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16-inch MacBook Pro: Apple updated everything for 2021, including M1 Pro, M1 Max chips

This machine is truly designed with pros in mind, bringing the extra va-va-voom of the company's homegrown, powerful new silicon.

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Apple's refreshed 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple/Screenshot by Katie Collins/CNET

Apple's October Mac event has delivered the powerful new MacBook many have been waiting for. The 2021 version of the MacBook Pro 16-inch was announced Monday during the company's livestreamed Unleashed event (alongside a 14-inch model), hot on the heels of September's iPhone launch. The new MacBook Pro starts at $2,499 (£2,399, AU$3,749).

Key among the new additions to the company's bigger laptop are updated versions of Apple's homegrown M1 processor. We've already seen Apple's silicon added to smaller MacBooks and iPads, but the 16-inch MacBook is getting a more powerful version that should meet the needs of people who require high-performance machines -- in particular those who do intensive photo and video editing.

Read more: Whoa, a MacBook Pro with all the upgrades will cost you how much?

Now the company is equipping its most advanced laptop with the newly announced M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. The addition of the M1 Max will give a 4x graphics performance boost to the 16-inch MacBook Pro over its predecessor, and the M1 Pro will be 2.5x better than the previous generation, according to Apple. Both chips provide a 2x CPU boost over the 2019 MacBook Pro.

The new silicon will also reportedly make the MacBook more power-efficient, providing more battery life on a single charge. Apple rarely discloses detailed battery specs, but it promises the battery can last twice as long in Lightroom and four times as long in Xcode, as well as allowing for 21 hours of video playback.

"The performance of the M1 chip in MacBook products released to date is a major endorsement of Apple's investment in custom silicon," said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, in a statement. "The M1 Pro and the M1 Max chips take this to new levels with further improvements in performance and battery life."

Power users will also benefit from the new Mini-LED backlight-based display used in the iPad Pro, which supports HDR at a higher brightness and allows for better local dimming. The screen has 1,000 nits of sustained brightness, allowing for deeper and more dramatic colors. The Liquid Retina XDR display "is uncompromising in its performance," said Kate Bergerson, Apple's vice president of product design.

Other features include six-speaker sound that supports spatial audio, along with in-built studio-quality mics. At the top of the display, a notch now houses a 1080p front-facing web camera to support all your videoconferencing needs with 2x better low-light performance.

When Apple unveiled the 16-inch MacBook Pro back in 2019, CNET's Dan Ackerman described it as "something of a greatest-hits compilation of MacBook features." His main criticisms of the device were the inclusion of the Touch Bar, the lack of ports other than USB-C and its high starting price.

With this updated MacBook Pro, Apple has gotten rid of the unpopular Touch Bar and reinstated additional connection options, including HDMI, three Thunderbolt 4 ports, MagSafe and an SD card slot. But the affordability of this new machine may remain a sticking point, given that $2,499 starting price. Orders are live today, and availability begins next week.  

Alongside the MacBook Pro, Apple unveiled the AirPods 3, an Apple Music "Voice" Plan and new HomePod Mini colors. You can check out everything that was announced at Apple's "Unleashed" launch here