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Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch 2019 Core i9 2.3 GHz: the full review 2020

Since the announcement of the Mac Pro in April 2017, at the turn of a briefing reserved for some American media, Apple has taken the measure of the distance that had been created between its offer and the professionals. Since then, the Cupertino company is clearly party to the reconquest of this public which made so much its success. That didn’t stop a few hiccups, of course, but overall the progression curve for these machines and the satisfaction curve is on the rise.

Portable materializations of this strategy, the MacBook Pro have gained muscle, as much as the Intel and AMD chips allow. The lareview iterations of these machines included more powerful processors with six then eight cores, AMD graphics cards also more efficient, with the arrival of the Radeon Pro Vega at the end of last year.

At the end of 2019, Apple is renewing its vows with a MacBook Pro that takes the concept of iterative improvements even further, from the graphics card to the screen, including the keyboard. The objective of this new machine was clearly entrusted to us during a meeting with representatives of Apple in New York: “Give professionals more of what they like”.

Understand that Tim Cook’s teams are listening and have played their range according to recurring requests … Everything should be there, except the connectors. It is still limited to four Thunderbolt 3 ports in USB-C format. And for Wi-Fi, hopefully you like 802.11ac, because Apple is not moving to the new standard. No Wi-Fi 6. But how is it possible on a machine of this standing supposed to last over time? We have not received an answer to this question. However, for the rest, is the promise kept?

The regret of the butterfly, the pleasure of serenity

From the first 12-inch MacBook Retina, we were won over by the butterfly keyboard. The mixture of extremely short stroke, firmness and stability of the keys offered incredible typing comfort and typing speed.

Nevertheless after three (and a half) generations of butterfly keyboard, it seems that there is a reason to be made. As brilliant as they are, Apple engineers have been unable to find a solution to avoid repeated keyboard crashes, numbing keys, stuttering letters, etc.

Difficult for a user of a machine of this price to voluntarily place himself under a sword of Damocles. It’s impossible for a professional to imagine doing without his work machine for a few days, even a week, if the keyboard of his MacBook Pro needs to be repaired.

Apple has therefore decided to abandon the butterfly keyboard and return to the scissor model that is still found on the Magic Keyboard of iMacs. In this case, in addition to the name Magic Keyboard, the MacBook Pro also borrows keys, which are almost identical, to the point that you can have fun borrowing an iMac its keys. Be careful, they are still a little thinner on the MacBook Pro and their stroke is only 1 mm.

To the touch, there is no firmness and hyper-responsiveness of the butterfly keyboards, but the typing is very pleasant and the noise produced is much less. Failing to be exciting, this new keyboard promises impeccable comfort, easily repairable and washable keys, and above all proven durability. No need to wonder when we are going to find ourselves battling with a possible, inevitable breakdown. Too bad for butterflies.

The Touch Bar, the perfect imperfection of a tool whose utility is always of variable geometry

Apple also heard from users, including programmers, who wanted to see a dedicated, physical Escape button reappear. She therefore sees the day on the left of the Touch Bar, still present and surrounded at its left end by a Touch ID button. It will be used to identify yourself during your session and also not to enter the thousand and one passwords you use online, the same for making purchases by authenticating. Touch ID and the T2 chip – also responsible for data encryption and storage control – make a perfect couple.

The Touch Bar, on the other hand, stands out more from the aluminum case, to be a little more at the level of the keys. Despite the time and an increasingly regular use, we criticize him from time to time for certain ergonomic constraints, if only to adjust the sound volume, which requires more manipulation than the physical keys that we still find on the MacBook Air, for example. So, yes, this is a detail in terms of the fluidity that the Touch Bar brings, especially if you do not like keyboard shortcuts, in many applications, from Word to Final Cut via Photoshop or Safari, but n is there not a way to find the perfect solution? To further refine integration?

Always more screens …

But let’s give up the tiny screen that is the Touch Bar to see it big. With its Retina panel, the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro pushed the 17-inch MacBook Pro out, too bulky for an outdated screen definition.

The wheel is spinning and with the arrival of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, the screen gets bigger and so does the case. Not enough for it to be seen without direct comparison. On the other hand, when we juxtapose the two models, the picture is different. We can see that the 16 inch model is a little wider and deep. We also feel that it is heavier – 170 g, it is not nothing. However, in everyday use, these changes do not involve anything unpleasant, and even less unacceptable.

The 16-inch screen has thinner borders, around 35% on the side, although you can’t really speak of an edge-to-edge panel. Apple keeps a fairly wide band at the top of the screen (it’s still 25% smaller) to house the camera – 720p, only … – and a thinner band at the bottom, above the space where s ‘enter the name of the machine. Too bad, even if we appreciate the space thus gained.

What we do not regret, however, is the quality of the slab. The gain in definition is a real plus for all those who use software whose interfaces quickly populate the entire display area. It’s a gain in daily comfort. Especially since for those who prefer the work surface to the size of the display, it is possible to increase the definition to 2048×1280 pixels, against 1792×1120 pixels by default.

