Why the new Apple M1 MacBook Pro isn't a smart choice for pros… yet

Opinion: It’s pretty. It’s powerful. It’s probably going to break something

Apple M1
(Image credit: Apple)

The new M1-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are the most exciting Macs in a generation, and the Mini’s pretty sweet too. The MacBook Pro in particular is amazing, and I’m absolutely not going to buy one. If you’re a pro user, I don’t think you should either.

It’s not that I don’t love Macs. I do. I’ve owned every generation since they were packing PowerPC G3s, and I’m writing this on a 5K iMac while my MacBook Pro charges. 

It’s not the performance. That looks incredible. 

It’s not that I need Boot Camp for Windows, because I don’t. 

And it’s not that bringing the 13-inch MacBook Pro up to a more sensible spec (512GB SSD and 16GB RAM) whacks the price up by 30%. That’s mobile Macs for you.

It’s this: If you’re a pro, you should never, ever get a version 1.0 product for crucial work.

No appetite for destruction

Make no mistake, this is a version 1.0 product. Not only that, but in Big Sur it’s also running what’s effectively a version 1.0 operating system too. The apps you’ll be using will either be running in an emulator, or they’ll be version 1.0 apps.

I’m old enough to remember the transition from PowerPC to Intel, which was a little bumpy for apps that ran in emulation instead of natively; more recently, I’ve learnt the hard way never, ever to upgrade the macOS on a production machine until you’re absolutely certain that every single thing you plug into your Mac, whether physically or virtually, has been tested to destruction. 

In recent years I’ve lost crucial plugins, apps and even amplifiers to Mac updates that broke compatibility either temporarily or permanently. Those problems have had serious effects on my ability to get serious work done, and I’m not the only one who’s been affected: one sound engineer friend of mine got so fed up with macOS updates breaking things that he jumped ship to Windows.

Those problems weren’t always Apple’s fault – I’m giving Blackstar amps a hard stare here for writing their amp control software in Silverlight, a software platform that’s been effectively dead for half a decade, and some of my plugin problems were because developers didn’t update them despite lots of advance warning – but whether they were bugs, out-of-date drivers or just stupid software choices they all affected the same person: me.

Even Apple makes mistakes

For all its engineering prowess, Apple is not unaffected by the “don’t buy 1.0” rule. This is the firm of the hated scissor-switch keyboard in MacBooks and MacBook Pros, of the Retina MacBook Pros whose screens lost their lamination, of the SSDs that locked their users out. All then fixed.

There will be problems with the M1 MacBook Pros, because there are problems with every new generation of hardware. And there will be problems with Big Sur, because there are problems with every new version of any OS. 

If you’re a pro user, there’s one thing you can say about your current Mac that I’m not sure you can confidently say about the M1 MacBook Pro just yet.

It just works.