Should I buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro?

A premium MacBook that will impress – if you can afford it

MacBook Pro 16 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

Have a look at our best MacBooks list and you'll see that the 16-inch MacBook Pro that Apple launched in 2021 is our pick for the best premium MacBook out there. This is a stunning portable computer that is going to appeal to a broad range of consumers.

It comes at a price of course – it's the most expensive MacBook Pro as well as the most powerful – but if you have the budget to afford it, then the 16-inch MacBook Pro could well be your next laptop upgrade. Here we'll tell you everything you need to know about it.

Of course an Apple MacBook isn't necessarily for everyone. If you're interested in some of the best alternatives, we'd point you towards our guides to the best laptops, the best laptops for students, and the best 2-in-1 laptops, which are all well worth checking out.

Should I buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro?

MacBook Pro 16 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

Do you love the Apple macOS desktop operating system (or do you think you could grow to love it)? Do you have a substantial amount of money in the bank? Do you prioritise power over portability when it comes to choosing a new laptop? If you've answered yes to all of those questions, then the 16-inch MacBook Pro from Apple is likely to be a good fit.

With Apple silicon inside, this is a laptop capable of standing its ground against just about any other laptop on the market at the moment in terms of raw performance – though it's not perhaps the best choice for gaming, it'll handle other demanding and intensive tasks with aplomb. For creative professionals, it's not difficult to see the appeal.

Picking up this laptop also makes sense if you need a device that works seamlessly with other Apple products, whether that's the latest iPhone or the Apple TV Plus streaming service. On the other hand, the high price is going to put a lot of people off, and if your computing needs are more modest then you can get away with spending significantly less.

What are the specs of the 16-inch MacBook Pro?

MacBook Pro 16 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

This is one powerful laptop: multiple configurations are available, and you can get this with either an M1 Pro chip or an even more powerful M1 Max chip. As you can see from our 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 review, that gives you enough power to blast through most tasks at high speeds – the most expensive spec gives you a 10-core CPU, a 32-core GPU, 64GB of RAM and a huge 8TB of solid-state drive storage under the hood.

In terms of fitting the 16-inch MacBook Pro on your desk or in a bag, it measures 312.6 mm x 221.2 mm x 15.5 mm (that's 12.3 inches x 8.7 inches x 0.6 inches), and weighs in at 1.6 kilograms (or 3.5 pounds). The ports on board the laptop are a 3.5 mm audio jack, three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports, an HDMI port, and a SDXC memory card reader. You can always expand those ports with a hub if you need to, though that costs extra.

Those are the key specs of the 16-inch MacBook Pro that you need to know about, but it's also worth mentioning that this model comes with a 1080p webcam, which is an improvement over the 720p webcam on the previous model of this laptop. The Touch Bar has been removed with the 2021 refresh of this device too, though the keyboard still incorporates a Touch ID sensor to make logging in more straightforward.

What are the best features of the 16-inch MacBook Pro?

MacBook Pro 16 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

Everything about the 16-inch MacBook Pro is fantastic, really. Perhaps what you'll notice most is the 16.2-inch screen (what Apple calls a Liquid Retina XDR display), running at a resolution of 3,456 x 2,234 pixels and with a maximum brightness of 1,600 nits. The display supports refresh rates of up to 120Hz, and can automatically adjust its colours and intensity to match the ambient light conditions.

This is the first 16-inch MacBook to come with a processor made by Apple itself, and that has led to some significant performance increases, while also reducing the strain on the battery at the same time. Apple says you can get an impressive 21 hours of video playback from this laptop before the battery will run out; if you're browsing the web that goes down to 14 hours, but it's still fantastic.

We should also mention the six-speaker setup for the audio too: whether you're playing music or watching movies, the sound system does a great job, and you may prefer it over using headphones as long as you're not somewhere where you need to be quiet. In short, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is a portable computer that's packed with fine features, and it excels in just about every category.

What else do I need to know about the 16-inch MacBook Pro?

MacBook Pro 16 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

There's not much else that you need to know about the 16-inch MacBook Pro, though we haven't talked about prices yet. The starting price for this laptop is £2,399 / $2,499, which is a lot: start to add more RAM and more SSD storage, and that price climbs even higher too. There's no getting around it, this isn't a laptop for people shopping on a budget, but you do get plenty of style and power back as a result.

The colour options you've got to pick from are space grey and silver, and we like what Apple has done with the design here too – the laptop is something of a throwback to MacBook Pros of the past. The exception to that is the new display notch, which might take some getting used to. Everyone is different in terms of what they appreciate in laptop design, but we think most people will like the aesthetics of the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The macOS operating system continues to go from strength to strength as well, with its suite of free software (including Apple Mail and Apple Maps), and the integrated Siri digital assistant. If you own an iPhone or an iPad, everything from Safari bookmarks to iMessage conversations can be synced across using the same Apple ID, which might be another reason to choose this particular laptop.

What are the alternatives to the 16-inch MacBook Pro?

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

(Image credit: Acer)

You won't be stuck when it comes to finding alternatives to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, because there are plenty of great laptops out there at the moment. Have a look at our best MacBooks guide to see some of the other options you've got, for example – not least the 14-inch MacBook Pro which is very similar to the one we've covered here, but just a bit smaller so you can carry it around a little more easily.

If you don't need all the performance and power of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, then think twice about whether you need to spend all that money on it. Those of you who can do all of your day-to-day computing inside a web browser might want to think about picking up one of the best Chromebooks on the market, for example – they're lightweight, affordable, secure, and always right up to date. The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (pictured above), for example, is a fine choice.

Something that MacBooks don't do particularly well, even with the power of Apple silicon, is gaming. Have a peek at our list of the best gaming laptops if you need a laptop that's able to play the best PC games of the moment at the highest resolutions and frame rates. As with the 16-inch MacBook Pro you've going to have to pay a substantial sum to get one, but in terms of gaming performance they're worth the investment.

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.