MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019) review

Apple’s productivity machine gets the latest Intel tech

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

Our Verdict

Once again, with the MacBook Pro 2019 refreshes, Apple has made a well-designed professional laptop with the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019). Its upgraded internals bring a welcome boost, but the lack of ports stops it from being a truly versatile prosumer device.

For

  • Powerful
  • Decent configuration options
  • Screen remains gorgeous

Against

  • Expensive
  • Lack of ports
  • Keyboard concerns remain

Now that the MacBook Pro line has been refreshed, we’ve been able to spend some time with the Macbook Pro 15-inch (2019). It's not a huge redesign; in fact, it feels very similar to last year’s model. However, it does introduce some fresh features, such as an improved keyboard and the newest Intel processors.

While it is very similar, the high-end model of the MacBook 2019 line does implement some expected incremental changes. And while the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019) doesn’t provide a huge bump over last year’s model, you’re most likely not upgrading your laptop with every iteration.

For those with older Macbook Pros however, the Macbook Pro 15-inch (2019) does offer a compelling upgrade. And while Windows laptops have been offering increasingly alluring alternatives (particularly in the increasingly crowded Ultrabook category), might this year’s Pro just tempt Windows users over to macOS? Read our review to see.

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

The MacBook Pro (2019) is a laptop aimed at professionals

(Image credit: Future)
Spec sheet

Here is the 15-inch MacBook Pro (2019) configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i9 processor (octa-core, up to 5.0GHz)
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20
RAM: 32GB (2,400MHz DDR4)
Screen: 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 Retina display (backlit LED, IPS, 500 nits brightness, wide color P3 gamut)
Storage: 4TB SSD
Ports: 4x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-F, Bluetooth 5.0
Camera: 720p FaceTime HD webcam
Weight: 4.02 pounds (1.83kg)
Size: 13.75 x 9.48 x 0.61 inches (34.93 x 24.07 x 1.55cm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

The MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019) is available in two main configurations (which you can further configure to better suit your needs and budget). First, there’s an option with a 2.6GHz 6-core 9th generation Intel Core i7 processor, Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM and 256GB SSD storage for $2,399 (£2,399, AU$3,499/AED9,999).

Then, there’s a model with a 2.3GHz 8-core 9th generation Intel Core i9 processor, Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 16GB DDR4 memory and 512GB SSD storage for $2,799 (£2,799, AU$4,099/AED11,679).

In the US and Australia this price compares favorably with last year’s base model, which sold for $2,399 (£2,349, AU$3,499) and came with a 2.2GHz, 6-core 8th generation Intel Core i7 CPU, Radeon Pro 555X GPU, 16GB of DDR4 memory and a 256GB SSD. That’s pretty much the same spec, notwithstanding the updated processor and GPU.

While the US and Australia essentially get an upgrade for free, UK readers will have noticed a price increase. This is due to Apple bringing UK prices into line with US dollars, so for Apple, £1 = $1. Now, for anyone with even a passing familiarity with exchange rates, you’ll know that this is a pretty raw deal for the UK. However, keep in mind that the US price doesn’t include tax, whereas the UK price does.

As we mentioned earlier, all the macBook 2019 models can be configured to add more powerful components if you need – and can afford – them.

In fact, the model Apple provided us to review is something you’d have to configure yourself. It’s the highest-end model, so it comes with an 8th generation Intel Core i9 processor with 8 cores and a 2.4GHz clock speed (5.0Ghz boost), 32GB RAM, AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory and 4TB of SSD storage for $5,149 (£4,914, AU$7,859, AED21,549).

This means if you want to purchase the model we’ve tested here, then you’re going to have to spend a lot of money. However, at least there are lower-priced options, and the base MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019) compares favorably with the Razer Blade Pro 17 (2019), one of the latest Windows laptops trying to win professionals away from Apple. That costs $2,499.99 (£2,399.99, AU$4,299) for the base model with a 6-core 9th generation Intel processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card.

Comparing the two, we’d give the edge to the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019) as a pure productivity device, considering the specs, build quality and (slightly) lower price.

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

Looks familiar? That's because it has the same design as last year's model

(Image credit: Future)

Design

If you’ve ever seen or used a MacBook Pro, then you already know what the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019) looks like. The last time the series received a significant design change was back in 2016 with the introduction of the Touch Bar, and the 2019 model looks – on the outside – pretty much a similar iteration of the previous versions.

This is good news for anyone who thinks that the MacBook Pro aesthetic is pretty much perfect. On the other hand, it will disappoint anyone who is hoping for an exciting new look.

So, the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019)’s dimensions are 13.7 x 9.48 x 0.61-inches (34.92 x 24.07 x 1.55), pretty much the same as last year’s model, and is slightly smaller than MacBook Pros launched before 2016’s refresh. The new MacBook Pro 15 also weighs 4.02 pounds (1.83kg) – which, again, is exactly the same as last year’s model.

Color-wise, you’re again limited to the choice of only two – Space Gray and Silver. And, port-wise you get four Thunderbolt 3/UBC-C ports (two on each side of the laptop) as well as an audio jack port – a rarity on an Apple device these days.

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

Ports are limited to four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack

(Image credit: Future)

While some people will like the simplicity of only having four Thunderbolt ports – which are fast and versatile (as they are compatible with many connection types and can also double as charging ports) – for many other people the lack of variety in ports is an annoyance, especially on a product that’s aimed at professionals.

