Ever since Apple pulled the plug on the ginormous 17in at the turn of the decade, pros have been wanting a replacement. Apple has finally given them a 16 incher that rights the wrongs of the previous gen while keeping the good stuff intact.
The final product to be updated in 2019 by Apple and the trend continues… minor fixes and adjustments to an already great product to make it even better. The MacBook Pro has been the default choice of professionals who wouldn’t be caught dead using Windows or the creative kinds who just prefer FCP over Adobe Premiere Pro. But there were niggling issues like throttling, thigh-burning temperatures and that butterfly keyboard that has been a fly in Apple’s ointment for awhile now.
This new 16in MBP is the replacement for the axed 15in Model, so don’t expect a big difference. In fact, there are none at all except the thinner bezels around the screen that free up that additional 0.6in of screen real estate (up from 15.4in). There isn’t anything to complain about the form factor, which has stood the test of time ever since the unibody MacBook Pros became the norm. Its sleek, clean lines make every other laptop look overly fussy, but the real advantage it has is the oversized trackpad. MacOS is harnessed for gestures and that is the single biggest reason no MBP user would move to any other machine. Fact!
The larger screen comes with marginal improvements too. The Retina Display has a resolution of 3072×1920, giving it a slightly higher pixel density of 226ppi compared to the 15in model. Colour accuracy and P3 wide colour gamut remain intact, making this one of the best, even without HDR or OLED. 500Nits is as bright as last year’s MBP, but what’s new is the ability to toggle between different refresh rates of the display. You get the option of 47.95Hz, 48.00Hz, 50.00Hz, 59.94Hz and 60.00Hz to match with your video editing workflows. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t take this opportunity to bump up the resolution of the FaceTime HD camera and it’s still stuck at 720p.
No change has come about in connectivity. You still get 2 x USB-C / Thunderbolt ports on each side along with a 3.5mm headphone jack. In terms of security, it’s strange that FaceID still hasn’t found its way to the Mac, but TouchID works well too and now gets its own dedicated button instead of being part of the Touch Bar earlier.
Moving to a ‘scissor’ mechanism, there’s 1mm of travel now, 0.5mm more than the last gen. But more importantly, the key spacing and stability has been improved. The spacing between the keys has been reduced while the wobble from the key tops is gone, allowing you to hit the keys faster (and harder) if you simply have to get the job done, like, yesterday. It does make for a great typing experience, albeit with a bit of realignment of your motor responses. Apple calls it the Magic Keyboard and while that might be overselling a simple ‘fix’, it’s more than welcome. It brings the new 16in MBP back up there with some of the best keyboards of all time. A physical ESC key seems to be a big deal. It should be too, since in our tests, the Touch Bar froze several times with no control over volume or brightness. It could lead to embarrassing moments, but at least you can escape swiftly now…
Not that the 15in was slow, Apple has bumped the 16in to a 2.3GHz Intel i9, 8-core processor with 16GB of DDR4 RAM in our test spec. You also get the AMD Radeon 5500M graphics GPU and, with up to 5.0GHz boost speeds, it never let us down on any task. I use a lot of Lightroom and InDesign for publishing the print version of Stuff (India) and 100+ MB files opened in under 2 secs while other apps like Mail, Music, iMessage, WhatsApp, Roon, Safari, Pages, Preview and Photos were running simultaneously. Thanks to an all-new thermal management, the fans have larger impellers and the heat sinks have 35% more surface area. This means the MBP runs much cooler and that means… you guessed it – no performance throttling on CPU-intensive tasks. Thankfully, the bigger battery, which boasts 100Wh, is up to the task as well, lasting about 8-10 hours (or more) depending on use-case scenario. There’s a new 96W power adapter in place of the 87W, so it charges slightly faster too.
Apple has outdone themselves with a total of six speakers built into this slim chassis. There are two full range drivers on either side of the keyboard, inside the laser cut speaker grilles while two pairs of woofers, mounted back to back, cancel out vibrations. Even at full bore, there’s almost no stray vibration felt on the palm resting area and the sound transcends the physical boundaries of the laptop. It’s loud but clean with a genuine sense of bass unlike other laptops that boast of branded audio stickers. It’s unbelievably refined and you could get by without plugging them into an external speaker for almost an entire day!
There’s a new 3-mic array with better S/N ratio and 40% less hiss, claims Apple. It most certainly is a big improvement over the previous audio recording quality but still doesn’t beat a professional microphone. Casual use like FaceTime and using dictation on Pages benefits the most. You’ll soon be talking to your Mac more than typing if you’re in a relatively quiet place.
As a workhorse, the MacBook Pro has few rivals in my book. And if you fancy the idea of a laptop without any anti-virus bloatware on it, then there’s only one. The 16in version is better in every area than its predecessor and while it could still do with some extras, the massive battery, the powerful CPU and the ease of MacOS makes it worth it.