MacBook Pro 16 inch (2019)
"Apple's MacBook Pro 16 is a much-needed return to the glory days of the MacBook."
The best keyboard on a Mac
Excellent performance for content creation
The 16 inch screen is beautiful
Touch bar is still not useful
Size can be unwieldy
This review was updated on January 24, 2020, with new competitors and rumors about an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Complain. Emergency repair programs. An infinite flood of online criticism. That's the last three years of the MacBook Pro, in short.
The PR nightmare had just started when I requested a Mac as a work laptop. The MacBook Pro was my standard choice at home and, despite its small size and long battery life, took care of music production and games. My 2015 MacBook Pro never let me down.
However, my experience with the MacBook Pro 2016 was very different. On my desk next to the mounting stacks of excellent Windows laptops, I found the keyboard frustrating. The design looked dated. Even his performance felt limited.
Mac fans, including myself, want Apple to bring the MacBook Pro back to its former glory. The MacBook Pro 16 offers the first glimmer of hope in years. Is this the laptop I've been waiting for?
The Mac Apology Tour
The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is not revolutionary. It wasn't presented at a glittering press event. It is not a leap forward in design and certainly not innovative. It is a patch.
At its core, the design of the MacBook Pro is retained. The unibody aluminum case is still a strength, and Apple didn't dare to touch it this time. The same applies to the Thunderbolt 3 port selection and the massive Force Touch trackpad.
However, once you get past Space Gray, small changes show a desire to please fans.
Even the thin frames around the new 16-inch screen show that Apple is hearing criticism. The chunky boundaries of other MacBooks have been out of date for years. However, shrinking the bezels would have meant a smaller footprint, a smaller touchpad, and less space in the case for components.
Instead, Apple added an additional 0.6-inch display, which results in a resolution of 3,072 x 1,920. The massive screen provides a more complete view of your work, ideal for multitasking or working in a complex application like Adobe Premiere. It's not quite the 17-inch laptops it used to be, but it's close.
This is the best Mac keyboard ever released.
While the new display looks great, the keyboard is the most drastic change. Apple stroked into a corner trying to modernize the keyboard. The company calls the new inputs a “magic keyboard” that matches the still popular iMac accessories. Its full millimeter of travel feels like an ocean compared to the previous design. The physical escape key and the inverted T arrow keys return.
This is the best Mac keyboard ever released. It's a step further than the 2015 model, with its larger keycaps and faster mechanism, and it's head and tail above the MacBook Pro 15's butterfly switch keyboard.
The touch bar remains and still feels useless. I accidentally mute my music and wonder why it's not more useful. On the other hand, it usually stayed out of my way. I will endure the touch bar as long as the keyboard sniffs.
When every millimeter counts
The new MacBook Pro offers more than a fixed keyboard. In fact, an additional thickness of 0.03 inches in the case has allowed Apple to add Significant quality improvements such as larger battery cells and a newly designed thermal system.
The larger battery is an important upgrade. Larger laptops with high-resolution screens often have battery life issues, as does the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The larger battery cells of the MacBook Pro 16 Increase total watts of juice from 83.6 to 100, the largest battery you can clog in a FAA approved laptop.
However, larger batteries do not always mean more time away from a socket. In the case of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, powering the extra pixels seems to steal the extra juice that the MacBook Pro 16 contains. The new model could not drive me through a whole working day.
Under my standard workload, which includes dozens of tabs, streaming music in Spotify and Slack, the 16-inch MacBook Pro lasted about five and a half hours. In other words, this 16% larger battery doesn't produce a 16% longer battery life.
If you sit under bright office lights all day, be careful. I kept the screen brightness constant above 75%, which explains why the overall performance dropped. It's not as long as I want, but it matches Windows options like the Dell XPS 15 with 4K display.
A video editor's best friend
Inflating the case doesn't mean better battery life, but it does contribute to performance. The ultra-thin design of the 15-inch MacBook Pro performed reasonably well in 2016. However, the first Core i9 processors were announced in 2018 and suddenly introduced new functions for laptops. Content creation. Video editing. Creative work. It has always been possible, but now it is much easier.
Apple threw them into the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The result was severe throttling. It was so bad that the Core i7 in a MacBook Pro 15 could often keep up with the Core i9. unless you have operated the Core i9 in a freezer.
The updated MacBook Pro 15 from 2019 with a newer Core i9 that added two more cores to the mix improved the situation. Laptops like the Dell XPS 15 still handled the chip better.
