Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2023) Review: My New Daily Driver
April 12, 2023 Andrew Cheng

The 2023 MacBook Pro 14, compared to the 2021 model, is not all that different. It has the same design, the same display, with the only major upgrade being the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips for improved performance and power efficiency. Basically, if you’ve already got the 2021 MacBook Pro, there’s little reason to upgrade to this latest model.

That being said, I have used Windows laptops almost exclusively for the past few years – I had a short stint with the 2015 MacBook Pro back in…2015 – so the 14-inch MacBook Pro feels leaps and bounds better in many regards. So much so that it has replaced my daily driver, and it has improved my workflow quite a bit too.

However, is it really worth paying up to a whopping RM25,999 for the MacBook Pro 14? Well, to folks that need this level of performance, absolutely.

Okay, the new 14-inch MacBook Pro actually starts at RM8,799. For that kind of money, the base model comes with an M2 Pro chip, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD. For most folks – and even for creative professionals who don’t need top-tier performance – this model would suffice, in my opinion.

As for the 14-inch MacBook Pro I’m currently using, it’s the range-topping configuration with an M2 Max chip (12-core CPU and 38-core GPU), a whopping 96GB of memory, and 8TB of SSD storage for a grand total of RM25,999. While that is a large sum of money, this is also a very, very powerful laptop that will meet the needs of even the most demanding creative professional.

So let’s talk about the performance of the MacBook Pro 14 first. Throughout the review period, the M2 Max chip can take on whatever I throw at it. Whether I’m video editing, image processing, or juggling between 20 different open tabs in Google Chrome – yes, I need to better manage my workflow – the MacBook Pro just breezes right through these tasks.

The best part is, the 14-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t even need to be plugged in to a power outlet to “unlock” the full performance of the M2 Max chip. Typically, Windows laptops on battery power has more limited performance for the sake of power efficiency.

Truth be told, I don’t need the performance offered by the M2 Max chip. Even the M2 Pro is overkill for my particular usage, given that I don’t do 3D modelling or edit 4K videos regularly. But is it nice to have such a high level of performance? Oh, definitely.

Despite offering such a high level of performance, the MacBook Pro 14 still offers incredibly good battery life. Apple’s quoted battery life is up to 12 hours of wireless web, and I actually got close to this figure. I have absolutely no issue getting through a typical workday with the MacBook, and I can even (comfortably) stretch it to two days of use without charging it.

Of course, this still depends on my overall workload for the two days, but it is no exaggeration to say that there are no Windows laptops that can match the insanely long battery life of the 14-inch MacBook Pro. It feels great to not have to worry about running of out battery as I go from one launch event to another on a busy day.

When it comes to system noise, the MacBook Pro 14 is whisper quiet in my day-to-day use, which involves a ton of web browsing, writing, and video streaming. Only when I’m running some heavy tasks do the fans start spinning, and even then it’s not particularly loud. Under heavy load, the palm rest area remains cool to the touch as well, though the keyboard area does get warmer.

Next, we have the stunning 14.2-inch 3024 x 1964 Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED display of the MacBook Pro 14. Not only does the 120Hz refresh rate lends to very smooth animations, the screen’s deep blacks are also reminiscent of an OLED panel. On top of that, colour are well-calibrated too, and there’s no noticeable backlight bleed at all. As for the notch, I barely notice it in everyday use.

The six-speaker system of the 14-inch MacBook Pro is worth a mention as well. For a laptop this size, its amazing how good the speakers sound. I’ve never heard bass this good and punchy on such a compact laptop, and I’m impressed with the full mids and crisp highs too.

I’d like to quickly touch on macOS’ Continuity feature; more specifically, with the iPhone. I love the fact that I can just use AirDrop to seamlessly transfer images I took with my iPhone 14 Pro to the MacBook at full quality. This is very handy when I’m rushing to furnish my articles with images taken at a launch event.

While Windows does offer a similar feature with various Android phones, it often feels clunkier, not to mention the fact that transferred images are often at a lower quality.

And then we have the keyboard and trackpad of the 14-inch MacBook Pro; two very important input devices for productivity-focused tasks. Overall, I really enjoy typing on this keyboard. While it doesn’t offer the longest key travel, the keys have good tactile feedback and just the right amount of actuation force to let me type fast and accurately.

Unsurprisingly, the trackpad is as accurate as ever. Gestures work flawlessly, the large size of the trackpad makes it easy to navigate around, and the smooth surface allows my fingers to glide effortlessly on it. All in all, it’s an excellent trackpad that can even mimic clicks very well.

After all, Apple has transitioned to a fixed trackpad – it has no moving parts at all – for its range of laptops for quite some time now.

As much as I enjoy using the MacBook Pro 14, it does have some drawbacks. The biggest one (for myself) is the fact that I cannot game effectively on it. Unless the games I want to play are built to run natively on Apple’s chip – such as Resident Evil Village – they won’t run great. In some cases, I can’t play them at all. Genshin Impact, for example, is not even available on macOS.

Granted, Apple is steadily making strides to expand macOS’ gaming capability. The hardware of the 14-inch MacBook Pro can certainly run demanding games, so what’s left is for more games to actually support the platform itself.

But the biggest hurdle for the MacBook Pro 14 to overcome is its high price of entry. While this RM25,999 configuration is really made for folks who already know that they need the laptop’s top-tier performance, the “most affordable” RM8,799 base model is still quite costly for the regular consumer. Well, in my opinion, anyway.

Nonetheless, after using the 2023 MacBook Pro 14 as my daily driver for over a month now, that price tag looks…well, justified. There’s no doubt it costs a lot of money, but there’s also no denying that this is one of the best – if not the best – laptops I’ve used for quite some time.

Sure, there’s the whole macOS versus Windows discussion – I’ll leave that for a separate article – but beyond the operating system, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is simply a refined, premium laptop with very long battery life, excellent performance, and a stunning display; all in a compact form factor.

Suffice to say I’ve never been happier with a new daily driver.