I’m a laptop reviewer. Here’s why I still use a laptop from …

I’m always using a new laptop as my daily driver – no matter which one I’m testing for review. And in 2023 alone, I’ve reviewed nearly 40 machines, ranging from near-budget machines with solid performance and impressive features, to innovative devices like the HP Specter foldable PC.

But sometimes, new releases come along that give me a chance to dig deeper. Which laptop do I return to as my primary work machine? To my surprise, it’s none of the catchy new releases of 2023. This is a very old laptop of 2021 that remains my favorite. Not coincidentally, this is the only laptop I’ve bought myself in years. That laptop is the first-generation Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch, and it stacks up so well against the competition that I still don’t feel compelled to replace it. here’s why.

The performance continues to amaze me

A MacBook Pro 14
Mark Coppock/

I’ve reviewed several laptops with very nice IPS displays, OLED displays with dynamic colors and inky blacks, and some mini-LED displays that were obviously blocked by Windows. The latter were particularly disappointing, with brightness and contrast ratio much lower than it should be. The MacBook Pro 14’s Mini-LED panel has no such problems, with macOS optimizing the best qualities of the display.

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For me, it all starts with contradiction. The MacBook Pro 14’s display has black text that pops on a white background, which is important to me as someone who stares at text all day. The display is also sharp enough that text turns out smooth with no pixelation, making the MacBook’s display my favorite for writing.

Then, deep blacks combine with the display’s incredible brightness to produce exceptional high dynamic range (HDR) video. I watch a lot of science fiction and fantasy shows with dark scenes and whenever possible I watch it on a MacBook Pro 14.

Apple hasn’t made any changes to the MacBook Pro’s display over the next few generations, and that’s a good thing. This is easily the best display on a laptop today.

I should also mention the audio quality of the MacBook Pro 14. Six speakers, including force-canceling woofers, deliver far better sound than today’s 14-inch laptops. There’s plenty of volume without a hint of distortion, the mids and highs are crystal clear, and the bass is deep and satisfying. This is the only laptop I use where I don’t feel the need to put on headphones to watch an action TV show or movie.

Still the best keyboard I’ve ever used

Top-down view of the Apple MacBook Pro 14 showing the keyboard and touchpad.
Mark Coppock/

Apple’s Magic Keyboard is an excellent keyboard. Its keycaps are large and the spacing is perfect. Although the Switch doesn’t have a lot of travel, something I don’t generally like, they have such a fast accuracy that no laptop I’ve reviewed in 2023 (or earlier) can match. .

Typing thousands of words a day can be tiring. That kind of volume on the wrong keyboard can’t be tolerated for long. But the MacBook Pro 14’s keyboard is so light that I haven’t felt the need to slow things down yet. Even better, I can type faster on this keyboard than on any other keyboard, increasing my productivity.

The MacBook’s Force Touch touchpad is also excellent and possibly the best on a laptop. I like the ability to press a little harder on a click to look up words and initiate other functionality, and generally speaking, the touchpad is incredibly comfortable. However, I do miss the touch display, and this is something I wish Apple would implement.

All day battery life for the win

Port selection of MacBook Pro 14-inch.
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I don’t need a lot of power in a laptop, and the Apple M1 Pro in my MacBook Pro 14″ is fast enough for my needs. I’m not the least bit impressed by the incredible speed offered by Apple’s latest M3 CPU. If you need a lot of portable power, the MacBook Pro 14 M3 Max is an excellent choice.

However, I have a workflow where I put my desktop workhorse machine to sleep around noon and switch to portable mode for the rest of the day. I work on and off until about midnight, so I need good battery life. On most days, the MacBook Pro 14 lasts a long time and still has plenty of juice left when I’m finished.

If I watch a bunch of HDR content that turns up the brightness of the display, I’ll probably try less. But generally, I don’t challenge the MacBook Pro 14’s longevity, and it’s a welcome change from any Windows laptop I’ve reviewed in 2023.

no desire to upgrade

I prefer Windows 11 over macOS, so I’d love a Windows machine that offers similar display and keyboard quality and battery life. But as of now, it does not exist. So far, my two-year-old MacBook Pro 14″ looks like it will continue to hold its top spot on my list for the foreseeable future.

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