The MacBook Pro with a 16-inch Retina display For Photo Editing

A First Look & First Impressions

A few weeks ago I bit the bullet and bought the new 16-inch MacBook Pro to use as my road computer. I really didn’t want to do it. It is expensive and still has the dreaded Touch Bar on top of the keyboard which I not only find useless, it’s downright infuriating. But more on that in a minute.

I built the machine with the 2.4 GHz 8-Core Intel Core i9 processors. I believe these are the “Coffee Lake”-class. I added 32GB of 2667 MHz DDR4 memory. This is twice as much memory as I have ever had in a laptop, but I went with it because I assume that as time marches on, software will start to demand more and more memory to run efficiently. On my desktop machines I use 64GB.

Two places where I expected (and so far have seen – see below) performance gains are the graphics card and storage. I got the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory and 2TB of SSD storage.

To finalize the purchase, I bought Apple Care because my experience with Apple is that if you have Apple Care you’ll always be taken care of and if you don’t, you won’t. With AppleCare and tax, I paid $4,663.02. I know, I know. That’s ridiculously high and you could have built a Windows machine for less. The problem is, a while back, I made a serious, good-faith effort to switch to Windows. I lasted 18 months. There were issues with Windows I couldn’t overcome and I have just realized that I am a Mac guy. I am too old to do anything new. So I pay the Apple tax and move on.

While the price is something I do not like about the new laptop, the things to like about it are many, including a larger 16-inch screen and a faster processor/graphics card combo. It all comes in at only four pounds which is impressive given the size of the screen and the horsepower that this machine offers.

The new screen offers 3792×1920 resolution – more than seven million pixels producing 500 nits of brightness. Not bad in a laptop. I find the screen really does produce very deep blacks and I enjoy the fact that it works on the P3 wide color gamut.

One of my concerns was how will all this power work in a laptop. Apple’s answer is a new cooling system and new, more efficient memory. They also built in a much larger heat sink (35% larger) than on the old MacBook Pro.

All this power also requires a beefy battery. Apple upped the capacity of the MacBook Pro to 100 watts. It’s about a 20% increase over the last MacBook Pro battery’s capacity. Apple claims 11 hours of run time, but as usual, that is not a real-world result, especially the way I use the machine. I think six hours is more realistic if you are on a plane watching movies and maybe doing some light paper work. Four hours under constant load. But I am convinced you could get 11 hours if you weren’t doing production work. You’d have to use every power-saving mode available and few people use their computers that way.

There are four Thunderbolt 3 ports on this machine which is good. When I used a MacBook Air I missed having all the extra ports. They are fast, but not always convenient. More on that below.

EDITING

I do photo and video editing on this machine and really wanted something faster than my old Mac laptop for this task. So far, the new graphics card really delivers. I have been able to render video very quickly. I have been able to do sophisticated edits in Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Logic, Final Cut X and Luminar 4. All without having the slightest bit of trouble. The new machine is very fast, even super fast for a laptop based on my experience. It’s fast enough that many of you wouldn’t need any other machine for your editing.

Color grading is noticeably faster as are motion graphics.

The on-board flash memory really does speed up the editing process. I am glad I upgraded to the 2TB drive. I have portable SSDs that can take up the slack beyond that if needed.

The slightly larger Force Touch trackpad also helps with editing.

COMPLAINTS

About the Touch Bar…

The Touch Bar is Apple’s answer to touch screens and it really, really, blows. The idea is cute; it conforms to whichever app you’re using, and displays an assortment of additional controls, such as buttons for fast-forwarding through a video.

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In its original incarnation, it included a soft ESC key and my little finger on my left hand used to constantly bounce off that soft key, often eliminating lots of edits or typing. I nearly tossed my old laptop through a window because of this.

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(SIDEBAR: You know in the Terminator movies how the plot revolves around a robot coming from the future, back into the past, to find a woman and kill her before she has a son who would bring down the machines? I’d like to see a movie where a robot goes back in time and exterminates the guy who thought the Touch Bar was a good idea, before that guy’s idea has a chance to ruin my life!!!)

Well at least now there is a minor change to the Touch Bar. There is a physical ESC key on the left side of the keyboard where it belongs. And there is a physical space between it and the Touch ID sensor to the right of it. (This sensor lets you use your fingerprint to log into your macOS account, authenticate Apple Pay purchase, and other similar tasks. It’s very convenient!)

While this makes the keyboard useable for me, there is still (by default) a big left arrow which occupies the first space on the Touch Bar and for some inexplicable reason, it often functions the same way the ESC key does, so if you accidentally touch it, you may wipe out all your work. I still can only barely use the keyboard.

Seriously Apple. STOP THIS NONSENSE and just make a touch screen. You already know how to do this – it’s in every iPad you sell. I guess Apple is afraid they will cut into iPad sales if they make touch screens available on laptops. SIGH!

Also – Why doesn’t this machine have an SD card slot? Why? It wouldn’t have cost much to put one in and it bugs me that Apple took this option away from us. I also wish it had at least one USB 3.0 slot and am HDMI port would be nice. I know you can use dongles. And I do use dongles. But here’s what I think about dongles.

CONCLUSION

This is not an in-depth review or one where I’ve used high-end benchmarking software. It’s just a first look and there are plenty of computer-centric websites that have all the hard-core, geeky tech stuff. I just wanted to mention my casual observations as a photographer.

There are many features of the MacBookPro I didn’t discuss. I am writing this from the standpoint of someone who uses the machine as a media editor. I am sure most people would find the other features on the computer to be up to snuff.

The new keyboard works great. I like the fact that there is still a mini 3.5″ audio jack. (Who knows how long it will be before Apple decides we don’t need that either?)

If you’re a photographer or video shooter, you will really enjoy the speed and power of the new 16″ MacBook Pro. The impressive graphics, and screen resolution make editing a breeze. The screen looks great and the colors are accurate and bright.

You can certainly find a better value out there if you don’t have to have a Mac. And at this price, you could buy a faster desktop for editing, but then again, you couldn’t take that on the plane with you 🙂 You can also compromise and buy this same computer, but opt for the only slightly less powerful graphics card, 16GB memory and 1TB drive. That will save you a bunch. Unfortunately for me, I need the additional power. Apple has other solutions that might better serve you. It always depends on what you want to do and what your budget will be.

I am glad to see the physical ESC key on this machine. It makes it possible for me to use it. From a power and performance perspective, this is a great machine by any standard. It’s just very expensive.

Since I have more money than time, I am okay with it and will give the new, 16″ MacBook Pro my HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating.


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