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Just a few years ago Apple went from being above its competition to be slightly below what others have to offer, but being costlier overall. The loyal customers didn’t leave Apple during the hard times though but continue providing great feedback.
This hard effort showed some great results and here we are having what’s possibly the most refined Apple laptop ever – the 16” MacBook Pro. But what does it improve over the predecessor?
Apple’s design philosophy was always simple – remove as many unnecessary features and keep everything as clean as possible. We, users, love this, but the minimalism principle sometimes showed some bad impact on our productivity.
There’s not too much to complain about when it comes to connectivity and ports. Although machines such as ThinkPads indeed provide tons of ports, most of them won’t be useful to your average video editor or graphics designer, who this laptop is aimed at. There are four USB-C ports, all equipped to support the latest and fastest Thunderbolt 3 technology.
Of course, we’d be much happier had we seen the full-size USB-A ports, HDMI port and a card reader alongside the type C ports, but that’s how it is, not everything can be perfect.
Besides that, the 3.5mm headphone jack is not yet gone and that’s something you’d expect from a productivity machine.
Another very pleasant surprise we’ve seen is the insignificant change in the size and weight of this laptop. Although the laptop’s screen got a decent increase from 15” to 16”, the dimensions stayed almost identical. This is all thanks to the almost bezel-less design. This also has to be the largest screen ever since the 17” MacBook Pro which was discontinued in 2012.
Speaking of the screen, the resolution got bumped up as well! Although it is not quite as dense as a 4K screen, the 3,072 x 1,920 resolution this device packages is amazingly crisp. It gets decently bright as well, going up to 500 nits which may not be the brightest, but bright enough for all the purposes, without hurting the battery much.
All the mentioned improvements are good enough on their own, but the biggest improvement this mode brings is the keyboard. Butterfly switches were definitely not the most loved ones and they tended to let the users down a bit too often. The dark days are gone now since Apple decided to implement a scissor-switch mechanism found in the Magic Keyboard and we are loving it!
The keyboard is precise and doesn’t perform any unexpected actions and overall it is very comfortable to type on. There’s no protective membrane any more thankfully, making sure no problems get encountered on the journey of delivering your favorite texts. The escape character is back too, although that’s not something most of us are going to notice.
That is not where the keyboard changes end. The arrow keys are back to the classic layout, all having both the same width and length. Key travel was increased all the way up to 1mm and that makes it comparable to the Lenovo ThinkPad line-up, although we do feel like the spacing between the keys could be increased a bit.
What we don’t like about the keyboard is there are no function keys yet again. We get that Apple is trying to make the process of editing and interacting with applications as intuitive as possible, but the touch bar just gets in our way. If Apple really wants to allow us to use a touch screen, shouldn’t they give us one!?
This can supposedly be fixed by connecting your iPad as an extra screen, which is supported in the latest Mac OS version, but that leads to further expenses on top of this quite expensive product.
Performance & Internals
Not only does this MacBook have the best design ever seen on an Apple laptop, but it also packs some amazing performance. The specs improvements range from the graphics to memory, but we’ll start with the least interesting one.
The laptop comes in numerous different configurations, but the base model includes a six-core ninth-generation Core i7 but goes all the way up to the 8-core Core i9. This is not an improvement over the previous generation MacBook but is the best in class at the moment of writing this article.
This processor still beats most of the competition due to the proper cooling system Apple implemented in the laptop and allows the Core i9 model to reach almost 975 points in Geekbench 5 Single-Core benchmark and just over 6,030 points in the Multi-Core benchmark. This ensures even the power users won’t experience any lag, making it a go-to machine for 4K video editing or heavy modeling/CAD.
CPU didn’t see much improvement, but GPU did. Moving to the all-new AMD Radeon Pro 5500M, Apple could have made the buyers of their previous laptop upset. This GPU is not only newer, but it’s also faster about 100% in synthetic benchmarks and around 60-70% in real-world use.
There’s really not too much to say about it, the improvement is huge and definitely noticeable. Should the users of older laptops be mad though? We’d say no. Yes, the new GPU is miles faster when we’re talking numbers, but the old one was already good enough for its purpose and this one won’t make it feel dated by any means, it just performs heavy graphics tasks reasonably faster.
The powerful CPU and GPU have to be complemented by other components, and in this case, it has to be RAM and storage. For the first time ever, Apple provides us with an option to go up to the monstrous 64GB of RAM and 8TB of SSD storage! Plenty of storage suffices all the needs of an average user and justifies the lack of ports and you can be sure opening loads of tabs and apps will not be a problem with this one.
How all of this translates to the real-world is everything loads in a flash, from big files to heavy applications. Everything feels snappy and responsive, just like you’d expect a $2,500 machine to perform.
All described applies to thermal design as well. There’s no throttling, the device is cool and runs at full speed at all times, but no noise is present either. It really seems like Apple’s mastered this craft over the years and it really makes some Windows laptops feel like toys.
We can’t talk about performance and not mention the sound, after all, it’s a machine designed for professional use. This one exceeded all of our expectations, especially considering the size of its speakers which are very small. The sound coming from six build-in speakers is crisp and clear, allowing for some serious bass and no distortion.
It’s not what you’ll want to use for producing commercial video and audio, but for multimedia purposes, it does an excellent job! It’s not without competition and some Windows laptops can produce a bit better audio quality, but still, it’s top of the class product.
Besides speakers, we have to touch on the microphone which has undergone an improvement as well. Going without an external mic is definitely possible as the new microphone array allows for clear audio, picking up almost no noise at all. It does sound a bit tin, but exceptionally good for a built-in one.
Lastly, we’ll talk a bit about the battery, what’s the point of laptop if it doesn’t last long? Apple did yet another improvement in this area (huh, we’ve lost the count by now). The battery gets through the day easily, providing more than 10 hours of use, reaching even 11 in some cases.
We have to give credit to Apple for making this possible while keeping the laptop thin and light. Even though it’s not the best result around, it’s much lighter and thinner than the ThinkPad lineup, which happens to be the only one to beat it (not to say ThinkPads are bad, just that they are targeted at a different group of people).
In case you’re looking for a workstation machine that lasts through a whole day without any issues, not having to sacrifice any specs or features, this is the right choice for you. It does come with an appropriate price-tag, but that’s a trade-off you have to make to get the best out there.
In case ports and portability are your primary concern, we advise you to stay away from this one, but who knows, Apple may be preparing a treat for you as well in the coming months!