Initial impressions with the MacBook Pro 16" M3 Pro

Initial impressions with the MacBook Pro 16" M3 Pro
Photo by JK Sloan / Unsplash

Exactly one year ago, I leaped and switched to a MacBook Pro 14" laptop. You can read my initial impressions and my long-term review after 100 days. It was, and still is, a fantastic and utterly performant device.

However, immediately once I got it, I found myself hoping I'd opt for the same device but with a larger screen. For a year, I contemplated if I truly would appreciate the larger screen. I then had an opportunity to upgrade, and after carefully considering the pros and the cons, here we are.

The specs

The device is a MacBook Pro 16" M3 Pro, with 36 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage. The finish is Space Black.

The 14" was M2 Max due to needing 32 GB of RAM at the time. This time, I was a bit wiser and went for the slightly less performant M3 Pro (as opposed to M3 Max), but I could get 36 GB of RAM (as opposed to 16 GB).

Difference between the 14" MacBook Pro

It's heavier, for sure, but not much. It isn't comically large, but more handful to move around with one hand than the 14" model. As a larger screen was my primary justification for the upgrade, it's perfect. The feel is as if I had two 14" displays, even if I know that is not the case.

The screen itself is exceptionally significant. I cranked it up to the highest resolution, 3456 x 2234, with a max of 1600 nits brightness (HDR content) and 500 nits with regular content.

I cannot tell the difference between 32 GB and 36 GB of max RAM - I occasionally run virtual machines with Parallels and local generative AI models - and even 32 GB was enough for my needs. 16 GB would be hitting the ceiling, though.

As I mostly use the laptop when traveling and visiting customers, I need something to protect the semi-fragile finish of the laptop. There aren't endless options to choose from, so I opted for this leather case. The brand is Dbramanate1928.

What about battery life?

The battery life on the 14" model was already more than excellent - usually giving me 10 hours of actual working time. It's too early to tell yet with the 16", but while setting up the machine yesterday - running endless installs and configuration changes - MacOS kindly said to me that it would last 14.5 hours on 99% battery. Right now, while typing this, with full-screen brightness and 97% of battery, I'm looking at 11 hours.

I'm expecting the numbers to settle after a few weeks of use - and if I get 10 hours or more, it will be fantastic. Lowering screen brightness affects the battery directly, and as the sun is very low in Helsinki during winter, I need to crank up the brightness at all times of the day.

Battery life is so great that I'm both not thinking about it and sometimes irrationally thinking, 'Gosh, I only have 8 hours left, better charge soon' when I know I'm wrapping up work in an hour. This is reminiscent of my Windows days on a laptop - even the excellent Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon gave me a measly 3-4 hours tops on any given day.

[ Update: Jan 28, 2024: I've used the laptop for about a week now, and fully charged, I'm getting up to 17.5 hours of battery ]

But why?

Screen size was the number one reason for the upgrade. I couldn't say I struggled with the smaller screen, but I kept wishing I could make the screen a bit larger every day.

Performance, battery life, compatibility, ports - all great with both the 14" and 16" models.

The 16" model has two USB-C ports on the left, a full-size HDMI and USB-C on the right side, and the MagSafe charger port on the left.

I typically charge it with the MagSafe cable using my Anker charger, allowing me to use the same cable Apple provided. Still, I don't need to carry the large Apple brick.

Is this the perfect work laptop?

Yes. This seems to be it. I'm still new to the 16" form factor, but typing this on my kitchen table, I'm elated. The screen is the best I've seen on any device. It's bright, it's large, and the resolution is insane.

Typing is a dream, even if key travel is short - but I've gotten used to this in the past year with the 14". Running Windows 11 on Parallels on the side is so fluid that I keep forgetting I can hop to Windows with the flick of my fingers on the touchpad.

And finally, after a few decades of owning and having laptops, I can say - the battery life is more than enough for me.

I can recommend the 16" MacBook Pro without reservations. It is that good.