- Apple’s new MacBook Pro has a larger 16-inch screen and an improved keyboard, making it a compelling choice for Apple fans looking for a powerful work computer.
- The keyboard in particular represents a much-needed upgrade; Apple has ditched the butterfly mechanism keyboard in favour of a design inspired by its popular Magic keyboard.
- But, as has been the case with Apple’s laptops in the past, the MacBook Pro is expensive compared to its Windows rivals. It also doesn’t offer the option for a touch screen as many Windows devices of the same price typically do.
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Apple fans in need of a new laptop for getting serious work done have two reasons to rejoice. That’s because Apple’s new MacBook Pro, which starts at $US2,400 and just launched on November 13, brings two important changes that make it a significantly better work machine: a much improved keyboard and a roomier display.
After much criticism, Apple ditched the troublesome butterfly switch mechanism that’s been present on its laptops since 2015 with the launch of its new MacBook Pro – the largest laptop Apple has built since it launched the now-discontinued 17-inch MacBook Pro in 2011.
The decision to implement a scissor-switch design in the new MacBook Pro’s keyboard instead of the butterfly switch comes after customers and critics alike reported issues with the keyboard. Some said that keys would respond twice when only tapped once, others said that keys simply wouldn’t respond at all. Apple has since launched a service program that allows customers with affected keyboards to get their laptop repaired for free. But the 16-inch MacBook Pro represents the company’s first major shift away from the butterfly keyboard since it launched around four years ago.
The new MacBook Pro’s larger display also makes it a more practical device for those who prioritise productivity but don’t have the space for a desktop computer. By reducing the size of the bezels that frame the laptop’s screen, Apple has enlarged the display without actually making the computer all that much bigger than its 15-inch predecessor.
Otherwise, the MacBook Pro brings all the advantages – and disadvantages – you’d normally expect from a MacBook Pro. That’s to say it offers fast performance, a high-resolution screen, a sleek design that never seems to overheat, and boisterous audio. Now that the butterfly keyboard has been replaced with a new one inspired by the company’s popular Magic keyboard, I can add a high-quality typing experience to that list as well.
But it also retains two of the complaints I’ve had about Apple laptops in years past: it’s expensive and doesn’t offer as much flexibility as competing Windows machines. While most high-end Windows laptops of the same price have the option to configure it with a touch screen, Apple has never offered this choice. Instead, it has stuck with the Touch Bar, a touch-sensitive strip that sits above the keyboard and offers some shortcuts and buttons for adjusting settings.
Some Windows machines also offer more variety when it comes to ports as well. Laptops from Dell and Asus, for example, have connections for HDMI, older USB slots, and SD card slots, whereas the new MacBook Pro only has four Thunderbolt USB C ports and a headphone jack. That may not matter to the average user, but the professional-grade audience that Apple is catering to with the MacBook Pro might appreciate those other input and output options.
And while the MacBook Pro’s large screen is plenty bright, sharp, and crisp, OLED screens are becoming increasingly common on today’s premium laptops. That too could give shoppers who aren’t partial to Apple’s ecosystem reason to look elsewhere, especially if binging Netflix is one of the main reasons you want that bigger screen.
Here’s a closer look at what it’s been like to try Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro.
The keyboard has gotten a massive, much-needed upgrade.
The new MacBook Pro’s keyboard feels like a dream to type on compared to the butterfly keyboard found on previous generations of Apple’s laptops. The key travel is noticeably better, which makes pecking away at the keyboard during the work day feel all the more satisfying. It’s exactly what typing on a pricey laptop like the MacBook Pro should feel like.
Luckily, the butterfly keyboard on my work-issued MacBook Pro never fell victim to the mishaps experienced by other users. It’s still perfectly functional, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily enjoy typing on it.
The butterfly keyboard feels flat and lacks depth in comparison to Apple’s new Magic keyboard, making it much less comfortable to type on. Even for those using a laptop with a butterfly keyboard that’s performing exactly as it should, the new Magic-inspired keyboard will still feel like an upgrade.
The touchpad on Apple’s MacBook Pro is also very spacious and responsive, just like the one found on previous models, which makes it a joy to use.
Keyboard and touchpad quality may not be your highest priority when shopping for a new laptop. But considering they both have a lot of influence over how enjoyable it is to use your laptop, it’s an important characteristic to consider.
The display is sharp and crisp, and the larger size makes it much easier to get work done. But I found the Dell XPS 15’s OLED screen to be more compelling for watching video than the MacBook Pro’s.
The MacBook Pro is designed for getting serious work done, and its larger display makes it even easier to do just that. But beyond simply fitting more content on the screen, the MacBook Pro’s bigger display gives Apple’s laptop a much more modern look that echoes the design changes it’s made to the iPhone and iPad in recent years.
