July 19, 2024

Apple MacBook Pro (M3 Max, 16 Inch) Review: Untouchable Performance and Battery Life


All that power must eat away at battery life, right? Surprise: Battery performance has gone way, way up. While WIRED reported a mere 12 hours of running time on the older M2 model, I got a jaw-dropping maximum of 19 hours and 20 minutes of YouTube video playback time during my testing. That is more than enough time to watch movies flying all the way from New York to London and back without having to recharge—and that was on High Power Mode. Note that battery life will vary significantly based on screen brightness; I ran three different power tests and managed just over 15 hours with a fully bright, all-white screen.

The use of High Power Mode did have one major impact, however, and that was on fan speed. While the MacBook Pro isn’t exactly quiet under load while using the automatic power mode, when I flipped on High Power Mode, things got decidedly raucous. I measured the fan volume at 60 decibels when rendering at full tilt—the highest level I’ve seen since I started formally measuring fan volume.

Most other features on the system haven’t been touched, probably because they were already best in class and didn’t need further upgrades. The 16.2-inch Liquid Retina display, at 3456 x 2234 pixels, remains impossibly sharp and appropriately bright—though there are plenty of significantly brighter displays on the market if that’s your jam. Note that it doesn’t include a touchscreen, and it does retain the uglyish “notch” in the top center of the screen, where the 1080p webcam is located.

Photograph: Apple

The impossibly good six-speaker sound system remains top shelf, and is probably three speakers more than most users will really need on a laptop. The trackpad and keyboard are still solid, with the latter retaining the full-height function key row and power button with its embedded fingerprint reader. Connectivity options haven’t changed meaningfully and continue to include three USB-C-Thunderbolt-USB 4 ports, a full-size HDMI output jack, an SD card slot, and Apple’s long-running MagSafe port. The MagSafe cable is color-matched to your device, but the beefy 140-watt power adapter remains boringly white.

The 16-inch version of the MacBook Pro with M3 Max starts at $3,499, which makes it slightly more expensive than the similarly no-holds-barred Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2. You can, of course, crank your MacBook Pro’s price tag up to well over $5,000 by maxing out your memory and storage options. And don’t forget to throw in a $19 polishing cloth to keep everything nice and shiny.

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