Our review unit, which featured an eight-core i9 CPU and AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics, tore through whatever I put in front of it. It’s clearly more than I needed for my typical workflow, which mostly involves juggling a ton of browsers, light image editing, Evernote, Slack and Spotify. When I gave it a serious job, like transcoding a 4K movie clip, it leaped into action. Handbrake handled a two minute clip in just 52 seconds, whereas it took the new 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 a full minute longer. In the Geekbench 4 Compute benchmark, the new Radeon Pro GPU also scored twice as much as the last-gen AMD hardware. Simply put, this thing screams.
As I was benchmarking the 16 inch MacBook Pro, it never felt hot to the touch, and while the fans were noticeable when they spun it, they weren’t annoyingly loud. As part of the notebook’s revamped cooling setup, the fans can now push out 28 percent more air than before, and the heatsink covers 35 percent more internal space. All of those improvements, and the slightly larger case, means the new MacBook Pro should be able to withstand heat better than any of Apple’s previous notebooks.
Apple also made a slew of other compelling upgrades to the 16-inch MacBook Pro. A new six speaker setup makes music and movies sound great. It’s no replacement for dedicated speakers, but it’s impressive for something coming out of a very thin laptop. There’s also a 3-microphone array that Apple is putting against standalone mics like the Blue Yeti. That’s definitely going a bit too far, but recordings I’ve made sound good… for a laptop mic at least. And there’s very little background hiss. It’s more useful for video chats and shouting at Siri, since pro users tend to be pretty religious about their preferred mics.
Unfortunately, you’re still stuck with 4 Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports for connectivity. It’d be nice to see Apple bring back an SD card reader, but unlike the keyboard, that’s one area where the company is refusing to back down. At least USB-C dongles and accessories are cheaper and better these days, but I’ve talked to plenty of pro Apple users who still pine for the flexibility of that 2015 MacBook pro.
The new 100 watt per hour battery also lived up to Apple’s marketing hype. The company claims it’ll last up to 11 hours — during our battery test it survived for 11 hours and 20 minutes. Of course, we were just looping an HD video, you can certainly expect it to drain faster under heavy duty workloads. Apple includes a new 96-watt USB-C power adapter in the box — the beefiest we’ve ever seen on a MacBook Pro. It’s only a bit larger than the 15-inch notebook’s adapter.