What Could Apple's 16 Inch MacBook Pro Mean For Musicians And Producers?

An extra inch of screen space doesn't sound like much but there are other ways in which the software and hardware could evolve to make your music life easier. Here are some of them...  

There are persistent rumours that Apple is soon to be introducing a new model of MacBook Pro - a 16 inch model - and that this may replace or at the very least supplement the 15 inch models we all know and love. This is based on analysis of supply chains - a common technique used to predict what Apple may be building next - even though the company itself very rarely announces products in advance.

But how might that extra 1 inch of screen space help musicians and producers - or is it a gimmick? Will the added power and presumed screen space have real-world consequences for producers? Here are some thoughts on how it could work.

1. It will have a very high resolution

The rumoured resolution of 3072x1920 combined with the Retina screen will be huge, even if some screen elements will be rendered very small when running at top resolution. Of course you will have the option to scale it down so plugins and DAWs - with their many small buttons - are easier to see. But even scaled down, the larger screen could really offer some benefits in terms of what you can fit on there, especially with OSX’s screen management tools and the fact that many DAWs allow you to pre-configure window sets. Logic Pro, Ableton Live and Steinberg Cubase in particular are good at this, and Kontakt-based instruments can be easier to use if you are able to expand their file browsers out on a larger screen.

2. Squeeze to the edges

Just like they have done with iPhones and iPads, Apple may be able to squeeze more screen space into the same footprint as the 15 inch simply by reducing the size of the bezel - the area around the edges of the screen. An all-screen laptop probably isn’t likely just yet, but there’s certainly scope to reduce bezel sizes. This would mean the laptop fitted most existing cases and bags and was as easy to carry as the 15. Add in a USB-C audio interface or MIDI controller and you have the ultimate portable laptop-based music setup.

3. Welcome back, old friend?

The old 17 inch PowerBook

The old 17 inch PowerBook

On the other hand, there is something to be said for making a physically larger laptop. Apple has shown with its reversion to a tower form factor for the upcoming Mac Pro that it isn’t always committed to making thinner and thinner products if there is a demand for one that is larger but more functional. I wouldn’t hold your breath for the return of user-replaceable RAM or hard drives though. Plenty of creatives would love a larger screen and the advances in battery and CPU technology made since the demise of the much-missed 17 inch PowerBook mean it wouldn’t necessarily have to be particularly unwieldy.

A larger machine could become the heart of your studio without feeling like a stand-in - and bigger audio interfaces, MIDI keyboards and even studio outboard like compressors or drum kits wouldn't look out of place next to it. At the same time, you could still take it on the road, unlike an iMac.

4. Power out as well as in

Apple seems unlikely to start reintroducing legacy ports to its laptops, and will almost certainly stick with USB-C, albeit you will get several of them. But a larger form factor will mean a larger battery which is great for performance and longevity. There’s also the possibility that it could build a wireless charging capability into a larger MBP for Airpods and iPhones. Before you dismiss that idea, the latest iPad Pro models can charge other devices via their USB-C port, so it’s not as far fetched as it might sound. USB-C is becoming the standard (albeit slowly) for all kinds of peripherals including microphones, audio and MIDI interfaces and more. The beauty of it is that you can use hubs and also daisy chain devices, so even though your laptop only has a couple of ports, there's enough bandwidth to connect your whole studio - audio, MIDI and monitoring.

5. Serious multitasking

Split screen view has existed in OS X for a while, whereby you can drag two apps side by side on the screen and work in gthem both at the same time without their windows overlapping. This would certainly be even nicer on a larger screen - especially if. as seems likely, Apple enables a very high resolution. The laptop will also be able to drive multiple external monitors, though the details of how many and how big remain to be seen. Imagine having Logic Pro X on one side and Kontakt on the other, with enough screen real estate to use both properly. Or, a full Cubase (or Bitwig Studio, Ableton Live, PreSonus Studio One) project running while you score along to a video, in a window that's large enough to really use. It could be game changing.

What do you think, are you hanging on for a 16 inch MacBook Pro?

Hollin Jones was classically trained as a piano player but found the lure of blues and jazz too much to resist. Graduating from bands to composition then production, he relishes the chance to play anything with keys. A sometime lecturer in videographics, music production and photography post production, Hollin has been a freelance w... Read More


Bitwig Studio does work quite well in a dual display setup, especially with The Grid. Thing is, it works even better if one of these is a touchscreen. Apple has been steadfast in its stance against touchscreen laptops, but using an iPad as a touchscreen for a Mac will likely evolve from macOS Catalina’s Sidecar to some deeper integration.
At some point in time, it’d be fascinating if Apple could integrate more features from the ARM chip(s) in its MacBook Pro, allowing for something like a hybrid Mac/iPad. Not likely to happen (though the ARM Mac is widely expected in the not-so-distant future). But my mind starts wandering down deep paths at the very thought of a device which runs both macOS and iOS apps at the same time. Inter-Devices Audio & MIDI is pretty cool but what if you could run Logic Pro X into AUM and back in a seamless way?

Replaceable RAM and SSD are important enough for me that my main computer is a 2012 MacBook Pro, bought used less than two years ago. It’s true that Apple isn’t very likely to bring these features back but the Mac Pro’s modularity can still pave the way to some kind of option on a really “Pro” MacBook Pro.

The keyboards in the current lineup are a big issue. The expectation from many of us is that the 16" would also come in a thicker case allowing for a deeper keyboard, hopefully made fully usable.
I expect the new 16" macbook pro to be a flawed disappointment and it will still have the USB audio issues with the T2 chip (random audio overloads). It will still have the idiotic touchbar. It will feature a new first-gen keyboard, made by the people that brought us that other keyboard. It will still have the headphone port on the wrong side (which headphones have the lead on the right side? None that matter). It will only have USB-C connectors, so dongle-city is where you stay. Above all, it will be crazy expensive.
@Buis - everything you mentioned is spot on. Even if you could ignore the pointless touchbar, you can't ignore the issues caused by the T2 chip. Maybe the author owns some Apple stock?

Want to join the discussion?

Create an account or login to get started!