The 16" MacBook Pro is a Solid Machine for Video Editing


Many video editors I know rely on a MacBook Pro as their personal, everyday machine, and many video editors I know also have been wanting a lot more from the MacBook Pro over the past few years. We finally received some superior power with the most recent release, but catching up in specs just isn’t enough these days—this is why the 16" MacBook Pro is such a significant release. A new screen, new thermal architecture, new internals, a new battery, and a new keyboard all come together to create the best laptop Apple has ever made.

Power in All the Right Places

Video editing demands a great deal from mobile machines. It isn’t something that can be solved by adding a single new component. Apple seems to have finally realized this with its most recent crop of MacBook Pros. With no unnecessary hardware restrictions, the new 16" comes in configurations with up to an 8-core processor, 64GB RAM, and AMD Radeon Pro 5000M series graphics with up to 8GB GDDR6 VRAM. While we found out that the last generation’s design didn’t quite hold up to the heat during intense applications of constantly running the machine at full power, this new model appears to be the first MacBook Pro that is up to the task of a sustained editing workflow.

We picked up the 2.4GHz Intel® Core™ i9 8-Core model with 32GB RAM and the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB GDDR6. Essentially, it’s a realistic choice for most video editing needs and is close to being the top-of-the line machine—though you could opt for 64GB of RAM if you feel you need it.

The way I use my current 15" MacBook Pro (Late 2016), I haven’t necessarily put it through these sustained tests. I only edit lightly for an hour or two at a time, or I move it to my iMac for more serious jobs. Nearly every time I do work on it—even if that just means opening a photo in Photoshop—the fans kick on in no time at all. It is, at the very least, annoying and, at most, an indicator that the machine isn’t working to its full potential.

Redesigned thermals should guarantee longer run times at higher performance. It was a much asked-for feature and seems to have worked out, though it is still a laptop, I want to warn you. Loading up Oceanhorn 2 from Apple Arcade and throwing it into full screen sent the MacBook into overdrive with the fans sounding like they were going full blast.

To further test it, I opted for DaVinci Resolve, as we all already know that Final Cut Pro X is super-optimized for Mac computers. Loading up a new 4K project with XAVC S files direct from my Sony a7 III felt like a good place to start. Normally, I have some issues running the native footage on my laptop—it is compressed, after all—but the 16" MacBook Pro handled it very well. With a few grades, a little stabilization, and some transitions, the MacBook Pro gave me buttery-smooth 23.976 playback with the 4K timeline—no proxy mode needed. When I started throwing on some titles and graphics with a bit of motion, I started to get a bit of stuttering, but that quickly resolved itself once the text was off screen.

Exporting feels much faster, too. This relatively simple project was outputting an H.264 file faster than real-time: the 1:20-long video exported in 52 seconds, and a Full HD version took just 28 seconds. An even better example of the benefits of more modern components comes in H.265 (HEVC) exports. The hardware acceleration and better processing exported the same 4K file in just 57 seconds. That is huge, because my older Macs take multiple times longer to output in HEVC. And then the computer played it back in QuickTime flawlessly.

For video editing, this new machine is the best MacBook yet.

A Goldilocks-Size Screen

Many people miss the old 17" MacBook. I was never one of those people, because it was absolutely massive. I don’t think Apple is looking to bring it back either, considering its obvious absence since the development of the Retina models. However, some users do prefer having that extra screen real estate, size be damned. How about we split the difference? A slightly larger screen with essentially the same body design? I can live with that and I think many fans of the classic 17" MacBook will be a little bit happier.

The biggest advantage of the slightly larger screen is having smaller bezels. It gives the machine a cleaner look and puts it in line with current trends. The resolution is 3072 x 1920 with a ppi of 216, making it a slightly larger version of the one found on 15" MacBooks. This is good news, since the screens on MacBook Pros have been excellent in recent years; they radiate great brightness, outstanding color fidelity with support for Adobe RGB and P3 spaces, and a razor-sharp picture.

Video editing is going to rely heavily on this screen for working, especially if you need to apply some basic grades while on the go. I was able to throw together a video while commuting on Metro-North, and the picture looked great. Even applying a light grade was not a problem and translated well to my other displays. With proper calibration, I would put this among the best displays I have seen on a laptop.

A Magical Keyboard Experience

You get a keyboard! And you get a keyboard! And you get a keyboard! That is essentially how Apple had to handle the infamous butterfly keyboard and it’s unfortunate predisposition to key issues with even the smallest dust or crumb. The Late 2019 MacBook Pro seems to solve all our issues with its new old design and a “Magic” designation. Scissor-switch keys are nothing new. Apple even used them in early MacBooks. But the reason they are coming back is because they are reliable.

I use a variety of different keyboards over the course of a week. This includes my personal 2016 MacBook Pro, an older wired Apple Keyboard with a 2013 Mac Pro, the newer Magic Keyboard with an iMac, and even the Smart Keyboard for the 9.7" iPad Pro. The 16" MacBook Pro’s keyboard feels good. Is it as good as a mechanical keyboard—not quite—but for a laptop, the keys are very quiet and still give enough feel to type quickly. All the keyboard changes are for the better. And, don’t think I forgot, there is a physical Escape key and the power/Touch ID button has been separated from the Touch Bar. Yay!

The Extra Goodies

Apple did a lot more to the computer than it first appears. Among the small, but nice, changes is a new six-speaker sound system that is a lot clearer than my older MacBook. Unfortunately, I use headphones 90% of the time and never get to appreciate the speaker quality. Also, the microphone array is now “studio quality.” I’m a bit more doubtful about that, though I will admit it will be handy to have for video calls and FaceTime.

Probably the best update is the new battery, now maxed out at 100Wh. This is the exact limit to take on a flight, so Apple really didn’t cut back on this. There’s even a faster 96W charger. Realistically, with serious video editing, you will still burn through the battery. It is noticeably better, though. Normally, working while sitting on the train for an hour will burn 60-70% of the battery. Now, the 16" was only down about 40%.

One thing that is both good and bad is the use of four Thunderbolt™ 3/USB-C ports. I like these ports, though I would still appreciate a built-in SD card slot. If you haven’t yet moved all your miscellaneous accessories to USB-C cables, now is the time. You’ll be a lot happier when everything is on the same port. You will still need an adapter handy, however, because some things, such as the DaVinci Resolve dongle, will always need it.

I’m not sure what else I need to say here. The 16" MacBook Pro is, without a doubt, Apple’s best laptop yet. It’s more powerful, has a nicer screen, and steps things up in a few unexpected ways. For video editing, it is the best laptop that runs macOS—if you are a fan. Apple simply listened to its core users and made a better laptop because of it.

Are you looking to upgrade your mobile video editing station to the 16" MacBook Pro? Any more questions about it? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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