The good news for MacBook and MacBook Pro users is that Apple has finally capitulated and fixed, or at least improved, the low profile butterfly keyboards that have been causing headaches, and straight-up failing, since 2015. The bad news is that, for the time being, the only upgrade path available is the new monstrous 16-inch MacBook Pro that will cost you at least £2,400 for the privilege of having every letter on your keyboard reliably working.
That £2,400 will get you a 16-inch retina display, which Apple boasts is the largest high-res display it’s ever included in a laptop, 16GB of RAM, a 2.6GHz six-core Core i7 Processor, a 4GB AMD Radeon Pro 5300M GPU, and a roomy but easy to fill 512GB SSD drive. A pricier £2,800 version is also available, bumping the specs to a 2.3GHz eight-core Core i9 CPU with a 4GB Radeon Pro 5500M GPU and a 1TB SSD, but both options can further be upgraded to a 2.4GHz eight-core Core i9 processor, up to 64GB of RAM, a Radeon Pro 5500M 8GB GPU, and an SSD as large as 8TB — but expect to pay over £6,000 with all of those options maxed out.
As a Pro machine, the new 16-inch MBP certainly sounds like it’s got enough under the hood to satisfy professionals, be they video editors, photographers, or pixel pushers, but the lack of a built-in slot for SD memory cards is still a baffling omission for a mobile workstation like this. But at least with four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, you won’t feel so bad about having to waste one on a memory card reader.
Runtime is rated at 11 hours with the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s new 100-Wh battery which means the FAA will still allow you to carry it onto a plane (good luck trying to squeeze the laptop onto that seat back tray) and it’s powered up with a new 96-watt charger. But when it’s fully spec’d out with all the processor and GPU upgrades, don’t be surprised if you find you’re not quite getting 11 hours of use with more intensive applications.
As for that improved keyboard which Apple now calls the MacBook Pro’s Magic Keyboard (is “magic” now a synonym for “works properly”?), the company has abandoned the butterfly mechanism and returned to using a scissor mechanism, with one millimeter of travel, but with an improved keycap design that results in better stability with minimal key wobble. The Touch Bar lives to perplex another day, but it’s now shorter with a dedicated Escape key now making an appearance in the upper left corner of the keyboard again, and the Touch ID sensor on the opposite side.
All the extra real estate that comes with Apple’s larger MacBooks has meant they always perform admirably when it comes to sound, and the new 16-inch MacBook Pro includes a six-speaker sound system with “dual force-cancelling woofers” that promise better bass performance while reducing vibrations to improve the overall sound coming from the laptop. Apple’s also included an array of three microphones it claims can perform as well as external studio microphones do, although it’s doubtful podcasters or musicians are going to give up their existing hardware.
It sounds like a beast of a machine, but the new 16-inch MacBook Pro isn’t for everyone, and hopefully we’ll see smaller updates to the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air in early 2020 that include that Magic Keyboard.