(Pocket-lint) - The MacBook Pro is Apple's flagship laptop. Sitting at the top of that pile used to be the 15-inch model, now replaced by the even larger 16-inch model. So what do you get? An expanded display, a new keyboard, a processing capability bump, all wrapped into the one big-scale body.
But has Apple righted the wrongs of the last couple of year's worth of MacBook Pro releases, namely is the keyboard good to use? We've been using the MacBook Pro 16-inch model since launch to find out.
A bigger experience
- 16-inch Retina Display (3072 x 1920 resolution; 226ppi)
- Wide colour gamut (DCI-P3) and True Tone technology
- Dimensions: 358 x 246 x 16.2mm / Weight: 2.0kgs
- 4x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
- 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
On the design front there is very little change to what you expect a MacBook Pro to look like. It's made from recycled aluminium, it's refined and understated. Only its footprint is rather massive this time around, as is the larger-than-life trackpad.
Each side features two USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports, making four total, for connecting accessories or the power cable. While the right-hand side still features a 3.5mm headphones socket, that's your lot.
Open the laptop up and you're presented with that 16-inch display, which now almost fills the space on the lid, save for some slightly enlarged top bezel. Still, it's a way ahead of where MacBook bezel has been in the not-so-distant past; the top bezel still remains thicker because of the FaceTime camera – Apple hasn't opted for a notch here just yet.
The screen comes with a higher-than-Full-HD resolution, at 3072 x 1920 pixels, but doesn't quite hit the 4K mark (3840 x 2160) if that's what you're looking for. It does output at 500 nits of brightness and offers P3 wide colour – that's as bright as you'll find in any laptop on the market at the time of writing – as well as Apple's True Tone technology, as found on the company's iPads and iPhones, to auto-adapt the screen colour based on the ambient light.
For those who need it there's a new capability that allows you to change the display's refresh rate to match the frame rate of their content. Great for pro video editors.
While this laptop obviously isn't as portable as the 13-inch MacBook Pro, once you open it up, it feels like working on an iMac while out in the field. We wouldn't put one on our laps on the train, it's too big for that, rather more like taking your office with you where you go. But the screen really is big and impressive.
Typing is a joy again
- Scissor mechanism with 1mm travel
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
Say the word "keyboard" to any Mac user and you'll be in for a heated discussion about whether or not the so-called Butterfly keyboard was either awful or just bad. While we didn't mind it – apart from being unable to type quietly due to the clickity-clack-clickity-clack – there are droves of users who struggled to get accurate output from it using Apple's previous attempts (the first-gen Butterfly was the stand-out problem of the three-generations strong series).
The MacBook Pro 16-inch resolves that issue: it finally dumps the full-on Butterfly keyboard design and goes back to a refined scissor mechanism. It's best described as being like a really awful movie series that spawns a successful remake, completely ignoring that the original ever existed.
The new keyboar does move things on from the original scissor mechanism, while at the same time taking some elements from the Butterfly design. The result is a much softer typing experience that has double the amount of travel per key (now 1mm), making it a much more comfortable typing experience. There are more behind-the-scenes changes, but if you liked the original scissor mechanism stance, then you'll love this one.
It's not just the keyboard mechanism that has changed. Apple has listened to other complaints and requests from the community. The physical ESC key is back (yay), while the Touch ID key has been separated from the Touch Bar too (more yay). Other changes include a new configuration (read: as they were originally) for the arrow keys, so they're easier to use.
In short: the MacBook Pro keyboard is back and now very enjoyable to use.
- 2.6GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 or 2.3GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 processor options
- 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory, configurable to 64GB
- AMD Radeon Pro 5300M or AMD Radeon Pro 5500M
- 512GB or 1TB SSD option (upgradeable to 8TB)
Now we've got the important bits out of the way, it would be remiss not to discuss the performance of the MacBook Pro 16-inch. It's had a spec boost and comes in two standard configurations, or there's the option to spec out your own machine to suit your needs. Fully max it, however, and you'll be looking at around £5,000 or $6,000. Yes, five or six grand.
There's a reason for that: the spec options are truly top notch. Whether you want a 6-core 9th Generation Intel Core i7 or 8-core i9 processor. The 16-inch MacBook Pro also debuts AMD Radeon Pro 5000M series GPU, which features AMD's new RDNA architecture.
RAM now goes up to 64GB, a first, for those who really need the power, while storage options start at 512GB and can go up to 8TB (yes 8TB of SSD storage – if you've got the cash, of course).
Quite simply: it's a monster. All that power means you can pretty much do anything you want without the worry that it will struggle, especially if you go down the upgrade path.
Not forgetting, the 16-inch MacBook Pro also features the Touch Bar, pictured below. Yes, the configurable 'second screen' bar is back, which some creative types will love for shortcuts.
However, it's not as powerful as the desk-restricted Mac Pro. But the MacBook is still akin to taking your office with you wherever you go – and that's if you're a photographer, video editor, music producer, or someone else who needs power on the go.
But with great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes, and while you'll have a machine that can do pretty much anything it won't be long before you need to find a power outlet.
- Built-in 100Whr battery
- 96W charger
The 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with the largest battery ever in a MacBook Pro. It could have theoretically been bigger still, but the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has limits on how big batteries are allowed to when on a plane, for sake of safety. The same applies to battery packs, too, so it's no surprise. That limit is 100W, so that's exactly what the new MacBook Pro has in it.
To charge that huge battery the MacBook comes with a 96W charger. It's a good job too, because it feels like you can watch the battery percentage meter tick down like a clock. Especially if you've got the brightness turned up and doing power intensive tasks.
In our tests in the office we've been achieving around seven hours on a single charge, not the claimed 11 hours that Apple quotes.
It depends on what you're doing, obviously, and while it's better than the 15-inch model that came before it, it's a power-hungry beast. Really plug into those upgraded processors and you'll get gaming laptop-like life from this machine, i.e. you'll want it plugged in most of the time.
Apple has produced a monster of a machine that is capable of doing pretty much any task you could throw at it. And if you've struggled with recent MacBook models then, rest assured, the 16-inch is like an apology for all their wrongs.
The 16-inch screen is bright, crisp, and huge (although not 4K), while the new keyboard is a joy to type on – finally, welcome back to the older scissor mechanism.
Our only concern is that all this power and performance comes with a battery that you'll probably struggle to get you through a long day of work on the go, especially if you start to use power apps like Photoshop or Logic Pro.
If you need your office on the go and don't mind being too far from a power outlet, however, then this machine is hard to beat.
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019)
If 16-inches is too big (and too expensive!), then it's worth checking out the latest smaller MacBook Pro. You won't get the new scissor mechanism keyboard here though. But it's still a great entry point if you're looking to invest in a workhorse machine.