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  • Bruce Burke

REVIEW - 2019 16" MacBook Pro

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

Specs: 2.3 GHz 8-Core Intel Core i9, 16 GB 2667 MHz DDR4,1TG SSD, Intel UHD 630

Solid, reliable, platform to work from - feels precise and durable - yet light enough to make mobile.

If you're like me you've had a number of laptops in your lifetime. And I've used them all - from Sony VAIO's to IBM Thinkpads. I've experienced decades of laptops - none have ever performed like this.

A beautiful aluminum chassis brings together an immersive 16" retina display, a spatial high fidelity audio experience, pro level computing power, and a wonderful keyboard deck area to work from. Everything is built to impress - this is the most professional laptop I've ever used.


New Magic Keyboard


I'm a pretty big guy - I'm 6'3" just under 200 lbs - so I need something big enough for me to work on. The first thing that I noticed when I opened the unit is the wide flat deck that holds a massive trackpad, with two large areas to rest my palms on either side. Above it a full-size keyboard (thank you for not including a ten-key on the right Apple). The keyboard is flanked with two finely drilled speaker grids. Topping it all off is the wildly useful Touch Bar above the keyboard with a dedicated Power/Touch ID button to the right and an independent escape key on the top left.



First let me say typing is a breeze, yes I am typing this on it now. Some of the features that contribute to the typing experience are the backlit keyboard - you don't know how much you miss this until you don't have it. I'm not a touch typist. These backlit keys and all cap font layout make finding the letter you want effortless.


Key travel is another contributing factor to the smooth typing experience. Although not clackity the keys have a pronounced landing bunk sound when they hit the bottom of travel. You know you did it but it's not annoying, even to others around you - its reassuring with a good grounded feeling.

I'd like to give credit where credit is due - making the Power/Touch ID button separate on this new model is a vast improvement over the integrated version in the 13" MacBook Pro I owned before.


Ditto for the dedicated escape key. Having these independent of the TouchBar removes some frustration I experienced with the 13" model. Touch ID is mandatory moving forward on any laptop I purchase. This model includes the new T2 chip that stores your data in a secure enclave on the local machine. This combined with Sign in with Apple, and Apple Pay makes transactions secure.


All this brought together makes for a pleasant interaction with the machine and anywhere it takes you on the Internet. Typing, logging-in, shopping, and editing is smooth and effortless.




16" Retina Display


For years I have bought 13" laptops, mostly due to weight considerations. But at 4.3 pounds this laptop is about half the weight of any of my previous 13" selections. And the screen real estate is as spacious as the western skies.


As I have gotten older, my eyesight is beginning to fade - but with 500 nits of brightness this beautiful display delivers an immersive experience. Over six million pixels combine to create 3270 x 1290 resolution with detail, clarity and definition. This is Apple's largest retina notebook display ever. Big, Beautiful and Bright - You can get lost in it very easily.


Higher Fidelity Audio Experience


Also as I am getting older my hearing isn't what it used to be. Sound on most laptops is irritating to my ears, it's tinny, muffled, under or overpowered, cheap, utilitarian and for me aggravating. Before starting to write this paragraph I took a break and watched a video on YouTube to remind me just how good this laptop sounds.

I pulled up a Major Lazer video featuring Nicky Minaj and turned it all the way up. The sound filled my bedroom, there was no distortion - vocals, bass, high notes all were clear as a bell and the MacBook sounds like a party is going on.


Patented force-cancelling woofers use dual opposed speaker drivers to reduce unwanted vibrations that distort sound. Apple says there is six speakers in this sound system - it sounds like a million. But I can't provide a demo here - go to an Apple store and check out this wonderful 3-D sound for yourself.



Advanced Thermal Design


I have been sitting here in my shorts propped up in bed with this laptop on my bare legs the whole time I've been typing this review. Before starting to write the review I did a couple of quick edits to the website and as I said earlier I took a break and watched the video. Just prior to commencing this paragraph was the first time I took a break from this project and moved the laptop because it started to get a little warm on my legs.


Although it does pull cool air in from the left and right and pushes warm out the back port - it only starts to feel warm after revving up the chip with full screen, high rez video and the music at full clip. Even running an i9 - this machine stays cool. I think it's important to note that Apple has retuned the thermal throttling from the previous year and the result is a machine that can turbo boost up to 5.0 GHz and yet still stay cool.


Bigger fan blades and larger vents combined with a 35% larger heat sink enables significantly better heat dissipation allow for more wattage without increased thermals.




Ninth Generation Processor


I'm not a code-compiler, or a video editor but I do web design, create graphics and attend a lot of online events and meetings. All of which are quite processor intensive. Now before I dive into talking about the processor in this model I want to say I know all about Apple's plans to move the MacBook line away from Intel.


I understand these new ARM based Apple Silicon MacBooks are going to be powerful, thin and light with great battery. Will I trade up? Probably not until they produce a 16" model. From my understanding the first units will be the 13" variant so we'll explore the whole ARM upgrade debacle in another post - for now I'm happy with the power this laptop has.


I never struggle with video and audio the way companions seem to in web meetings. I don't have to wait for machine - it's waiting for me. In most cases I feel like it's overkill, more machine than I need for writing a blog, editing an instagram image or uploading a presentation. The 8 core i9 is quite capable, its 2 times faster than a quad core MBP.




Designed For Pros


If you're a photographer, videographer, or engineer who deals with a lot of large files you'll be happy to note that you can get this laptop configured with up to an 8 TB drive. I have the standard config of 1TB, I currently have 884.06GB of storage available - again it's overkill but thats what it's all about, why do I want to struggle?


While I am talking about the professional aspects of this machine I think its important to understand some of the other "pro" capabilities of this machine. I bought a USB-C to Lightning cable in plug in my 12.9 iPad Pro as a second display using the Sidecar feature. I use the Smart Keyboard Cover to prop up the iPad and use both the keyboard and the Apple Pencil to have a second display. I can easily fit the iPad in my messenger bag with the MacBook and have a full-blown setup wherever I go.

One of the other pro aspects is the new studio quality microphones that Apple has included in this powerhouse. An array of microphones listen to you and your environment to reduce hiss and improve signal to noise ratio. This means your Zoom meeting partners won't hear the baby crying, the lawn guy outside or the dog barking.

In online meetings I like to connect my AirPods but sometimes they aren't handy, but the new mics in this model have reduced the feeling that I have to yell at the laptop to be heard by people on the other end. The laptop is quiet and I can speak in a normal voice and don't have that awful feeling like I have to over-enunciate my words.




MacOS Big Sur


There's a lot of other stuff I could go into like the 100 watt battery and other innovative refinements but I would rather talk about MacOS Big Sur and the capabilities that it will bring to my Mac as we head into the last quarter of 2020.


Apple's Craig Federighi says "mac OS Big Sur is a major update that advances the legendary combination of the power of UNIX with the ease of the use of the Mac, and delivers our biggest update to design in more than a decade." Privacy, Maps and Messages are getting revamped and Safari is getting locked down for your privacy.

This new OS combined with the move to ARM is going to make Apple even more interoperable than ever before. You'll be able to use iPhone and iPad apps on your Mac and Messages and Maps are going to work more like it does on your iPhone.


There are some very innovative changes going on at Apple and the continued interconnection of all the devices in the Apple ecosystem is furthering the deeper interaction between disparate pieces that I talked about in the previous blog post.


Although during these troubled times it's easy to get despondent, but looking to the future and realizing there is a life on the other side of this helps bring me around to realizing that we may actually have a better future now that we have been challenged.




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