The 16 inch Macbook Pro. Holy moly, Apple actually listened!
It is an understatement to say that Apple has been struggling recently with the Macbook Pro line of laptops, and frankly isn’t news to anyone at this point. But as a quick recap, here are the 3 main areas of controversy…and controversy is a carefully chosen word here. The sentiment has ranged from Apple apologists blaming recent Macbook Pro throttling issues on users running unoptomised software, to coffee shop screen writers who didn’t notice and couldn’t care less. There were other issues with faulty butterfly keyboards that even some coffee shop warriors couldn’t ignore. Sentiment here flared up into such an outcry that Apple actually extended the repair program for this generation of Butterfly keyboards.
The 3rd issue really depended on with whom you talked to, and that was the Touch Bar. Again, some could care less, some hated it and wanted physical keys, and others merely wished for at least a physical escape key.
So above all else, these 3 areas; thermal performance, the Butterfly keyboard, and the Touch Bar were by far the most controversial areas begging Apple’s attention, and in a surprising change of recent course, Apple appears not only to have listened, but to have actually made the necessary changes to the new 16 inch Macbook Pro…along with some bonus goodies.
Look, I’m not one to pull punches when I think Apple is taking advantage of consumers. I went so far as to call the 2018 15 inch i9 Macbook Pro an outright scam. I’m no default PC fanboy either. The fact that the Microsoft Surface Pro STILL withholds Thunderbolt in favor of using the PCI express lanes for its own proprietary connector is frankly ridiculous in this day and age.
That being said, with no blind allegiance to any computer company, credit where credit is due. Apple deserves credit for listening and making the improvements in the 16 inch Macbook Pro, and Microsoft will deserve credit if they ever bring Thunderbolt to their Surface Pro.
But video above is about the 16 inch Macbook Pro and the credit Apple deserves for this specific product. So, let’s start with how Apple listened to the consumer and made critical improvements to known controversial areas.
1st, thermal performance. In previous Macbook Pros, physics itself was the main culprit in its aggressive throttling. There simply was not enough airflow or enough surface area to properly displace heat generated by the CPU and GPU. I and many, many others held the sentiment that this thinness war has gone too far. Not that we need to go back to 1998 laptop thick boys, but we’ll gladly take an extra millimeter here and there to improve performance. At the end of the day it makes no sense to market a computer as a Pro device then cripple performance for the sake of what really amounts to vanity. A professional won’t lose sleep over a millimeter of thickness but will lose sleep over potentially missing deadlines because that shaved millimeter amounts to increased render and export times.
So, mercifully, Apple has dramatically improved the thermal design in the 16 inch Macbook Pro. The 16 inch Macbook Pro is thicker, THANK YOU, than the 15 inch Macbook Pro. Here are the dimensions;
0.64 x 14.09 x 9.68 inches.
The 15 inch was 0.61 by 13.75 by 9.48 inches.
By all means this means the 16 inch Macbook Pro will still fit in most existing 15 inch model cases. At it’s widest about a quarter of an inch bigger. Your mileage may vary of course depending on your case.
The most important dimension perhaps being the extra .03 inches in thickness. It’s actually less than an extra millimeter of thickness, 0.762 millimeters to be exact. This means increased surface area of heatsinks and cooling fins, as well as increased fan size and performance. While the increased size versus the 15 inch Macbook Pro will be hard to notice unless they are directly side by side, the impacts on thermal design are vast. According to Apple, 28% more airflow over 35% more heatsink surface area resulting in a cooling capacity increase of up to 12 watts. 12 watts! 12 watts in devices like these is actually a major increase in headroom. To begin with, these CPUs are typically around 45w TDP. This means the processor can run faster and longer before throttling. Thermal benchmarks alone are going to be fascinating to say the least.
Now on to the keyboard. Apple calls it the “Magic Keyboard.” The magic will be whether or not it’s reliable, and only time will tell there. However, Apple has made improvements resulting in more key travel, 1mm to be exact. Besides reliability, the other complaint some users had with the Butterfly Keyboard is that the short key travel actually made it uncomfortable to type on for prolonged periods of time. While reliability is yet to be seen, comfort should be at the very least increased somewhat. My advice here would be to try it in a store and draw your own conclusions as far as comfort.
The last area of most controversy Apple has addressed is the Touch Bar, or rather its reduction in size to make room for a dedicated physical escape key. While I don’t think this will completely appease people who hate the Touch Bar in general, it is at the very least a welcome compromise.
So those are the major areas of controversy Apple has thankfully addressed. We’ll see how it all plays out after consumers have had it out in the real world for a few months.
Now onto some specs and goodies, and I’ll start with the goodies I am particularly excited for.
