When Apple announced a year and half ago it would release computers using self-developed silicon based on ARM architecture instead of Intel’s ubiquitous processors, industry insiders didn’t know how to react. It wasn’t that people doubted Apple’s ability to make efficient ARM-based chips – iPhones run perfectly fine on them – it was more the long-held industry consensus that ARM-based chips, which are designed to be energy efficient, can’t quite power a real computer the way Intel’s more complex x86 architecture can. It’s why 78 per cent of all consumer laptops use Intel processors. But then Apple’s first machines with its own “M1” silicon hit the market last December and took the industry by surprise. Not only were the machines just as powerful as previous Intel-powered Macs, they were significantly more efficient. Last week came the announcement of new MacBook Pros running newer, more advanced upgrades to the M1 silicon; I’ve been testing the larger 16-inch model powered by the appropriately-named M1 Max chip for a week, and yes, Intel should be worried. Design and hardware Not only did the new 16-inch MacBook Pro gain a new brain, it’s also got a complete redesign. The bezels around the 16.2-inch display have been trimmed, making for the most modern looking Apple laptop in years. Apple Watch 7’s larger screen, faster charging enhances experience Apple didn’t want to sacrifice webcam quality (the way many slim-bezelled laptops do), so it gave this MacBook Pro an iPhone-like notch cut-out. Yes, it looks a bit silly, but the 1,080p webcam with TrueTone sensor (to detect ambient light) produces far superior video quality than most laptops. The screen is a pixel-dense Mini LED panel that has a variable refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Mini LED is the new hot trend in televisions and laptops, because it brings deeper black and greater contrast without the burn-in risks of an OLED screen. Throw in the industry-best 1,600 nits of peak brightness, and this is arguably the best looking screen out there. Apple also uncharacteristically reintroduced several ports it had discarded years ago: the new MacBook has an HDMI port, SD card reader, and a MagSafe charging port (the latter is Apple’s breakaway charging cable that used to power MacBooks until 2016). There are still USB-C ports (three total), and they, too, can top up the machine, but MagSafe charges faster – at up to 140W speeds. Software and features The new MacBook run MacOS Monterey 12.0.1 out of the box, while older Macs will also get this upgrade, there are features exclusive to Apple’s silicon: these include on-device keyboard dictation (meaning you don’t need to be online to dictate words on screen); portrait mode for video calls (blurring the background with digital bokeh). Animations when scrolling or opening software appear more fluid thanks to the faster refresh rate, and overall the machine works just like a previous MacBook. Performance and battery life Apple’s M1 Max is a 5nm SoC (systems-on-chip) with a 10-core CPU, up to 32-core GPU, and 64GB of unified memory (RAM for both CPU and GPU). Performance in both real-world testing or benchmark apps has been, for the lack of a better word, jaw-dropping. As a test I rendered a four-minute 8k video file on Final Cut Pro, and the new MacBook rendered the video in one minute, 35 seconds. The same process took seven minutes longer on my 2019, Intel-powered, fully spec’ed out MacBook Pro. Not only that, the Intel MacBook got very hot and loud (fan noise) during the rendering process; the new MacBook Pro got only moderately warm and didn’t even need to turn on its fan. In another test, using Adobe Premiere Pro, I was able to line up seven streams of 8k video footage and scrub through the timeline without lags. This is unheard of for a machine that can fit inside a backpack. It’s not just video creators, of course. With 64GB of unified RAM, artists can render 3D models on this machine and never see the dreaded Apple “spinning wheel of doom” (the icon that pops up when the machine has to take time to process tasks). Apple’s silicon, because it’s essentially an all-in-one mobile chip, is also highly efficient. Under normal office productivity usage (word processing, web browsing and so on), the machine can last 16 to 17 hours on a single charge, easily. Even when doing more intensive tasks like editing videos, it can hold up for most of a work day. Conclusion Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro is a machine for true creative professionals – video editors, musicians, digital artists – and the price reflects that. The 16-inch model starts at US$2,499 (HK$19,799), but that runs on the slightly inferior M1 Pro chip that I did not get to test. My almost spec’ed out M1 Max model with 64GB of memory and 2TB of storage costs US$4,299 (HK$33,299). If you are seeking a laptop just for typing words, surfing the web, or watching Netflix, this machine is complete overkill. Your money would be better spent buying the MacBook Air instead. But if your work requires this much power, or you just have the cash to spend and want the best of the best – then this M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro is it. Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .