The Truly Formidable MacBook Pro M1 Pro and Max and accessories
Well, it’s been all over the internet, but Apple did launch some truly powerful chips in their new MacBook Pro lineup. The M1 Pro is 10 cores (8 performance and 2 efficiency) with 16 neural engine cores and between 16 up to 32 graphics cores. Plus up to 64GB of memory. What’s a nerd to do. And battery life is up nearly 70% as well even as performance basically doubles.
Plus, they rolled back most of the changes they made in 2015, so this has a nice keyboard (no more butterfly keys), no Touch Bar (who ever used it) and it restores MagSafe which might not seem like a big deal until you realize how fragile the USB C connector is (it is super easy to pull them out), plus SD card and HDMI (for us presentation junkies). Basically, no more dongles for a while 🙂
So what’s good advice for ordinary mortals and what should you get:
- If you are mainly doing web browsing and office work, you don’t need these machines. In facts, a 7-core MacBook Pro M1 is going to more than meet your needs even with 8GB of shared memory. Plus the battery is going to feel like it has never ended. If you are getting one of these machines I’d recommend the slightly crippled 7-core version and then use the money you save to get a bigger hard drive. More like 1TB. Or use it to get AppleCare+ so you won’t be depressed if it breaks.
- But if you are doing photography or video work, then this is the machine for you. In that case, the great buy is probably the M1 Pro with 32GB of memory. And as much hard drive as you can afford. That’s really a good value machine for the person who does video editing or more likely someone who wants to have the best of the best even if they don’t use it.
- However, if you are a monster professional doing lots of video, then you can more to the M1 Max with 64GB and 24-Core worth of graphics. Or even the 32GB Core version which is completely maxed out and will set you back $4K or more.
Finally, you can get the same specs for either the 14″ or the 16″ laptop, but the 16″ does weight a pound more but does have a 140W charger and lasts three hours longer. So if you don’t travel much the 16″ for $400 more makes some sense.
Personally, I do travel a lot and fortunately I can still see small screens, so for the dedicated photographer (and hopefully someday tensorflow will get tuned to use the neural engines and/or the graphics cores, then for the machine learning engineer), so the ideal machine is a breathtaking $4K or so with the 14″ MacBook Pro, M1 Pro Max with 24-core graphics, 64GB memory and 2TB hard disk. Here I’m making the calculation that cores don’t matter as much as memory.
The second thing is what accessories will you need:
Thunderbolt 4 Hubs: OWC Thunderbolt Dock Wait for Reviews
The net is that I would probably wait for reviews of the OWC Thunderbolt Hub and/or look for reviews with the new MacBook Pro M1 Pro and M1Max before getting one as there can definitely be issues, but the stack of choices are:
- Hubs from big brands that are not Mac focused. Well, unless you enjoy burning out your USB C ports with cut-rate dongles (I’ve been there) stick with the bigger names. This device has three Thunderbolt 4 ports and the new Thunderbolt docks are just coming as noted by Thunderbolt Laptop.
- And I really recommend you getting at least 100W worth of power. The main issue is compatibility for the big brands like Kensington and Razor. The Kensington is the most expensive at $370 and it looks like they are all using the Intel chipset so the feature set is pretty similar. You get three Thunderbolt downstream ports and then an HDMI and a bunch of USB C 3.1 and some USB A ports. Just what you need for docking. The other highly rated one is the Razor although quite a few Amazon users report compatibility issues mainly with the fancy RGB lighting. I do like the way it comes in mercury or silver color though and it is available at Best Buy for the same $330 price but unlike Amazon you get the Best Buy rewards program. That’s a pretty good way to go except for reports of M1 compatibility issues.
- There are some Mac-focused brands that are about to ship Thunderbolt 4 hubs. OWC pays a lot of attention to Mac compatibility and their 90W Thunderbolt Dock with 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports and four USB A seems like a good setup
- And there are the no-name brands like for instance the ALogic has a 100W Blaze Thunderbolt 4 hub, but I can’t find reviews for it and Sonnet with 11 ports.
- Smaller hubs that are more portable but only have 60W power delivery. Or you can step down to 60W hubs which seem more portable but won’t rapid charge a MacBook Pro M1 Pro. And if you can stand 60W charging then you can get the CalDigit Element Hub. Strangely although they make the really excellent CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 that is rock solid, there is no equivalent Hub with 100W from them (yet).