The native definition of 3072×1920 pixels, which is no less than 5.9 million pixels, is not accessible under macOS. Under Windows 10, you can venture there, but plan good magnifying glasses.

On the other hand, you can benefit from the beautiful brightness of the screen (486 cd / m2), very homogeneous and comfortable, both in bright light and in the middle of the night. The contrast is also honest, without being crazy, at 1412: 1.

On these two points, the 16-inch MacBook Pro does better than its direct elder. But it is especially at the level of the color rendering calibration that its Retina panel really bluffes. It displays a Delta E of 0.79, while the two previous generations, however excellent, capped at a Delta E of 2.1.

Apple apparently did not do things by halves for its screen size change. You will realize this by working on your photos, your montages but also by playing or watching your favorite series and films. This year’s MacBook Pro is a great companion for watching big-screen movies on the go. Not only is its screen breathtaking, but Apple has also reviewed its audio system.

The good sound of the tares

We have had many occasions to spend a few evenings alone or with family and watch, for lack of a larger screen available, movies on the 16 inch MacBook Pro. The readable, detailed sound carried by beautiful bass seduced us.

When we pushed the volume up and started playing the DJs in the editorial staff, we only had to hear an incredulous two or three times “Is it the MacBook Pro that makes this sound? “ to be convinced that the laptop’s six speakers were doing their job and a little more.

Thanks to the woofers, mounted in opposition, the vibrations of the case and the distortions are nonexistent. You will obviously not be able to add sound to an evening with your MacBook Pro, but if it is a question of setting a little musical atmosphere for a dinner with friends, why not … understand, or play, you have your man.

Power, between stability and astronomical explosion

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the last step in an accelerated series of staggered iterations. In July 2018, Intel hexacoar chips appeared. In November of the same year, Apple added a more solid AMD GPU with the Radeon Pro Vega. Last May, it was the turn of the 9th generation Intel chips to make their debut, with up to eight cores, for 16 threads, on the Core i9.

These are the chips found in this new MacBook Pro. You were hoping to find a tenth generation Intel Core processor, it will be necessary to wait for the next update, it is to be feared. Six months later, Apple is forced to use the same chips again.
This means that the comparison of the 16-inch with the 15-inch MacBook Pro mid-2019 on the CPU side does not really have any relevance, since nothing changes or almost – we had reviewed the 2.4 GHz Core i9 model (still available in option, + 220 euros), while it is a Core i9 at 2.3 GHz which is embedded in our review model.

Likewise, the model we reviewed in May was equipped with 32 GB of RAM (at 2400 MHz), the maximum at the time. The 16-inch MacBook Pro that we reviewed contains only 16 GB (at 2666 MHz), which is the minimum for the pro configuration, while the maximum is now set at 64 GB.

To get a first opinion on the performance of this Core i9, we turned to Geekbench. There are several things. The first is that it performs less well than these seniors when you only review one heart. It is after all logical, it benefits from the lowest frequency of the four machines confronted. However, despite this disadvantage, it does better than the chips of the MacBook Pro of 2018. Logic, once again, it has eight cores…

On the other hand, it tilts, logically always, in front of the MacBook Pro 15 inch last May which, him, works with a processor of the same generation and more powerful, moreover available as an option on the MacBook Pro 16 inch.

It should therefore be remembered that compared to the generation of previous processors, this 2.3 GHz Core i9 is more than 12% more efficient. A good start.

Especially since with Cinebench 15, we can see the domination of the ninth generation of processors, endowed with two more cores, among others.

In this case, the 2.4 GHz Core i9 is always more efficient, but the 2.3 GHz Core i9 largely dominates the 2.9 GHz chips. At the end of this benchmarking tool, it is even almost 30% faster.

If we turn to professional applications to take stock of performance, let’s start with Photoshop. Adobe software is extremely dependent on the amount of RAM on board. However, all the machines reviewed are equipped with 32 GB, except the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which integrates half of it. However, its performance is not far behind. There is even the luxury of finishing our review in a few seconds less than the 2018 MacBook Pro.

We then move on to After Effects, another Adobe creation software, which has the particularity of requesting more processor operating frequency than the number of cores, while also favoring the amount of RAM.

However, despite its handicap, the MacBook Pro 16 ’’ does better than its two elders released in 2018. In other words, the configuration is solid and we would be curious to be able to run the same review with 32 GB of RAM. It’s a safe bet that we would end up with a result much closer to that of the MacBook Pro released last May.

Finally, note that the power developed by the processor is sufficient to manage the editing of several 4K video streams simultaneously. During our reviews with Final Cut, we did not encounter any slowdowns with two streams.

AMD Radeon: the contribution of 7nm

GPU side, the Radeon Pro Vega 20 gives way to the Radeon Pro 5500M (with 4 GB of GDDR6). An 8 GB option is available for 120 euros more. A Radeon Pro 5300M equips the first model of 16-inch MacBook Pro, the one sold from 2,700 euros.