Anyone who relies on older peripherals like mice, keyboards or external hard drives will need to purchase an adapter. This can look messy, and it’s an additional cost – as Apple doesn’t include an adapter. That’s rather disappointing, particularly when you’re already paying so much money for a laptop, and many of its rivals now include an adapter – for example, Acer with the new Swift 7.

Now, one of the justifications for the lack of ports is so that it can keep the slim design of the MacBook 2019 line. We’d counter that first of all, if you’re looking for a productivity machine, you want something that lets you work with the tools you depend on with the minimum of fuss, which is more important than having a ludicrously thin laptop.

Secondly, the Razer Blade Pro 17 (2019) demonstrates how to have a slim laptop (its dimensions are 15.55 x 10.24 x 0.78-inches, which isn’t a lot larger than the MacBook Pro, especially considering it has a 17-inch display) and still have plenty of ports. It has an Ethernet, two USB 3.2, two USB-C 3.2, a 3.5mm audio jack, HDMI 2.0B and an SD card reader. That’s the sort of port selection that many people – especially photographers – would find useful.

It’s also worth remembering that whenever you’re charging the MacBook Pro or any MacBook 2019, one of those valuable Thunderbolt ports is unavailable, limiting the amount of ports you can use even further.

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

The screen remains bright and vibrant

(Image credit: Future)

As with previous MacBook Pros (and other Apple devices), there is also no way to open up the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019) and fix or upgrade its parts without voiding the warranty. While many people are fine with that, it does mean that you’re at the mercy of Apple (and Apple approved vendors) if something goes wrong. And, you can forget about adding more RAM or a bigger hard drive to extend the life of your expensive purchase.

Going back to the Razer Blade Pro 17 (2019) for a moment, that machine allows for relatively easy upgrading of RAM and storage, with an additional storage slot for another SSD if you need it. While many people may not make use of this, it still makes it a more attractive prospect for professionals who want to get the most future-proof laptop they can.

The 15.4-inch screen is retained from last year’s – which is not a bad thing as the Retina display continues to look stunning with a 2,880 x 1,800 resolution. There’s also support for the DCI-P3 color space, which is critical for video editors. The True Tone feature, which makes colors on the screen look more vibrant and realistic (though at the expense of accuracy) is also included – and this can be turned on or off depending on your preferences (and needs).

Overall, however, the design of the line of MacBook 2019 model refreshes offer nothing new. If you love the look of the MacBook, this will be music to your ears.

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

The Touch Bar is back again with the 2019 model

(Image credit: Future)

Keyboard

Since the introduction of the 2016 MacBook Pros, which introduced the ‘butterfly’ switch mechanism to the laptops’ keyboards, there have been frequent complaints that the keyboards can malfunction, especially if debris (like crumbs or dust) get between the keys.

Last year, in an attempt to fix the issue, Apple added a silicone membrane to prevent debris from causing havoc. However, it didn’t really work. News that some keyboards were faulty understandably troubled anyone investing a not inconsiderable sum in Apple’s latest laptops.

The good news is that the MacBook 2019 models of the Pro have again received tweaks, and while the keyboard still uses the butterfly switches, Apple has said that it has changed the materials used with the mechanism to reduce the probability of the keys getting stuck or becoming unresponsive when pressed, the two issues previous keyboards had.

Apple hasn’t been too forthcoming on the exact changes it has made to the keyboard, though during our time using it, we haven’t experienced any issues. However, we didn’t with previous models either.

While the change is welcome, it’s too bad that Apple hasn’t radically altered the design of the keyboard to ensure those issues never occur. The fact that it includes the new MacBook 2019 models including the Pro in its Keyboard Service Program, which will replace a faulty keyboard free of charge, sort of suggests that Apple hasn’t completely resolved the issue. Hopefully any problems with the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019)’s keyboards will prove rare.

The keyboard itself doesn’t feel significantly different to use – perhaps slightly softer to type on than non-membrane keyboards, but generally it’s business as usual. So, nice large keys that are easy to hit and comfortable to type on.

They’re also backlit for using in dark environments, and there’s the Touch Bar, a thin glass touchscreen that stretches along the top of the keyboard, displaying context-sensitive buttons on its 2,170 x 60 resolution screen. These buttons change according to the application or task that you’re performing, and are designed to give you quick shortcuts for a more seamless workflow.

You’ve probably made up your mind about how useful (or not) the Touch Bar is if you’ve used previous MacBook Pros. We quite like it, and since its launch with the 2016 model, more apps are making use of it.

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

Touch ID lets you log in with your fingerprint

(Image credit: Future)

Next to the Touch Bar is a fingerprint scanner for quickly and securely logging in to the computer as well as authorizing payments. It's quick and simple to set up, and accurately reads your fingerprint and logs you in without fuss - something that many fingerprint readers on laptops fail to do.

The touchpad stays the same as well – large, responsive and does the job well, if you don’t want to use an external mouse.

Overall, we cautiously welcome the changes Apple has made to the keyboard – and time will tell if they are enough to prevent any more issues. However, we wish Apple did more to eliminate any such doubts – though that would probably involve a major overhaul of the keyboard.

Such an overhaul is actually rumored for a 16-inch MacBook Pro that could launch later this year.