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Is the Macbook Pro M2 14 inch still worth it? My view (2023)

My MacBook Pro M2 14 inch experience: performance and value in 2023

James Birkenau


November 19, 2023


I recently took the plunge and invested in the latest MacBook Pro with the M2 chip. As a software developer, I’m always on the lookout for a machine that can keep up with demanding workloads. I generally need something that could handle development, virtualization, and the occasional foray into AI – all without breaking a sweat.



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Unboxing and Initial Impressions

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Unboxing the MacBook Pro M2 14-inch, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement. There’s something special about the tactile sensation of peeling off the protective film and lifting the lid for the first time. The build quality struck me immediately—it’s solid, with an unmistakable premium feel. Running my fingers across the keyboard and trackpad, the feedback was responsive and satisfying.

Powering it up, I was greeted by a stunning Retina display that made colors pop and text razor-sharp. The screen is one of the standout features for me. It makes reading code, browsing, and media consumption a pleasure. It’s not an overstatement to say that the Liquid Retina XDR display is among the best out there, rivaling even high-end monitors in terms of color accuracy and brightness.

The port selection is a huge upgrade from previous models, offering versatility with Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI, and an SD card reader. No longer do I need a dongle for every device I own—a small detail, but a significant improvement in day-to-day convenience.

But it’s not all perfect. The lack of a touch screen might be a drawback for some, but as someone who prefers a traditional laptop experience for development work, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. The weight, however, is noticeable. It’s no featherweight machine, but I consider the extra heft a trade-off for the performance and features packed inside.

The speakers surprised me with their clarity and depth, which is a bonus for those impromptu music breaks during work sessions. Battery life was also commendable; it got me through most of my day without reaching for the charger, though your mileage will vary depending on usage.

As for the camera and mic quality, there’s a marked improvement, which makes this MacBook feel built for a post-pandemic world where video calls are the norm. I appreciate the attention to these often-overlooked details.

Now, the laptop’s performance with software development tools and occasional dabbling in AI/ML projects is still to be thoroughly tested, but initial experiences are promising. I’ve yet to push it to its limits but considering the specs, I am optimistic about its capabilities. As someone coming from an older machine, the transition to the M2 chip was smooth, with no compatibility issues so far.

Looking at potential drawbacks, one could argue about the price, especially in markets like India where the cost is significantly higher. It’s a valid concern, and I understand the hesitation. But considering I didn’t have a personal system and wanted something future-proof, this seemed like a judicious choice for my professional needs.

Regarding the ecosystem, being able to maintain workflows across my iPhone and iPad is a seamless experience thanks to the improved Continuity features, amplifying productivity without needing third-party apps.

Lastly, the shipping and delivery process was quicker than expected, which is always a pleasant surprise. However, the way the package was left unattended is something to watch out for—potential buyers should plan accordingly to ensure their high-value purchase doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

In all, the initial impressions leave me largely satisfied with the MacBook Pro M2 14-inch. It’s a machine that ticks most boxes for developers, creatives, and power users seeking a blend of performance and portability, albeit with a few considerations to ponder.

Performance and Daily Use

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When I first laid my hands on the MacBook Pro M2 14 inch, my expectations were sky-high. As a software developer, I was particularly intrigued by the raw power the M2 Pro chip promised. The transition from my older laptop to this sleek machine was mostly smooth, despite the initial cost-induced gulp.

Daily use has been a breeze; boot times are negligible and the macOS runs flawlessly. For me, Xcode kicks into high gear without the slightest hiccup, and my development workflows have seen significant speed boosts. Running simulated environments and virtual machines is where I’ve genuinely appreciated the Pro’s capabilities, much like the reflections shared in My experience with the new M3 Max Macbook Pro. It’s an area I feel often gets understated when compared to the spotlight video editing receives.

The integrated Terminal coupled with Homebrew makes it almost trivial to install a wealth of developer tools and languages – it’s very Unix-friendly, which I love. For anyone delving into AI or ML, the strength of the Neural Engine on the M2 chips should not be overlooked. It’s designed to optimize machine learning tasks, and while I’m just scratching the surface, the potential this machine holds is palpable.

I can understand the video editing fuss though – the Liquid Retina XDR display makes every image pop with exceptional detail, while Dolby Atmos on these speakers is a joy for the occasional Netflix binge. The 1080p webcam is a godsend for remote meetings, a clear upgrade from any MacBook Air or older Pro models.

But it’s not all perfect. The absence of an SD card slot in the base models can be annoying, and I sometimes wish I didn’t have to rely on dongles. The weight is something to consider too; carrying it around isn’t arduous, but it’s definitely heftier than the MacBook Air. Battery life, while impressive, can take a hit during intensive tasks – but it’s a trade-off for the power under the hood.

I leverage the GIT repositories extensively for version control (GitHub and Bitbucket), and the M2 Pro deals with those without breaking a sweat. My frequent pushes and pulls, along with code merges, have been smooth. Moreover, the high RAM ensures you can keep multiple applications open without fearing system lags, and with VS Code and various chrome tabs open, swiftness remains unfazed.

Connectivity is a dream on this device. The WiFi 6 support ensures speedy internet connections, critical when I’m pushing updates or downloading new packages. For anyone sizing up the competition, I suggest checking out Apple’s M2 page for a deep dive into the chip’s architecture.

The keyboard deserves praise – typing is comfortable, quiet, and responsive. I’ve typed this review on it and I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate it, similar to the typing experience I enjoyed while reviewing the Apple Macbook Air M2 (2023). Touch ID is a nifty feature, making logins secure and expedient.