Anyway, this 5500M is given by Apple to be up to 2.1 times more powerful than the Radeon 560x (4 GB), which was introduced in the offer of Apple pro laptops with the model July 2018.
The 5500M is based on the new RDNA architecture that AMD introduced in May 2019, at the Computex. It involves two things, an improvement in performance and less consumption, in particular thanks to the 7nm engraving process used for its production.

To see what this new card has in its belly, we confronted it with GFXBench Metal. Without appeal, it dominates the graphics cards that equipped 15-inch MacBook Pro of the three previous generations. If we compare the number of frames per second obtained to that of the MacBook Pro of July 2018, which benefited from the presence of the Radeon 560X, we see that it is 1.95 times higher. We are not far from the announced x2.1. However, facing the Pro Vega, our 5500M model, with its 4 GB of RAM, is only 7% faster, still according to GFXBench Metal.

In any case, this proves that there is graphical resources at hand to carry out heavy calculations or for greedy renderings.

By turning to video gaming and carrying out our reviews with Rise of the Tomb Raider (Settings on High, Anisotropic Filtering x8, in 1920×1200 pixels), we obtain the same performance difference between the 5500M and the 560X. In contrast, the new AMD card in this case is 14.5% better than the Radeon Pro Vega 20, present in the last two models of MacBook Pro 15 inches.

With more than 58 frames per second, the 16-inch MacBook Pro looks like a machine that lets you play lots of titles. Not always by pushing the settings fully, or with a definition at the top, but you should really treat yourself. And that’s not so common in the little Mac world.

Storage for the pros

MacBook Pro have been synonymous for several years now with excellence when it comes to the performance of their storage units. With this 16-inch model, Apple sees even bigger by introducing for the first time an 8 TB SSD storage option.

Be careful, however, it will cost you 2880 euros to get it. A sum, as impressive as the storage capacity, which must be put in perspective. Only professionals who have huge files and a need for total independence from an external storage solution – at least on the move – will turn to this offer. We are talking about photographers and videographers who take a lot of RAW shots or videos in 4K or 6K. We can also think of composers who need to access their entire sound bank immediately. These 8 TB are a luxury, it is obvious, but also and above all a response to a need.

The general public or “small professionals” will more likely be content with the 512 GB series or the 1 TB (+ 240 euros) or 2 TB (+ 720 euros) option.

Our SSD storage unit was 1 TB, which leaves a nice margin for storing heavy videos, a large multitude of files or creating a comfortable Windows partition, on which we can install software not available on macOS.

In terms of performance, the results are in the same vein as those recorded on the lareview 15-inch MacBook Pro. Depending on the tools used (Black Magic Disk Speed ​​Review or AJA System Review Lite), the flow rates are slightly higher or lower than those of previous models.

In any case, we flirt with excellence and especially with the theoretical maximum displayed by Apple, which announces 3.2 GB / s in sequential reading.

Besides, to make sure we can compare the performance of our Mac’s SSD with that advanced by Tim Cook’s teams, we did a third series of reviews, with FIO, the same tool used by Apple. This command line tool allows you to perform reviews with very precise settings. We have replicated at best those selected by Apple and obtained during our three series of reviews, three bit rates greater than or equal to the 3.2 GB / s announced. Our results ranged from 3.194 to 3.554 GB / s for sequential reading of a 100 and 150 GB file.

Note in passing that this SSD gives its full measure with large and complex files. This MacBook Pro is clearly cut out for 4K, big videos, big photos, and handling big data sets.

Good autonomy, increasing

At its presentation in New York, Apple representatives with whom we had the opportunity to logically boasted of the battery capacity of the MacBook Pro 16 ’’ ’. It must be said that it is the largest ever seen in a laptop (of the brand) and especially the largest that is authorized in planes by the American Aviation Agency (FAA).

With its 100 Wh, against 84 Wh for the previous model, the battery promised a good autonomy. To the point that Apple announced that its MacBook Pro could reach 11 hours in web surfing or video playback.

Not only do our reviews confirm this progression, but they show that the 16-inch MacBook Pro lasts much longer than its predecessors. Comparing it to the last three iterations of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, the difference speaks for itself.

As part of our versatile autonomy review, which simulates a succession of daily uses (Web, email, video, etc.) intensively, no less than four hours of additional autonomy are offered by the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

At almost 13 hours of non-stop operation, we are almost certain to have a working day. Unless, of course, your work day is complex 3D rendering or 4K editing.

In video playback, there is a gain of one hour compared to the model released last spring. This is great, especially if you use your MacBook Pro to watch movies or TV shows on the train or on the plane between two work days.

In any case, it should be noted that the strong growth in versatile autonomy is as much a sign of the increase in battery capacity as a collateral effect of optimization between hardware (new AMD chip in 7 nm, in particular) and software.

For comparison, the last Dell XPS 15 inch that we reviewed last October is purely and simply swept with its 9h20 of versatile autonomy and its almost eight hours (7h53) of autonomy in video. In this case, much cheaper, it is true, the Dell machine does not deserve at all, it’s just that Apple hits really hard. You pay dearly for this MacBook Pro, but you get what you pay for.

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