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MacBook Pro review (16-inch, 2019)

The 16-inch MacBook Pro delivers a great new keyboard, epic battery life and very impressive performance for a steep price.

Editor's Choice
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

The 16-inch MacBook Pro's Magic Keyboard, larger display and bigger battery make it a force to be reckoned with.

For

  • Magic Keyboard feels great
  • Larger 16-inch display with slimmer bezels
  • Best sound ever in a laptop
  • Serious power from 8-core Core i9 CPU
  • Epic battery life of nearly 11 hours

Against

  • Display not 4K
  • Heavier than 15-inch MacBook Pro
  • No full-size USB port or SD card

I’m typing this on the new 16-inch MacBook Pro using its new Magic Keyboard and I don't want to give it up. In fact, this keyboard is a revelation compared to Apple’s highly criticized Butterfly keyboards. There’s more travel, a cushier feel. It just feels right.

The bad news? The MacBook with the best keyboard starts at $2,399, and my review unit costs $2,799. To be fair, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is for serious creative pros with more demanding needs, like coders, video editors and game developers. That’s why it has up to an 8-core Core i9 processor, up to 64GB of RAM and up to 8TB of storage. You also get a huge 16-inch Retina display with slimmer bezels and a crazy powerful 6-speaker audio system.

Yes, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is overkill for my modest needs, but this machine is an absolute beast for power users and one of the best laptops you can buy.

16-inch MacBook Pro price and release date

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is available to order now from Apple and other retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy. The release date was November 15.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,399 for the standard model with a Core i7 CPU, AMD Radeon 5300M GPU and 512GB SSD. This model replaces the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which started at the same price. The $2,799 upgrades you to a faster Core i9 CPU, faster Radeon Pro 5500M graphics and 1TB SSD.

Our review model is quite steep at $3,899, as it offers 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD and the Radeon 5500M GPU with 8GB of RAM. That's pricey, especially when you consider a comparably configured Dell XPS 15 costs about $900 less.

Magic keyboard: This is frickin' awesome

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Before we get into the mechanics, let’s talk about the feel of this Magic Keyboard, which takes inspiration from Apple’s beloved desktop keyboards. The keys have a much softer feel than the last several MacBook Pros along with more travel. I didn’t feel any fatigue as I typed this review, composed emails or responded to Slack messages. 

To accomplish this transformation, Apple opted for a scissor mechanism, complete with a new keycap design that’s more concave and a rubber dome underneath each key for better stability and comfort. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

It’s not that I type much faster on the 16-inch MacBook Pro. I turned in 74 words per minute with a 96 percent accuracy rate, which only a bit better than my average. It’s that I actually enjoy using it, even though you have to use a bit more effort to hit the keys than the flat-as-hell Butterfly keyboards of yore.

Bonus: Apple included a real Esc key on this layout and an inverted-T setup for the arrow keys. Score.

Touch ID gets its own button

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I wish that the 16-inch MacBook Pro supported Face ID for logging in, Apple Pay and approving App Store purchases, but the Touch ID button works well and quickly. It's nice not to have to enter a password, and equally nice that this Touch ID button doubles as a power button.

16-inch MacBook Pro display: Sharper but no 4K

Given that the 16-inch MacBook Pro was explicitly designed to edit 4K video -- in fact, it can handle up to 11 4K streams simultaneously -- I’m bummed that this panel doesn’t have 4K resolution. 

You get a resolution of 3072 x 1920 MacBook Pro, compared to 2880 x 1800 for the 15-inch MacBook Pro. That's a difference between 226 ppi for the new MacBook Pro and 220 ppi for its predecessor.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The slimmer borders makes content pop more, whether you’re editing video or binge watching shows. When watching a trailer for The Mandalorian, I could make out the fine vents on the dirtied Storm Trooper helmets mounted on spikes.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

True pros will appreciate the ability to change the refresh rate on the display. This is important for editors who want the refresh rate to match the frame rate of their content.

