Decoding the M1 Pro and M1 Max: A Complete Guide for Pros Navigating the New Era of Apple Silicon

When Apple unveiled plans to transition Macs from Intel to proprietary Apple silicon, even the boldest claims of 3x performance gains drew skepticism. But the M1 chip quickly crushed expectations. Now as the first systems combining M1 Pro and M1 Max hit desks, real-world speed, smoothness and efficiency leaves the doubters in disbelief.

For working creators debating upgrades, understanding these new notebook capabilities speeds purchase decisions. That requires looking beyond basic specs to how custom technologies execute in professional apps.

This extensive guide details real benchmark numbers, workload testing, custom hardware additions and more. You‘ll grasp what the M1 Pro and Max unlock that previous portable workstations cannot match. Leaving you ready to upgrade knowing what these silicon beasts deliver.

Roadmapping Apple‘s Rise in Laptop Silicon

The jump from Intel dates back to 2020‘s M1 chip – beginning efforts to harness vertical integration where Apple controls hardware and software. Early M1 MacBooks delivered simple yet substantial speed boosts, often above the 2-3x gains Apple targeted.

But to truly rewrite rules for creative pros, going further mandated making not just a faster processor, but specialty workflows scream.

That brought us the M1 Pro and M1 Max – no mere iterations. Packed into their total 70 and 57 billion transistors are:

  • Up to 12x faster high performance cores
  • Graphics up to 4x faster than prior integrated GPUs
  • Double the high-bandwidth memory pipelines
  • Custom encode/decode media hardware unrivaled in notebooks
  • AI acceleration from double-wide neural engines

This powers advances impossible a few years ago for size, noise, or battery constraints with Intel combinations.

The M1 journey provides context before diving into cross-shopping the Pro vs. Max capabilities now built upon that foundation.

Comparing M1 Pro and Max Capabilities

Despite sharing the same 10-core CPU foundation, the M1 Pro and Max differentiate in graphics, memory, media features that cater to creative bottlenecks.

GPU Cores

The Max doubles available graphics cores – yielding up to 60% higher multi-core performance. Ideal for tasks leaning heavily into the GPU like renders or compositing.

Unified Memory

Both utilize Apple‘s performance-accelerating unified memory architecture. However the M1 Max doubles memory bandwidth from 200GB/s to 400GB/s for smoother giant asset manipulation.

Neural Engine

The upgraded 16-core neural engine powers AI-enhanced workflows. Like machine learning model training/inference or code autocompletions in Xcode leveraging natural language techniques.

Media Engines

While both integrate ProRes hardware encoding, the M1 Max doubles engines enabling multi-stream 8K editing absent dropped frames and faster exports.

M1 ProM1 Max
CPU (8 performance + 2 efficient)10-core10-core
GPU Cores14 or 1624 or 32
Neural Engine Cores1616
Media Engines1 ProRes encoder2 ProRes encoders
Memory16GB – 32GB32GB – 64GB
Memory Bandwidth200GB/s400 GB/s

Next let‘s quantify those specs against real-world use – when processing/rendering actual projects not just peak speeds.

Application Performance and Benchmarks

Every animation rendered, video exported, code compiled defines notebook value for working pros. Even the beefiest silicon underperforms lacking software leveraging its capabilities.

Thankfully Apple‘s increasing OS-level optimization, and major apps aggressively embrace these new GPU/Media capabilities. Measuring application benchmarks and use case tests illustrates the payoff.

Geekbench Compute Benchmark

Geekbench evaluates overall CPU speed across encryption, image processing, machine learning inference – real-world workloads.

M1 Max (10-core): 15,000+[^1] Intel Core i9 (16-inch model): 7,500[^1]

So even basic processing sees over 50% gen-on-gen improvement…before accounting for active cooling differences. Now to intensive graphics.

Octane Render 3D Benchmark

Octane stresses GPUs with its unbiased, photo-realistic rendering engine used in films like Venom 2 and shows like WandaVision.[^2]

Higher scores are better:

M1 Max (10-core GPU): ~47,000
RTX 3050 Ti (for desktop): ~39,000
RTX 3060 (mobile): ~36,000


That‘s right – integrated graphics on the M1 Max outperforming the 3050 Ti dedicated gaming GPU and mobile 3060 in GPU compute. Cross-shopping PC rivals reveals stark divide.

M1 Max media engines accelerating ProRes video exports

Pro Apps: Real Editing and Export Tests

Peak theoreticals only go so far. Applying cross-platform tools in production evens the field.

Fortunately Adobe springboards off Apple‘s multimedia APIs. Enabling performance gains like:

  • Premiere Pro: M1 Max exports projects up to 5.6x faster than previous Intel MacBook Pros. [^4]
  • Photoshop: M1 Max applies complex filters up to 2x faster over M1 Pro and Intel configs.[^5]
  • Lightroom Classic: M1 Pro culls through large photo batches 3.5x faster than equivalent Intel editions.[^6]

Meanwhile Apple‘s own Final Cut Pro screams on this custom silicon, dropping pricey Adobe subscriptions. Encoding test exports like a 5-minute 4K H.264 video clip shows equally stark advantages:

M1 Max – finish exports in under 15 seconds
Intel Core i9 (16-inch)3.5 minutes to export[^7]

The combination of sheer processing throughput with dedicated encoding engines optimize such real-world use cases. Enough to reconsider workflow pillars like Adobe-centrism.

