Apple 16in MacBook Pro (2019) full review

The rumours were true. Apple has replaced the 15in MacBook Pro with a model with a 16in display. Apple’s new 16in MacBook Pro offers a higher-resolution screen, a redesigned keyboard, improved performance, more RAM and storage, and a better sound system.

As for what’s stayed the same, the price of the entry-level 16in model is exactly what the 15in model was: £2,399/$2,399.

In this comparison we will look into every aspect of each laptop so you can see exactly what benefits the new 16in MacBook Pro brings.

If you are wondering whether to buy a 15in MacBook Pro, which you will still be able to purchase from Amazon and others, or a new 16in MacBook Pro, or if you are wondering whether to update from your 15in MacBook Pro, you have come to the right place. Read on.

16in MacBook Pro

What’s new?

We’ll go into more detail about the physical differences and the changes to the components in the various sections below, but in summary, this is how the two sizes of MacBook Pro compare.

Before we start, we want to highlight that while the 15in MacBook Pro has always been referred to as a 15in model the actual screen measurement is 15.4in. So, it’s close to a half inch, rather than the full inch difference.

Nor is this the largest MacBook Pro Apple has ever made. That was the 17in MacBook Pro, which was discontinued back in 2012. If you are interested in how the new model compares to that we will mention that model in our dimensions section. It is an interesting comparison especially if you were the owner of a 17in MacBook Pro and have been desperately awaiting the new model.

However, what really matters is that while it now boasts a 16in screen, the MacBook Pro is actually only a fraction larger than the 15in MacBook Pro. That’s thanks to the slimmer bezels around the screen. Sat side-by-side the 16in MacBook Pro looks bigger than it’s older sibling when the screen is open, but once shut there’s very little difference in size and weight.

In terms of specs, not so much has really changed. Here’s how the specs compare.

16in MacBook Pro specs

There are two standard configurations, with the entry-level model starting at £2,399/$2,399 and the more powerful option at £2,799/$2,799.

  • Screen: 16in diagonally
  • Resolution: 3,072 x 1,920 at 226 pixels per inch
  • Dimensions: 34.79cm x 24.59cm x 1.62cm, 2kg
  • Finish: Silver or Space Grey
  • Processors: 9th-gen Core i7 2.6GHz processor with six cores or 9th-gen Core i9 2.3GHz processor with eight cores, 2.4GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor (BTO: £180)
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4, 32GB (BTO: £360),  64GB (BTO: £720)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics with 4GB RAM, or with AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics with 4GB or 8GB RAM (BTO: £90)
  • Storage: 512GB, 1TB SSD, 2TB SSD (BTO: £360), 4TB (BTO: £900), 8TB (BTO: £1,980)
  • Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
  • Battery: 11 hours

15in MacBook Pro spec

As with the new 16in model, there are two standard configurations. The entry-level model starts at £2,399/$2,399 and the more powerful option is £2,799/$2,799.

  • Screen: 15.4in diagonally
  • Resolution: 2880x1800 at 220 pixels per inch
  • Dimensions: 34.93cm x 24.07cm x 1.55cm, 1.83kg
  • Finish: Silver or Space Grey
  • Processors: 9th-gen Core i7 2.6GHz processor with six cores or 9th-gen Core i9 2.3GHz processor with eight cores, 2.4GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor (BTO: £180)
  • RAM: 16GB 2400MHz DDR4, 32GB (BTO: £360)
  • Graphics: Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory (BTO)
  • Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB (BTO: £180), 2TB (BTO: £540), 4TB SSD (BTO: £1,260)
  • Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
  • Battery: 10 hours, 83.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

As you can see from the specs above, the processor options are the same, but the graphics card is better. There is also double the storage as standard.

There are also some new build-to-order options, such as the 64GB RAM option, the ability to increase the memory RAM which comes with the graphics card, and a 8TB SSD. Of course if you added all these components you would have a big bill: £5,769.

MacBook Pro models compared

Price and where to buy

A new 16in MacBook Pro will cost you at least £2,399/$2,399 (buy one from Apple here). You may be wondering if that price is good. It’s certainly good news that Apple has kept pricing the same as it was for the 15in model. That price is still high, but it’s normal to pay a premium to buy a pro-laptop.

Given that there had been rumours that the 16in MacBook Pro could cost a staggering £3,000/$3,000 it’s great that Apple has managed to keep the price down.

If you need a powerful machine, but don’t want to spend as much, you might want to consider the iMac as you could potentially get comparable spec for less.

For example, the top of the range 27in iMac offers a 3.7GHz 6-core 9th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Radeon Pro 580X with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, and Retina 5K 5120x2880 P3 display. Of course it lacks the portability of a MacBook Pro. It costs £2,249. So £150 less than the £2,399 MacBook Pro. A saving of £150 doesn’t strike us as a good reason to choose the iMac. Read our iMac versus MacBook Pro comparison for more information though.

While Apple has discontinued the 15in MacBook Pro, you will still be able to buy one, and you should expect to see some good discounts on the new model. Check out our Best MacBook Pro deals article.

For example, you can buy a 15in MacBook Pro from Amazon here for around £2,154  From time to time Apple sells 15in MacBook Pros on the Apple Refurbished Store here (although currently there are only 13in models available).

Specs and features

As we mentioned already, the specs haven’t changed a great deal. Aside from the larger SSD, better graphics card, the improved keyboard and the changes to the speakers, most of the components are the same as before.

