I probably shouldn’t admit that I bought the new 16-inch MacBook Pro with absolutely no intention of keeping it. I purchased a 27-inch iMac back in July and I’ve been very happy with that decision.
That said, I remember stating on The Sweet Setup a few years ago that the ultimate computer would be a MacBook Pro that could power a 5K display. It didn’t take long for my dream to come true — the 2016 MacBook Pro was completely capable of driving a 27-inch 5K display and it had power left to spare.
It looked like that 2016 MacBook Pro was the one to rule them all. But of course, it came with the biggest caveat in the history of Apple’s MacBooks: the keyboard.
It didn’t matter that the MacBook Pro was capable of driving a 5K display — since you couldn’t type on the keyboard without worry of damaging the notebook, everything was moot. I resorted to using the MacBook Pro in clamshell mode for 95% of its life just so I didn’t push that keyboard to its brink.
Fast forward to 2019 and we have a 16-inch MacBook Pro capable of driving a 6K display1 and this new MacBook Pro has a functioning keyboard.
I finally have the MacBook Pro of my dreams.
Of course, it’s too little too late for me — the iPad Pro is far and away powerful enough to meet my needs when I’m out-and-about and there’s no long-term reality of this new MacBook Pro in my life.
So, with that out of the way, here are three quick first impressions from my first eight or so hours with the new 16-inch MacBook Pro.
On the new keyboard: This new keyboard is indeed everything we had hoped the 2016 MacBook Pro’s keyboard would have been — functional, initially reliable, quiet, and with relatively normal key travel.
I’ve read other reviewers suggest that this new scissor-mechanism keyboard combines the best of the butterfly keyboard and the 2015-and-prior scissor keyboard. I think this is a strong reflection of the typing experience, but I don’t agree entirely. Key stability is far and away improved in comparison to the pre-2015 keyboard, but this keyboard is definitely not as stable as butterfly keyboards. If you roll your finger over top of the space bar, there’s a definite wobble to be had. Each individual key has the slightest wobble as well. This wobble was never present in the butterfly keyboard. All this to say, the scissor keyboard is not as stable as the butterfly keyboard.
But wobbles aside, this keyboard has been a dream to type with so far today and I’m excited to be able to write my papers and the rest of this month’s blog posts with it.
On the new display size: I didn’t think 16 inches would mean all that much when compared to the 15.4-inch display of the 2016 MacBook Pro (and I especially didn’t think it would be noticeable after watching as many YouTube videos I could on the matter). But in person, the 16-inch display does feel more expansive. It’s entirely bigger, entirely brighter, and entirely more capable.
I’m a sucker for a massive 27-inch display for both PDF/research purposes and for photography purposes. But combine this 16-inch MacBook Pro with macOS Catalina’s new Sidecar capabilities with an iPad Pro and there’s enough screen real estate for most of my significant workflows.
Had this MacBook Pro been around in July, I probably wouldn’t have bought an iMac.
On the new size and heft: My very first impression of this new MacBook Pro came when the delivery man handed me the box. The box was so much bigger and so much heavier than I ever expected. Even after unboxing, I’m noticing the heft and density of this notebook every time I pick it up.
I wouldn’t venture to say the 16-inch MacBook Pro is more akin to the 17-inch MacBook Pro from years back than it is to the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro, but it’s closer than I thought. This is a hefty notebook and one you won’t be able to hide in your messenger bag.
I’m planning on putting this new machine through the paces over the next few weeks and I’ll put together my more complete thoughts for early December on The Sweet Setup.
In the meantime, I’m sure glad I can finally say the MacBook Pro is a worthwhile recommendation again. After three-plus years of steering people away from Apple’s flagship notebook, I think it’s fair to say the MacBook Pro is back in the game.
And two of them, at that! ↩