By Peter Wells
November 14, 2019 — 5.42am
Apple has announced a new MacBook Pro overnight, its first with a 16-inch screen. The laptop is, effectively, both a love letter and an apology to Apple users following the last few years of divisive design. Almost every major criticism has been addressed, and there’s a few new goodies thrown in to sweeten the deal.
The MacBook is a brand of Macintosh laptop computers by Apple Inc. that merged the PowerBook and iBook lines during Apple’s transition to Intel processors. The current lineup consists of the MacBook Air (2008–present) and the MacBook Pro (2006–present). A different MacBook line existed from 2006 to 2012 and 2015 to 2019.
New Macbook Pro fixes the keyboard and increases the screen size
Keyboard may refer to:
Typewriter keyboard or computer keyboard, a set of keys used to input text
Musical keyboard, a set of adjacent keys or levers used to play a musical instrument
Keyboard (magazine), a publication about musical instruments such as the piano
Synthesizer, an electronic instrument that is commonly referred to as a keyboard
Most notable is a change of keyboard. In a rare show of humility at a low-key press event in New York, product manager Shruti Haldea admitted that “while the majority of our customers like the experience of typing on [a] MacBook Pro, let’s be honest, some don’t.”
The much maligned butterfly keyboard has finally been replaced with a new and improved scissor mechanism. The keyboard is so much more comfortable to type on than the butterfly keyboards it replaces; keys have a satisfying bounce and 1mm of travel, and are far quieter.
Reliability and repairability have also been addressed; now if a crumb falls under a key, you can pop that single key off, instead of replacing the entire top cover of the keyboard; just like most other laptop keyboards on the market.
Apple has also reinstated a physical escape key and, most surprising, the arrow keys have returned to an inverted T layout.
I’m disappointed this new keyboard is only available in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It needs to spread to Apple’s entire laptop line as soon as possible so I can go back to recommending the MacBook Air for most users.
The MacBook Pro 16-inch replaces the 15-inch model that was on sale until yesterday. While Apple has not increased the price of the MacBook Pro in the US, we are getting a $300 increase due to the weakened Australian dollar. The 16-inch MacBook starts at $3799.
Apple has created a new thermal architecture for the laptop with a larger heatsink that seems to dissipate heat efficiently, and as the new Intel Core i9 processor has plenty of headroom for most tasks, the fans (which are also larger) can stay idle until necessary. In raw numbers, developers should see 80 per cent faster compile times over the previous generation MacBook Pro, and similarly video editors should expect 80 per cent faster renders.
At the event the new MacBook blazed through some impressive demonstrations, from editing multiple tracks of 8K footage to then playing back unrendered footage in real time. In a former life I was a video editor, so this demonstration left me gobsmacked. Then our handy demonstrator pointed out the MacBook Pro was doing this all on battery, and the fans had not spun up once.
The Pro was also shown live 3D rendering in Octane and previewing an Xcode app on six different iOS simulators at the same time. Not once did the fans spin up. The only time the fans needed to spin was during a photo editing demonstration; here a gigantic image was colour corrected and adjusted in countless ways, while being previewed on Apple’s unreleased external ProDisplay XDR monitor (coming in December) and also touched up on an iPad Pro connected to the MacBook Pro. While the fans showed the computer was working at its hardest, the image was still changing across all three screens instantly.
My MacBook Pro review unit features a 2.3 GHz 8-Core Intel Core i9 processor with 16GB RAM and the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics card, and in my own photo, video and code stress testing the machine was similarly relaxed. This build retails for $4399 in Australia.
If you want to spec out the MacBook Pro to absurd levels, you can. This new generation supports 64GB of RAM, a Radeon Pro 5000M graphics card with 8GB VRAM and up to 8TB of lightning fast SSD storage.
I’m yet to mention the marquee feature, the new 3072 x 1920 display. Not a lot has changed from the previous model except the size, but Apple laptop displays have been best in class for a few years, featuring a wide P3 colour gamut, True Tone and HDR built it, so there was not much room for improvement. Either way the new display looks fantastic, fitting into virtually the same body of the previous 15-inch model thanks to smaller bezels on all sides.
One major improvement is audio. The MacBook Pro has a six speaker sound system that needs to be heard to be believed. It honestly defies the laws of physics that this kind of sound can come from a thin, flat laptop. Also onboard are three microphones designed for “studio quality” recordings. I recorded the voiceover for the review video with just the MacBook Pro, so I’ll let you be the judge on whether you think this is true.
The new MacBook Pro also delivers better battery life; up to 11 hours of battery in standard, low power browsing. In my short time with the MacBook Pro I wasn’t able to test this, but traditionally Apple products have met or exceeded the battery performance advertised.
The Touch Bar persists. I understand the appeal of the Touch Bar but have never had a good reason to use it, but even here Apple has made some subtle improvements. The Touch Bar is slightly smaller and further from the top row of number keys, to address accidental input. I’d still prefer an option of real, physical function keys with Touch ID, as found on the MacBook Air, but I guess there’s only so much humility you can expect from Apple in one product revision.
Overall, if you’ve been holding onto a 15-inch MacBook from 2015 waiting for Apple to finally make a laptop with a keyboard you’ll enjoy typing on, then the wait is over. At this point all Apple needed to do was replace the controversial butterfly keyboard and the company would have a hit on its hands. But this new MacBook Pro is better in almost every way to the 15-inch model it replaces; I just hope we’ll see similar upgrades coming to Apple’s smaller and cheaper laptops as well.
Peter Wells works at Swinburne University and is a technology commentator in his spare time. He is an award-winning journalist who currently appears on the Daily Tech News Show.