Responsiveness and Smoothness Gains

While shaving exports from minutes to seconds stays impressive albeit expected from ~2x gains, the qualitative feel in daily workflows shouldn‘t be understated.

Thanks to improvements in unified memory access, editors anecdotally notice far fewer render bars interrupting preview scrubbing in complex After Effects CC motion graphics.

Designers report buttery smoothness rotating 3D objects in tools like Cinema4D with scenes and assets that formerly choked appliances.

There‘s a sheer snappiness thanks to the immediate access each core enjoys to their ample, shared RAM pool. No waiting on data from external silicon saving precious milliseconds, but accumulating a frictionless quality.

This pays creative dividends and keeps focus immersed on crafting vs. enduring legacy computing bottlenecks now melted away. Forget procedural upgrades, this crossing a creative experience threshold simply absent in mobile workstations just 3 years ago thanks to Apple‘s technical prowess.

Machine learning in Xcode for intelligent code writing suggestions

Battery and Power Efficiency

Pushing performance innovations risks hampering mobility, from bulging laptops to run-times measured in minutes sans power bricks.

Apple‘s vertical optimization defies those expectations. Leveraging 5nm fabrication and proprietary efficiencies, both M1 Pro and Max draw mere wattage while outpacing far hungrier Intel chips.

All at a cool thermal profile permitting near silent fanless operation. Perfect for recording podcasts, editing on transatlantic flights, or reviewing 50MP RAW images remotely detached where maximum speed matters less than getting through a full filming day untethered.

Apple‘s technical prowess nets genuine prosumers mobility – backed by data…

M1 Max Battery Runtimes [^8]

  • Up to 18 hours wireless web browsing
  • Up to 14 hours video playback

Verus outgoing Intel 16-inch MacBook [^9]

  • Up to 10 hours browsing
  • Up to 8 hours video

In practice users see 50-80% longer lasting full charges when pushing these notebooks post-Intel. Finally closing the mobility gap with standard MacBook Airs to harness desktop-class capabilities on 12+ hour internationals.

Determining Which Pro Silicon Works For You

With facts anchoring abilities in actual graphics, video, and app responsiveness benchmarks, shopping M1 Pro vs. Max comes down to budget.

If regularly exporting 4K+ multi-cam Projects, rendering complex 3D scenes, compiling thousands of lines of code, etc. The investment in upgrade M1 Max configurations amortizes itself quickly recovering hours previously lost. Power users creating for a living (or passionate hobby) stand to gain the most.

Casual prosumers doing occasional video calls, presenting slides, and mainstream productivity see plenty of muscle from M1 Pro models starting under $2,000. Graphics cores drop from 16 down to 14 in base configs. But still deliver pleasantly fluid photoshop, FCP, and improved multi-tasking.

Light video editors focused on 1080p may not create frequently enough to require stepping up. But I do recommend upgrading RAM/SSD since those remain fixed at purchase.

Recommended Configs

Video & Motion Graphics Artists

Amplify rendering, real-time playback, effects pipelines, and 8K editing throughput with the M1 Max (32-core GPU) – or 1TB storage minimum.

Photographers & Graphic Designers

The M1 Pro (16-core GPU) smooths applying complex layers and filters in Photoshop/Lightroom. Perfect for digital art creation, print and web production.

Entry Level Creators

Even Base M1 Pro (14-core) configs do lift everyday video calls, presentations slides, and drive dual 4K monitors.Ideal for visual collaborators like marketing teams, students, and freelance content producers on tighter budgets.

Regardless of which configuration fits needs, Apple‘s doubled down on its custom silicon with the M1 Pro and Max injecting new possibilities into familiar frames. And us creators reap rewards in everything shipped faster.

Pushing Computing‘s Bleeding Edge

In two short years Apple shifted from lacking any first-party processors to delivering category-defining silicon for professional workflows. Not just playing catchup to x86 CPUs, but introducing custom engines and optimizations for graphics, video, machine learning absent on any rival mobile platforms.

The combination of blistering universal compute with breakthrough power efficiency stands to influence the next generation of premium notebooks – forcing the industry to take notice by shipping over 40% of all laptops above $1,000 within months of Apple Silicon ‘s debut despite triple-digit billion dollar semiconductor investments by giants like Intel and Nvidia.[^10]

For creators debating their next pro notebook, scrutinizing the measured performance numbers above should simplify purchase decisions based on individual needs – proving Apple emphatically delivered on its promises to take personal computing into the future. A future undoubtedly powered by Apple Silicon.


Geekbench. (2022). MacBook Pro (16-inch, M1 Max) – Geekbench Browser.

Otoy. (2019). Octane Render powers VFX on films like Venom, episodics like WandaVision.

Woligroski, D. (2022). CrossMark Integrated GPU Benchmark. Tom‘s Hardware.

Mahmoud, S. (2022). Hands-on: The New M1 Max MacBook Pro is Absolutely Worth the Upgrade for Video Editors. IGN.

Peckham, J. (2021) How Much Better Are the M1 Pro and M1 Max Chips? Mac Rumors.

Kudan, D. (2022). Apple M1 Max MacBook Pro Review (hands-on). Creative Bloq.

Snell, J. (2021). Testing the New 16-Inch MacBook Pro: How Does It Stack up? Six Colors.

Apple Inc. (2022). MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch – Technical Specifications. Retrieved February 2, 2022.

Seifert, D. (2021). 16-inch MacBook Pro review (2021). The Verge.

Strategic Analytics Inc. (2021). Macs Captured Newly One of Every Four Personal Computers Shipped in Q4.

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