The MacBook Pro is a Great Everyday Laptop

0Share

Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro has been out for a little over a month, and overall the reviews have been pretty stellar. With a bigger screen, better speakers, faster processor, and much-ballyhooed keyboard, it seems like a surefire winner for professionals and creatives of every stripe. But how is it for the casual laptop user? To find out, I brought it home with me for a weekend and tested it. Here’s my review.

Apple 16" MacBook Pro
Apple 16" MacBook Pro

Old Is New Again

In addition to an across-the-board specs bump, Apple made a couple of key improvements to the 2019 MacBook Pro that really stand out. One of the biggest is the keyboard redesign. The problems with the previous MacBook Pro’s keyboard are well documented, and to resolve those issues, Apple ditched the butterfly key mechanism altogether and went back to scissor switches. Personally, I never used the previous version, nor do I have much experience with butterfly keys (because I avoid them at all costs), so I cannot say with one hundred percent certainty that the new MacBook Pro’s keyboard is better—but it is. It just is. Butterfly keys are the worst, and the new MacBook Pro’s keys are really, really nice. The sound, touch, travel time, and arrangement are all very pleasing and overall make for an excellent typing experience. And that’s coming from someone who still writes on his 2002 Apple iBook G3 laptop because he’s so very particular about keyboards (seriously). In two days, I spent almost 15 hours typing on the MacBook Pro, and I very much enjoyed it.

Now, let’s talk about the Touch Bar. I was surprised to read on the Internet that there isn’t a ton of love for the original Touch Bar. A lot of people seem genuinely upset about it. Before this review, I had never used the Touch Bar (again, iBook G3), but I thought it was a pretty cool and handy feature. As I understand it, one of the main gripes about the previous Touch Bar was that the Siri key was in a highly trafficked area, so users would accidentally hit it and everything would freeze while Siri waited for you to talk. OK, I could see how that would be annoying. On this year’s model, the Siri key still seems like it’s in a busy area—next to the volume controls and right above the delete key—but I never accidentally hit it. In fact, I found the whole layout to be very intuitive and easy to manage. Overall, it seemed pretty great.

The Heat Is Off

The other major improvement Apple made to this year’s MacBook Pro was allegedly to resolve the thermal issues that hamstrung the previous model. If you’re not aware of those issues, the long and short of it is that certain configurations of last year’s MacBook Pro exhibited significant thermal throttling when pushed too hard. What is thermal throttling? Basically, it’s when your computer gets too hot, it slows itself down to reduce the temperature and prevent damage to its components. That slowdown leads to decreased performance, which, you probably guessed, is not ideal, but it’s hardly uncommon. The majority of all modern laptops have thermal safety features that result in throttling if the unit is pushed hard enough. The problem with last year’s model is that in certain situations the thermal throttling was really, really bad—so much so, Apple had to issue an apology and a bug fix to curb it.

Thermal

The new MacBook Pro doesn’t appear to have any of those same issues. Apple redesigned the thermal system to prevent overheating, and so far there haven’t been any reports of major throttling. That’s great news for gamers and power users. It’s not as big a deal to casual users, as we’ll probably never push the MacBook Pro to that point. During my weekend trial, I kept several programs opened, watched movies, listened to Spotify, called my nephew on FaceTime, played some games—the fans didn’t even seem like they kicked on. If they did, they were whisper quiet. For me, and I suspect all casual users, the MacBook Pro will run fast, run quiet, and stay cool.

A Very Good and Predictable Display

Sometimes I think Apple is a victim of its own excellence. What does that mean? Well, take the new MacBook Pro’s display, for example. By all accounts, it is an objectively gorgeous screen. It’s a big, 16-inch Retina display. It has great color accuracy, and it’s super bright. When I was watching videos on it, I thought, “Man, this looks great.” But here’s the thing: Apple screens always look great. I own an iPhone, an iMac, and an iPad Pro. All of those screens look incredible. That’s the irony of always putting out impressive products—people become numb to it. Because it was Apple, I was expecting the MacBook Pro’s screen to be awesome, and when it was, I wasn’t all that blown away. It felt more like business as usual, even though that business is making an inarguably excellent display.

What does that mean for the casual laptop user? It means that all of your content will look fantastic—whether it’s streaming movies, videos, or games. Not all casual users work with programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, but I fired up those just to see and the colors on my digital drawings looked very good. Obviously, creative professionals working with photo and video will benefit more from the true-to-life color production, but that doesn’t mean casual users won’t enjoy it as well. Bottom line, the screen looks incredible. But you probably knew that going in.

Sound? Check.

Despite its long list of positive features, the MacBook Pro didn’t offer me many surprises. As with the screen, I expected everything about it to be either good or great, and it was. The screen is great. The keyboard is great. Even the battery life, which gave me right around 10 hours, was solid. Everything was predictably great. Everything, that is, except for the speakers. They were phenomenal.

When I first turned on Spotify and queued up my Mountain Goats playlist, I wasn’t even testing out the sound system. I was just putting on some background music while I cleaned my room. About halfway through Up the Wolves, I stopped what I was doing and literally asked out loud, to no one: “Why does this sound so good?” Everything about the song was clear and distinct: the individual instruments, the vocals. Even the bass was incredible—it didn’t get lost in my bedroom. I switched over to a playlist of mixed genres and got the same results. The sound quality of each was phenomenal. According to Apple, the reason everything sounds so great is because of their new “high-fidelity sound system” that incorporates “Apple-patented force-canceling woofers” and “dual opposed speaker drivers.” I’m not a sound engineer, so I can’t vouch for how well any of that tech works, but what I can tell you, as someone who loves to listen to music, is that the 2019 MacBook Pro delivers the best sound quality I’ve ever heard from a laptop or notebook.

Final Thoughts

Before I started my review, my initial thought about the new MacBook Pro was that it’s probably too much laptop for the average user. If you’re someone like me, who primarily uses a laptop or notebook for web surfing and other nondemanding tasks, then you’re probably looking at a lot of wasted horsepower. But after a weekend with it, I’ve changed my position a bit. I still believe casual users, myself included, won’t push the MacBook Pro anywhere near its limit, nor will we tap into its full potential during the course of our normal day-to-day tasks. However, I do think that it is a great laptop for a certain type of casual user. Specifically, if you are someone in the market for a new laptop or notebook, it’s a very good buy. The screen is great. The keyboard is great. The speaker system is shockingly good. And nearly everything else—from battery performance to thermal performance—lands somewhere between solid and spectacular. If you’re a casual user that wants or needs a new laptop, and you’re looking for an all-around great option that will in all likelihood remain so for years to come, I think the new 16-inch MacBook Pro is it.

Are you a casual laptop user? Have you tried out the new MacBook Pro? Share your impressions of this new laptop in the Comments box, below.

Items discussed in article

Close

Close

Close