iFixit tears apart Apple’s new 16-inch Macbook Pro

Apple fans are delighted that the new 16″ MacBook Pro has brought back a new take on the original Magic Keyboard design. Whilst the ongoing repair demands of ultra-thin butterfly keys might be over, what else can we learn by taking a closer look? Let’s tear it apart!
the new apple macbook pro 16-inch
The new 16″ MacBook Pro reverts to the traditional magic keyboard design. Image: Apple

The Magic Keyboard – what’s the background?

MacBooks are a classic laptop design. The problem is that when Apple introduced butterfly keys back in 2015, these proved to be a nightmare. Design flaws were inherent, which meant the keys were continuously ‘paralysed’ by dust and particles.

Users ended up having to make constant trips to the Apple repair store. Usually the only fix was to remove and replace the keyboard altogether.

The new MacBook Pro is a breath of fresh air. It is faster. It has a bigger, better screen. And, thankfully, Apple have reverted to the Magic keyboard design. So far, so good!

Apple says that the new keyboard offers a ‘responsive, comfortable and quiet typing experience‘.

The teardown

iFixit have – literally – torn the 16″ 2019 MacBook Pro apart to see what is packed underneath the glossy exterior. At a first glance, there isn’t really that much to see. Apart from a new model number, the new MacBook looks pretty familiar.

The specs look decent. The new MacBook has a 6-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD so we know it is powerful!

Let’s run through what else they found…

Macbook Pro's stacked ontop of eachother
From the outside, there isn’t a huge difference between the old and new MacBook Pros. Image: iFixit

Size – isn’t everything

The new MacBook Pro is slightly thicker and quite a bit bigger than the most recent 15″ design. There are some subtle differences when compared with the 2015 Pro model:

  • The 16″ Pro has a new display hinge
  • There is a new separate Esc key
  • The power button has a matte finish to match the rest of the keyboard
  • The Touch Bar is 19mm shorter
  • The inverted-T arrows are all half-sized
  • There are some tiny disguised holes for the new high-performance microphone array

The Keyboard – magic or mayhem?

We all loved the Magic Keyboard. Here’s a teardown of it back in 2015, if you’re interested!

This ‘core technology’ is back; and it is almost identical! The new 16″ keyboard looks just like its predecessor. There are only tiny differences in spacing, and no dust-proofing membrane. It sounds like the dust-plagued keyboard issues are a thing of the past.

It is as if Apple have realised they had it right the first time all along…

The changes are there, but are hard to see. The new Magic Keyboard has a refined scissor mechanism which delivered 1mm of key travel. Basically, it is more responsive and a lot quieter.

There is a rubber dome underneath the scissor mechanism which ‘stores more potential energy for a responsive key press’.

Compared to the original keyboard, the difference is in the thickness of the scissor mechanisms. For the 16″ Pro this has been reduced by 0.22mm which is a tiny enhancement that delivers better quality.

The keyboards are so similar, that some of the keys are even interchangeable! So don’t be disappointed if you don’t spot any obvious design upgrades.

apple magic keyboard teardown
The new Magic Keyboard has tiny enhancements to improve responsiveness. Image: iFixit

What’s under the hood?

The good:

  1. Thermal system – this has been redesigned to offer an improved 35% bigger heat sink
  2. Upgraded hardware covering – copper shields and aluminium thermal pads protect the (presumed) GDDR6 chips
  3. Larger exhaust holes and bigger impeller blades direct 28% more air through the Pro
  4. Improvements in the thermal design keep the 16″ Pro cooler, enabling it to ‘sustain up to 12 more watts’ when in heavy use
  5. The new 99.8 Wh battery offers serious extra capacity, with a 16.2 Wh improvement on the latest 15″ model – adding only about 0.8mm in thickness
Inside of a Macbook Pro 16-inch
The new thermal design allows better performance during intense periods of use. Image: iFixit

The not bad:

Apple says that the new six-speaker system offers ‘the most advanced audio experience ever in a notebook‘.

The force-cancelling woofers are placed on the top and bottom of the new speakers, to cancel out the vibrations from each side. The enclosures have been extended to redirect sound to enhance quality.

A three-mic array is similar to the MacBook Air from 2018, although a bit bigger.

So yes, the sound is better. Nothing astonishingly innovative but a much more powerful audio system than we have seen before.

The ugly:

See this is why we love a teardown. Aside from the PR, testing a product is the only way to really know if it lives up to the hype. The biggest issue with the MacBook, as we say, has been the keyboard.

With a new product any design flaws probably won’t be known about straight away. What iFixit found is that despite reintroducing the Magic Keyboard, Apple have once again produced a MacBook which has the keyboard assembly riveted down.

This keyboard is undoubtedly more robust than the fragile butterfly design. However, the crux of the problem is that when the keyboard is riveted down it is almost impossible to service it.

The goods news is that the Magic Keyboard¬†shouldn’t be as prone to faults. The bad news is that, if it does break down, replacing it will be as much of a pain as ever.

Inside the magic keyboard on the new macbook pro 2019
A riveted Magic Keyboard in the 2019 Pro makes it very difficult to service. Image: iFixit

What’s the verdict?

Overall, the 2019 MacBook Pro is a definite upgrade. It delivers much of the enhancements in user experience that Apple had promised. The screen display is excellent, the power is enhanced and the keyboard is much more robust.

It all hinges on whether or not the new Pro can sustain heavy usage over time without breakdowns. If so, we’re on to a winner. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.

iFixit gave the new 16″ MacBook a 1/10 score for repairability – which is not good.

To summarise; as long as it doesn’t break, we’re on to a winner.

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