Apple MacBook Pro 16 Review: Serious computer, serious price
Apple recently released the latest in its long running line of MacBook Pro laptops. While Apple has somewhat muddied the water around what it means by “Pro” with the release of the Apple iPhone 11 Pro and Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max phones, in the laptop space, they’re very definitely meant for folks who need particularly high-end computing power.
That’s especially true for the new MacBook Pro 16 inch model, which ships with either ninth generation Core i7 or Core i9 processors. While Apple has offered some lower-tier processors in earlier MacBook lines, the MacBook Pro 16 only comes in configurations that offer plenty of power.
One catch here is that everything in the MacBook Pro 16 is absolutely soldered in place, and that means that while you can order them with different RAM and hard drive storage configurations, there’s no user-upgradeable parts in them at all. The baseline model of either the Core i7 or Core i9 MacBook Pro 16 comes with 16GB of RAM, but you can bump that up to 32GB or 64GB for a price if need. Likewise, storage starts at 512GB onboard, but it’s possible to pack in as much as 8TB into one of these machines. Again, have your credit card ready for that if it’s needed.
In power terms, though, there’s no doubting the prowess of the MacBook Pro 16. I’ve been using one for audio and video editing work over the past few weeks, and it simply hasn’t missed a step the entire time. That’s even true of the battery, and that’s not something that’s usually the case for larger laptops like this.
While specification bumps under the hood are an essentially expected part of any year’s new computer models, Apple has also made some significant changes to the externals of the MacBook Pro with the 16-inch model. The display screen has minimal bezels, and as such it’s only slightly larger than the MacBook Pro 15 inch line it replaces. The speakers have been punched up a notch, and while you may not need them at work, they do work well for any after-work Netflix binges you may have planned. Just, you know, don’t tell the boss about that.
There’s also a seriously good inbuilt microphone on the MacBook Pro. If you work with pro-grade audio it won’t likely be enough for your tastes, but I recently used it as the backup recording methodology for the weekly podcast I produce, Vertical Hold and it performed very well indeed.
However, that’s not the biggest change in the MacBook Pro 16’s build. That’s in the form of what Apple calls the “Magic” keyboard. For the past couple of years, Apple’s sold all models of its MacBook line, including the Pro models with very flat keyboards using what’s called a “butterfly” style switch. They look good on a show floor, but the keys don’t move much, and many users – myself included – tended to find that they locked up more than they should if even the slightest bit of dust or grit got under them. For the MacBook Pro, Apple’s returned to a more conventional “scissor switch” style keyboard. The end result is a more comfortable typing keyboard that should also be considerably more durable. I’m hoping this means that future 13 inch models of the MacBook Pro will also include the Magic keyboard, but we’ll have to wait and see about that.
Are there downsides to the MacBook Pro 16? Like any 16-inch laptop, it’s large and somewhat heavy, weighing in at 2kg. That might not sound like much at the start of the day, but if you have to carry it around all day, you’ll be feeling that extra weight. Like Apple’s other MacBooks, charging is via USB C with 4 USB-C ports, and any of them can be the charging port. However, that’s your lot, so if you need an external card reader, optical drive or other connection, you’ll need an adaptor to do so. For such a large laptop, it feels like a waste to not have more connectivity running down the sides.
Then there’s the price, as I’ve already alluded to. Apple pitches the MacBook Pro 16 towards the professional crowd, and that’s a crowd that’s willing to pay Apple’s price. The entry level MacBook Pro 16 Core i7 will set you back a hefty $3,799, and the Core i9 model I’ve been testing out runs $4,399. That’s without RAM or storage upgrades, either. Were you so inclined, you could configure a top-end variant of this laptop that would set you back $9,679. You’d get a lot of laptop for that money – but if you spent that much, you’d expect that, wouldn’t you?