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16-inch MacBook Pro vs 15-inch MacBook Pro: What's the difference (and should you upgrade)?

16-inch MacBook Pro on Box
16-inch MacBook Pro on Box (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

Just a few months separate the release of Apple's two most recent largest MacBook Pro versions. In one corner, a 16-inch model that has a larger display, better internals, and the same price points as the other model once had. In another, the tried-and-true 15-inch model, which saw its final version dumped after six months. Given the target audience, there's a clear winner here.

Break it down now...

These are both terrific laptops. Until the 16-inch model was announced, the 15-inch model was Apple's best of the best. With that in mind, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding whether to purchase the latest and greatest or the recently discontinued model that's only a few months older.

16-inch MacBook Pro (2019)15-inch MacBook Pro (2019)
Starting price$2,399$2,099
Display16-inch Retina Display with True Tone15.4-inch Retina Display with True Tone
Processor2.6GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 processor; upgradable to 2.4GHz 8-core Intel Core i92.6GHz 6-core 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor; upgradeable to 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor
GraphicsAMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory; AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memoryRadeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
RAM16GB, 32GB, 64GB16GB, 32GB
Storage512GB SSD (up to 8TB SSD)256GB SSD (up to 4TB SSD)
PortsFour Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) portFour Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
Battery lifeApprox. 11 hoursApprox. 10 hours
Weight4.30 pounds4.02 pounds
Camera720p FaceTime HD720p FaceTime HD
KeyboardMagic KeyboardButterfly mechanism

Ultimately, we believe the 16-inch MacBook Pro is the best choice for most people. At the Pro level, most people will want the latest and the greatest, even though it will cost more. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is packed with a better processor, more storage and RAM, and the most advanced features your money can buy. The 15-inch model will cost less thanks to clearance discounts, however.

If you do a lot of photo-editing and video work and need the speediest MBP currently on the market, the larger model is your choice. It's the one that offers more or better options when it comes to RAM, processor speed, storage, and graphics card. It's also the first MacBook Pro to feature a built-in Magic Keyboard without the butterfly mechanism that has often been criticized through multiple MacBook releases.

You can purchase up to 64GB in RAM on the bigger model, versus the maximum of 32GB on the other unit. The more memory your Mac has, the more apps you can run at the same time, and the better they will perform. When it comes to processors, the 16-inch model is upgradeable to a blazing-fast 2.4GHz 8-core Intel Core i9, compared to the maximum 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor on the 15-inch model. Storage maxes out at 8TB on the 16-inch model and 4TB on the 15-inch model.

Creators take note the 16-inch model comes standard with an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory and is upgradeable to the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory for even better performance. The 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with the still excellent Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.

Which should you buy?

For most folks looking for a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro, the 16-inch model is the one to get. It's the one with the hottest internals, bigger display, and an all-new keyboard. It also provides more battery life and allows you to add more storage and memory than the 15-inch model.

Bryan M Wolfe
Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.