device both jump for joy and vent their frustration. People went wild for the additional ports and connectivity options, while others couldn't fathom the notch. Few changes have been made to either, but as someone who has come from using a 2020 MacBook Pro, I can tell you the difference is vast. It wasn't long after I started using this machine that I no longer noticed the notch, and the additional ports are a game-changer, for obvious reasons.
Advanced connectivity features mean the new MacBook Pro now features Wi-Fi 6E3 for a super-fast wireless connection. And a more advanced HDMI supports 8K displays up to 60Hz and 4K displays up to 240Hz. In human talk that means whatever you want to do on/with the web will be done super quick, and you can hook the machine up to either a 4K and/or 8K monitor.
The microphone is one area on this device that always feels a little lacking, however it has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. It has no problem with video calls and I was happy to realise what a job good it does at minimising background noises (nothing like a crazed washing machine in the background to disturb a call). It will have no issues with podcasts, but anything more taxing is going to require professional microphones.
The charger, again, is the same as the previous version, a proprietary MagSafe connection. As much as having a different charging cable to almost every other Apple device I have is a bit baffling/annoying, I can't help but like the MagSafe connection of the Pro. And not just because it can charge half the battery in a mind-boggling 30 minutes. The design has a certain gentle charm to it that the Thunderbolt does not – knock it accidentally and it's more often than not simply going to detach from the device without damaging it. It's a small thing, and probably just me, but I also enjoy the satisfying pull of the magnetic connection.
Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023) review: Performance
I feel like I've spent all of this review so far saying little has changed, so I'm excited to get to the bit where Apple has placed the lion share of its focus for this 2023 model. I am testing the MacBook Pro 14-inch with M2 Pro chip, 32GB RAM and 2TB SSD. It's an absolute powerhouse.
For context, the 2021 MacBook Pro M1 came with the option of either 24 cores or 32-cores, which was an exceptionally powerful GPU for a laptop. The M2 Pro has either a 16 or 19-core GPU, which can be configured up to either 30 or 38 cores, which is, quite frankly, a mind-blowing amount of power.
But what can it do? It's probably quicker to list what it can't, in all honesty. But for anyone needing to do hardcore video and image editing, 3D rendering or modelling etc, you can be safe in the knowledge that this laptop will breeze through it. I spent some time working on a 3D title sequence in After Effects, while simultaneously running Photoshop and Premiere and it didn't bat an eyelid. It was only after a solid few hours of running all three applications, multiple web browsers and listening to Spotify that I noticed the hum of the laptop fan start to kick in.
I wondered if navigating the 3D space in AE would start to slow things down, but I didn't experience any lag or pauses. Keen to really push the device's limits, I also tested its capabilities with a high res 3D model in Cinema 4D, and got instant feedback when making any changes, including extruding multiple surfaces on a model with millions of polygons.
Here's how the MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2 Pro, 2023) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
Cinebench R23 CPU: Single-Core: 1,638; Multi-Core: 14,361
Geekbench 5: Single-Core: 1,954; Multi-Core: 15,128
So what about the benchmarks? Having really put this machine through its paces, I wasn't surprised to see the results of the benchmark tests, which kicked up some really impressive numbers. We need to remember that this is a higher spec version MacBook Pro model, so I had high expectations, and it was good to see those met in these tests.
The Cinebench R23 single and multi-core score came out at just a fraction less than the high-spec Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023) we tested recently. And the Geekbench score was almost identical. This basically means that in the new 14-inch MacBook Pro you have all the power of a high-spec desktop PC, wrapped up in a stylish, compact, highly portable device that has all the accessories you need to get to work immediately.
Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023) review: Price
I am testing the MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro, with a 12-Core CPU, 19-Core GPU, 32GB Ram and 2TB SSD model. To buy at this configuration would cost an eye-watering $2,499 / £3,499. This isn't the highest-spec model, nor the lowest, and there are variations of memory, power and storage to find many different user needs.
The lowest configuration, which has 16GB memory and 512GB SSD, will set you back $1,999 / £2,149, which feels much more affordable if this is the device you want. However, the final price you pay will really depend on your individual needs, and if memory and storage is high on your list of priorities, you could be looking at quite a hefty sum.
The base model will be more than sufficient for mainstream creative work, but even that is expensive when you compare it to the very capable MacBook Air.
The real question here is one I asked at the very beginning, and that is do you really need this much power? If the answer is yes and you need it in a portable, ready-to-go solution, then the 2023 MacBook Pro is a worthy investment.
MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2, 2023): Should I buy it?
The answer to this really comes down to two things; power and budget. This machine, even the base model, will handle the most complex of tasks with relative ease. So if you require a lot of power from a compact laptop, a screen that is going to allow you to see your creative work in all its glory, will last all day and is super-portable, you'd be hard pushed to find a better option than the 14-inch MacBook Pro. But I want to be clear that this is an immense amount of power, and more than most would ever need from a laptop.
I guess the other consideration is personal style. I work on the go a lot, work in creative software regularly, which my M1 MacBook Air handles with ease. But, having experienced this new model, if budget wasn't an issue, I would choose the new 14-inch MacBook Pro every time. And that's because I personally really appreciate its overall design and the added connectivity it offers.