MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro vs M2 Max tested: Which version should you get?

M2 Pro vs M2 Max on a MacBook screen
(Image credit: Future)

As you'll see in our MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 review, Apple's new laptop has everything creative pros need to power through even the most demanding workloads. But you have an important choice to make when it comes to specs: go with the standard M2 Pro chip or upgrade to the M2 Max chip?

We had a chance to benchmark the M2 Max chip and gather data from sister site Laptop Mag (opens in new tab) on the M2 Pro version of the new MacBook Pro. An important caveat — we have not yet tested the entry-level model of the MacBook Pro 14-inch. We will be following up with more info and benchmarks.

For now, here's how the M2 Pro vs M2 Max comparison stacks up based on our testing.

MacBook Pro M2 Pro vs M2 Max: What we tested

The MacBook Pro 14-inch starts at $1,999 / £2,149 / AU$3,199 and includes a 10-core M2 Pro CPU, a 16-core GPU, 16GB of unified memory and 512GB of SSD storage.

The M2 Pro version we tested offers a 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage for $3,299. The M2 Max model we tested packs a 12-core CPU, 38-core GPU, 64GB of memory and 2TB of storage. That config costs a hefty $4,099 / £4,349/ AU$6,499.

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: Geekbench (overall performance)

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Single-core scoreMutli-core score
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro1,94114,965
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max1,92614,939

On Geekbench 5, which measures CPU performance, the MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro version delivered a single-core score of 1,941 and the M2 Max version hit a similar 1,926. Both models cleared 14,900 on the multi-core test but the M2 Pro was once again a bit faster.

Of course, Geekbench isn't the only way to measure performance, but we were surprised to see the MacBook Pro M2 Pro finish a bit ahead of the M2 Max chip here. 

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: Handbrake (video transcoding)

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Time (min:sec)
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro4:03
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max4:06

Here's another surprise. For this test we use the Handbrake app to transcode a 6.5GB 4K video to 1080p and time how long it takes.

The new MacBook Pro 2023 with M2 Pro took just 4 minutes and 3 seconds, which is a good 48 seconds faster than the MacBook Pro 14-inch M1 Pro. Strangely, the M2 Max version was a tad slower at 4:06. It's not a big delta but this was after running the test three times and averaging the results. 

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: PugetBench Photoshop test

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Score Time (min:sec)
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro9884:20
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max1,1993:57

Now we're starting to see more of a performance gap between the M2 Pro and M2 Max. 

The PugetBench PhotoShop test assigns a score based on how effectively a system uses scripts to apply a series of filters and other adjustments to a number of high-res photos. The test also times how long each laptop takes to complete the tasks.

The MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro scored 988 with a time of 4:20. The M2 Max chip notched a 1,199 and was 23 seconds faster. So the M2 Max is about 20% better in this test. 

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: PugetBench Premiere Pro (video)

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Score
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro942
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max1,009

So what about editing video? The PugetBench Premiere Pro test involves taking a 4K clip and applying a Lumetri Color effect and adding 12 clips across four tracks in a multi-camera sequence. 

The MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro scored 942 versus 1,009 for the M2 Max chip. That's only a 6.8% difference. 

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: Blackmagic disk speed test (SSD)

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Score
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro5,293 / 6,168
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max5,319 / 6,402

On the Blackmagic disk speed test, which measures SSD performance in both read speed and write speed in (MBps), the M2 Max config of the MacBook Pro 14-inch came out on top. But not by much. 

The M2 Max is just 0.4% faster for write speeds and 3.7% better for read speeds against the M2 Pro. So we definitely would not base your purchase on this benchmark. The SSDs are roughly equal. 

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: 3DMark Wild Life (graphics)

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Wild Life Unlimited Wild Life Extreme Unlimited
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro47,844 / 287 fps12,939 / 77.5 fps
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max89,902 / 538 fps21,420 / 128.3 fps

This is where the available 38-core GPU in the M2 Max comes in handy. On 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited, which measures graphics performance, the M2 Max chip turned in frame rates that are 60% faster than the M2 Pro.

On the more demanding Extreme test, there was still a sizable 49% boost for the M2 Max over the M2 Pro. 

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: Rise of the Tomb Raider (gaming)

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1920 x 1200 3024 x 1964
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro48.6 fps20. 9 fps
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max73 fps 34 fps

If you're looking to use the MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 for serious gaming, the M2 Max chip is the clear choice. On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the M2 Max reached 73 frames per second at 1920 x 1200 resolution and a still-playable 34 fps at 3024 x 1964.

The M2 Pro chip turned in a solid 48 fps at the lower resolution but it couldn't cross the 30 fps threshold for the higher pixel count. So the M2 Max is 40% faster in the first test and 47% faster in the second. 

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: Battery life

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Battery life results
Time (hours:mins)
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro14:02
MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Max12:51

To be clear, both the M2 Pro and M2 Max deliver long battery on the MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023. Anything above 10 hours of endurance — especially with this amount of horsepower — is impressive.

But the M2 Pro version of the MacBook Pro did last longer on a charge according to our battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness. The M2 Pro lasted a bit over 14 hours, which is about an hour longer than the M2 Max model.

That's about a 9% difference, which is notable.  

M2 Pro vs M2 Max: Bottom line

For me, the MacBook Pro with M2 Pro's performance would be good enough for my everyday needs. You get comparable overall CPU performance to M2 Max and similar speed for tasks like video transcoding.

But for heavier photo and video editors — and especially those who need maximum graphics performance — the M2 Max model could be well worth the splurge. And if you like to game the M2 Max is definitely the way to go. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • Sgtkeebs
    96w power adapter, that is a crazy high power requirement. A vast majority of thin and light intel laptops are coming with 61w power adapters.
    Reply
  • XPiTu10
    I want to buy a MacBook Pro 14’’ M2 Max, but I am a bit concerned about the thermal throttling. It seems MacBook Pro 14 M2 Max runs extremely hot. What do you recommend me?
    Reply