My best Mac hot take in 3-2-1: The 16-inch MacBook Pro was totally built for me. However, so was the 14-inch MacBook Pro. And probably the 15-inch MacBook Air. And for sure the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air as well. There’s no doubt I (would) love all the latest machines from Apple.
And so would you! Each machine has been undoubtedly fantastic since the debut of these M-series chips.
Perhaps never in my life have I ever felt so “ho hum” about a Mac change. In 2009, the 15-inch Intel Core 2 Duo Pro was the best Mac for me. Not long after, the 21.5-inch iMac was best for me. Then surely the 11-inch MacBook Air with Thunderbolt Display was the best setup for me. Then the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Then the 27-inch iMac. Then the 14-inch MacBook Pro.
Every Mac change immediately signalled the very best Mac setup for me.
This M2 Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro bucks the trend. It’s not a slam dunk winner for me. It has great trade-offs for what I use a Mac for. But it has some bad trade-offs as well.
My experience doesn’t differ greatly between the 14-inch MacBook Pro and the 16-inch MacBook Pro. I use them in the same places for the same things. There are new “awesomes” and new “terribles” in the experience and that’s it.
First, screen real estate — This is the single largest difference between the two computers. There are a few ramifications in my life:
- I can better place a full PDF on one half of the screen and a tax return or an Excel worksheet on the other. This largely eliminates the need for an external display for some of my work-from-home work.
- Editing photos on the larger display is a nicer experience. I won’t say “better”. Just nicer.
- I use Arc a lot in split-screen mode when completing year-end engagement work, which is vastly improved on the 16-inch display.
Second, ergonomics — The larger display seems to have changed ergonomics for me. The display sits at a sharper angle to my eye and my shoulders aren’t as shrugged as when working on the smaller 14-inch machine. I can work for longer periods of time on the 16-inch thanks to this improvement in ergonomics.
Third, muscle memory — I’m surprised how often I find myself searching for the Escape key or the right arrow key at the edge of the MacBook Pro body and come away pressing the wrong key, simply because of the extra space between the keyboard and the edge of the 16-inch chassis. I’ll learn to get over this. For now, I find it impressively annoying how often I press the wrong key.
Fourth, battery life — Perhaps the most surprising difference between the two machines to me is the difference in battery life. I work in Parallels all day, ensuring I have battery-sipping macOS paired side-by-side with a battery-gulping Windows VM all day long. Parallels sucks battery life. It gets better with each release, but it sucks battery life. The extra three or four hours of video viewing time the 16-inch provides translates into a noticeable amount of extra Parallels battery life. This has been such a nice surprise.
Fifth, the size itself — I hadn’t realized how often I move my MacBook between workstations until I threw a 16-inch MacBook Pro into the mix. I take the notebook home every evening with me. I move it between my office and the conference room about once a day. I’ve taken it on a family holiday. This MacBook gets moved around a lot more than I originally thought, and I pay the price each time I pickup this 16-inch beast.
Not only is the 16-inch larger both on a footprint basis and on a weight basis, but it’s also thicker than the 14-inch Pro. Why, I’m unsure. But this notebook is bigger in every dimension and you can sure feel it.
Lastly, trackpad size — The 16-inch Pro’s trackpad is ginormous — almost laughably so. It’s about one centimetre shorter than the external Magic Trackpad, which I’ve always found to be unwieldy and too big. It’s easier to rest the meat of your thumb muscle on the trackpad and cause the occasional inadvertent swipe. It also changes muscle memory habits in knowing where you are on the trackpad when clicking and dragging objects around.
I’m largely indifferent to the overall size of the trackpad. It’s just different and is taking some getting used to.
All in all, I’m happy with the M2 Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro so far. It’s ever so slightly faster than my M1 Pro before it. And it introduces a variety of new pros and cons to my everyday work. I’ll need a full year to know whether or not I’d re-buy a 16-inch in the future or go back to the 14-inch. For now, I’m overall happy with the tradeoffs.