New 16" MacBook Pro Review: A Developer’s Dream Come True
Yes, Apple finally fixed the keyboard, but there’s much more to love
On Wednesday morning, Apple announced the long-anticipated new 16” MacBook Pro. Apple sent me the new MacBook last week so that I can share my experience with the developer community and I’ve used it as my main device over the past week.
The first thing I noticed was the new keyboard. Say goodbye to the butterfly keyboard! I haven’t been a big fan of the butterfly keyboard and I know I’m not alone in that. The new keyboard has higher raised keys and great spring back that feels way more natural. Personally, I like a keyboard that has a deeper click and some sound. If you prefer a silent keyboard, then you might be disappointed. Apple named the new keyboard the Magic Keyboard, the same name as their external keyboard, which I use every day at work. The new MacBook Pro’s Magic Keyboard has a similar feel and sound to that keyboard, which is a huge upgrade from the previous MacBook.
As soon as I turned on the new device next to my MacBook Pro 15'’ from 2018, it was clear that Apple had improved the retina display. The depth of color in the desktop display is undeniable. Getting past the display and into the specs, the new MacBook Pro is more powerful than any MacBook I’ve owned thus far. The machine I was sent has 8 TB of storage, 64 GB of RAM, and an 8-core CPU. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fill 8 TB, but it’s super satisfying to know I won’t have to expand my iCloud storage space anytime soon. The 64 GB of RAM, meanwhile, is a dream for development. I had a MacBook Pro with just 16 GB of RAM, and it couldn’t handle running certain simulators in Xcode while simultaneously running other apps, and even after upgrading to 32 GB there were still performance lags. The new MacBook Pro can handle running Xcode and the simulators without overheating or getting any “running out of application memory” warnings.
Every iOS developer knows how crucial build times are.
The real moment of truth for me was finding out if the build times in Xcode were going to be improved. Every iOS developer knows how crucial build times are. Even a slight improvement can boost your productivity because you’re waiting less time between builds while you’re writing and testing out new code. I’m a full-time iOS developer at Calm and our iOS app has about 97,000 lines of code. When I ran Xcode with the 2018 15” MacBook Pro, our fresh build time was 216 seconds and incremental builds ran about 7 seconds. On the new 16” MacBook Pro, those times were cut down to 135 seconds for a fresh build and 2 seconds for an incremental build. With speeds like that, developers using the new MacBook Pro will be waiting half as much time during builds.
While the older MacBook and the new MacBook sat side-by-side running Xcode, I realized that I wasn’t hearing the fans from the new machine. I have become so used to the noise of the fans and my MacBook getting so hot while I worked that I came to accept this as the norm. But the new MacBook seems to have more effective thermal management. There were a few times the fans activated, but they didn’t stay on as long as they did with the 15” model, nor did the computer get as hot. This should make using the computer on our laps way more comfortable!
Let’s get into the battery life. As a developer, I’d pretty much given up on the chance of having good battery life when it came to running Xcode. At work, I keep my computer plugged in all day and hope it lasts if I have to take it into a long meeting. I wasn’t expecting much better with the new MacBook Pro, but I was pleasantly surprised that its battery held up really well. I charged it early one morning and then took it off of the charger at around 10 am. For the rest of the day, I left it off the charger while I used Xcode, Slack, Safari, Github Desktop, and more. The battery lasted me until about 6 pm, which is a full workday. I think if you’re running less intensive applications, the battery could last the full 11 hours.
This new MacBook Pro is the biggest improvement to the MacBook is years.
For folks who aren’t developers, I think the new MacBook Pro could still be worth it. I opened up the Apple TV app to watch one of the new Apple TV+ shows and was blown away by the sound, which came out similar to a quality external speaker like Bose. The sound easily filled my 700-square-foot apartment. Usually when I want to play music in my apartment I’ll put on the TV, but I think I can use the new MacBook Pro from now on. I started watching “The Morning Show” and was amazed at how clear the visuals were. With the beveled sides, the difference between the 15” MacBook Pro and the new 16” feels much bigger than one inch.
The 16” MacBook Pro is very pricey, ranging from $2399 to $6099 depending on the specs. If you’re not a developer or professional who needs an incredibly powerful machine, then it might not be worth the price for just the display, speaker, and keyboard upgrades. The 16” MacBook is also heavier than the 15” MacBook. Not by much, but it’s still enough that you’ll notice. So if you’re constantly on the go, the 16” MacBook Pro might not be the best fit for you.
All in all, this new MacBook Pro is the most significant improvement to the MacBook in years. It’s the most powerful Apple laptop yet and whether you’re a developer, filmmaker, podcaster, graphic designer, or writer, I truly believe you’ll see improvements in your productivity because of the speed, memory, and capability of the new Macbook Pro.