Welcome to the blog of

Josh Deprez

Permalink link Published 8 December 2019

Gadget review: MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

I had decided that I wasn’t going to get the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, for several very good reasons.

  • I have plenty of laptops already, including a perfectly serviceable MacBook Air. The keyboard is…fine.
  • The price seemed a bit steep - especially in Australian dollars!
  • If I want compute power, I could SSH home, or perhaps spin up some cloud VMs for a few dollars. Why carry it around?
  • I’m slightly grumpy with Apple, most recently for screw ups to do with macOS Catalina. The death of 32-bit and notarization requirements are two things. But it also seems to be a bit unstable?

I had decided. Really decided. Totally decided, good-and-hard, definitely wasn’t going to buy it.

Haha…unless?

Keyboard

The keyboard is good again. It’s comparable to typing at my iMac with its “magic” keyboard. Before buying I went to the Apple store to try it. At that moment I was merely whelmed by it, until I compared with a butterfly-switch keyboard!

The Touch Bar is fine. I had a previous MBP a few years ago with one, so I already knew the ins and outs, but since then I’d gotten used to having a row of function keys again.

I’m not a huge vim user, but the return of a physical Escape key is useful.

Finally, the matte surface on the Touch ID is a nice touch. 🥁

Screen

It’s huge, sharp, and colourful. Very nice. Having a large screen has these benefits:

  • I can have Tweetbot, Slack, and some misc other windows all on screen at once.
  • Logic is decently usable.
  • It’s great for watching videos when away from home and I forgot the HDMI adapter.

Sound

What a sound system! It’s no substitute for a proper speaker system or good headphones, but it works. The main drawback for me is that most of the time I’m using headphones anyway.

Weight

It’s hefty but lighter than the 17” I had a decade ago, and the 15” I had 7 years ago. Recently I hauled a PowerBook G3 between home and work, and the 16” feels like nothing in comparison. It’s lighter than carrying two 13” laptops, which happens frequently enough that the extra weight isn’t much.

Bulk

It feels much larger than the 13” laptops I got used to over the last 5 years. I have a few backpacks, but sadly my favourites aren’t designed for anything larger than a 13”. I’m now hanging out for the next version of the Betabrand Under-the-Jack Pack.

Travelling with it is pretty good so far. At the airport, it fit a bit too neatly in the red x-ray bin and it wasn’t trivial to get a grip on the edges to pull it back out. On the plane, it did not fit within the main seat pocket in any orientation (a Virgin Australia 737-800). The net pocket had a bit more room though and the laptop successfully fits in portrait orientation.

Charging

The 96 watt charging brick is also weighty, but doesn’t seem huge compared to the typical 60 watt brick. The laptop also succeeds in charging from a 60 watt HP charging brick (that I have at work), but I suppose I wasn’t pushing the performance most of the day.

Handily, the laptop also (rapidly) charged my phones last night, which on this trip has meant fewer charging bricks needed for travel.

USB C is kind of a minefield of mismatching chargers and devices, but for me it seems to just be working?

Software

It ships with macOS Catalina. If you’re not in the Apple ecosystem already then honestly there may be other laptops which are better. Boot Camp still seems supported. Where’d I put that Windows license key?

Free year of Apple TV Plus?

Another nice touch - I’m not itching for yet more shows to watch, but they look interesting.

Glitches

Problems I’ve noticed so far:

  • The night before my current trip, I shut the lid and left it charging. The following morning I went to put some more things in my backpack, and found it had decided to stay on and heat up overnight. Insomniac, much? “Wake for network” is now extremely turned off.
  • About half an hour ago it kernel panicked. Why? No idea. I was just trying to git push!

Verdict

MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
Pros Cons
The keyboard is good again A bit pricey
Hefty but sleek Random glitches and insomnia?
Really decent performance Apple being Apple with deprecating legacy APIs and stuff
Great sound and display
Rating: 8.7 out of 10