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After almost a year’s worth of rumours, it looks like Apple is finally ready to take the wraps off its new 16-inch MacBook Pro, the next iteration in its high-end MacBook lineup that now replaces the venerable 15.4-inch model.
Apple announced the new MacBook Pro today via a press release, touting the high-end specs and “brilliant 16-inch Retina Display” that’s designed with developers, photographers, filmmakers, and more in mind, along with the redesigned keyboard that we’d been hearing about over the past few months.
Over the course of 2019, there’s been a lot of conflicting information about what Apple was up to with the 16-inch MacBook Pro, with reports as far back as last winter predicting that Apple was working on an “all-new design” for the 16-inch MacBook, suggesting an entirely new high-end product in Apple’s MacBook lineup that many believed would carry a premium price tag, and might even adopt bleeding edge technology like touch-based keyboards and Mini-LED screens.
As the rumours began to gain traction, however, it appeared that the 16-inch MacBook Pro that would be arriving this year wouldn’t be a radical design change, but rather something intended to replace the 15-inch model, likely featuring the same design — and possibly even the same dimensions — and simply incorporating a larger screen. Later reports suggested that Apple would use the new model to finally bid farewell to its beleaguered butterfly keyboards, moving to a redesigned version of its older scissor-switch mechanism, but it began to appear that other than the increased screen size, this would be the only radical change for the new MacBook.
Of course, the rumours that Apple is working on something more exciting may still be true, and this could easily just be another case of analysts and other sources conflating different products that Apple is working on; there are still reports that a bigger redesign in coming in 2021.
To be clear, it’s been a really busy year for Apple’s MacBook lineup. The company refreshed its higher-end MacBook Pros this past spring, bringing its 15.4-inch MacBook Pro up to insane levels of performance, and then in the summer we saw the Touch Bar come to the entry-level MacBook Pro and True Tone to the MacBook Air family.
Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro builds on the big changes made to the 15.4-inch model, and while the biggest and most obvious difference is the new display, which grows to an even 16.0 inches, this is far from the biggest improvement once you dive under the hood.
Of course, the display itself is nothing to scoff at, since Apple has managed to get it closer to the edges, providing a 3072 by 1920 native resolution at 226 pixels per inch. It’s a slight increase over the 220 ppi found on the 15.4-inch MacBook, and although it’s not enough for most users to notice, the extra 0.6 inches on the screen, and the smaller bezel makes for a larger canvas and a sleeker design. Naturally, the display also has all of Apple’s other signature MacBook Pro Retina Display features, including 500 nits of brightness, a P3 wide colour gamut, and True Tone colour accuracy.
Apple has also reinvented the keyboard, as promised, going back to its older style scissor switch mechanism that will hopefully signal the end of the longstanding problems that plagued the butterfly keyboard design it’s been using on its MacBooks for the past three to four years. The new keyboard provides 1mm of key travel and a stable feel, and Apple promises that it will deliver a comfortable and quiet typing experience. As predicted, there’s also a return to a physical Escape key and the more popular inverted-T arrangement for the arrow keys.
Under the Hood
Inside, the 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at a base configuration that includes a 2.6GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 CPU that can turbo boost at speeds of up to 4.5GHz, although like its 15-inch predecessor it can also be maxed out with a ninth-gen 2.4GHz octo-core Intel Core i9 that can boost up to 5.0GHz and features 16MB of shared L3 cache. Apple hasn’t added any more horsepower here, but it’s hard to imagine that most users need any more in their MacBook than what was already on offer.
That said, however, while Apple hasn’t bumped the CPU specs, it has made some interesting thermal improvements that promise to offer better sustained performance for demanding workloads. By redesigning the fan system with larger impellers, extended blades, and bigger vents, Apple has managed to increase airflow by 28 percent, and has also made the heat sink 35 percent larger. In practical terms, this means that the new MacBook Pro will be able to run at peak performance levels for longer periods of time, sustaining up to 12 watts more power, without needing to be throttled as often to prevent the CPU melting.
The GPUs do get a bump, however, with Apple now including the latest AMD Radeon Pro 5000M series chips, with GDDR6 video memory and up to 8GB of VRAM, which can be bumped up to AMD’s Radeon Pro 5500M which offers 80 percent faster GPU performance than the previous high-end MacBook Pro.
Apple has also bumped the SSD storage specs, with the base model now coming standard with a 512 GB SSD. More significantly, however, you can upgrade all the way up to an 8TB SSD inside, which makes the new MacBook Pro, according to Apple, the first notebook in the world to offer this much storage. This will be particularly important to pros with massive asset libraries.
The audio system in the new MacBook Pro has also been completely redesigned, and now features a six-speaker, high-fidelity sound system with Apple-patented force-cancelling woofers to reduce vibrations and sound distortions. It’s been designed with musicians, podcasters, and video editors in mind, and Apple hopes it will minimize or even eliminate the need to use external speakers for many projects. Along the same lines, the mic array has also been improved to reduce hiss and background noise, with Apple claiming that it now rivals professional-grade digital microphones.
The new 16-inch MacBook Pro can be ordered from the Apple Store online today and should be arriving in Apple Retail Stores later this week. The two standard configurations feature a 2.6GHz 6-Core CPU with a 512GB SSD and AMD Radeon Pro 5300M for $2,399 or a 2.3GHz 8-Core CPU with a 1TB SSD for $2,799 with the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M. Both models feature 16 GB of RAM and 4 GB of VRAM. If you want to max out the specs, however, Apple will let you configure one to order with a 2.4GHz 8-core 9th-gen Intel Core i9 CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory, 64GB of DDR4 RAM, and an 8TB SSD, which will run you $6,099.