When Apple released the M2 Pro MacBook Pro and Mac mini finally with HDMI 2.1 support, I opted to get the 14-inch MacBook Pro. I have since decided to return the MacBook Pro, and here’s why.
I originally bought the MacBook Pro with the expectation that I would want to use it around the house or out and about, and continue to be able to do heavy lifting like video editing. Since Apple Silicon computers are really efficient and can provide the same amount of power whether in a desktop or laptop configuration, this is a natural advantage of getting a portable computer.
However, the reality is that I ended up using the MacBook Pro plugged into my monitor, which is actually an LG C1 48″ TV, almost 100% of the time.
You see, whenever I tried to bring it somewhere else and use it just as a laptop, I found that trying to do heavy processing tasks like video editing on a small laptop screen is just… unpleasant. Due to the tiny screen, I have to toggle certain UI elements on or off way too often. Sure, I can still use it and accomplish the task, but it feels really inefficient, and I could do it much quicker and more enjoyably using a larger monitor at a desk.
The other reason I often cannot do heavy work out and about is a personal one. When I go out, it’s usually to accomplish something specific like grocery shopping, or eating at a restaurant, even entertainment. And it’s often with my toddler in tow. If you have little kids, you know that trying to do intense work on a computer while they are hanging around is unproductive at best, and destructive at worst. The little one loves to bang on the keyboard, and has more than once erased something accidentally, including an entire video timeline after it was basically done.
Of course, there are other things you could be doing that may be more suited to a smaller screen or even with some distractions around, like writing scripts or documents, browsing the web, or watching media. However, none of those things actually require the power of the M2 Pro chip or a MacBook Pro. Although it isn’t super heavy, it isn’t exactly light either at 3.5 lbs. The weight and size are still rather bulky to be carrying around without a thought.
If I weren’t going to do heavy tasks on the go anyway, then I would much rather have a thin-and-light device like a MacBook Air or even an iPad, which are much easier to carry around, and also significantly cheaper. Heck, you can even do basic productivity work and consumption on a phone if you wanted to.
A laptop like the MacBook is built to be able to “dock” into a desk setup with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, operating essentially like a desktop computer. However, I found that the process of plugging and unplugging so many cables whenever I wanted to switch between using it as a laptop and a desktop was just really annoying. A desktop just needs to be plugged in once and then you don’t need to touch it again, except when you get the itch to tweak your setup.
Also, there were wires everywhere. With a laptop, if you want to place it upfront so you can keep it open and still use the screen, the fact that the ports are on either side of it means you have unwieldy wires going everywhere. It certainly makes a clean looking desk setup quite difficult.
Yes, you can get one of those stands that let you sit the laptop vertically to keep it out of the way, and even a single cable docking solution so you don’t need to plug so many things in every time. But both of those cost even more money, especially a reliable dock can burn a few hundred dollars from your pocket. At this point, I’m also not sure if any of them can provide the proper HDMI 2.1 support like the new built-in port on the M2 Pro MacBook Pro.
M2 Pro Mac mini
So ultimately, I decided that the MacBook Pro’s $700 extra cost over the M2 Pro Mac mini was going to waste, and I wasn’t going to spend another $200-$300 to make the docking situation cleaner, which would mean wasting $1000 or more in total.
Therefore, I returned the M2 MacBook Pro and picked up an M2 Pro Mac mini instead. I now have it set up next to my TV monitor, and while my cable management could probably still be improved, it does quite well at staying out of the way and not looking like a complete mess. Unfortunately I do have an external SD card reader attached to it, since it doesn’t have one built-in like the MacBook Pro.
I was going to try mounting it behind the TV on a VESA adapter, but since the TV is so big, that would make the power button hard to reach. For now, the Mac mini wins over the MacBook Pro.