M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pro 14″ vs 16″: Detailed Comparison and Who Should Buy Which One?

The MacBook Pro 14″ and 16″ are the most powerful portable computers Apple makes, and they were recently upgraded with the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. If you’re trying to decide which one to get, here are the things you should consider.

We’ll go over what’s in common between the 2 laptops, what each major difference is, and some reasons you may want to pick one over the other. We’ll also look at exactly how much more the 16″ version costs, and what you get for that money. Hint: It’s not as simple as the $500 difference in starting prices would have you believe.

Familiar Design

First, let’s start with the similarities, beginning with the outside.

Both MacBook Pros are laptops, of course, and feature very similar designs that are essentially identical to the M1 Pro and Max versions previously. That includes the flat rectangular shape with slightly rounded corners in Space Gray or Silver color options, and vents near the bottom of each side that, at least for me, feel a bit annoying digging into my fingers when picking it up.

Alongside the same external design are the same set of ports, including 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, an SDXC card slot that supports up to UHS-II speeds, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a MagSafe 3 power connection. Both sizes also have the same Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, along with a Force Touch trackpad, although the 16″ model’s is a little bigger.

Wireless, Camera, and Audio

Internally, both MacBook Pro sizes support Wi-Fi 6E as well as Bluetooth 5.3. They also have 1080p FaceTime HD webcams, as well as a slew of similar audio features. That includes “advanced support for high-impedance headphones” on the 3.5mm audio jack, which means it can adapt for low- and high-impedance headphones, as well as for line-level audio devices. In addition, there is a “studio-quality three-mic array”. Those are likely fine for video calls, but are unlikely to replace dedicated mics for those who need them.

Now for our first hidden difference: the speakers. While on paper, both 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros offer a “high-fidelity six-speaker sound system” with the same list of features, testing done by many have found the 16-inch model’s speakers to have slightly better sound quality. Of course, both sizes can be considered to have some of the greatest speakers you can find in a laptop.

However, whether this is important or not is another matter to consider. If you’re looking to use these laptops on-the-go in public places, then you might be using headphones or earphones most of the time when you need audio. If you’re home, you might want to just take advantage of a separate speaker or home theater setup when watching movies, listening to music, or something else where high-quality audio is actually important. So think about whether you’ll actually make use of these laptop speakers when considering whether the 16″ model’s slightly better speakers is valuable or not.

Upgrade Options

When it comes to upgrades, both the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros can be equipped with the Apple M2 Pro or M2 Max chips, as well as the same amount of unified memory, and the same amount of SSD storage. Let’s go over what each of the upgrade options are, and briefly discuss the differences between M2 Pro and M2 Max chips.

When we look at the base model chip options, we see our first difference between the 14- and 16-inch models. The base 14-inch model that costs $2000 USD comes with an M2 Pro with 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, while the base 16-inch model that costs $2500 USD has an M2 Pro with 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU. That’s a $300 upgrade on the 14-inch model, which also makes the actual price difference between similarly specced 14- and 16-inch models only $200.

M2 Pro vs M2 Max

Going up another $200 from there gets you an M2 Max with the same 12-core CPU but with a 30-core GPU, and stepping up another $200 increases only the GPU core count again to 38. We can see that the primary difference between M2 Pro and M2 Max chips is the graphics processing power, which includes an extra media engine as well on the M2 Max, which means it has 2 hardware-accelerated video encoders versus just 1 on the M2 Pro.

These $200 step-ups don’t seem that bad at first glance, but it’s actually a lot more expensive than it appears, and that’s because of the link between the CPU, GPU and unified memory.

When it comes to speed, M2 Pro chips have 200GB/s of memory bandwidth, which is double that of the regular M2. Similarly, M2 Max chips have 400GB/s of memory bandwidth, double that of the M2 Pro. Be careful not to take these numbers to mean the entire computer is twice as fast; whether an application benefits from these speed differences at all is entirely dependent on what it’s doing, so I would personally not care about these numbers at all.

The difference in unified memory that you may want to care about though, so how much of it you can get. The M2 Pro MacBook Pros come with 16GB by default, and you can upgrade to 32GB. However, to go up to 64GB requires you to choose the M2 Max chip, and to go all the way up to 96GB requires the highest end M2 Max configuration. The unified memory upgrade prices are already quite exorbitant at $400 per step, but forcing the CPU and GPU upgrade at the same time makes the price shoot up super fast.

The biggest travesty is that the first upgrade from 16GB or 32GB costs $400 in itself but only gets you 16GB extra, while all the other step-ups get you 32GB extra. Since that first step also doesn’t force you to upgrade the CPU and GPU, I’m thinking Apple simply baked in that extra $200 into the unified memory line to ensure they don’t miss out on that margin.