Based on our lab testing, the 16-inch MacBook Pro's screen can reproduce 113.9% of the sRGB color gamut, which is good. However, the OLED and non-OLED version of the XPS 15 scored 239% and 210%, respectively. The OLED version of the HP Envy x360 reached 258%.

The panel on the 16-inch MacBook Pro is one of the most accurate around, as it turned in a Delta-E score of 0.27. A score of 0 is perfect.

In terms of brightness, the 16-inch MacBook Pro's display registered 429 nits, which is very bright but below Apple's 500-nit rating. The OLED panel on the Dell XPS 15 reached a much higher 626 nits, and the non-OLED 4K model hit 418 nits, which is just below the MacBook Pro.

The HP Envy x360 15 with OLED was also very bright at 483 nits, while the Razer Blade Pro 17 averaged only 267 nits.

Design: Slimmer bezels and a (slightly) larger footprint

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

If you’ve grown tired of the Apple slab-of-aluminum laptop aesthetic, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is not going to win you over. But this machine does look a bit more modern than other MacBooks, thanks to slimmer size bezels around the screen. 

As someone who commutes on a crowded bus for nearly two hours each way (really), I was pretty shocked that I could work on this system without pissing off the person sitting next to me. That’s because the overall footprint on the 16-inch MacBook Pro is only 2 percent bigger than the 15-inch model.

You are making some trade-offs here, though. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is slightly thicker and a bit heavier than the 15-inch model at 4.3 pounds versus 4.02 pounds.

The new Pro measures 14.09 x 9.68 x 0.64 inches, compared to 13.75 x 9.48 x 0.61 inches for its predecessor. The XPS 15 weighs 4.5 pounds and measures 1.1 x 9.3 x 0.5-0.7 inches.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Ports

This doesn't seem very Pro to me. You get four Thunderbolt 3 ports with USB-C connections with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. That's nice, but I wish Apple found a way to squeeze in a microSD card or SD Card slot for photographers, as well as a full-size USB port. If you have full-size USB cables for other peripherals, you'll have to keep living that dongle life. 

6-speaker audio blows away other laptops

Other laptop makers need to go back to the drawing board. The 6-speaker sound system on the 16-inch MacBook Pro has the best sound I've ever heard on a laptop.

This system offers beefier bass that’s half an octave deeper, thanks to force cancelling woofers that also minimize vibrations even when you max out the volume.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

When I played 311's Beautiful Disaster with my wife in another room, she didn't believe me that the audio was coming from a laptop. In fact, the sound is much richer and fuller than the first-gen Echo Show that sits in our kitchen. I got a similar reaction when playing The Mandalorian trailer from in our office, as I heard several people say "wow."

Podcasters and musicians will definitely appreciate the 16-inch MacBook Pro's studio-quality, 3-mic array. Apple says there's 40 percent less hiss. Personally, I just want to be able to attend Google video calls without having to wear a dorky headset, and this system would let me do that.

To try out the mics, I conducted a live video interview on Cheddar without donning a headset, which is usually a big no-no for any sort of broadcast. And yet my voice came through loud and clear during the segment.

16-inch MacBook Pro performance

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is one of the most powerful laptops in its class. You can take your pick between a 6-core Core i7 processor or an 8-core Core i9 CPU. And while you get 16GB of RAM to start this system can handle up to 64GB of memory. Our review model had 32GB, which should be plenty for most applications.

16-inch MacBook Pro Tech Specs

Price: From $2,399
CPU: 9th gen Core i7, 9th Gen Core i9
RAM: 16GB (up to 64GB)
Storage: 512GB to 8TB
GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M (4GB), Radeon Pro 5500M (up to 8GB)
Display: 16 inches (2072 x 1920 pixels)
Battery: 100-watt-hour up to 11 hours
Size: 14.1 x 9.7 x 0.64 inches
Weight: 4.3 pounds

Apple includes a fairly robust 512GB of SSD storage in the starting configuration and 1TB in the $2,799 model. But you can configure the 16-inch MacBook Pro with up to an 8TB SSD. Our model has 2TB. 

