The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro are getting rave reviews for a good reason: industry-leading performance, impressive battery life, wonderfully rich screens, and port returns that make working professionals happy.
One of the big surprises at the Apple event is the inclusion of 120Hz ProMotion on these laptops. Just like the smooth scrolling experience on the iPad Pro and the new iPhone 13 Pro series, Apple has promised that the high refresh rate of the new screen will make “tasks like scrolling through websites super fluid”. Unfortunately, the availability of ProMotion in macOS applications is currently sporadic and incomplete, leaving much to be desired.
You may remember that there was some confusion in ProMotion when the iPhone 13 Pro was launched in September. In that case, Apple eventually went on to provide additional documentation on what the developers needed to do to fully adopt this feature, as well as to release a software update to correct some bugs.
In the case of Mac, the situation is much less clear. By testing on the new MacBook Pro, Catalyst apps generally run at 120Hz as you’d expect, as they seem to directly inherit iOS behavior. Full screen games and Metal apps can also render at full 120Hz. The problem is that everyday standard Mac applications generally don’t work.
In particular, the smooth scrolling that ProMotion can provide is not used in most applications. The most notable offender is Safari, an app that Apple specifically invited in the Promotion section of the event presentation to take advantage of the high refresh rate of the new screen.
For third-party applications, Apple has also not released any supporting documentation that would instruct developers on what to do. You can see, for example, this topic on Google Chrome forums where Chromium developers want to take advantage of the ProMotion display, but have come to a dead end knowing where / how to start.
Finally, there is a gap in the software package that Apple needs to close to allow for consistently smooth interactions between its own applications and third-party programs. We hope that software updates that address these issues will arrive soon. The hardware is certainly capable of achieving a smooth 120Hz experience.
Hilarious, Moshen Chan showed on Twitter how he can achieve smooth 120Hz scrolling performance on the MacBook Pro by virtualizing Windows to run Chrome, while the original Mac Safari scrolling lagged behind:
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