External Display Support

One other major difference between M2 Pro and M2 Max models – besides the CPU, GPU, memory, and extra media engine – is the external display support. In particular, that $200 upgrade from the 12/19 M2 Pro to the 12/30 M2 Max doesn’t just get you 11 more GPU cores, it also gets you 2 additional external displays.

The M2 Pro chip can support only 2 additional displays beyond the built-in one. You have 3 configuration options, although the way its written on Apple’s website may be a bit confusing. Option 1 is both displays via Thunderbolt reaching up to 6K resolution at 60Hz. Option 2 is one display via Thunderbolt up to 6K @ 60Hz, and one display over HDMI at up to 4K @ 144Hz. And option 3 is only 1 display over HDMI reaching up to 8K at 60Hz or 4K at 240Hz. That means using a display over Thunderbolt will eat into the display bandwidth that the HDMI 2.1 port can provide.

The M2 Max chip gives you more bandwidth to play with. You can freely use up to 3 external displays and still get the full 8K/60 or 4K/240 over HDMI for one of them. Or, you can use 4 external displays, which will limit the HDMI one to 4K @ 144Hz again. Note that you can only use up to 3 displays over Thunderbolt, so one needs to be from the HDMI port.

Keep in mind that all the configurations mentioned are while supporting the built-in laptop display as well. We’ll talk about the differences between the 14- and 16-inch displays in just a bit.

Storage Options

Let’s get back to upgrade options, and next up is storage. The base models of both 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros come with 512GB of storage, and you can choose to upgrade to 1, 2, 4 or 8TB. The cost per terabyte seems to remain consistent if you go above 1TB at $300 per terabyte. However, keep in mind that you are upgrading from 512 GB or half a terabyte, which means the actual costs per terabyte for each upgrade option are $400, $400, $343, and $320.

Besides the space, the other hidden benefit you get from upgrading storage is SSD speed. Mac SSDs can use multiple storage chips in some cases, and doing so increases the read and write speeds as operations can be performed in parallel. It’s been widely reported that the M2 MacBook Air and Pro, as well as the Mac mini, all suffered from reduced SSD speeds versus the M1 models due to using a higher capacity but fewer number of storage chips.

Apple advertised that storage speeds go up to 7.4 GB/s, but they don’t tell you exactly which configurations get you that speed. Various testing has revealed that SSD speeds will increase the most when going from the base models’ 512GB to 1TB, jumping from around 3000 MB/s to 6000 MB/s. Higher capacities may be faster, but not by much.

Keep in mind, however, that these are sequential read/write speeds, and many workflows benefit more from random access speeds, which some tests have shown to have improved in the M2 generation vs M1. Much like the unified memory speeds, I would recommend not placing much importance on the actual numbers here by themselves, but instead look at benchmarks for the applications you are interested in running to see if it really makes a difference. For most of us, deciding whether to upgrade the storage should purely be a decision of how much storage capacity you need, not the sequential read/write speeds.

However, before you pay extra for storage, consider if you need that much storage at the superfast internal SSD speeds, or if you just need storage. $400 per terabyte is pretty darn expensive. These days you can get a 4TB SSD for less than $300, which saves almost $1000 compared with Apple’s upgrade option, so think about if external storage will actually meet your needs while keeping your wallet intact.

Battery and Power

The final upgrade option to talk about is the power adapter. The base model 14″ MacBook Pro comes with a 67 watt power adapter, and you can upgrade to a 96 watt one for $20. What’s interesting is that Apple forces you to upgrade to the 96 watt adapter if you upgrade the CPU from the base model as well, even if its just to the higher M2 Pro chip rather than the M2 Max. Sure, they claim it’s included as a “free upgrade,” but we all know that just means they baked it into the price.

The 16″ MacBook Pro comes with a 140 watt power adapter with all configurations, including the base model. This adapter isn’t an option at all on the 14″ model.

The reason for the differences in power adapter wattage between 14- and 16-inch models is because the battery size, and therefore battery life, is also different. The 14″ has a 70-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery that promises up to 18 hours of video playback and 12 hours of wireless web browsing. The 16″ has more space in its body to contain a 100-watt-hour battery that claims to deliver up to 22 hours of video or 15 hours of wireless web.

Overall, I don’t think the power adapter upgrade being included in the CPU upgrades in the 14″ model has much impact on whether you should upgrade the CPU or not. If you’re someone who is always plugging things in at the last moment to squeak out an extra charge, then go for the 96 watt adapter if you get the 14″ MacBook Pro, as it does support fast charge as well. However, batter life on these computers are quite excellent already, so if you regularly plug-in your computers on a nightly basis, it probably won’t matter at all.

