M1 Pro First Impressions: 1 Setting up

My M1 Pro arrived a week earlier than had originally been forecast. Unboxing was as wonderful an experience as always, and one day when I grow up I’d love to design the packaging for Apple’s products, which is so often imitated by others but never equalled.

Setting up

Unfortunately, the version of Monterey pre-installed on these early release MacBook Pros isn’t as friendly as its packaging. Although my personalisation choices were straightforward, and I didn’t attempt to migrate during initial setup, the process crashed when it encountered a server error trying to connect to iCloud. I was left with one option, to start again from the beginning, which didn’t crash the second time, but still hit the same problem. I therefore stepped back in the initialisation and elected to set up iCloud later, which let the process complete at last.

Monterey 12.0 worked fine, but I knew my first task was to update the MacBook Pro to 12.0.1. As I run a Content Caching Server here, much of that update downloaded quickly, and I was eventually left with Software Update telling me that it had another 30 minutes to prepare the update. It was here that it stuck for much longer than a mere half hour, but eventually completed and invited the restart. But that failed, with an error message that the update couldn’t be installed. When Software Update started the whole download again, I baled out and tried the 12.0.1 full Installer app. That too took an age before deciding that it couldn’t install either.

Before I gave up and entered Recovery to try to install macOS from there, I was reminded of one suggested solution to others who had found the 12.0.1 update stalled: I opened the Network pane and added the IP addresses for OpenDNS to the list of DNS servers there, after that of my router. There are two good options for doing this:

  • OpenDNS on 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220
  • Cloudflare on 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1

I then tried Software Update a second time, which resulted in what seemed like an even longer period preparing the update. By this time, the man who delivered my new MacBook Pro would have long since got home, had his tea, and starting to relax after his day’s work. I had already eaten two meals since the Mac had arrived, and was wondering whether breakfast would make it a third.

m1proupdate

Software Update invited me to agree to restarting the Mac, and this time the update proceeded to completion. I was a little surprised to discover how much of the original setup, including enabling FileVault, had been skipped during initialisation with 12.0, but this time it was all there, including the box to uncheck so that my Desktop and Documents weren’t whisked off to iCloud.

Since then, Monterey has behaved itself impeccably.

As I wrote earlier, if you are delivered a new MacBook Pro with 12.0 pre-installed, your first and most important task once you have personalised it and set it up is to update it to 12.0.1. Don’t waste any time before doing so, and don’t be afraid to add OpenDNS or Cloudflare to your DNS servers. It might make no difference at all, but for me it worked like a good luck charm.

Impressions

These new MacBook Pros are among the best and fastest computers that Apple has ever sold. There is absolutely nothing about their design which looks or feels like a compromise, even the notch, which I’ll come to later. Mine currently rests on top of my Intel MBP 16-inch 2019, which makes an interesting comparison. The obvious difference in their size is that the M1 Pro is slightly thicker, but that looks more than it really is as the Intel version is thinner at the edges with a pronounced central bulge.

My M1 Pro has 32 GB of memory and a 2 TB internal SSD, giving it more internal storage than my production iMac Pro, which is a base model with just 1 TB inside.

Standard benchmarks are as expected: Geekbench 5 scores are 1,772 single-core and 12,548 multi-core, 37,923 OpenCL and 41,895 Metal.

The internal SSD is the fastest that I have ever tested, although as it’s the 2 TB model, it’s expected to be significantly slower than the results quoted by Apple, which are for 8 TB versions. Using my own app Stibium, it attains transfer rates of 6.7 GB/s read and 6.9 GB/s write. Maximum speeds were found between 60-400 MB transfer sizes.

I’m going to look in more detail at how the M1 Pro uses its cores in tomorrow’s sequel to this article. For the moment, though, I’ll give you a teaser that, like the M1, the M1 Pro runs lowest QoS processes on its Efficiency cores, which includes most macOS services like Time Machine. Although the M1 Pro has only two Efficiency cores, compared to the M1’s four, numerical tests run on them in the M1 Pro complete in around 67% of the time of the M1. The M1 Pro’s Performance cores are managed quite differently from those in the M1 too.

So far I haven’t exercised my M1 Pro fully, but it’s happily backing up to Time Machine on an external APFS volume, works beautifully with an external LG UltraFine display and my iMac Pro’s internal display, and gently sips power from its battery.

The notch

As to the notch, yes, it’s there. If you obsess about it, I’m sure it could become irksome, but I barely notice it. I only use a couple of apps – BBEdit and Xcode – which load the menu bar to the point where it might approach the notch, and there’s an added checkbox in Get Info which will provide menu clearance for apps which might need it. In any case, Apple had but four choices:

  • a smaller display,
  • a larger case,
  • no camera,
  • put the camera in a notch.

I know which I’d go for, and agree with Apple for once.

Tomorrow I’ll look in detail at how the M1 Pro manages its cores, and how they perform.