We knew they would be arriving at some point in time, and that time is now. Apple has updated its MacBook Pro lineup with a new 14-inch model, along with some impressive hardware that is designed with professionals in mind. But looking at the 2021 MacBook Pro vs 2020 MacBook Pro comparison, which one should you buy? This question is even more important considering that the M1-powered MacBook Pro from 2020 is going to remain in Apple’s lineup for the time being. So let’s try to decide which one is for you.
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14-inch 2021 MacBook Pro vs 2020 MacBook Pro: Spec Comparison
|14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)||13-inch MacBook Pro (2020)|
|Resolution||3024 x 1964||2560 x 1600|
|ProMotion / Refresh Rate||Yes, 120Hz||No, 60Hz|
|CPU||M1 Pro w/ 8-core CPU
M1 Pro w/ 10-core CPU
M1 Max w/ 10-core CPU
|Apple M1, 8-core|
|GPU||14-core GPU (M1 Pro)
16-core GPU (M1 Pro)
24-core GPU (M1 Max)
32-core GPU (M1 Max)
|Apple M1, 8-core|
64GB (M1 Max Only)
|Ports||SDXC card slot, HDMI, MagSafe, 3 x USB-4/Thunderbolt ports,
|2 x USB 4/ Thunderbolt 3 ports,
|Camera||1080p FaceTime HD||720p FaceTime HD|
|Security||Touch ID||Touch ID|
|Audio||Six Speakers w/ Spatial Audio||Stereo Speakers|
|Dimensions (inches)||0.61 x 12.31 x 8.71-inches||0.61 x 11.97 x 8.36-inches|
|Weight||3.5 pounds||3.0 pounds|
|Battery Life||Up to 17 Hours||Up to 17 Hours|
|Fast Charging||Yes, 50% in 30 minutes||No|
|Price||From $1,999||From $1,299|
2021 MacBook Pro vs 2020 MacBook Pro
From the top to the bottom, the 2021 MacBook Pro is a completely different device compared to the 2020 MacBook Pro. This includes the display size, general design, battery life, and so much more. For starters, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro ditch the Apple M1 or Intel chip options, instead offering truly “Pro” processors in the M1 Pro and M1 Max. These processors alone, are configurable with up to 10 CPU Cores, and up to 32 GPU cores. For comparison the 2020 MacBook Pro only offers an 8-core configuration for both the CPU and GPU.
As for RAM, we have the same 16GB and 32GB options across the board. However, if you opt for the M1 Max processor, you can get up to 64GB of RAM, while the M1 is limited to only 16GB or 32GB. Storage is also a bit different, starting at 512GB and going all the way up to 8TB. Last year’s model is limited to configurations between 256GB and 2TB, so you might need to grab an external hard drive.
Since the M1 never made it to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, this release marks the first 16-inch MacBook powered by an Apple Silicon processor. It also marks the first release in years that there has not been an equivalent Intel-powered MacBook released.
Moving to the displays, we have either a 14.2-inch or 16.2-inch display, compared to a 13.3-inch or 16-inch model from before. But there’s a whole lot more power packed into these new displays, as Apple brings its ProMotion technology with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate to a Mac for the first time. It uses the same mini-LED technology first debuted with the 2021 iPad Pro, and will greatly help improve battery life depending on what you’re using your MacBook Pro for.
Speaking of battery life, the 2021 MacBook Pro vs 2020 MacBook Pro are both rated for 17 hours on a single charge. If you want the most juice, then you’ll likely want to look at the 16-inch model which goes up to 21 hours on a single charge. But just like with the iPhone 12 last year, MagSafe makes its return on the Mac. With MagSafe, charging speeds have been greatly improved, offering a 50% charge in just 30 minutes. Apple is also offering two different chargers alongside the 2021 MacBook Pro, with options for 67W or 96W on the 14-inch model.
Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, is the change in the design. The footprint between the 2021 MacBook Pro vs 2020 MacBook Pro is essentially the same. However, the weight has been increased a bit, as the 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch now weighs in at 3.5 pounds. This is a half-pound heavier than the 13-inch model, while being less than an inch larger.
With the increased size, this has made it possible for Apple to bring back some useful ports that haven’t been seen on a MacBook Pro since 2015. No longer are we being relegated to using just Thunderbolt and dongles. With the 2021 MacBook Pro, we have an HDMI, SDXC card reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a total of four Thunderbolt 4 ports, plus the MagSafe charger. This is an incredible improvement over the two Thunderbolt 3 ports and 3.5mm headphone jack available in the 2020 MacBook Pro.
As for price, this is where you might want to step back and take a deep breath. The 2021 MacBook Pro with all of its improvements, starts at an eye-watering $1,999. This base configuration includes the M1 Pro SoC, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. For comparison, the 2020 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage comes in at $1,699. But you miss out on the faster performance, better display, and new keyboard, if you opt for the 2020 model.
2021 MacBook Pro vs 2020 MacBook Pro: Which Should You Buy?
If money were no object, we would just tell everyone to go and get the 2021 MacBook Pro over the 2020 model. But that’s not sensible for a lot of people, so it will really come down to what you plan on using your MacBook Pro for. If you’re a professional who handles videos, photography, or anything else that could be labeled as “Pro”, go with the 2021 model. Everyone else, will be just fine using the 2020 MacBook Pro, as the M1 is still incredibly powerful and blows a lot of the PC competition out of the water.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.