Tech

Apple announces a new MacBook Pro and says it has finally fixed the broken keyboard problem

Key Points
  • Apple just announced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, which the company says is the best MacBook it has ever made.
  • It starts at $2,399.99 and includes a new keyboard design that should fix issues that plagued earlier models.
  • It's also super powerful with up to 8TB of storage, new Intel processors, AMD graphics and really good speakers with Dolby Atmos support.
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Apple unveils its latest MacBook Pro with a new keyboard

Apple announced on Wednesday a 16-inch MacBook Pro that replaces the company's high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops.

But here's what matters most: Apple completely redesigned the keyboard for the first time since 2015.

And that's big news because previous MacBook keyboards that used a so-called butterfly switch were prone to lots of problems, like jamming keys and endless typos. On a super-nice and super-expensive computer like the MacBook Pro, the keyboard was often just a sore point in an otherwise excellent laptop. Assuming that the keyboard problems have been fixed and that the new design finds its way to other MacBook models, the company's laptop woes could finally be over.

Here's what you need to know about the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $2,399.99 and will be available for preorder Wednesday. It will be in stores by the end of the week.

Let's talk about the keyboard

Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro has a brand new keyboard, and it's nice.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple was panned by industry experts and fans alike for spending four years making a MacBook keyboard that malfunctioned for many customers. Well-known blogger and Apple pundit John Gruber said in March that the previous generation keyboards were "the worst products in Apple history" and that they were "doing lasting harm to the reputation of the MacBook brand."

The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern wrote a review of the third generation butterfly keyboard in March, which was supposed to fix some of the issues in earlier versions. It was titled "Appl still hasn't fixd its MacBook kyboad Problm." Her column prompted Apple to issue an apology.

You get the idea.

With the 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple has a new scissors-style design that moves back toward it previous keyboards. In my early tests, it's pretty great. But problems with the earlier keyboards didn't always crop up immediately. For example, it took a few weeks for the keyboard to break on Apple's redesigned MacBook Air that I bought last year. Only time will tell.

Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Still, Apple is standing by this redesign. The company claims it's the best keyboard it has ever made for a MacBook. It used the Magic Keyboard for desktop Macs, which people love, as the inspiration for the new design.

The keys have more travel, meaning you can feel more when you push down on them. Earlier models felt like you were tapping on a flat surface at times. Also, Apple put rubber domes under the keys that help hold them in place and keep them sturdy. And it relied on user studies and testing to build a keyboard people liked.

Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Finally, Apple added a physical escape key back to the MacBook Pro keyboard by shortening the "Touch Bar" at the top, which is a touchscreen that lets you access shortcuts inside apps and other things. I know. It seems silly the escape key was removed in the first place.

The rest: A really nice (but expensive) new MacBook Pro

Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro
Todd Haselton | CNBC

There's a lot more to the story here. Apple's MacBook Pros cater to people who need a lot of power and really good screens for things like photo editing and video editing. The display is really important to those folks, so Apple made it larger while keeping the device similar size to the 15-inch MacBook Pro. That means the bezels on the side of the screen are 34% smaller than before. It's a sharp screen, it gets nice and bright and it's generally just gorgeous. Apple said it's the best display in any MacBook ever. Tough to disagree.

Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple added new ninth-generation Intel Core processors and upgraded the graphics to the latest AMD 5300 and 55000 chips, depending on the model you buy. Translation: That means it's faster for stuff that artistic professionals want.

Apple also increased the power while extending battery life, which is impressive. This year's model gets 11 hours of battery life, an hour longer than last year's MacBook Pro. It's definitely heavy at 4.3 pounds, but only 0.3 pounds heavier than last year's model. I prefer my less powerful MacBook Air, which is a heck of a lot lighter at 2.75 pounds.

It's big!
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple is also including a faster USB-C charger that can juice up the 16-inch MacBook Pro in just 2.5 hours. That's pretty good given the size of the battery. It means you won't need to sit at an outlet for half a day just to get a full charge.

Aside from the keyboard, my favorite feature is the new speakers. They sound better than anything I've ever heard out of a laptop before. I demoed them while listening to Miles Davis and loved how it felt like I was sitting inside the music, thanks to Dolby Atmos support. It's almost as if you're sitting in front of a really good speaker rather than a laptop. It's weird to hear something this good. It worked really well for surround sound when I watched a clip of the Apple TV+ show "Dickinson," too.

The internal microphone also was improved. Apple claims it's good enough to record a podcast without using any accessories, but I haven't tested that yet.

Watching the Apple TV+ show Dickinson on the new 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Some other things didn't change. The trackpad is the same (it's still really good), you still get four USB-C ports and the FaceTime cameras haven't changed from the last model. That's kind of a bummer, since I still wish Apple would just add a really high-quality camera for FaceTime.

The screen color accuracy is great for photo editing. Here: my dog Mabel.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Anyway, despite all of this, it definitely feels like a huge and heavy laptop compared with my MacBook Air. It's for professionals who need this sort of power and who are willing to pay a lot for a MacBook Pro. It is not for people like me who like to travel light. I assume, though Apple hasn't confirmed, this keyboard will eventually make it to the MacBook Air and other MacBook models.

16-inch MacBook Pro price and release date

Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple will sell two models of the 16-inch MacBook Pro that you can upgrade with additional storage, which ultimately increases the price drastically. For example, you can add up to 8TB of storage in it, which is more storage than any other laptop I've ever come across.

The starting configuration costs $2,399.99 and comes with a 6-core Intel processor, 512GB of hard drive space and AMD Radeon 5300 graphics. A $2,799 model will ship with an 8-core processor, 1 terabyte of storage and AMD 5500 graphics. They're available to order on Wednesday and will be in stores by the end of the week.

Apple also said Wednesday its Mac Pro, its most powerful computer ever, will be available to purchase in December. The starting price: $5,999.

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