However, it’s important to note that while these components may be the same inside the machine things have changed. Apple has given the MacBook Pro’s innards a redesign, with reimagined thermal management. That translates to a 35% larger heat sink, 28% more airflow, and allows for an additional 12 more watts of power (there is a 96watt power adapter, rather than the older 84watt option).

Display

The display may be a disappointment for those who were hoping for a 4K resolution. Many of the MacBook Pro’s rivals already offer 4K displays (at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels) but Apple has chosen to offer a resolution of 3,072 x 1,920 because it will result in a much longer battery life compared to a 4K display. Apple doesn’t think you will notice the difference on a 16-inch screen compared to a 4K resolution.

The display is still great though, and it does boast 13% more pixels than the 15in model, which had a 2,880 x 1,800 pixel count.

As previously, it can output 500nits of brightness. Plus, the colour gamut hasn’t changed - the display is still aligned with the DCI-P3 standard used for digital cinema rather than the Adobe RGB gamut.

There is support for two 6,016x3,384 XDR Displays this time round though.

New Apple XDR Display

Processor

The 16in MacBook Pros feature a 9th-gen Core i7 2.6GHz processor with six cores and a Turbo Boost of 4.5GHz, or a 9th-gen Core i9 2.3GHz processor with eight cores and a Turbo Boost of 4.8GHz. There’s also a build-to-order 9th-gen Core i9 2.4GHz processor with eight cores and Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz.

These are the exact same 9th-gen Coffee Lake revision 2 processors as Apple added to the 15in MacBook Pro back in June 2019.

However, because of the changes in thermal management (and a few other factors) you can expect to see an improvement even when comparing like-with-like. In fact when we compared the 16in MacBook Pro with Core i9 2.3GHz, eight cores, 16GB DDR4 RAM, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics with 4GB RAM, and an 1TB SSD with the 15in MacBook Pro with the better Core i9 2.4GHz, eight cores, 32GB DDR4 RAM, AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics with 4GB RAM, and a 4TB SSD and found that the newer model was better. (Take a look at the benchmarks in our 16in MacBook Pro review.)

If you are wondering why the new 16in model has the same processor there is a simple reason for that. The 10th generation Intel chips (known as Ice Lake) that would be used aren’t available yet.

Graphics

The graphics options have changed in the newer models. You will now find AMD Radeon Pro 5300M or 5500M graphics with a choice of 4GB or 8GB of its own RAM.

The 15in MacBook Pro offered either a Radeon Pro 555X or Radeon Pro 560X, both with 4GB of GDDR5 as standard.

There were also the following build-to-order options previously:

  • Radeon Pro Vega 16 with 4GB of HBM2 memory (+£225)
  • Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory (+£315)

According to a press release from AMD, the new AMD Radeon Pro 5500M and 5300M mobile GPUs will "provide groundbreaking levels of graphics performance for video editing, 3D content creation and macOS-based game development."

This is still a dual graphics machine, so there are integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 inside as well. The Mac can switch between the two graphic options, thereby saving battery life when the faster card isn't required.

You may also want to consider adding an eGPU to your MacBook Pro. Here's how to use an eGPU with a Mac

RAM and storage

As standard RAM hasn’t changed from the 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory, there is still a 32GB RAM build-to-order option, but now there is an additional 64GB of DDR4 RAM build-to-order option.

There is also a new 8TB SSD build-to-order option.

Keyboard & Touch Bar

Apple’s had its fair share of problems with the previous keyboard design leading it to offer free keyboard repairs to customers. You can read more about the problems with the butterfly keyboard mechanism in our article here.

Suffice to say Apple has attempted to address the issue by going back to the drawing board - or at least by adopting the Magic keyboard that features with the iMac Pro as inspiration. We haven’t spent enough time with the new keyboard to comment on whether it is better, but it does seem to tick a lot of our boxes, including longer key travel (so you know you are typing).

Keyboard

Other changes to the keyboard, and the Touch Bar above it include a dedicated ESC key, which was apparently a popular request from creatives. The Touch ID pad is also separate now.

If you were hoping for a touch screen then you will be disappointed. We think it would be more useful than the Touch Bar but Apple doesn’t. So there you go.

Speakers

The sound of the 16in MacBook Pro sound is much fuller and warmer thanks to changes to the speakers. There is a six speakers high-fidelity sound system with force‑cancelling woofers. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack if you were concerned about that.

Battery life

The battery inside the 16in MacBook Pro is a 100-watt-hour battery, which is 16 more watts that previous system. Apple claims 11 hours of battery life.

Ports & connectivity

The 16in model offers the same port configuration, including the headphone jack. So you’ll still find four Thunderbolt 3 (USB‑C) ports.

The big change here is that the MacBook Pro now has a 96W power adapter. The 15in MacBook Pro used a 87W adapter.

The new MacBook Pro still offers 802.11ac wireless networking. Apple's not introduced 802.11ax (aka Wi-Fi 6) yet.

MacBook Pro 16 v 15in

Verdict

if you bought either the 2018 or 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro, there’s little reason to upgrade yet unless you are desperate for the bigger display. On the other hand, if you’re Mac laptop is a few years old this is a good time to upgrade, unless you would rather wait until 2020 to see if Apple updates it to new Intel’s 10th gen processors when they finally arrive.

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