Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review: bigger and better than ever

Apple's new bigger MacBook Pro makes some welcome improvements for serious mobile work

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

Though the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch is edged out by other machines on pure specs, Apple’s appeal has always been about the whole package, which is excellent here – and it fixes the keyboard issues that overshadowed its predecessors.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Big, sharp, accurate 16-inch display

  • +

    Plenty of power

  • +

    Giant battery

  • +

    New keyboard

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No 4K screen

  • -

    720p webcam

  • -

    Limited ports can still be an issue

  • -

    Graphics power still a little behind

This Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review marks something of a banner occasion. There hasn’t been a new size of Apple pro laptop since 2009 – before the iPad even existed.

With 17-inch screens now more the preserve of chunky gaming laptops than sleek pro machines, the idea of 16 inches of working space is a damn tempting one.

The MacBook Pro 16-inch is actually only around two percent larger than the MacBook Pro 15-inch that it has replaced in Apple’s line-up – Apple has finally got with the times and slimmed down the bezels, affording an extra inch of screen space, but only 2% more bulk.

The other important change is a switch from the very low-travel keyboard you get on Apple's other laptops to one that's more like the Magic Keyboard that comes with iMacs, which has a little more travel, a softer feel and, most importantly, much better reliability.

Otherwise, it feels more like an evolution of the existing MacBooks more than the major redesign that a new screen size might suggest – but that's okay with us when you look at the whole. Let's dig in.

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review

(Image credit: Future)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review: price and specs

The base model MacBook Pro 16-inch costs £2,399, which gets you a 2.6GHz six-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM, an AMD 5300M graphics card with 4GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD.

There's also a higher-end version, which costs £2,799. That includes an eight-core 2.3GHz Intel Core i9 processor, 16GB of RAM, an AMD 5500M 4GB, and 1TB SSD – a very nice upgrade package for the money.

You can customise most of those options too – a slightly faster eight-core processor, more RAM, an 8GB version of the 5500M graphics card, and up to a whopping 8TB of storage are all available, for an upgrade fee.

As ever, Apple's cost for upgrades are frustratingly steep, but because all of these elements cannot be upgraded in the future, it's important to get what you need the first time around.

The design is very similar to the 15-inch MacBook Pro, with just a tiny bit of extra width and depth to house the new display. That includes connectivity: there are two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports on each side, one 3.5mm jack, and then just Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is still Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac), rather than the new Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax).

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review: display and speakers

The display is 3072x1920, and while it’s a bit of a shame not to get a full 4K panel for this price, that’s the only complaint we have about it. 

It’s sharp, it’s vibrant, it has good viewing angles, and it comes with Apple’s True Tone tech, which makes it more comfortable on the eyes than your standard blue-tinted screen. 

The support for the wide-colour P3 gamut, plus 500 nits of brightness, gives colours lots of vibrancy, and everything is supremely accurate out of the box. 

It’s a great screen, and while 16 inches isn’t a revelation over 15, there’s no doubt that you just feel like you have a little bit more space for windows and tools.

Speakers won’t be a priority for a lot of laptop buyers, but Apple has still put the best-sounding drivers we’ve ever heard into here – they’re powerful, crystal clear, and provide stereo sound that feels like it’s coming from head height either side, not blasting up from your keyboard. 

They're no reason to buy a high-end laptop on their own – especially since people working on pro audio will probably use their own preferred monitors – but are genuinely impressive, and we count ourselves big fans.

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review

(Image credit: Future)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review: performance

When it comes to processing power, the MacBook Pro 16-inch handles itself very nicely, thanks to the six-core Intel Core i7 processor in the base model we tested, and the option of an eight-core processor in the higher-end model.

The benchmark scores of 29577 in Geekbench 4 for multi-core, and 6974 in Geekbench 5, reveal a significant boost over quad-core laptops for really intense stuff, and this bears out in real life.

Combined with the extremely fast storage that Apple includes in its machines, it's capable of editing 8K video live without transcoding on multiple tracks, or as many 4K streams as you could hope to load on it.

Giant, complex musical creations are no problem, and editing of giant photo files is fast and smooth (though the load here is shared with the graphics chip).

The 16GB of RAM it comes with as standard is fine for a lot of stuff, but this is also the first mobile Mac that can be fitted with up to 64GB, which will be welcome for some pros.

Its AMD GPU is even decent – this is an area where Apple tends to lag behind. It scores similarly to the (admittedly older) Nvidia GTX 1060 for compute power in benchmarks, and with 4GB of VRAM for solid 3D and even gaming performance.

There are similarly-sized and -priced Windows machines that get you more graphics power, however: the Dell XPS 15 has slightly stronger Nvidia 1650 graphics, while the Razer Blade 15 can be configured with Nvidia RTX cards all the way up to the top-tier 2080.

Inside, you get the biggest battery you’ll find on any laptop for the foreseeable future: 100Wh is the limit the FAA places on battery size that’s allowed on a plane, so that’s what Apple has included here. 

It gives a battery life of around 10 hours of light browsing or movie playback, which is strong for something with such a big screen (though Apple’s other laptops beat it for overall longevity). A lot of equivalent machines are rated for noticeably lower battery life than that, so this will keep you going that little bit longer.

Battery life proved really strong for us when working on light tasks that don't require it to go full pelt – doing anything strong enough to make the fans kick in cuts it back significantly, but exactly how much depends on what you're doing, so it's hard to say exactly what battery life you would get.

And then there’s the keyboard. After years of a low-travel keyboard that was at best divisive (we quite liked it, many did not), and at worst proved unreliable (not good for a pro laptop), Apple has returned to using a keyboard with more travel, and it feels great. 

It’s one of the nicest we’ve used, in fact. It still has the Touch Bar at the top – a thin screen with shortcuts and controls that can be customised for each app – that regularly threatens to feel useful, but never quite follows through. It also has  fingerprint security and Apple's T2 security chip, which are both very convenient and useful if you've got sensitive work to protect. 

Small details: its webcam is still a crappy 720p affair that’s kind of embarrassing, but its microphones have been given a big upgrade, and do a great job. 

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review

(Image credit: Future)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch review: verdict

As expected, the MacBook Pro 16-inch is an extremely slick and powerful machine that’s hard to resist. We were hoping for more of a design reinvention than we got, but we can only judge what's actually here, and that's undoubtedly excellent.

In terms of specs, it falls a little short of Dell’s XPS 15, which offers a 4K OLED screen, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, eight-core processor and slightly more powerful Nvidia graphics for £2,499.

But specs have never told the whole story – the accurate, bigger screen is a draw in itself, macOS and its plethora of exclusive apps are a big deal for many, the reliability and sturdiness of MacBook Pros is excellent (especially without the dodgy keyboard) you get Apple's fantastic support network for if anything should go wrong. It’s an excellent work machine.