Trying the new 16-inch MacBook Pro


I’m sitting here at this café a few shops down from the Chatswood Apple Store, typing on my FreeBSD Japanese Panasonic Let’s Note. A large part of the reason for this machine was to have a dedicated portable BSD box again, but also so I would have a real keyboard on a portable machine. I use a butterfly MacBook Pro for work, and not to put too fine a point on it, it’s keyboard is fscking horrible.

Fortunately, Apple seems to be making keyboards again. The Apple Store had a display of the silver aluminium and dirty space gray, and overall is a kind of clothing. Knowing this wasn’t a major design change, I was also overall impressed!

Photo of the 16-inch MacBook Pro

The bad news is the bottom row of keys are still too narrow, the trackpad is too big, the useless TouchBar still sticks around, and I still sorely miss the SD card reader. But! The keyboard’s smooth actuation, wider key spacing, and edge stability all felt great. It was quieter, it cushioned my fingers, and it didn’t mind not being visually symmetrical. This is the keyboard Apple should have shipped from the start. I will be lobbying work for one of these.

I maintain the flat, chicklet island keys are still a step backwards from the sculpted silver keys of the PowerBook G4s and first generation MacBook Pro. Those keys cupped your fingertips and directed your downward force to the centre, meaning edge stability wasn’t as important a concern, and you always knew where to place your hands. Just as old landline phones were curved to fit your head, those keyboards were bucket-shaped to fit your fingers.

Everyone who says this is the best laptop keyboard Apple has ever made—Apple included—are either kidding themselves, or have short memories. But I’ll take this design over the actively user-hostile butterflies.

It’s regrettable that every PC vendor copied Apple designs as they always do; even ThinkPads have this gimmicky chicklet keyboard layout now. Which makes absolutely no sense, given ThinkPads are known specifically for their utilitarian, classy design language. If any laptop line could have confidently pulled off a proper, non-chicklet keyboard in 2019, it’d be the ThinkPad. One can dream.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person in bios. Hi!

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