Bye, bye, butterfly. The much-rumored and anticipated 16-inch MacBook Pro is here at last, with a redesigned keyboard. It replaces the previous 15-inch model, starts at $2399, is available to order now in silver or space gray.
Apple also said that the previously announced Mac Pro and Apple Pro Display XDR would become available in December 2019.
Here’s Apple’s announcement video for the MacBook Pro.
Let’s look at the details.
Most notably, the 16-inch MacBook Pro dumps the troublesome butterfly keyboard switches that have plagued users for years. The new Magic Keyboard features old-fashioned scissor switches like those found in pre-2016 MacBook Pro laptops. The scissor switches have 1mm of travel, twice as much as the butterfly switches, meaning it will feel less like you’re typing on a flat piece of glass. They’re also reportedly much quieter.
But wait, there’s more! The Escape key is back, living alongside the Touch Bar with its Touch ID sensor—alas, there’s still no Face ID on the Mac. Also back are inverted-T arrow keys.
I absolutely love it—not because it’s the most amazing keyboard in the world, but because it’s completely forgettable in the best possible way. It just feels normal again.
(Don’t miss his graphs showing the difference in key spacing and key travel between various laptop models.)
Of course, it’s possible that flaws with this keyboard design will emerge over time, as they did with the butterfly keyboards, but the initial response is promising.
Long-term resilience is the first question about the new scissor-switch keyboard. The second question, should the new keyboard prove to be as sturdy as hoped, is if or when Apple will replace the butterfly keyboard in upcoming 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models.
Connectivity and Battery
If you were hoping for the return of legacy ports like USB-A, Ethernet, or an SD card reader, you’re out of luck. Expect the same connectivity MacBook Pro models have had for years: four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack. In other words, your dongles are breathing a sigh of relief because they like riding around in your laptop bag.
Also on board are the entirely expected 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro ships with a USB-C charging cable and a beefy 96-watt USB-C power adapter to charge the built-in 100-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery. Apple estimates up to 11 hours of “wireless Web” or “Apple TV movie playback” battery life.
Display and Size
The new MacBook Pro’s 16-inch IPS panel features a 3072-by-1920 native resolution at 226 pixels per inch, with 500 nits of brightness, a refresh rate of up to 60 Hz, P3 color, and True Tone technology. In short, other than some more pixels, it’s not a significant leap over recent 15-inch MacBook Pro models, which had a native resolution of 2880-by-1800.
However, in the real world, you’ll likely run the 16-inch MacBook Pro at one of the supported scaled resolutions, the largest of which is 1920-by-1200, precisely the same as the previous 15-inch models. So those scaled pixels will be a bit larger, but you won’t get more content on screen.
In terms of dimensions, despite its thinner bezels, the larger screen makes the new MacBook Pro a tiny bit larger than last year’s 15-inch model, measuring 0.64 in (1.62 cm) tall, 14.09 in (35.79 cm) wide, and 9.68 in (24.59 cm) deep. It’s also about 7% heavier, weighing in at 4.3 pounds (1.95 kg), up from 4.0 pounds (1.81 kg).
Audio and Cameras
One of the surprises (and probably another reason for the slightly increased size and weight) in the new 16-inch MacBook Pro is significantly improved audio quality. It has a six-speaker sound system with dual force-canceling woofers for less rattle and buzz when the bass is booming, and it supports Dolby Atmos. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber raved about the new speakers:
It’s not simply about being louder, although they are louder at maximum volume. They just sound impossibly better. They don’t merely sound like good laptop speakers — they sound like good dedicated portable speakers, period. In a small room, you can credibly use the 16-inch MacBook Pro to play music as though it’s an entertainment speaker system. And at maximum volume they really are a lot louder — without the sort of distortion we’ve all come to expect from laptop speakers at high volume.
iMore’s Rene Ritchie described them as “almost HomePod level terrific.”
But improved audio isn’t limited to speakers—the new MacBook Pro features a “studio quality” three-microphone array that Apple claims rivals professional microphones. Apple claims that the built-in microphones are good enough for podcasts and music recordings, which, if true, is impressive. Gruber said:
Would I recommend the new built-in MacBook Pro microphone for recording a podcast? No. But would I be willing to use it for my own show in a pinch? Yes. And it should be a great improvement to audio for teleconferencing and FaceTime.
And while Ritchie echoed Gruber’s comments, he recorded his 24-hour review of the 2016 MacBook Pro with the built-in microphones.
Author and podcaster Jason Snell said in his review:
As someone who has had to salvage many a podcast recorded by someone who either didn’t realize they were using their laptop microphone or didn’t have any other alternative, I thank Apple for improving the base situation. I hope this microphone ends up in every Apple laptop.
Unfortunately, while the microphones might be professional-quality, the built-in 720p FaceTime HD camera is not. The iPad Pro, which has a 1080p HD-capable TrueDepth camera, is snickering quietly at its Mac cousin.
Price and Performance
As noted, the new MacBook Pro starts at $2399, but for that price, you get 16 GB of 2666 MHz DDR4 memory, which is excellent, because that’s the minimum we recommend for any production machine. You can upgrade to 32 GB of RAM for $400 or 64 GB for $800.
There are two models: the aforementioned $2399 model and a $2799 model. The $2399 model includes a 512 GB SSD, while the $2799 model comes with a 1 TB SSD. You can upgrade the SSDs for the following prices:
- 1 TB: $200
- 2 TB: $600 / $400
- 4 TB: $1200 / $1000
- 8 TB: $2400 / $2200
The first price is for the $2399 model, the second price for the $2799 model. This is the first time 8 TB of SSD storage has been available in a laptop.
The $2399 model includes a 9th-generation 2.6 GHz six-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz while the $2799 model has a 2.3 GHz eight-core 9th-generation i9 processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.8 GHz. You can upgrade either model to a 2.4 GHz eight-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 with Turbo Boost up to 5.0 GHz—it’s a $300 upgrade for the $2399 model or $200 for the $2799 model.
In terms of graphics, the $2399 model has an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4 GB of GDDR6 memory, and the $2799 model includes an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4 GB of memory. The $2399 model can be upgraded to that 5500M for $100, or a 5500M with 8 GB of memory for $200. The $2799 model can be upgraded to the 5500M with 8 GB of memory for $100.
If we’re reading the specs right, these video cards will let you run up to four 4K displays or up to two 6K displays—presumably Apple’s forthcoming Apple Pro Display XDR (see “New Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR Offer Power for a (High) Price,” 3 June 2019).
Overall, as much as it’s a little surprising to see Apple continue to focus on Touch ID on the Mac rather than moving to Face ID, this new 16-inch MacBook Pro seems like a robust, powerful machine and a solid update to the previous 15-inch model. In particular, it’s good to see the company (finally!) listening to user feedback about the horrible butterfly keyboard.
For many people, however, the 16-inch MacBook Pro will be too big, too heavy, and too expensive, so we hope to see Apple bring the new scissor-switch keyboard to the smaller, lighter, and cheaper 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air as well.
Will you be ordering one of the new MacBook Pros? If not, are you waiting for the kinks to be worked out, or is it just too big or expensive? Let us know in the comments.