Size and Weight

Let’s talk about something that will matter: the size and weight of the laptop. The 14″ MacBook Pro has dimensions of 12.31 by 8.71 inches, is 0.61 inches tall, and weighs 3.5 lbs for the M2 Pro version or 3.6 lbs for the M2 Max. Now that’s one hefty chip!

The 16″ MacBook Pro has dimensions of 14.01 by 9.77 inches, is slightly taller at 0.66 inches, and weighs 4.7 or 4.8 lbs, about 34% more than the 14″ model. The size and weight truly are biggest downsides to the 16-inch model.

I’ve had personal experience with both sizes, as I tried out the 16″ M1 Pro MacBook Pro as well as the 14″ M2 Pro model. For me, I definitely found the 16″ way too big and heavy to carry around, and much preferred the 14″ size. This will differ for everyone, so there’s no way to tell for sure until you’ve tried it for yourself.


One of the reasons I thought I would like the 16″ MacBook Pro more is because of the larger display. This is one area where Apple hasn’t undersold on specs. The 14″ model has a 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with a 3024 x 1964 resolution at 254 pixels per inch. The 16″ model has a 16.2-inch display with a 3456 x 2234 resolution at the same 254 pixels per inch. Both have great colors, contrast ratios, and ProMotion support for refresh rates up to 120Hz.

I originally thought I was willing to trade on the size and weight of the 16-inch MacBook Pro because the larger, higher-resolution display means better multi-tasking with multiple windows. However, keep in mind that retina resolution means the effective resolution worth of screen real estate you get is actually half the width and height. Therefore, the 16-inch’s 3456 x 2234 screen has 1728 x 1117 worth of screen real estate, while the 14-inch has 1512 x 982 pixels of real estate. That means you get just over 200 pixels of extra width on the 16″ model.

Ultimately, I found that couldn’t really multi-task any better. I still needed windows to be fullscreen most of the time, such as when browsing the web, and I still needed to often CMD+Tab or Expose to switch windows. There wasn’t a lot of use I could find for something to live in a 200 pixel wide space. So depending on how you like to configure your window setup, “better multitasking” may not be a good reason to go 16 inches.

CPU and GPU Performance

The one place that the 16″ MacBook Pro does have a clear advantage over the 14″, however, is in performance. While both models can be configured with the same M2 Pro or M2 Max chips, except the 14″ base model’s 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU configuration, there is actually a hidden difference in cooling.

It should be no surprise that the 16″ model is able to cool itself better, since it has a larger space to play around with. Others like Max Tech have done some insightful tests here, so what I’ll say is just this.

At idle and for most productivity tasks, both machines are completely silent. Prolonged, highly intensive workloads will perform better and with quieter fans on the 16″ model. However, that does NOT include certain tasks like 4K video encoding, which is accelerated by the media engine. If the maximum performance is what you are after, you should get the 16″ model.

In addition to this hidden performance difference, there is also a not-so-hidden one in a setting exclusive to 16″ models with the M1 or M2 Max chips called “High Power Mode“. Under this mode, the fan will run at faster speeds, which makes more noise, but also produces more cooling for intensive workloads. However, some have tried to benchmark the difference that high power mode makes, and found that it doesn’t really improve performance, at least with the M1 Max. Not sure if it helps the M2 Max, but given that the 16″ doesn’t seem to thermal throttle much if at all, my guess is it won’t make much difference.

How much more is the 16″?

Alright, so the final difference to examine between the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros is the price. Yes, we did already say that the difference in 14- and 16-inch base models is $500, and that the M2 Pro 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU option is not available on the 16-inch, so a similarly specced 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro only differs in price by $200. But what does that $200 really get you?

On the negative, it gets you a physically larger and heavier machine.

On the positive, it gives you a bigger display with more screen real estate, better sounding speakers, longer battery life, and the most substantial difference: better performance and cooling.

Get the 14″ or 16″?

So should you get the 14″ or the 16″ MacBook Pro? Here’s how I see it in a nutshell.

If you care about performance above all else, definitely get the 16″ M2 Max model.

If you want good enough performance, don’t mind carrying a heavy bag and often use the laptop on a desk so size and weight are not an issue, often play music or videos with the speakers and want the best sound quality, can benefit from the larger screen and screen real estate, and are in situations where the computer is not plugged in so you want the maximum battery life, then the 16″ M2 Pro model may be suitable for you.

If most of the reasons I just mentioned don’t apply to your use case, or you value portability for travel convenience more, or you just want the best value, then get the 14″ M2 Pro MacBook Pro.

I don’t really see a reason to go for a 14″ M2 Max, unless you are in a niche category of needing the best performance for just short spurts. If you can wait for things to take longer due to being slower, you might as well save money and go for the M2 Pro. If you can’t wait, then you’d be better served with the 16″ M2 Max.

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