Case and Keyboard Covers: Not yet available
For such and expensive investment, you probably want a case and keyboard covers. These are not yet available as far as I can tell, but I’m sure they will be,
USB C Chargers: 100W and 140W chargers
Well, the MacBook Pro 16 comes with a 140 Watt charger with the new standard for even faster charging. You can get that directly from Apple. Otherwise, there are a few 100W chargers that are the maximum for USB C power delivery before the new 3.1 standard came out. The main thing to look out for are chargers which are really an aggregate of 100W in power, you really want one that can deliver the full 100W to your laptop. Most of the time I actually use the MacBook Pro as a hub since then the laptop itself can decide how much power to give each port and you want something that is GAN (Gallium Arsenide) so it is small. I tend to stick with the major brands as you can definitely get non-standard ones that don’t respect USB PD (Power Delivery) and which over heat. Finally at least for me being really compact is important, but I’ve been a big fan of Anker
- Satechi 100W charger. This is a single USB charger and not a brick with lots of ports. It’s surprisingly hard to get a single 100W charger. One thing to watch out for is that if it has two USB C ports that it not just divide the power 45W/45W, you really want one that goes the full 100W to the main and whatever is left to the next port. I haven’t found that yet though.
- Anker 60W Nano II. This only comes in black, but is just a little bit bigger than a wall socket in size but provides the full 602.
- Anker 45W Nano II. This one is exactly in between the two. I’ve picked up all of these, but I think having the
- Anker 30W Nano II. This is really tiny and is all you need for an iPad Pro and in a pinch can help keep a MacBook Pro 14 charging, I like to bring a 100W and a 30W in the same bag.
- Anker 20W Atom. If you really want small you can get this one but I’d recommend the 30W as it is more flexible and will support an iPad Pro nicely and even trickle charge a MacBook Pro
- Toptekits 1 foot extension. If you have to hang your charger off say an Alaska Airlines connector, you need this, so you keep the weight off the power plug
No more need for Hubs! Just need USB C to USB A, Lightening and Ethernet
And one of the nice thing is that you don’t need a hub anymore. With a three Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI and SD cards plus Magsafe, you should be set without a potentially USB C zapping third party hub. The only thing you may need are some USB A to USB C adapters for older devices like say the Magnetic charger for your, so here are some things to get. Wirecutter has some good recommendations. The main thing is to say with “name” brands as you can definitely get in trouble with no-name systems and even burn out a very expensive Thunderbolt 4 port:
- USB C to USB A adapter. This let’s you connect say a chargers for your Apple Watch to it. While the Amazon Basics dongle is good, I actually find that the small connectors work better, they take up less space.
- USB C to lightening adapter. So you can charge your Apple iPhone like the Anker Powerline with a perfect 3 foot length if you assume you are connecting it to your laptop to charge.
- USB C to Ethernet in case you need a wired connection.
- StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Cable 2 Meter passive white or the Plugable Thunderbolt 3 2 meter cable which gets you up to 20Gbps. And as a backup you can get the short black Anker Thunderbolt 3 USB C which costs $30 or the white Startech Thunderbolt 3 Cable 0.7 meters passive white, but is the but only 0.75 meter but does the full 40Gbps and is USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Gen 1 compatible. The reason is that why you might not need 40Gbps transfer, it works as a USB 3.1 cable as well, so it’s super flexible. The one I have is actually a 2 meter length so it works from far away, but you can use the 1 meter one as well. Because they support 40Gbps, most of these Thunderbolt 3 cables are 1.6 meters long. You can get an active cable that works up to 2 meters though. Also you want a cable which is USB 3.1 (5Gbps) and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) compatible. As Apple Insider explains for 0.75 meter cables, they are passive and can support the full 40Mbps Thunderbolt, 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 and 5Gbps USB 3.1. For cables that are longer, than 0.75 meters, if you use an passive cable, you can get 20Gbps (still not bad) and you retain USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 3.1 compatibility. that is probably the best choice. If you go with an active Thunderbolt 3 cable, then you lose USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 3.1 compatibility. You can tell if you have an official cable because it will have the Thunderbolt logo on it.
- USB C to USB C. The Anker USB C to USB C with USB 3.1 Gen2 is more expensive that a “USB C Charging cable” because USB C charging cables support 60W or 100W and then only USB 2 speeds of 480Mbps. This has to do with how many pairs of wires are in there. So normally you want a real USB C to USB C with 100W but then your speed goes down. Isn’t that complicated. So for most charging, this is a good choice. You want a cable which is USB IF certified (although there are many counterfeits). There is a chip which is used to identify it inside the cable.