First are the microphones. I know most people could care less about the microphones as long as Siri can hear you and they work with Skype and FaceTime, but Apple claims that the array of 3 new microphones were designed to be comparable to entry level podcast microphones. The term “podcast” in reference to microphones is relatively meaningless. A decent microphone will be useful on a variety of sources, whether it’s voice overs or acoustic guitars. The point here is that the new built-in microphones should be comparable with decent entry level condenser microphones typically used for podcasters. So while I will always depend on external microphones when I can help it, it’s honestly VERY exciting to know the built in microphones could work in a pinch and provide decent results. In fact, this is likely the first thing I’ll test as soon as I get my hands on one. Make sure you’re subscribed to the Geek Therapy Radio Podcast so you don’t miss it whenever that happens. I take an extreme amount of pride in the audio production of my radio show and podcast, so we’ll see if the 16 inch Macbook Pro with its built-in microphones are up to snuff.
Speaking of sound, the speakers are improved as well. 6 speakers and new subwoofers that are Dolby Atmos ready. I don’t personally care about Dolby Atmos or any artificial psycho-acoustics for that matter, but it’s there if you want it.
So let’s talk about the screen for a moment. It measures 16 inches diagonally. Interesting to note however that the 15 inch Macbook Pro screen measures at 15.4, so you’re actually gaining an extra 6/10ths of an inch over the 15, not a full inch. Noticeable increase in size for sure, but it can be kind of confusing. Before lighting the torches and grabbing the pitchforks, I’m not blaming Apple alone for this. Every manufacturer does this. They usually advertise screen size based on its nearest measurement.
If you want to hold Apple to the coals because the 16 inch is only about a half inch bigger than the 15 inch, then you’d have to admit that the 15 inch is actually about a half inch BIGGER than advertised and nobody complains about an extra half inch…
On the 16 inch Macbook Pro, resolution increases to 3,072 x 1,920 and a PPI of 226, actually 6 PPI better than the 15 inch Macbook Pro. Typically PPI decreases with larger screens, but the 16 inch screen is slightly higher resolution to compensate.
The screen is filled with images provided by Intels integrated UHD 630 graphics of course, but also by a choice of dedicated GPUs. On the low end, AMD’s Radeon Pro M5300 or spec’d up to the M5500 with either 4 or 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM. Apple claims performance gains of up to 80% over the previous generation AMD Pro Vega 20. That’s a lofty claim, so we’ll see.
Elsewhere under the hood we get up to an 8 core 9th generation Intel I9 bursting up to 5ghz, and the improved thermal solution should definitely help there, though I highly, highly doubt we’ll ever see 5ghz under sustained load, but that’s not the goal anyway. The goal is to go as long as possible without throttling down to, or God forbid, below the 2.4ghz baseclock.
Memory sees a speed bump from 2400Mhz to 2666Mhz and configurable up to 64GB while storage can now be spec’ed all the way up to a gargantuan 8TB.
The battery has also been increased to the maximum legal limit of 100Wh and Apple says this is good for up to 11 hours of light use.
You still have 4 Thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack. While the headphone jack is cool, it is still baffling that the 16 inch Macbook Pro doesn’t at the very least have an SD card reader, because what Professional would ever conceivably need to transfer media using an SD card into a PRO device, right?
So, yeah. Still Dongle town for a lot of our external devices, nothing new there. I think most of us have accepted that reality by now. Still nice to see a headphone jack though.
There is still one controversy we’ll never agree on, and that is of the so called Apple Tax.
$2,400 gets you in the door, but fully spec’d model will result in a wallet pummeling $6,100. But let’s see what $2,400 gets you as this will likely be in line with what most 16 inch Macbook Pro buyers will choose, give or take.
A Six Core 9th generation i7 up to 4.5Ghz.
16GB DDR4 RAM
AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics with 4GB GDDR6 VRAM
A 512GB SSD
The 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports and headphone jack
And of course the new Touch Bar and improved keyboard.
To wrap this up, while there is certainly more polarizing areas of controversy when it comes to Apple products, I am at the very least impressed and hopeful in regards to Apple actually listening to the consumer and at least addressing the known issues with thermals, keyboards, and the Touch Bar. Whether or not these changes will solve every issue in the long run is yet to be seen, but the fact that Apple has at least acknowledged the issue is a welcome change of pace from a manufacture that not long ago told us the iPhone 4 had poor reception because we were holding it wrong. Basically that their product was find and the customers were the problem.
So, has Apple turned a new leaf? Are you willing to look at the 16 inch Macbook Pro now that Apple seems to care about customers again? Let me now in the comments below.
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And with that, take care and I’ll see you next time.