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My first week with the new 16" MacBook pro

Josh Dzielak πŸ”†
Co-founder & CTO at Orbit Β· Developer advocate and indie hacker Β· formerly Algolia and Keen IO
・4 min read

Happy New Year! πŸŽ‰πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’» I know already that 2020 is going to be a big coding year for me. As the Co-Founder & CTO of Orbit I am building our first product, mostly in JavaScript and Ruby. Both of these languages can benefit from a speed boost in the development environment, so I'm really excited to head into the new year with a new laptop.

My previous machine was an early 13" 2015 MacBook Pro with only 8GB of RAM. It was struggling to keep up, but I didn't want to upgrade until Apple fixed a few issues with their recent laptops, namely the keyboard.

I'm happy to say the 16" model has exceeded expectations. In this post I'll share more about my configuration and experience after one week.


The 16" retina display is razor sharp and has an enormous amount of pixels. Using the Display Menu app, I can go all the way up to 3584x2240 resolution. Of course, I would go blind if I kept it there because the text is so small. So far I have been using the default 1792x1120 resolution for normal use and switching to 2048x1280 when I need a little more space for programming.

The bezel of the display is really thin, making the laptop's overall form factor not much larger than 15" predecessors. It also looks great aesthetically.

Compared to a 13" I feel like I'm working in more spacious environment, and I'm not reaching for an external monitor as fast.


I'd been waiting since 2016 for Apple to release a laptop without a clacky & stiff butterfly switch keyboard, and finally they have. The keyboard on the 2019 16" MacBook Pro closely resembles the external Magic Keyboards, and in my opinion is even more buttery. The physical escape key is back too.

Be aware that the 2019 13" MacBook models do not have the new Magic Keyboard. They have a new (3rd) generation of the old butterfly keyboard. If you don't like that keyboard but still want a 13" laptop, you might be better off to wait.

I'm finding the 16" model to be more comfortable to type on for one more reason - I can rest my palms and wrists fully on the chassis next to the trackpad without my wrists are digging into the edge of the laptop when I type.


I added a few upgrades including the 2.4GHz 8‑core 9th‑generation Intel Core i9 processor and 32GB of RAM. That's a lot of power, but I wanted some future-proofing for a laptop I expect to have for many years.

One advantage of the 16" MacBook Pro over the 13" is that the specs can go a lot higher. Here's a comparison from

Top of the line 13-inch MacBook Pro, $3,099:

  • 2.8GHz quad‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i7 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 4.7GHz
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
  • 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
  • 2TB SSD storage

Top of the line 16-inch MacBook Pro, $6,099:

  • 2.4GHz 8‑core 9th‑generation Intel Core i9 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory
  • 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
  • 8TB SSD storage

Note: I paid $3,099 with just the CPU and RAM upgrades I mention above. Upgrading the SSD is where the cost really starts to go up, but I felt like the default 512GB was enough for me.

<rationalize>$3k is a lot for a laptop, but if you have it for two years, it's only $29/week! πŸ’Έ</rationalize>


The trackpad on the 16" is very large, stretching from "S" all the way to ";" on the keyboard. In theory I am able to do more moving and dragging in one swipe vs. having to pick up and recenter my hands on the trackpad. In practice, I'm not sure how much effect this has, but I haven't found any downsides to the big trackpad either.


My previous laptop was silver and the new one is space grey. It's not new for most people but I like it so much better! My eyes are sensitive to light and the lower amount of light reflected from the case actually makes a big difference in the comfort.


The biggest surprise has been how great the speakers are. Apple has really invested here. There are 6 speakers and an array of 3 microphones. The imaging and surround sound effect is impressive. Thanks to force-cancelling woofers, there's even some real bass. I can listen to music and watch Netflix without feeling like I need my headphones.


One obvious drawback of the 16" MacBook vs. the 13" is the cost. It depends on the options, but it's likely to come out about $1,000 more.

Size and weight-wise, here's the comparison from

Alt Text

The extra size and weight has been fine for me so far, but I don't have heavy travel requirements. If you're on an airplane all the time, the 16" might not be ideal.


Overall, I'm super happy and feel like the extra money was worth it. The 2019 13" models don't have the new Magic Keyboard and only go up to 16GB of RAM, but thankfully the 16" has what I was looking for.

Happy DEV year! πŸŽ‰

Discussion (7)

ug02fast profile image
Arthur Zhuk

Have you considered remapping the escape key to caps lock? I personally love the butterfly keys as it requires less energy to lift your finger up and press down on it that the older version. I'd be all-in on a fully LED keyboard actually :}

dzello profile image
Josh Dzielak πŸ”† Author

I'm not sure about my main laptop but if I had a separate laptop for travel I would love an LED keyboard in it :)

I hadn't thought about using Caps Lock as Escape but I can see that working well too, especially if there wasn't much Ctrl-C in someone's workflow. You would need a tool like Karabiner thought I think to do it, the Mac settings only let you remap it to other modifier keys afaik.

ug02fast profile image
Arthur Zhuk

You can actually remap caps lock to escape on press and map it to control on press & hold using Hammerspoon. It was a huge productivity boost for me.

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited
andypiper profile image
Andy Piper

Thanks for the tip on the Display Menu app - now using it with my external LG monitor (I'm on the 2017 15" MacBook Pro with the butterfly keyboard, but I didn't get to choose it!)

dzello profile image
Josh Dzielak πŸ”† Author • Edited

Sure thing! It's a useful little app. Hopefully the butterfly πŸ¦‹ keyboards will soon be a relic of the 10's πŸ˜ƒ

rhymes profile image
rhymes • Edited

Thanks for the review! I'm still using my 2012 Macbook Pro 13" and was waiting for some real world usage of this new model. I wonder if the renewed 13" inch model will come out soon(ish)