Ultimately, while there’s a plethora of laptops out there, few match the MacBook Pro M2’s comprehensive package. It’s not just about video editing prowess – it’s a development powerhouse, a window to advanced learning, and a gatekeeper to an efficient, professional life. True, it comes with a few caveats and a price tag that requires thought, but once past that, it’s hard to look back.

Value for Money and Alternatives

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When it comes to discussing the value for money of the MacBook Pro M2 14 inch, the conversation often leans towards its prowess in video editing, a domain where Apple has traditionally excelled. However, as someone who’s not chopping and changing footage for a living, I had to evaluate if the hefty price tag is justifiable for my use cases—mainly software development and potential forays into AI and ML.

From a developer’s perspective, the MacBook Pro M2 Pro 14 inch is somewhat of a powerhouse. The speed and efficiency of the new M2 chips, paired with a minimum of 16GB RAM, make compiling code far less time-consuming. While the M2 Air, with similar RAM and storage, comes close in specs, the cooling system on the Pro means sustained performance under heavy loads, something not to be underestimated when dealing with resource-intensive development tasks or dabbling with ML frameworks like TensorFlow or PyTorch.

The display quality is another positive; the Liquid Retina XDR screen is simply stunning and easy on the eyes during those long coding sessions. The added real estate and refresh rate are appreciable, and for someone who’s spent years looking at subpar monitors, it’s a significant upgrade. Various ports, including HDMI and SD card reader, are a blessing for a dev, adding to the versatility without the need for a nest of dongles. The build quality and trackpad remain industry benchmarks.

Now, let’s tackle the elephant in the room—the price. Yes, in India and many other places, this machine comes with a premium price. But if you, like me, didn’t have a personal system and needed something reliable, the investment seems less daunting. Compared to its peers, the MacBook Pro M2 14 inch isn’t just another notebook; it’s an investment in a workflow that could potentially last upwards of five years.

But no device is without its cons. For one, the machine is expensive, and those on a tighter budget might find better cost-to-performance ratio in older models like the M1 MacBook Air or even non-Apple alternatives that offer high performance at lower prices. The MacBook Pro M2 Pro also comes with expectations tethered to professional creative work—it’s marketed this way, and it’s hard not to feel over-equipped and underutilizing its capabilities.

I did ponder whether I might have overspent; perhaps the base model M1 MacBook Air would have sufficed. A glance at the GitHub repo for Apple’s TensorFlow variant did remind me, however, that the M2 chip’s extra muscle would come in handy for AI and ML explorations.

In the realm of alternatives, Windows-based systems do give Apple a run for its money. For comparable prices, machines like the Dell XPS 15 pack serious punch and offer more flexibility for upgrades. Yet, something about macOS’s optimization and seamless integration with other Apple products keeps me within the Apple ecosystem.

In short, despite the steep price, the MacBook Pro M2 Pro 14 inch brims with potential well beyond video editing. It’s overkill for many, but for those looking to future-proof their tech or dive into more demanding computing tasks, it’s an investment that delivers superb build quality and performance, albeit with a premium touch.

Final Verdict - Is It Worth Your Investment

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After spending a considerable amount of time with the MacBook Pro M2 14-inch, I’ve come to a few conclusions that might help you decide if it’s the right investment. From a developer’s perspective, this machine packs a serious punch. The M2 Pro chip is not just about video editing prowess; it’s about the overall performance boost that any power user can benefit from. For compiling code, running virtual machines, or diving into AI and ML, the extra horsepowers under the hood can save precious time and effort — the importance of which any developer can attest to.

The reliability and smoothness of macOS is something I value, especially when it comes to software development environments like Xcode or Docker. Having a system that ‘just works’ means you spend less time tweaking your setup and more time focusing on actual development.

However, the MacBook Pro is not without its drawbacks. Its hefty price tag, especially in markets like India, might feel unjustifiable for someone not using its full multimedia capabilities. While it’s true that cheaper alternatives exist, and if you’re not pushing the limits of the MacBook Pro’s hardware, the value proposition diminishes. But considering the MacBook Pro as a long-term investment, which it undoubtedly is, helps cushion the blow of its initial cost.

The display is, hands down, one of the finest I’ve seen on any laptop. When you’re staring at a screen for most of your waking hours, a high-resolution, bright, color-accurate display matters for eye comfort and productivity. It’s not just about how things look, but how they feel, and the MacBook Pro delivers an exceptional visual experience.

Connectivity on this laptop is robust, supporting multiple external monitors, which is a boon for any software developer. The inclusion of an SD card slot and HDMI port adds to its versatility, making it a prime choice for embedded systems development or presentations. For those considering diving into more portable options like the MacBook Air, remember that the Pro offers more than just power but also expansive connectivity and enhanced thermal management.

As for the battery life, it’s impressive. Even under considerable workload, it holds its own, which means more time untethered from a power outlet and the flexibility to be productive wherever you may roam - a subtle, yet critical feature for any professional.

In terms of additional capabilities, like the Neural Engine for AI/ML applications, the MacBook Pro is future-proofing itself. This may not be a deal-breaker for every user, but it’s certainly a consideration when you’re thinking about the kind of work you’ll be doing a few years down the line.

Concluding, is the MacBook Pro M2 14-inch worth it for non-video editors? My answer leans towards yes, albeit with a careful weighing of the pros and cons tailored to individual needs and use cases. It’s a premium product with a premium price, but for software developers who desire a powerful, yet nuanced toolkit wrapped in exceptional build quality and user experience, the MacBook Pro is a solid choice. Just remember, as with any tool, it’s not just about owning it; it’s about harnessing its potential to maximize your professional output.