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Configuring the 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch as as Desktop Replacement

2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch

This page is part of the MPG in-depth review of the 2019 MacBook Pro.

The 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch is Apple’s most powerful laptop ever, rivalling desktop systems when well configured.

Recommendations: which MacBook Pro?

Think of the MacBook Pro has a 4 to 6 year investment—there is no reason that kind of lifespan should not be possible (be sure to buy AppleCare).

Key recommendation: MINIMUM configuration should be 16GB memory and 1TB SSD because memory, SSD, GPU and CPU are all soldered onto the logic board. And because anything else is almost certain to inadequate down the line.

The configuration that Lloyd would buy is the MacBook Pro 2.4 GHz / 64GB / 4TB / Radeon Pro 5500M 8GB, or the same thing but with 8TB SSD.

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Recommendations: ports and display connectivity

The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is the best choice for desktop use because of the extra ports and in particular if there is a need to drive a display that requires Mini DisplayPort. I use one at home, and one in my Sprinter van.

Recommendations: SSD

Solid state drives are expensive but noiseless and very fast.

The ideal scenario for any Mac with an internal SSD is to add an external SSD of capacity equal to or larger than the internal SSD. Keep this SSD separate from the laptop when traveling (in case of theft), and use it every day for a backup, particularly a clone backup.

Video and demanding users with AC power will want to look at the OWC Thunderblade.

For fast performance on the go, it’s hard to beat the ultra light and compact Samsung T5 but the OWC Envoy Pro EX USB-C is about twice as fast.

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Recommendations: hard drive and fault tolerance

Hard drives offer excellent value on a per-gigabyte basis.

Every user should have a bare minimum of two complete backups, with at least one of them stored well away from the computer. In addition, MPG recommends at least one always-attached Time Machine backup and one always-attached clone backup.

An outstanding value and simple approach is a large hard drive (12/10/8/6TB) in the OWC Mercury Elite Pro enclosure. OWC does not sell the 12TB configuration, so if 12TB is desired, buy the empty enclosure and add the 12TB hard drive yourself. Remember also that hard drives slow down as they fill up.

Go to the OWC Thunderbay for RAID-5 with SoftRAID and high-volume storage and fault tolerance. Fault tolerance is not a backup.

Recommendations: display and other stuff

To finish the “desktop as a laptop” system, a large display is needed and this necessarily requires a keyboard and mouse because there is no ideal way to position a MacBook Pro except to the side.

A laptop screen is too small and requires hunching over the keyboard—very poor ergonomics causing fatigue and eventually leading to physical injury.

A separate keyboard and mouse eliminates the MacBook Pro keyboard as an issue (it sucks) and a mouse bypasses the trackpad, which I find highly inefficient by comparison.

The ideal display for the MacBook Pro or for any Thunderbolt 3 Mac is one that plugs directly into a Thunderbolt 3 port. The LG Ultrafine 5K is lovely and 4K video easily fits. However, photographers like Lloyd require a wide gamut color managed conventional resolution display. See 2.5K or 4K or 5K Display for Image Editing and Viewing?.

* Displays with Mini DisplayPort or DisplayPort cannot be connected without something like the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock that provides a Mini DisplayPort.

2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch
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