M1 Max Packs A Ton of Value for Creatives on a Budget

M1 Max Packs A Ton of Value for Creatives on a Budget

Since its debut in 2021, Apple's M1 Max MacBook Pro has been a consistent top choice for creatives in every field. These chips are so efficient that despite M2 being readily available, Apple's M1-powered laptops have quite a ways to go before fading off into obsolescence. The M1 Max MacBooks are nothing to sneeze at and, in fact, outperform some of the current M2-powered offerings available.

Apple 14.2" MacBook Pro with M1 Max Chip (Late 2021, Silver)
Apple 14.2" MacBook Pro with M1 Max Chip (Late 2021, Silver)

Let's do a quick refresher of the history of Apple Silicon and where the M1 Max lies within the wider family of chips. Apple began transitioning its Macs to its in-house silicon in 2020. With it came a significant leap in performance and energy efficiency over the non-Apple Silicon counterparts. Because Apple is producing these in house, the brand is in control of everything from the hardware end to the software end, and that results in better optimization across the board. Then came the M1 Pro chip, which was another markedly improved upgrade over the standard M1 chip, offering up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth, as well as supporting up to 32GB of unified memory.

Finally, we arrive at the M1 Max, which builds on the improvements of the M1 Pro and takes it even further. It features 57 billion transistors and offers a higher bandwidth-to-chip fabric, delivering up to 400 GB/s of memory bandwidth. Like the M1 Pro, the M1 Max is also a system on a chip (SoC) that combines the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, I/O, and more.

The 2021 MacBooks are still absolute performance monsters that are capable of outpacing even some M2-based MacBooks in certain categories. The CPU in M1 Max deliver up to 70 percent faster CPU performance than M1, so even the most demanding tasks, like high-resolution photo and video editing, are handled with ease by M1 Max chips. The GPU in M1 Pro is up to twice as fast as M1, while M1 Max is up to 4x faster than M1, allowing pro users to fly through the most demanding workflows. The powerful M1 Max makes light work of extremely graphics-intensive workflows, such as high-res photo/video editing and 3D modeling.

Since Apple uses unified memory―meaning the amount with which your device comes preconfigured is the amount you're stuck with―we really recommend knowing exactly how much you're going to need for your specific requirements so you can future-proof your MacBook Pro as best you can. For light photo work or graphic design, 16GB will get the job done; however, video editing (especially the high-res kind) is where you'll run into hiccups.

For high-res video editing, more RAM will always be the better option. The max is 64GB of unified memory, which is only available with the M1 Max chip. Combining 64GB of Unified RAM and the M1 Max Chip with a 32-Core GPU, creatives can edit up to seven streams of 8K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro. Video editors can even grade color in HDR on 8K ProRes 4444 video. Doing some 3D modeling? Manipulate millions of polygons in Cinema 4D.

Storage size is another important consideration for the creative professional looking to pick up one of these MacBooks. The MacBook Pro offers storage capacities ranging from 512GB to 8TB. Similar to the RAM, you won't be able to upgrade the storage later, so it's important to have an idea of the kinds of file sizes you'll be handling. For most working users, a bare minimum floor of 1TB of space is recommended, but 2TB offers a comfortable ceiling even for projects with huge file sizes. External storage options compatible with Thunderbolt™ 4 can always help keep your machine from getting too bloated, but the bottom line is: more storage is always better.

Determine what screen size is a good fit for you, too. These MacBook Pros come with either a 14.2" or a 16.2" Liquid Retina XDR Display. Both options are more than viable, but it's a good idea to determine whether slightly more portability or more screen real estate for ease of working is most important. A redesigned display that uses the same mini-LED technology used in the iPad Pro, delivers up to 1600 nits of brightness and a 1,000.000:1 contrast ratio. They also feature adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz.

Consider picking up one of these M1-Max equipped MacBooks if you're in the market for a new machine that's going to be at the center of your workflow and you're looking to get the most out of your expenditure. None of these machines runs cheap, and if you don't want to shell out the new tax on Apple's M2 powered MacBooks, these M1 Max MacBooks offer tremendous value. With performance that's more than capable of chewing on anything you can still feed it today, their relative affordability makes picking one up appealing for those looking to save where they can.

Whether or not you're looking to upgrade or still trying to squeeze more life out of your current machine, let us know in the Comments section, below, what you think. If you're looking for even deeper coverage on why we recommend this MacBook, check out our hands-on review or audio, photo, or video-focused deep dives, as well.