MacBook Pro 16-inch Price, Specs, Keyboard – I want to tell you a little story about the year 2019. In June at WWDC, Apple announced iPadOS, which, feature for feature, addressed a bunch of complaints that we had, like USB drives and web browsing. And Apple also announced the new Mac Pro, which finally replaced the old trash can and was designed for the way pros actually need to use their computers, they just made it big again.
And then, in September, Apple released the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, and it fixed the things that people care about the most about camera quality and battery life. Apple also just made it a little bit thicker. Finally, Apple put a smart keyboard connector on the base of the iPad, and then a little bit later, released the AirPods Pro. Which actually stay in my ears, and they also happen to do noise canceling.
It has been a year of Apple doing apparent things. Not the flashiest items, not the “This changes everything” things, just the things that we wanted Apple to do. And so now we have this, the new 16″ MacBook Pro. In a parallel universe, we wouldn’t review this at all, because it would just be a minor spec bump. Instead, it is a laptop full of Apple fixing the things that are has done wrong on the MacBook for years. It’s a beautiful right way to cap off 2019.
Let’s just start by catching you up on the basics of what’s new with this laptop, even though by now, you’re probably already familiar. So, the screen is half an inch or so more prominent than before, so it’s MacBook Pro 16-inch now. The keyboard has been switched to the new scissor switch, a more traditional kind of switch, along with a real escape key. The laptop has also been made just a little bit thicker, and it’s a little bit better at dissipating heat than before.
The speakers are all new, and they’re amazing, and the graphics cards are the most exciting part of all the spec bumps here. But if you want, you can get a ton of RAM or storage, if you need to get those. I asked a bunch of you what you wanted me to test on this computer on YouTube and on my email newsletter and on Twitter, and I got a ton of responses. But they all break down into some pretty predictable categories. And at the tippy top of that list is the keyboard, so let’s do this.
The keyboard is absolutely excellent. In some ways leaps ahead of other modern keyboards. It has good key travel, and the backlight doesn’t bleed out all over the place. In terms of key feel, it’s firm and not really that springy. At least compared to the old 2015 MacBooks. But I like it. It has a satisfying and fairly quiet thunk. It really is a massive upgrade over those butterfly keys. And iFixit says that the keycaps are easy to replace too. And yes, there is now an escape key again, and the arrow keys are way easier to hit because they have this inverted T shape. All the keys are spaced a little bit further apart because the key caps are just a little bit smaller. And it’s much less likely that you’re going to tap on the touch bar accidentally.
Oh yeah, the touch bar. I personally don’t know anybody who really loves it. You can use third-party tools like BetterTouchTool or Pock to change it up. But it’s not going anywhere and so you might as well get used to it. Got a bunch of questions about battery life, especially since there’s a 100-watt hour battery. The FA limit, inside this thing, and it seems good. I am getting through a full day of work up to the eight-hour range just doing my basic web, Twitter, YouTube office stuff that I do.
I mean it certainly should, it has that giant battery inside this chunk. It weighs 4.3lbs, and it’s just a little bit bigger than the other 15″ MacBooks. But unless your 15″ laptop was already tight in your bag. This one should probably fit in there just fine. Oh, by the way, I also had people ask if the battery drains even when it’s plugged in. And you’ve got it under heavy load. And so far, that hasn’t happened to me at all.
A lot of people asked about performance and specifically thermal throttling. So we need to talk about that for a minute. Basically, Apple had a big problem on its hands last year with the previous MacBook Pro. Which were all kinds of unpredictable when it came to slow down the processor because of heat. Apple released some software updates which helped. But the bottom line is that that laptop couldn’t run as hot as other laptops.
This year, Apple increased the size of the heatsink, made the fans blow more air, and even added a little bit of thickness to help with the airflow. And it worked. There can be any number of things off with this benchmark. Unless you’re really carefully testing it in like lab conditions. All sorts of random variables are going to change your results. But what I see here is a processor that can hit its turbo and then settles into an entirely predictable, stable, and respectable speed over time. And that is not what we saw last year. So, you know, bravo.
But more important than benchmarks is results. And a lot of you asked me to run your particular software and tools. And I just gotta tell you, I’m not going to be able to test everybody’s workflow. I only can’t afford to buy that much software too. But what I can tell is that for our video team. The improvements here in Adobe Premiere Pro over last year’s model are pretty modest. Compared to a fairly comparable machine from a year ago. This MacBook Pro 16-inch was like 3-5% faster on a half-hour export. That’s not much but then again, Adobe isn’t excellent at utilizing the GPU.
Yesterday, my friend ran Final Cut Pro 10, and he saw much more improvement. I also saw some GPU improvements. Here is “Rise of the Tomb Raider” it’s running with all the default graphics settings on a 2018 6-core i9 with a Radeon Pro Vega 20. And then this new 2019 16″ with an 8-core i9 and the Radeon Pro 5500M.
The old MacBook got 29.99 frames per second, and this 16″ was around 52. Here’s where I land on performance. It is better year over year, just like you’d expect, especially on graphics. But it’s not a massive change unless your software really uses the GPU. It’s also pretty great that you can get as much storage or RAM as you want. So as long as you’re willing to pay for it.
The base model starts at $2,399, but there are a ton of options. And so you can get it all the way up to $6,099 if you need too. Now, I only got a couple of questions about the new speakers and the new studio microphones. Which is kind of a bummer because these are actually my favorite parts of this computer. Especially the speakers who do this brilliant thing where the two woofers on each side cancel out each other’s vibrations. Which allows for more bass. We set up a bunch of laptops and audio gear back in our New York studio last week. And we just tried it all out.
The awesome thing with this laptop, though it is the speakers. Apple has a six-speaker array, three on each side. And two of them on each side are these woofers that are designed to cancel out each other’s vibrations. And you really have to hear it in person to listen to it. So the microphone, it’s pretty good, but it’s maybe not quite studio quality.
The speakers, though, are the best that I’ve ever heard on a laptop. Here is what I think of the 16″ MacBook Pro. The speakers and the microphone are massive upgrades, the screen is a small upgrade. The performance is a decent upgrade depending on whether or not your software needs a good GPU. And then there’s the keyboard, which is a massive upgrade if you compare it to the butterfly keys. And a medium upgrade if you compare it to literally any other keyboard.
The 16″ MacBook Pro is the first MacBook Pro in years that doesn’t come with any significant caveats. If you’ve been waiting out on buying one, this is the one that you’ve been waiting for. All of which leads me to the other question, maybe the most-asked question that I got. What about the 13″ MacBook Pro? What about the MacBook Air? Are they going to get the new or the old, the keyboard? Are they going to get the keyboard? Well, I wish I knew. But if 2020 is anything like 2019 and Apple just keeps doing the obvious things, I’m optimistic.