A long-term review of using a MacBook Pro 14" M2 Max

A long-term review of using a MacBook Pro 14" M2 Max
Photo by Tomáš Stanislavský / Unsplash

About 11 months ago, I purchased a MacBook Pro 14" M2 Max - a beefy yet portable Apple device. I'm a lifetime Windows (and Linux) user, so moving to a MacOS device significantly changed me.

You can read my initial review on the laptop here. This post reflects how I feel about the device today after almost a year of using it for work.

The specs

The device has the beefier M2 Max CPU, as I wanted 32 GB of RAM, and at the time, it was impossible to go beyond 16 GB unless I opted for the more costly CPU. I have 1 TB of disk space.

The CPU is - still - too performant for me. I rarely utilize it, as much of my work happens in the cloud. Typical apps I run are Microsoft Teams, Firefox, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, a terminal window, and Remote Desktop. Sometimes, I use the occasional Visual Studio Code to craft a script or code quickly.

The upside is that they are super fast if I want to run local Large Language Models (LLMs). The downside is that I take a slight hit on battery life.

The 14" display is still beyond great. It's bright, sharp, and looks great. Even then, I still feel the 16" would have been better. Next time.

MacOS vs. Windows

Many times, people dis MacOS, and sometimes it's warranted. I needed a few third-party utilities to "windowsize" some elements of the base OS. The app-switching experience was awful by default so that needed fixing. Window management on the keyboard is non-existent, and the one in Windows is a dream to use - so another app for that was also needed.

The Finder for file management is clumsy at best. I've learned to use some quirks, but generally, I frown when I need to "go to that file somewhere." I can accept that, but file management on MacOS is a decade behind Windows. I don't need it that often, but it feels like a small paper cut each time.

Apple pushes updates to MacOS infrequently. They are typically minor versions, and almost every time, I'm a bit bummed. With Windows, each update typically brings something new to the core OS experience. For MacOS, each update brings something irrelevant to an app in the OS - and I don't use any Apple apps. Safari, Mail, iCloud, etc. - I need none of those. So, none of the OS updates have brought me any joy. I wish Apple would be more adventurous and forward-looking in innovating the OS. It feels, at times, very stuck in 2005.

Having written this, the OS stays mostly out of sight simultaneously. Windows is far better at staying "back," and MacOS is pretty okay, too. Virtual Desktops work beautifully, much better than Windows - and I use them actively.

Do I still use Windows?

Yes, yes, I do. The MacBook Pro is a coffee shop/customer workshop/travel machine. And even then, I frequently RDP/SSH to my Windows and Linux boxes. The laptop isn't used 8 hours a day, in that sense.

At home, I have a performant custom-built PC. It has 64 GB of RAM, a nice GPU, and three 4K displays. Most of my work is done on that. I run VMs and container workloads at home and in Microsoft Azure. Thus, the MacBook Pro is more of a productivity terminal for me when I'm not home.

Also, the MacBook Pro can virtualize Windows 11 with Parallels. I have it running, but it is usually turned off. When I need a quick check-in Windows, I can either RDP to my main Windows PC or turn on the Parallels-based Windows VM. It takes about 10 seconds to resume. I'm surprised how rarely I must resort to a Windows box when working on the MacBook Pro. I'm typing this blog on the sofa with the laptop, and only when I want to sit by the desk do I switch to Windows mode.

But wouldn't a nice Windows laptop work as well?

When I considered getting a new laptop, I went through all the usual models: Lenovo ThinkPads, Dell XPS, HP devices, and Microsoft Surface devices. They were all disappointed - ThinkPads with their horrible battery life, Surface with their atrocious price tags for older hardware, etc.

I feel I get a lot for my buck with the MacBook Pro. Battery life is insane. I can run all my workloads as easily as on Windows, and the hardware is a dream. For my needs, I rely quite heavily on self-hosted services and apps and Microsoft 365 capabilities - all of which are natively available for MacOS. Some even work better than on Windows.

Then again, when I'm on my Windows PC, I frequently work in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) - and I don't mind. Windows, as I now see it, mostly stays out of my way. It's a launchpad for apps, the browser, and a gateway to my code and tools. MacOS is almost the same but stays a bit more in the way. For example, the top toolbar is always visible, and I wouldn't mind if I could auto-hide it.

What next?

I hope the MacBook Pro will last me a solid three years or longer as long as the battery life stays over or around 10 hours. I'll still plan on using an Android phone for the foreseeable future, and I have no intention to delve any closer to the Apple walled garden - no iPhone, Apple Watch, or other Apple devices are needed for me. Outside MacOS, 100% of the stuff I run is non-Apple-code, which suits me perfectly.

I can whole-heartedly (still) recommend a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro device to anyone wanting a rock-solid and performant laptop for work.