16-inch MacBook Pro in 2019: What Can We Realistically Expect

BY Rohan Naravane

Published 10 Mar 2019

Apple’s famous MacBook Pro was last updated in October 2016. The thinner and slimmer laptops have had their fair share of controversy — removing traditional USB-A ports and the SD card slot, it made the term #DongleLife mainstream. And then there was the whole keyboard failure issue.

Earlier this month, reports from a reliable source suggested that Apple will release an updated MacBook Pro with a screen size between 16 to 16.5 inches, among other hardware. And since the news broke, there was an outpour of emotions within writers of many tech publications; as they jotted down wishlists of what their beloved MacBook Pro should have.

A fair number of prospective customers would be happy getting a USB-A port alongside the USB-C ones, maybe an HDMI port, and definitely an SD card slot. Many would love the return of the MagSafe connector, or the death of the Touch Bar in favor of regular the good old escape and function keys.

But history has time and again proven that Apple rarely reverses any product decision it’s taken. The company in the past has been criticized for moving to newer I/O by boldly removing existing standards, which often causes an industry-wide adoption.

Hence, it is safe to assume that we’re not seeing USB-A and HDMI ports, an SD card reader, or a MagSafe port in the 2019 MacBook Pro. There’s also virtually no chance Apple will revert to the older non-Butterfly-switch key switch design, especially after silently improving the key failure rate with the 3rd generation butterfly switch.

With that out of the way, here is a realistic portrayal of what we’ll see with the 16-inch MacBook Pro refresh.

#1 16-inch Liquid Retina Display

‘Liquid Retina’ is the term used by Apple first on the iPhone XR and then the new iPad Pros to describe their modern-day LCD display. One way of thinking about the ‘liquid’ in Liquid Retina is its fluidic appearance, as the screen fills up the entire frame towards the edges.

iPhone XR

This is how the tech giant was able to fit the newest iPad Pro with a bigger 11-inch screen in the same footprint as the previous 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Also, the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro had a smaller form than the somewhat-unwieldy model that preceded it. The analyst’s description of a “16-inch to 16.5-inch screen” in the 2019 MacBook Pro suggests that it will — in all likelihood — have an edge-to-edge display.

The current 15-inch MacBook Pro already has thin bezels; so some pundits are suggesting that the device’s footprint may be slightly increased to accommodate the bigger screen. It may delight professionals who won’t mind a little more screen real estate, especially the ones still holding dearly to the long-discontinued 17-inch MacBook Pro.

It would also be apt to start this all-screen journey with the most expensive MacBook Pro in the lineup — the Retina Display came to the 15-inch MacBook Pro first in 2012, before making its way to smaller Pro laptops.

Also, it’s fair to expect that Macs aren’t getting OLED displays in this iteration — high cost is probably what stopped Apple from using them in comparatively smaller screens like the iPad Pro’s.

#2 ProMotion

Apart from just thinning out the bezels, this could be the other differentiating feature of the 2019 MacBook Pro. ‘ProMotion’ originally debuted with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro in 2017. By dynamically adjusting the display refresh rate up to 120 Hz (which is double of the typical 60Hz refresh rates on most mobile computing screens), there is a very noticeable difference when using an Apple device with the technology.

Any animation on the screen (like when you scroll or switch between apps) feels faster because of the high refresh rate. And because it’s dynamic, the system intelligently reduces it when depending on what’s happening on the screen. This prevents unnecessary wastage of battery life.

Apple’s known to improve the performance of its computers holistically — like with its early adoption of PCIe-based SSDs. ProMotion is already a proven feature on iPads, and it seems like a natural fit for the Mac; something that will appeal to professionals and casual users alike.

#3 Face ID

Apple brought biometric authentication to the Mac in 2016 in the form of Touch ID; a good three years after debuting it on the iPhone 5s. If that wasn’t enough, just a year later, the company declared Face ID as its new authentication standard with the iPhone X.

Facial recognition on computers isn’t new at all — PCs that meet the hardware requirements to support ‘Windows Hello’ have been doing this for a while now. Just like an edge-to-edge display or ProMotion, Face ID is also a natural evolution in the Mac’s journey. It would be a seamless experience to just lift up the lid of your MacBook display, and have it automatically unlock after it confirms your identity.


Similar to the iPad Pro, Apple may choose to fit the array of sensors along with the front-facing camera in the tiny area above the screen, instead of housing them in a notch like the iPhone X series.

What would be retained from the existing design is the physical power button next to the Touch Bar (that doubles up as the fingerprint scanner today).

#4 A Better Touch Bar

There are several doubts looming over the actual utility of the Touch Bar — the dynamic display strip that replaced the row of function keys back in 2016 on MacBook Pros. Since its introduction, there hasn’t been any hardware or software update that improved its functionality.

But that isn’t to say that there isn’t a team at Apple Park working on how to make it better. From personal experience, the Touch Bar appears dimly-lit in bright environments (the matte finish contributes to this experience). It sometimes feels too small, such that you don’t end up using it as carefree as physical buttons. The size also makes the thumbnail previews in the center useless most of the times.

Instead of calling Touch Bar a failure and moving on, it’s likely that Apple will first take an attempt at improving it first. The company could potentially make the Touch Bar bigger, brighter, and hopefully improve its core functions via tweaks to its interface.

#5 Faster Performance

As with every MacBook Pro upgrade, it is obvious that the 2019 MacBook Pro will support Intel’s latest-gen chips. The 2018 refresh already focused on performance as a response to the common theme amongst pros — who felt that the newly-designed MacBook Pros were sacrificing raw power for a thinner, lighter design.

And considering that the 16-inch MacBook Pro might have the computational overhead to drive ProMotion — more raw power might be the need of the hour for the new machine.

The new 10-nanometer processor would also bring in battery life savings. This, coupled with a slightly larger footprint, means Apple can fit in a slightly larger battery to continue claiming the ‘10-hour’ battery life mark.

Bonus: WiFi + Cellular

Apple piloted the use of eSIMs with iPads and the Apple Watch. But now with the 2018 iPhones supporting dual SIM functionality via an eSIM, it really begs the question why no Mac to date supports it.

Cellular functionality would be a godsend for customers who want to use their Mac without the limitations of spotty WiFi coverage in public areas (and without eating power off an iPhone in hotspot mode). It is one of those features that makes using the iPad Pro a joy on the move.

So, which feature in the rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro are you most excited for? Discuss in the comments below.

Image Credit: Viktor Kádár