It’s a small but necessary improvement for Apple if it wants the MacBook Pro’s design to remain competitive with rivals like Dell’s XPS lineup, which have boasted nearly borderless screens for years. The bezels on the new MacBook Pro still aren’t quite as slim as those on Dell’s XPS 15, but it’s certainly an upgrade.
When it comes to quality, the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s display won’t disappoint. The MacBook Pro now features display with a slightly higher resolution of 3072 by 1920 pixels (226 pixels per inch) compared to its 15-inch predecessor, which has a 2880 by 1800 resolution screen (220 pixels per inch). I’ve been using the new MacBook Pro mostly for working and watching video on Netflix and YouTube, and I found that colours always look vibrant and crisp.
I also generally prefer reading and working on the MacBook Pro since it has Apple’s True Tone technology, which adjusts colour to match the ambient light of your surroundings. As a result, the MacBook Pro’s display generally looks warmer and less blue than Windows alternatives.
That being said, as OLED screens become increasingly common on laptops, it could be more challenging for the MacBook Pro’s display to shine against competitors. When I watched Netflix’s “Stranger Things” on both the LED backlit MacBook Pro’s display and the 4K OLED display on a similarly configured Dell XPS 15, the difference was surely noticeable. Colours looked bolder and more lively on Dell’s screen, and the contrast was much more apparent.
The MacBook Pro’s performance is great, which isn’t much of a surprise.
The new MacBook Pro seemed more than capable of handling heavy workloads. The configuration I’m testing is one of the higher-end models priced at $US3,899, which comes with a 2.4GHz eight-core Intel Core i9 processor with 32GB of RAM memory and AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics.
When I ran Maxon’s Cinebench R20 test on it, a benchmark that evaluates the rendering performance of a computer’s central processing unit, the Pro scored a bit higher than a similarly configured Dell XPS 15.
That performance translated to everyday use too. Whether I was getting work done with more than 20 tabs open in a browser while running apps in the background, or playing a game like “Tomb Raider” at its highest supported resolution, the Pro never seemed sluggish. The whirring fans, however, did get a bit loud when running “Tomb Raider,” but wasn’t noticeable otherwise while I was working.
If you frequently work outside of a traditional office setting or while travelling, you can expect to get several hours worth of work done on the MacBook Pro before you start scrambling for an outlet. The MacBook Pro lasted for around five-and-a-half hours when I used it for a regular day of work. That normally includes web browsing and using chat applications like Slack.
But battery life will always vary depending on the apps and programs you’re running and the system settings. When I tweaked a few settings, such as keeping the display brightness set at 75%, turning off the keyboard backlight, shutting off True Tone, and disabling dark mode, I found that I was able to get closer to six-and-a-half hours out of the MacBook Pro.
What did shock me, however, was how great the MacBook Pro’s speakers were.
The new 16-inch MacBook Pro’s speakers put the audio on other laptops I’ve been using to shame. The MacBook Pro, which has a new six-speaker sound system compared to the 15-inch Pro’s four speakers, offers boisterous, clean audio with rich depth. It made the Dell XPS 15 sound hollow and shallow in comparison.
I don’t usually listen to music, videos, or podcasts on my laptop without headphones. But the MacBook Pro makes me want to. And with the new MacBook Pro’s large size, I could easily see it becoming a fixture at my desk at home that I use for playing music or asking Siri requests, serving a similar purpose as an Echo Dot.
Overall, the new MacBook Pro is the best Apple laptop you can buy for getting work done. But it’s still notably expensive compared to Windows alternatives.
With its revamped keyboard, larger, crisp screen, and fast performance, the new MacBook Pro is probably the best work laptop Apple has made so far. After using it in place of my 13-inch MacBook Pro from 2017, I’m finding it difficult to go back – especially considering the new Pro’s keyboard has been so drastically improved.
If you’re a devoted Apple user that isn’t open to switching to Windows and wants a large, powerful laptop with a reliable keyboard, the new MacBook Pro is probably worth splurging on. Given its roomy display and high-quality audio, I can imagine it being a particularly compelling choice for those editing video, music, or photos.
But if you’re not partial to Apple, there are Windows-based options that will get you more for your money, particularly when it comes to the display. A configuration of Dell’s XPS 15 that’s priced the same as Apple’s entry-level 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with a more powerful processor (eight-core Intel Core i9 versus the Pro’s six-core Intel Core i7), more storage space (1TB compared to the MacBook Pro’s 512GB SSD), and a 4K OLED screen.
But the new 16-inch MacBook Pro does make Apple’s high-end laptop a better value for the price. Apple’s older 15-inch model was available for the same $US2,400 base price, but included a smaller screen, a less-capable speaker system, and the less-comfortable butterfly keyboard.
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