MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): which should you get?

A MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 and MacBook Pro 16-inch 2023 side by side on a two-tone background
(Image credit: Future)

Apple dropped a ton of surprises on us with its reveal of its latest silicon, the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and those chips will be powering two of the latest line of Macbook Pros, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023) models.

Thanks to these powered-up chips, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023) will most likely be making our list of the best MacBooks once we have a chance to review them, but how does this refresh hold up to the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) model? Is it worth double-dipping or should you hold off until another model launches sometime in the future before upgrading from the 2021 model?

Answering these questions can be tricky, especially with not much concrete information out there right now for the 2023 model. Considering that there’s a noticeable price difference between the two versions and that choice is even harder. To make it easier to find out which is right for you, we’ve put the two head-to-head to find the advantages of both chips depending on your needs and budget.

Closed MacBook Pro 16-inch on wooden table in modern office

(Image credit: Future)

MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Price & availability

The starting price for the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) model with an M1 Pro chip was $2,499 / £2,399 / AU$3,749. The more powerful M1 Max chip model of the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) started at $3,499 / £3,299 / AU$5,249.

The upcoming M2 Pro MacBook Pro 16-inch starts at $2,499 / £2,699 / AU$3,999, with the M2 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch starting at $3,499 / £3,749 / AU$5,599.

Of course, you can update the 2023 laptops, which packs on both the specs and prices to eye-watering levels, the same way the 2021 versions did. And in both cases, availability is excellent with all these models available for purchase in many regions including the UK and Australia, though Apple has replaced the 2021 MacBook Pro models on its website with the 2023 versions.

MacBook Pro 16-inch on wooden table in modern office

(Image credit: Future)

MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Specs

The MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) outfitted with an M1 Pro chip included a 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16GB unified memory, and 512GB SSD storage to start. The more powerful M1 Max chip version started with a 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU, 32GB memory, and 1TB SSD storage.

Meanwhile, the base configuration of the MacBook Pro 16-inch with M2 Pro chip comes with a 10-core CPU (upgradable to 12-core), a 16-core GPU (upgradable to 19-core), 16GB memory, and 512GB SSD storage, with the M2 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch model starting with a 12-core CPU, a 30-core GPU (upgradable to 38-core), 32GB memory, and a 1TB drive. 

You can upgrade the specs on the M2 Pro model up to 32GB memory and the M2 Max model to an unreal 96GB memory. Both versions can be upgraded to a whopping 8TB of storage space.

And the port selection is quite solid with three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port supporting 8K video output, an SDXC card slot, a headphone jack, and a MagSafe 3 port. But there’s no real improvement there between the 2021 and 2023 models. And just like the current-gen, the next-gen is still missing the ethernet port, which is disappointing for those who prefer a wired connection.

MacBook Pro 16-inch on wooden table in modern office

(Image credit: Future)

MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Performance

As of right now, we won't be able to compare the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) to the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023) performance-wise until we’re able to get our hands on these laptops ourselves and run some proper benchmarks.

From what we can tell by recently revealed information from Apple, the 2023 Pro series is shaping up to be noticeably faster with much-improved performance. This is especially a boon for those in the video editing business, so the M2 Max model would be the ideal laptop for those professionals. 

The M2 Pro chip model has a purported 18-hour battery life, while the M2 Max chip version is said to reach up to 22 hours of battery life. The M2 Pro's claimed battery life is a bit less than the 2021 model we tested, which reached almost 19 hours, so 18 hours is definitely a reasonable expectation here.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Which should you buy?

The 16-inch MacBook Pros are both just about evenly priced, so if you need a brand-new machine and haven’t yet invested in the 2021 edition, the new 2023 model would definitely be a better bet (at least at MSRP). However, if you already have a current-gen machine, even with the improvements to specs and performance it’s difficult to recommend the upgrade.

The M1 chips are plenty powerful on their own and the M1 Max in particular is already capable of performing productivity and professional editing work without breaking a sweat. But that could possibly change once official benchmarks and testing have been released, as sometimes final stats differ significantly from company claims.

For now, it might be worth waiting at least until official reviews come out, then you can better judge whether the upgrades are worth the price of entry, especially if you already have a MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021).

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.