Can We Trust The New 16″ MacBook Pro Keyboard?

Skipping an event, Apple launched a new 16″ MacBook Pro to replace the 15″ model via press-release and inviting some folks to look at the new laptop. The 16″ MacBook Pro was changed by thinning the bezel to slightly increase the size of the display, upgrading the speakers and microphone, and the keyboard is back to a scissor-mechanism instead of the dreaded butterfly-mechanism.

The new laptop looks like this:

This new 16″ laptop was rumored for a while, and part of the rumor was that the price would get a significant bump. That rumor was a little bit wrong, the starting price for this MacBook Pro hasn’t changed at all since Apple raised it a few generations prior. It’s still $2400 for the base 15″ MacBook Pro, before you add on an AppleCare insurance plan and upgrade any components before you order it. Fortunately it does start with an entirely reasonable 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM.

I thought it was interesting that Apple specifically called out Fortnite players as having a better experience in their press release with the meaningless non-statistic of “Gamers will enjoy smoother gameplay with up to 1.6 times faster performance in games like Fortnite.” 1.6 times faster what? Framerates, presumably.

Game developers are also purported to have improved performance with another call-out: “In Unity, developers will experience 1.4 times faster fly-through performance during game development.”

All of this improved performance is attributed to better Radeon Pro options, the 5300 and 5500 with either 4 or 8 gigs of video RAM with the pseudo-benchmarks attributed to the highest end Radeon Pro 5500 8GB.

The new speakers on the 16″ MacBook Pro are supposed to have less vibration, due to being paired back-to-back which Apple promises will cancel out the rumble. The new microphone array sounds better than any other laptop microphone I’ve heard, which should make video and audio calls better, unfortunately the built-in camera is still an old 720p module that hasn’t been upgraded in years.

The new keyboard has the inverted-t arrow keys that were replaced four years ago with what most people seem to think is a less useful shape that looked kind of bizarre with extremely tall left and right arrows that were hard to find by touch. There is now more space between the keys, and a physical escape key and a separate power/Touch ID button on the opposite sides of the Touch Bar panel. All those changes are welcome, but the most important change is the new scissor key switch mechanism that may be more reliable than the butterfly mechanism, and here is the real question: after three generations of awful, unreliable, butterfly keyboard mechanisms, should anyone trust Apple to get this right?

I don’t think so. I think most people would be better served to wait for longer-term reports. As long as there is still time left on the extended keyboard warranty if they have a butterfly-mechanism keyboard and if they don’t have daily issues with key switch unreliability. You’ll also have to wait if you want this new keyboard part on any other size or type of MacBook. It’s only on the 16″ Pro for now.

It stinks that Apple is the only company that can make laptops that run macOS, because it puts people in a bad situation where they have few choices if they want privacy, security, and enjoy the user experience of Apple’s products. I’m glad that Microsoft continues to work on their Surface line of devices to challenge Apple, and we may see ARM-based macOS devices before long that replace these Intel-based laptops.

Author: Jack Slater

A Philadelphian living in Hawaii. You can follow or contact me on Twitter where I'm @TimeDoctor, via the contact page, or via e-mail to zjs@zacharyjackslater.com. Find out more about Nuclear Monster here.

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