If you want the best laptop Apple makes, then it’s the Apple MacBook Pro that has always been top of the tree. But in recent years, there have been issues. Some found the Touch Bar ineffective because it lacked a physical Esc key. Many found the keyboard just great – until it wasn’t. And the price continued to make many ask whether they really needed to stump up extra for the word Pro on their laptop when, frankly, the Air suffix offered almost as much for a far lower price.
Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro
The recent release of the latest Apple MacBook Pro aims to put things right. It has new features, new design and the biggest Retina display yet. But is it enough?
I’ve been using the new 16in MacBook Pro consistently since it was revealed. Here’s everything you need to know.
Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display
The Apple MacBook Pro 16in is available to buy here. From $2,399.
B&H Photo has several deals right now. Note that they end at 11.59PM Eastern on Sunday December 22. Choose from:
Space Gray, 16GB RAM, 512MB storage, 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 6-Core. $200 saving. Reduced from $2,399 to $2,199. Buy it here.
Silver, 16GB RAM, 512MB storage, 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 6-Core. $200 saving. Reduced from $2,399 to $2,199. Buy it here.
Space Gray, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage, 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 6-Core. $150 saving. Reduced from $2,599 to $2,449. Buy it here.
Space Gray, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage, 2.3 GHz Intel Core i9 8-Core. $250 saving. Reduced from $2,799 to $2,549. Buy it here.
Silver, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage, 2.3 GHz Intel Core i9 8-Core. $250 saving. Reduced from $2,799 to $2,549. Buy it here.
Other configurations are available, check them out here.
Amazon has the MacBook Pro 16in available with a big $250 reduction. This is for a configuration that would normally cost $2,799 and is now down to $2,549. The configuration is 16GB RAM and 1TB of storage. Buy it here.
If you know what the Apple MacBook Pro looks like there are few surprises when you look at this machine (though there are some). It follows the same elegant space gray aluminum casing with delicate speakers each side of the keyboard (and hidden downward-facing speakers underneath).
Build quality, like previous MacBook laptops, is immaculate: solid, detailed with every element integrated perfectly from those side speakers to the solid, flexible hinge. As is common on Apple laptops, this is perfectly weighted so you can open it one-handed, unlike many rival computers.
There’s a Retina display with slim black glass bezel in a flush, slim lid. But compared to the 15in MacBook Pro which this new model replaces, every bezel is slimmer, so the extra screen real estate is included with almost no extra overall size.
The previous effect was an immersive display with minimal frame. Now, it’s even better.
The other big change to the design is the keyboard. Look closely: the Touch Bar is still in place, as it is in every MacBook Pro model in the current range, but here, it’s shorter. First, it finishes on the left edge sooner, making room for – Hallelujah! – a physical Escape key.
The physical Esc key on the MacBook Pro 16in
I’m being facetious, I’ve literally never minded that the Esc key was on a screen: it’s always been there when I needed it. But I recognize that many have wanted this physical key and am delighted Apple has responded to this feedback.
The standalone Touch ID and power button on the MacBook Pro 16in.
Cut to the right edge of the Touch Bar and there’s another change. Instead of the power button with integrated Touch ID, which previously sat cheek by jowl with the Touch Bar, Apple has introduced the design seen on the most recent MacBook Air. This sees a perceptible gap between the power button and the Touch Bar (in the Air it sits adjacent to a regular row of keys), matching that on the other side by the Esc key. They may not be the same size keys but there is an elegant near symmetry to the new design.
I see it as a more elegant design choice, delineating the Touch ID as something different and discrete.
Connections remain the same as on the last MacBook Pro, that is a total of five sockets. Four Thunderbolt USB-C ports, two on each side, so you can charge the laptop from either direction. The fifth hole is the headphone socket.
The other big design change is in the keyboard itself.
The new keyboard on the 16in MacBook Pro
If you’ve been following the Apple laptop story, you’ll know several things. First, the keyboard last used four years ago was almost universally recognized as the greatest keys ever attached to a computer. They had excellent travel, easy-to-find lettering, ultimate comfort and, oh yes, they were backlit.