With the 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple returned to the drawing board to redesign the thermals for this new class of high-end processors. Thinner fan blades, larger heat sinks, additional ventilation slots. It's a complete makeover.
The difference is amazing. Although the 16-inch MacBook Pro uses the same processor with the same 32 GB of RAM, it leaves its predecessor in the dust in every benchmark and real-life test I've done.
I rendered a 4K two-minute clip in Premiere Pro in ProRes 422 in just 4 minutes and 41 seconds. The same clip on the 15-inch MacBook Pro? It took twice as long. The MacBook Pro 16 is now as fast as the Dell XPS 15 as it should always be. I shudder when I think about how quickly this clip could be rendered in Mac-optimized software like Final Cut Pro.
The fantastic performance offers more than just increased airflow.
These fantastic results offer more than just increased airflow. The latest software optimizations from Adobe play a major role, as does the new onboard graphics.
As with all newer MacBook Pros, the 16-inch model uses a custom card from AMD. However, the Radeon Pro 5300M and 5500M are not an average update compared to last year's graphics. These are based on AMD's next generation Zen 2 7nm graphics architecture and help make the MacBook Pro 16 a powerful video editing device.
Who is it for again?
The sparkle of a new MacBook Pro can seduce you in a number of ways, even if it's not meant for you. IIf you don't have to run intensive applications in your everyday life, you can hardly use an 8-core (or even 6-core) laptop.
For example, the new graphics indicate better gaming performance. The MacBook Pro 16 does not meet these expectations.
The MacBook Pro 16 is fast, but not a gaming laptop.
Games like Fortnite and Rocket League are smoother than before and run consistently at frame rates of around 60 FPS in medium settings. You always have to pay attention to the graphics settings, especially due to the unusual resolutions that the 16-inch Pro can display natively.
Civilization VI had this problem because it refused to run in full screen mode and only reached 53 FPS at medium settings. The Dell XPS 15 with its Nvidia GTX 1650 is always a better choice for gaming. It offers a more conventional resolution and enough power to improve the settings a bit. It can reach 50 FPS in Epic settings in Fortnite and 82 FPS in Civilization VI in Medium.
You can also consider it for simple everyday tasks, but again, it's more powerful than you need. Unlike Dell or Microsoft, Apple doesn't offer a larger MacBook Pro without a six- or eight-core processor, discrete graphics, and 16 GB of RAM.
The sheer size of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is also cause for concern. With a footprint of 14.09 x 9.68 inches, it's not a laptop you want to take on a plane, and it will take up most of the table at your local cafe.
However, there is a case for someone who wants to spend a high-end media experience on their laptop. Apple has tuned the speakers well and claims to have an additional half octave bass. These are by far the best speakers you can find on a laptop, and you can feel it in the rumble of an explosion in The Mandalorian or in the kick drum in a song.
This display is also beautiful, although this is to be expected. It is bright, the colors are accurate and the contrast is high. The best Dell and HP displays can keep up with the MacBook Pro 16, but this huge screen offers an impressive movie experience. However, the 16:10 aspect ratio means that you will always see letterboxing.
For the first time in years, I can breathe a sigh of relief and recommend a MacBook Pro. It does what Apple needed it to do and resolves all the complaints I've had against the MacBook Pro. That lifts it back to the top row of premium laptops.
Are there alternatives?
If you're not using your laptop for content creation or other tough tasks, you probably don't need a laptop that big or powerful. Choosing a 13-inch laptop like the Dell XPS 13, HP Specter x360, or Surface Laptop 3 will save you hundreds of dollars. If you have to choose a Mac, the 13-inch MacBook Pro should get an update in the first half of 2020.
However, the best real alternative to the 16-inch MacBook Pro is the Dell XPS 15. When configured with similar specifications, the XPS 15 is over a thousand dollars cheaper than the 16-inch MacBook Pro. That's a lot of savings with performance, an OLED 4K screen, and better port selection.
Another option for content creators is the Asus ZenBook Duo Pro. In addition to the unique second screen of this laptop, the Duo Pro has an OLED 4K screen and fantastic Core i9 performance. It is still one of the most powerful implementations of this chip for video editors and content creators.
How long it will take?
Reliability has become a problem for Apple. The new keyboard is unlikely to have many of the same problems as before, and the laptop is no longer part of the emergency repair program. Given how well and fully built these laptops are, they should last for at least five years.
The MacBook Pro offers 90 days of technical support and a standard one-year warranty. Of course, you can extend coverage with AppleCare + and in-store repair to up to three years.
Should you buy it
Yes. If you've been waiting for a powerful MacBook you can rely on, this is the one.