Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro offers more power, speed and sound at a familiar price

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Wed November 13, 2019

Apple just unveiled the 16-inch MacBook Pro. And, to much excitement, it features an all-new keyboard, a larger display, fast processors and impressive sound.

It's available today, starting at $2,399, and replaces the 15-inch MacBook Pro. However, it doesn't increase the price for the base models — and that's a new side of Apple that continues to provide value. I spent time with the new 16-inch MacBook Pro this morning. I'll get to my thoughts soon enough, but let's break down the two base models.

Specs that impress

$2,399 16-inch MacBook Pro

  • 16-inch Retina display with True Tone
  • 2.6GHz 6-core 9th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4 GB of video RAM
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • 512 GB SSD
  • Magic Keyboard with ESC key, Touch Bar and Touch ID

$2,799 16-inch MacBook Pro

  • 16-inch Retina display with True Tone
  • 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-Generation Intel Core i9 Processor
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4 GB of video RAM
  • 16 GB of RAM
  • 1 TB SSD
  • Magic Keyboard with ESC key, Touch Bar and Touch ID

That base model is likely a dependable machine that has more storage than the equivalent base of the 15-inch model. That's a big win, but there's more. You can upgrade the storage up to an 8 TB SSD, making this the first laptop to do so. It will cost $2,200, but if you need a truly mobile workstation, it's an option. You can also upgrade the processor and the RAM to a huge 64 GB. There's even an option to upgrade the graphics to have additional dedicated RAM for more processing power.

Additionally, there's a larger 100-watt lithium-ion battery inside the 16-inch that should provide around 11 hours of use. That's what Apple has found with its testing that consists of web browsing and video playback. It's an hour more than the 15-inch. The 16-inch ships with a larger 96-watt USB-C charger that keeps the same form. The battery also powers a larger display and the new processing unit.

Apple didn't just slot in the latest chipsets from Intel (either 6 or 8 core), but also redesigned the fans and thermal processing unit. This way it can better regulate the laptop and increase performance. In several demos, we saw multiple apps being developed and simulated in real-time. Affinity Photo was able to handle real-time rendering and the fan didn't kick in until the end. There's plenty of power with 16-inch, it seems.

Let's talk about the new keys

Simply put, Apple's previous generation Butterfly keyboard was not everyone's favorite. In fact, there's a quality replacement program for it. And while it wasn't everyone's favorite, it typed well with decent travel. But the 16-inch MacBook Pro has a new Magic Keyboard. And it's essentially the external keyboard that ships with the iMac Pro, brought over in a new form.

People can rejoice as it brings a physical ESC key back to the left-hand corner. I know I'll appreciate this, and chances are you'll like it. The Touch Bar is slightly smaller, but still offers suggestions and app-specific features. The Touch ID sensor on the top right side is a separate key (similar to the MacBook Air) and is easier to find.

And the keys themselves feel great. There's a new keycap that feels more tactile, has slightly rounded edges with a rubber dome underneath and a new scissor mechanism at the bottom. It's great to type on and feels punchy, so you don't feel the bottom depth of the key as fast. It feels more reactive. The new arrow keys follow an inverted T format and are much easier to hit properly, as well. Apple also increased the space between the top number keys and the touch bar, which should mean an end to accidental taps. I only spent a little time with it, but the Magic Keyboard is a terrific keyboard.

Display and sound

The big change with the MacBook Pro is right in the name: that's the 16-inch display. It means smaller bezels, which makes me overjoyed, and you'll get a larger display. It's still a True Tone Retina — so it will auto adjust the tone of the screen to make it easier on your eyes and Retina will give you a sharp picture. More specifically, it's a 3072x1920 resolution with 226 pixels per inch and a brightness of 500 nits. It also supports the P3 Wide Color Gamut, which pros will appreciate. I tried out the CNN Underscored home page, viewing photos and even video streaming in my quick demo. It's a vibrant display that offers deep blacks and excellent color reproduction.

Macs have had good sound, but the 16-inch takes it to another level. There are six speakers and two of them are dual force canceling woofers. These face toward each other and create deep bass that you can even feel on the case. Mixed in on the left side is a three-microphone array that should provide near studio quality. We'll need to test this further, but the speakers and microphones were super impressive in my demo. And it continues to cement the idea that this can be a mobile workstation, and especially for podcasters or those who record, it's really impressive. The soundstage is quite wide and a lot of the processing (aka noise) is removed.

That's the new 16-inch MacBook Pro in a nutshell. It's designed by pros and for pros, and has a price that meets it. I'm happy with the changes and the fact that it doesn't increase the price. The display is larger and sharper, the sound is room-filling and the new keyboard is a joy to use. It's available for order now at the listed retailers, some of which are offering it at a discount. And we'll be back with a full review before you know it, so keep an eye on CNN Underscored.

  • 16-inch MacBook Pro with 6-Core 2.6GHz Intel i7 Processor, Radeon Pro 5300M Graphics, 16 GBs of RAM and 512GB SSD ($2,229, originally $2,399; expercom.com)
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro with 6-Core 2.6GHz Intel i7 Processor, Radeon Pro 5300M Graphics, 16 GBs of RAM and 512GB SSD ($2,399; bhphotovideo.com)
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro with 8-core 2.3GHz Intel i9 Processor, Radeon Pro 5500M Graphics, 16 GBs of RAM and 1TB SSD ($2,599, originally $2,799; expercom.com)
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro with 8-core 2.3GHz Intel i9 Processor, Radeon Pro 5500M Graphics, 16 GBs of RAM and 1TB SSD ($2,799; bhphotovideo.com)

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.