But in years that followed, the scissor-switch keyboard was replaced by the winsome-sounding butterfly keys system. The systems (there was more than one) proved less popular with users, especially when they started sticking or proving less reliable.
They still felt pretty good but were noisy and less comfy.
Oh, for the golden days of 2015.
The 2019 keyboard has arrived on the new MacBook Pro, promising a return to the heady days of scissor switch. But, you know what? Using an older MacBook Pro alongside this one, I’ve come to realize that the new one is not as good as the 2015 landmark.
Honestly, it’s better. There’s plenty more travel than the butterflies offered and, even if it’s not quite as much as the classic 2015 version, it’s easily enough. For statistics fans, the travel here is a full 1.0mm, where those butterflies managed half that.
Plus, the keys feel more stable, more solid. While testing this new machine, I’ve regularly gone back to a 2015 model and compared the two. I’d argue the new version is the best balance of travel and efficiency yet in an Apple keyboard.
Of course, these are early days. It’s possible that the super-duper new keyboard could fail as some previous ones have done. But initial impressions are hugely positive. This version is called the Magic Keyboard, similar to that supplied with an iMac, though backlit, of course. And the new scissor-switch feels like the next stage in the journey taken by the MacBook keyboard back in 2012. It’s just it’s taken us some time to get here.
The final change is the redesign of the direction arrow buttons. No longer are they two full-sized keys for left and right, plus two half-height keys for up and down.
Now, all four keys are half-height, so you can more easily find them, even with your eyes closed or, more likely, if you’re a typist who likes to keep their eyes on the screen as much as possible.
Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro Retina display
The biggest-ever Retina display on a Mac laptop looks fantastic. Although it’s less than an inch bigger than the machine it replaces, which had a 15.6-inch display, the size makes a noticeable difference, especially because it comes on a chassis that’s not much bigger or heavier.
By the way, it is a little bigger, so you will need a new case or sleeve in all likelihood. Happily, Apple has made another of its subtle but sumptuous sleeves to put it in, complete with dimples where the rubber feet sit snugly.
Apple screen specialties like True Tone are here, so that the colors on screen look especially natural, adapting to suit the ambient color temperature for extra fidelity.
Apple’s new 16in MacBook Pro has powerful processors
The MacBook Pro has always been the most powerful portable Mac, with the highest speeds and the highest prices to match. This new model keeps up the tradition of the strongest performance. There are 6-core and 8-core Intel processors and plenty of RAM. And now, there are options to increase both RAM and storage considerably, so you could have up to 8TB of internal storage if you really must (and if you can afford it). This is a remarkable amount of storage in a portable computer.
Performance has also been enhanced by the increase in battery life. This is now a 100-Wh battery, the biggest yet on a Mac laptop and which can last up to 11 hours, Apple says. In non-scientific tests, I have seen a noticeable uptick compared to an earlier 15-inch MacBook Pro. The charging block has been upgraded, by the way, so recharging the MacBook Pro is also faster than before.
Incidentally, I keep banging on about how expensive the MacBook Pro is. Well, it’s certainly not cheap, but it’s worth pointing out that this new model costs the same as the previous and certainly inferior 15-inch MacBook Pro it replaces.
Not for the first time, Apple has achieved a curious thing: it’s both expensive and very good value.
The new 16in and old 15in MacBook Pro laptops
The latest 16in MacBook Pro offers big advantages over the 15in model it supersedes. It has a big step up in power and performance, including battery life. The 16in Retina display is gorgeous and although it’s only a little bigger, it is enough to make a difference. Not least, it’s because the extra size and weight compared to the smaller 15in are pretty minimal, though this is certainly a laptop that will be too big for some.
And then there’s the keyboard. The redesigned direction keys, Escape key and Touch ID are all improvements, but it’s the typing sensation that defines this laptop. It is deeply appealing, comfortable and effective, as inviting as the classic 2015 model but with greater stability. The keyboard alone is reason enough to upgrade on its own, but matched with the other improvements here, it makes this new MacBook Pro hard to resist.