Technology

Apple unveils 16in MacBook Pro - with updated keyboard

The keyboard on the new MacBook Pro Image copyright Apple
Image caption The keyboard reinstates a physical Esc key

Apple has unveiled the latest version of its 16in MacBook Pro laptop computer - and it features a newly designed keyboard.

The keyboards on some older MacBook Pros, which used an internal "butterfly" mechanism, had been described by some as uncomfortable.

Besides the new keyboard, the model also includes a high-resolution Retina Display and up to 64GB of memory.

Dieter Bohn, at The Verge, wrote the new keyboard had "major improvements".

Since 2015, the keyboards on MacBook Pro computers have divided opinion, with some saying the butterfly mechanism made them less easy to type on.

The new MacBook Pro's keys use a scissor-switch style action. The physical Esc, or escape, button has also been reinstated.

It had been replaced by a virtual Touch Bar button on some previous models.

The virtual Touch Bar remains in place at the top of the keyboard, however, as does a fingerprint sensor.

There are few pieces of hardware that have caused me quite so much frustration as the keyboards on its recent MacBooks. The T key on my current machine is flapping about like a dead fingernail.

Previously I've had to have the entire thing replaced thanks to keys either being dead, or over eeeeeeeeeeeenthusiastic, thanks to some minor dust or dirt.

Even though these repairs are free, this isn't good enough for what should be the leading premium laptop on the market - and once-loyal Apple fans had run out of patience with the company.

The keys use what's known as "butterfly" switches, designed under the watch of Sir Jony Ive, the recently-departed Apple design guru.

When unveiled, the firm called it a breakthrough that allowed for slimmer laptops, thanks to the miniscule amount of "travel" - the distance the keys move under your fingers.

What Apple seemed to miss was that many users liked the satisfaction of pressing a key - and the old MacBooks had it just right. Sir Jony had taken the equivalent of a fine Parker pen and swapped it for a chewed up Bic prone to leaking.

I wasn't among the journalists invited by Apple to get an early look at the new MacBook, but long-time Apple commentator John Gruber was.

"It's hard not to speculate that all of these changes are, to some degree, a de-Jony-Ive-ification of the keyboard," he noted, suggesting a change of focus now the revered 52-year-old has left.

"I'm not sure I know anyone who would disagree that over the last five to six years, Apple's balance of how things work versus how things look has veered problematically toward making things look better - hardware and software - at the expense of how they function."

By redesigning the keyboard, Apple is attempting to show customers that it listens to them, said Ranjit Atwal at market analysis firm Gartner.

"What you expect from Apple is incrementally better products and the last time round it wasn't incrementally better," he told the BBC.

"They had to go and [rethink] the keyboard given the feedback."

Mr Atwal said that while Apple's MacBook Pros have some dedicated fans, the number of users who buy them is "not huge".

"The challenge here is how to increase the install base," he added.

Apple is also touting the laptop's improved ability to keep cool, thanks in part to fans with larger blades and vents allowing for a 28% increase in air flow.

For graphical performance, the computer also includes an AMD Radeon Pro 5000M graphics card, which Apple says will mean smoother game play and faster rendering of effects in design programs.

The new MacBook Pro starts at $2,399 (or £2,399 in the UK) and is now available to order from Apple's website.

A worldwide launch in Apple's High Street stores will follow.

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