MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 vs 2021: The biggest upgrades

MacBook Pro M2 Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has just announced the new MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023, along with the MacBook Pro 16-inch 2023. Packing new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, these laptops promise the longest battery life ever in a Mac — not to mention deliver the most power of any Apple laptop yet.

With the new MacBook Pro 14 arriving on January 24, it’s necessary to discuss how it differs from its predecessor, 2021’s MacBook Pro 14-inch. Is the new laptop a worthy upgrade over its predecessor? Read on to find out all the MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 vs 2021 differences.

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MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021
Starting price$1,999$1,999
Screen14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3024x1964 pixels, 254ppi)14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3024x1964 pixels, 254ppi)
ProcessorM2 Pro (10-core CPU, 16-core GPU or 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU), with optional M2 Max with up to 12-core CPU and 30-core GPUM1 Pro (8-core CPU, 14-core GPU or 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU), with optional M1 Max with up to 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU
Battery size70Wh70Wh
Battery life (claimed)Up to 12 hours of web surfing over Wi-FiUp to 11 hours of web surfing over Wi-Fi
Storage512GB to 8TB512GB to 8TB
Memory16GB to 64GB16GB to 64GB
PortsThunderbolt 4 (x3), HDMI, MagSafe 3, headphone jack, SD memory card slotThunderbolt 4 (x3), HDMI, MagSafe 3, headphone jack, SD memory card slot
Webcam1080p FaceTime HD camera1080p FaceTime HD camera
Wi-Fi802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E802.11ax Wi-Fi 6
BluetoothBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.0
Dimensions12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight3.5 pounds (M2 Pro) - 3.6 pounds (M2 Max)3.5 pounds

MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 vs 2021: Price and availability 

The MacBook Pro 14-inch comes in a variety of configurations, with the base model starting at $1,999/£2,149/AU$3,199. This version comes with an M2 Pro chip featuring a 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU and 16-core neural engine. It also has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD for storage.

MacBook Pro M2 Pro 14-inch and 16-inch

(Image credit: Apple)

The high-end MacBook Pro costs a staggering $6,299/£6,549/AU$9,799. This configuration comes loaded with the top M2 Max chipset with a 12-core CPU, 38-core GPU and 16-core neural engine, 96GB of RAM and a massive 8TB SSD.

At launch, the 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch started at $1,999, which is the same starting price as its newer iteration. Apple no longer has this laptop listed in its store, but you can still buy it from places like Amazon and Best Buy. They’re available for various prices, depending on the specs.

MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 vs 2021: Design 

The new MacBook Pro 14-inch looks virtually identical to its previous incarnation from 2021. Considering how that older model was itself redesigned, it’s not surprising that the new version features no design changes. That’s not a bad thing since that particular design was excellent at the time and remains so.

The new MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 remains relatively lightweight and sleek, with a mere 0.6-inch thickness and 3.5-pound weight.

The MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch)

The new MacBook Pro 14-inch looks virtually identical to its previous incarnation from 2021, pictured above. (Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The display on the new laptop is as great as it was before. In the newest MacBook Pro 14-inch, you get a 3024 x 1964 pixel Liquid Retina XDR display with a peak brightness of 1,600 nits for HDR content. You also get ProMotion 120Hz adaptive refresh rate.

In terms of other features and ports, the MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 has a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, a six-speaker sound system, and three “studio-quality” mics for video/voice calls. For ports, you get three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SDXC card slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack and MagSafe 3 charging.

MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 vs 2021: Specs

The main difference between the 2023 and 2021 MacBook Pros is that you can configure the newer models with Apple's more recent M2 Pro and M2 Max chips.

The M2 Pro chip features a 10- or 12-core CPU with up to eight high-performance and four high-efficiency cores, which Apple claims delivers 20% greater performance over M1 Pro. The new chip has 200GB/s of unified memory bandwidth, which is double the amount of the base M2 chip and can have up to 32GB of RAM. Apple says the chip’s 19-core GPU can deliver up to 30% more graphics performance and the Neural Engine is 40% faster.

The M2 Max chip has a GPU with up to 38 cores. According to Apple, it delivers up to a 30% improvement in graphics performance over M1 Max. It also includes 400GB/s of unified memory bandwidth. The M2 Max chip can be configured with up to 96GB of RAM for those who need as much power as possible from their premium Apple laptop. Apple claims this chip is 20% faster than its predecessor. That's a significant claim, especially since we were blown away by the performance of the M1 Pro and M1 Max in the 2021 MacBook Pros.

The M1 Pro features 33.7 billion transistors and a 10-core CPU with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores. It supports up to 32 GB of RAM and has a memory bandwidth of up to 200 GB/second. However, be aware that the cheapest 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 configuration has a weaker M1 Pro chip with an 8-core CPU.

The M1 Max also has a 10-core CPU but features 57 billion transistors (over 3x the number on the original M1) and supports up to 64 GB of RAM, with up to 400 GB/s of memory bandwidth.

MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 vs 2021: Battery life

The MacBook Pro 14-inch with M2 Pro is rated for 18 hours of movie playback through Apple TV and up to 12 hours of wireless web surfing via its 70-watt-hour battery. That’s effectively all-day battery life, which is definitely something we seek in laptops.

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) sitting on a desk —MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) review

The MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 (pictured above) has the longest lasting battery of any laptop we've tested. Can the new MacBook Pros beat it in this category? (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We’ll need to conduct our own battery test to see how long the new 14-inch Macbook Pro lasts. If Apple’s claims are accurate, it’s possible this laptop could beat out last year’s MacBook Pro 13-inch, which lasted for more than 18 hours.

MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 vs 2021: Are the upgrades worth it?

The new MacBook Pro 14-inch features the same design as its 2021 predecessor, but the boost in power from the new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips should make it an extremely performant laptop. People who want to push their machines to the limit with video and image editing, software development, music production and other high-intensity tasks may want to consider purchasing what seems to be Apple’s most powerful laptop yet.

With that said, not everyone needs an ultra-beefy computer. If you want a MacBook for everyday usage, the MacBook Air M2 remains a solid Apple laptop — as is the MacBook Air M1, which is still quite capable and relatively affordable with a starting price that's less than $1,000. If you want a laptop with insanely long battery life, 2022’s 13-inch MacBook Pro is also worth considering, even if its design is decidedly dated.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.