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MacBook Pro with M1 Max is more powerful than a PS5, but has one huge flaw

Published Oct 20th, 2021 11:25PM EDT
M1 Max MacBook Pro
Image: Apple Inc.

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Intel accelerated its anti-Apple campaign this fall as we got closer to the MacBook Pro event in mid-October. We explained all year long that the custom M-series SoC is Intel’s biggest nightmare right now. The M1 MacBooks have fantastic performance and battery life, significantly outperforming Intel-based machines. Intel hasn’t caught up to Apple, and it faces the prospect of other big tech giants developing their own SoCs. Google Tensor is just one such example. Then Apple unveiled the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors this week, twisting the knife.

Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max presentation discussed performance at length, comparing the new chips against Intel’s best processors. Apple showed that its chips deliver more power per watt than Intel machines could ever dream of. The first benchmarks that followed show that the 2021 MacBook Pro performance is indeed spectacular. More interestingly, some reports indicate that the highest-end M1 Max MacBook Pro version is more powerful than the PS5. But that’s not necessarily amazing news for gamers.

The M1 Max MacBook Pro performance

The cheapest 14-inch MacBook Pro that you can buy costs $1,999. For that price, you get an M1 Pro SoC that features an 8-core CPU, 14-core GPU, and 16GB of Unified Memory. That memory is accessible to the GPU as well. You have to spend $2,899 on a 14-inch model to get the M1 Max chip (which comes with a 24-core GPU and 32GB of memory).

The cheapest 2021 MacBook Pro with the best M1 Max SoC is the $3,899 16-inch MacBook model. The SoC features a 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU, and 64GB of memory. It’s only the M1 Max that gets the 24- and 32-core GPU options, and access to 64GB of memory. As a result, the M1 Max MacBooks will deliver the best possible performance.

Looking at the available data, Notebook Check estimated the teraflops (TF) performance for all the new M1 Pro and M1 Max variations, as follows:

  • 2020 M1 8-core GPU = 2.6 TF
  • 14-inch exclusive M1 Pro 14-core GPU = 4.5 TF
  • Base M1 Pro 16-core GPU = 5.2 TF
  • Mid-range M1 Max 24-core GPU = 7.8 TF
  • High-end M1 Max 32-core GPU = 10.4 TF

Comparatively, the PS5’s custom GPU offers 10.28 TF of performance. The figures above are estimates. But real-life performance benchmarks will probably show that the most powerful M1 Max MacBook Pro can deliver PS5-grade performance.

Separately, the new MacBook Pros features SSDs with “jaw-dropping” read speeds of 7.4GB/s. The PS5 packs a custom 5.5GB/s SSD. The speed of the SSD is essential for the PS5’s gaming speed.

M1 Max MacBook Pro
GPU performance vs. power comparison between M1 Max MacBook Pro and a high-end PC laptop (MSI GE76 Raider 11UH-053). Image source: Apple Inc.

What about MacBook Pro gaming?

In its anti-Apple campaign, one of Intel’s recurrent ideas is that M1 MacBooks aren’t great for games. As if Intel-powered MacBooks are.

The fact remains that the MacBook Pro isn’t a great gaming PC despite the massive M1 Pro and M1 Max upgrade. As Gizmodo explains, there are a couple of issues that gamers should be aware of when buying a portable gaming system.

First of all, the M1 Max’s massive power comes with a big caveat. You have to pay extra to get the M1 Max. The 24-core GPU version powering a 14-inch MacBook Pro means you’ll spend at least $2,899 for the upgrade. That’s a hefty price tag for a gaming laptop, considering that more affordable solutions are available from the competition.

But say money isn’t the problem, especially if you need the MacBook Pro for work-related activities that require more power. Then you’ll run into a different issue that has nothing to do with Apple’s willingness to support games. Most of the popular games you’d want to play on PC or PS5 aren’t available on macOS. It’s not enough for Apple’s M1 Max to deliver PS5-grade performance if developers don’t port their best titles to macOS. So if you want to play some of the AAA games out there, you can’t do it yet on the new MacBook Pro, no matter how much money you’re willing to spend on the M1 Max processor.

However, as Apple keeps upgrading the M-series SoCs, developers will start paying attention. The M1 Max and M1 Pro machines might not be playing any of the hot AAA games now, but it could all change in a few years.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.