2021 MacBook Pro M1 MAX (and a little history)


I got my first MacBook from work around 2007. A 17″ MacBook Pro. It was the greatest machine I’d ever used at that point. I used it for video and photo editing, and it got hot. Like, burn the tops of your legs hot. I loved working on that MacBook, but it was for work. I was still limited to my custom built PC desktop at home.

17″ MacBook Pro

I have a friend. He and I have a history of encouraging each other to make questionable purchasing decisions. Not long after I got that 17″ MacBook Pro for work, we were drinking beers one afternoon and decided it would be a great idea to go buy new laptops. We had just received our bonus checks, so we went to the Apple Store and each bought a plastic shelled white MacBook.

White MacBook and an original iPad on the Apple Keyboard Stand

More Historical History

Let me back up a little bit. I got my first Mac in 1987. A beige Mac Plus with 1MB of RAM and a little black and white screen. I upgraded it to 4MB of RAM and bought an 80MB external SCSI drive in college just so I could hook a printer up to it. I ran that thing till it died sometime in the late 90s.

The MacPlus at MSU in the early 90s

When it died, I couldn’t afford a new Mac, so I started building PCs. I aquired an old Mac Performa from my Dad, but I didn’t use it much. I was a Windows guy until I bought my first Mac Mini–I forget the year, but it ran one of the earliest versions of OS X. It’s the reason I asked work to let me move from editing on a PC to editing on a Mac.

The tech table at one of my old apartments (fun fact: I posted this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons license, and I’ve seen it pop up on all kinds of websites over the years.)

Back to Regular History

The little white MacBook hooked me, and in 2012 I used my bonus check to buy a 15“ MacBook Pro. For some unknown reason, I decided I also needed an 11” MacBook Air. A couple years after that, I upgraded the Pro with more RAM and an SSD. It did everything I needed it to do for a good five to six years. Eventually I gave the Air to my daughter for school, and the little white MacBook to her grandfather so he could surf Craigslist for old cars. When the new touch bar MacBook Pros came out, I decided it was again time to upgrade, so I did. I ended up selling the old MacBook Pro to a friend, and as far as I know, it’s still chugging along.

2012 15″ MacBook Pro

The 2016 15″ MacBook Pro was less than ideal. It was the year Apple introduced the new keyboards, and I absolutely hated typing on it. During one trip to Portland, I ended up taking it in to the Apple Store to have the keyboard replaced. I decided I needed something to work with while I waited for the Pro to be repaired, so I bought another MacBook Air.

2016 15″ MacBook Pro

It’s worth noting that during all this time, I also went through a fair number of iPads. They’re great for consuming content and for writing, but not great at working with large video projects, or large photo projects that haven’t been loaded into Lightroom on the MacBook first.

A few years ago I upgraded my camera to a Sony A7R IV, and the MacBook Pro started struggling a bit with the new image file sizes. It worked, but it wasn’t perfect. So when Apple announced the M1 chip, and I started reading reviews on it, I knew it was time to upgrade again. I decided to wait for the second generation of Apple Silicon, so I spent a year drooling over all of the reviews done by people who dove in early.


Finally, Apple announced the M1 Pro and M1 MAX MacBook Pros, and I hopped on the Apple Store as soon as the event was over. I ended up choosing the 14“ M1 MAX with 24-core GPU and 32GB of RAM. Not the most expensive options, but it’s what I decided would work for me. Since it seems I upgrade every 5–6 years, this should last long enough. Also, if memory serves me correctly, it cost about the same as my 2016 MacBook Pro. I went with the 14” because the 16″ won’t fit in my camera bag.

2021 14″ MacBook Pro

Thoughts on the new MacBook Pro

I don’t need to tell you that it’s fast. That’s been covered by pretty much everyone. But it is. Lightroom and Photoshop open almost immediately. FCPX is laggy when switching events, but editing within the same event is pretty quick. Evernote runs on Rosetta, but is quick enough (by current Evernote standards.) Battery life is excellent, especially compared to the six year old battery on my last MacBook. The notch is no big deal. I don’t mind it on the iPhone, either, so maybe it’s just me.

Lightroom opening on the new MacBook

I love the fact that the touch bar is gone. And that the ports are back. Not having to carry around a dongle for my SD cards or external monitor is a definite plus. MagSafe making a comeback is great for anyone with kids or pets that inadvertently run through your power cord and send your laptop flying.

The screen is outstanding. It might not be as noticable if you’re coming from a more recent MacBook, but coming from the 2016 there’s a huge difference.

So here’s to MacBook Pro #5. Hopefully this one works out better than the last.


About every five or so years, I begin to realize that I’ve collected too much tech. As I sit here, I’m surrounded by (now) three MacBook Pros, an iMac, an iPad Pro, and old iPad Air, two iPad Minis, an HP laptop, a Microsoft Surface… You get the idea. I don’t mind hanging on to them in a nostalgic way, but I run into trouble when I start trying to use all of them. 15″ MacBook when I’m home because it doesn’t fit in the camera bag, iPad when I’m out just in case I need to do some quick photo editing, iPad Mini to read the news in the morning, iPad Air to do Apple Fitness+ workouts, and Windows machines for the rare occasion that I need to run Windows software.

I bought this little 14″ laptop to replace a few of those devices. I really need to simplify. The old stuff will become decoration in this tech museum I seem to be building.

Update 10/31/21

I’ve been noticing some oddities in Lightroom… I can’t add keywords when importing. When I click in the keyword box, it doesn’t become editable at all. Once photos are imported, I can add keywords. It also crashes on occasion.

One additional note on FCPX: When cropping footage, some of the icons above the viewer window just disappear. It’s quirky.

I’ll keep updating this post if I notice other weirdness.

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