On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the 16-inch MacBook Pro scored 7,250, which is a bit lower than the 7,584 from the Dell XPS 15 (with a 2.4-GHz Core i9 processor, 32GB of RAM and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU).

Video editors will appreciate the might of the the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It took Apple's system a mere 8 minutes to transcode a 6.5GB 4K video to 1080p, which is the same amount of time the Dell XPS 15 took. The Razer Blade Pro 17 took a longer 10:39, though that system had a slower Core i7 CPU.

As per usual, Apple offers some of the fastest SSDs in the world. On the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, the 16-inch MacBook Pro turned in a write speed of 2,805 MBps and a read speed of 2,540 MBps. By comparison, the Dell XPS 15 scored 2,224 MBps and 2,116 for write and read.

On the graphics front, the 16-inch MacBook Pro should be able to handle any workload with ease. The AMD Radeon Pro 5300M is the starting GPU but you can upgrade to the Radeon 5500M and max out with 8GB of video RAM, which is what our review model has.

On The Rise of the Tomb Raider game benchmark, the 16-inch MacBook Pro turned in a pretty good frame rate of 27.2 fps with the resolution set to 1920 x 1200 at the very high graphics preset.

The Dell XPS 15 notched 19.54 fps with the same preset. However, when we set the texture quality to very high on the MacBook Pro (which is on by default on the Dell), the MacBook Pro's frame rate dropped to a comparable 19.6 fps.

16-inch MacBook Pro: Biggest battery you can get

The biggest laptop you can legally include in a laptop is 100-watt-hours. And that's exactly what you get with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Apple says you should expect up to 11 hours of web surfing time, which would be pretty impressive for a 16-inch laptop.

On our battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the 16-inch MacBook Pro endured 10 hours and 55 minutes. That's excellent battery life for a big-screen laptop and outlasts competing Windows systems.

The non-OLED, 4K version of the Dell XPS 13 lasted 8 hours and 48 minutes, and the OLED version lasted 8:07, so we're talking about at least a 2-hour difference. The OLED version of the Spectre x360 15 lasted a meager 7 hours and 46 minutes, and the non-OLED Spectre x360 lasted 8:09. 

Unfortunately, Apple doesn't make any claims about fast charging. The 16-inch MacBook Pro's power brick is pretty beefy, though, as it's a 96W USB-C power adapter in the same size as the 15-inch MacBook Pro's 87W adapter.

Bottom line

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has the keyboard every Apple laptop should have. And I really do hope that Apple brings this keyboard to the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, as superior ergonomic comfort should not be a premium feature. But that's just the way it is for now. There are plenty of other reasons to splurge on this laptop, including its vivid 16-inch display with narrower bezels, amazing audio system and epic battery life.

This is also a very powerful notebook, thanks to the combination of Core i9 muscle, gobs of RAM and one of the fastest SSDs in a laptop. It's up to you to decide how much oomph you need — and how much extra you're willing to pay above the $2,399 starting price. The only strikes against the 16-inch MacBook Pro are the sheer expense and the lack of legacy ports that some pros would appreciate.

If you're on the fence between Windows and macOS, the Dell XPS 15 is a compelling MacBook Pro alternative, as it offers comparable performance, a keyboard with even more travel and an OLED display for hundreds less. But if you are set on a Mac and demand a large canvas for work and play, the 16-inch MacBook Pro should satisfy for years to come.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Beyond the keyboard, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has all the makings of a dream machine for content creators. The display looks stellar (even though it's not 4K), the speakers sound amazing and you should have more than enough oomph here for photo editing, video editing, coding and even developing games on the go. 

I also appreciate the 16-inch MacBook Pro's bigger battery, improved microphones and helpful macOS Catalina features like Sidecar, which allow you to use an iPad Pro as a secondary display. 

Stay tuned for our full rated review, but based on my initial impressions I think MacBook Pro fans will covet this machine. And if you don't have $2,399 and up to spend on your next laptop? Do not try the 16-inch MacBook Pro in an Apple store; you won't want to type on anything else.