Apple’s new MacBook Pro offers buyers significantly improved performance at the same price as last year’s models, as well as a “quieter,” improved butterfly keyboard and a True Tone display. But is it worth the upgrade?
Early reviews of the 2018 update are out now. Here’s what they say about Apple’s fastest and most impressive laptop yet.
2018 MacBook Pro reviews
Photographer Austin Mann found that the speed difference over his 2013 machine was dramatic, as you’d expect, but even over the maxed-out 2016 model it was seriously impressive.
The test was simple: convert a 4K Mavic Pro video file to 1080p H.265 (HEVC) using QuickTime Player (File > Export As > 1080p > Check “Use HEVC”).
I have three different MacBook Pros, all on macOS 10.13.6, all running QuickTime 10.4, all with the original file on the internal drive and exporting to the internal drive. Here are the results:
My daily MBP until I discovered these results: 2.3 GHz i7 MacBook Pro (15?, Late 2013, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD) = 1980 seconds (33 minutes)
Top-of-line 2016 MBP: 2.9 GHz i7 MacBook Pro (15?, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD) = 99 seconds
This top-of-line 2018 MBP: 2.9 GHz i9 MacBook Pro (15?, 32 GB RAM, 4 TB SSD) = 24 seconds
For a professional photographer, he says, even the insane cost of the 4TB SSD is money well spent.
2018 MacBook Pro performance: Insanely great
The Coffee Lake processors packed into the new MacBook Pro, coupled with faster DDR4 RAM, are what make it the most powerful Apple laptop yet. Not only do the chips offer up to six cores — two more than their predecessors — but they also boast higher Turbo Boost clock speeds.
Laptopmag praised the ‘blazing’ performance, but wasn’t impressed by graphics element, nor the battery-life.
This thing is screaming fast. We’re talking the fastest SSD ever in a laptop, plus some other benchmark scores that put some — though not all — Windows machines to shame
It took the system just 2 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB worth of files, which translates to 2,519 megabytes per second. Incredulous, we found another synthetic benchmark to test the SSD called BlackMagic Disk Speed Test. The result? An average write speed of 2,682 MBps
The one area where this MacBook Pro falls a bit flat is graphics. On the OpenGL portion of the Cinebench R15 benchmark, which measures graphics performance, the 2018 MacBook Pro 13-inch yielded 41.1 frames per second. The XPS 13 scored 49.3 fps on the same test
The MacBook Pro 13-inch did not fare well on our web surfing battery test. Maybe it’s the Core i7 CPU in our configuration or the dedicated T2 chip that’s always listening for Hey Siri or the Touch Bar (or all of the above), but we saw an unimpressive runtime of just 7 hours and 32 minutes. That’s well below the premium laptop average of 8:28.
2018 MacBook Pro
As for performance, Apple’s not messing around here. Running Geekbench 4 (a popular PC benchmark), I got an impressive 5540 on the single core and 23345 with the multi-core test. Geekbench got similar — if slightly lower — results in its own tests on the high end. Here’s founder John Poole on the findings:
For the 15-inch models, single-core performance is up 12-15%, and multi-core performance is up 39-46%. Since the underlying processor architecture hasn’t significantly changed between the 2017 and 2018 models, the increases in performance are due to higher Turbo Boost frequencies, more cores, and DDR4 memory.
The 2018 MacBook Pro is the most substantial upgrade (at least regarding performance) since the introduction of quad-core processors in the 2011 MacBook Pro.
Taken together, that represents a significant upgrade from last year’s model. Individual performance will vary depending on a lot of different topics, but there’s no doubt these are powerful machines.
True Tone is a nice addition
We’re already familiar with Apple’s True Tone technology, which was introduced to the iPhone last year after originally being exclusive to the iPad Pro. On the MacBook Pro’s larger screen, it’s even greater. Still, it’s probably not a game-changer for most people.
“I have two 15-inch MacBooks in front of me right now (that’s just how I roll), and it’s like night and day,” says TechCrunch. “You’ve got no idea how blue the screen you’ve been staring at is until you see it up against another True Tone-enabled display. For the majority of us, it’s a nice feature, but for photographers, video producers and designers who rely on a MacBook for their work, it’s a much bigger deal.”
Dieter Bohn of The Verge writes that “True Tone works as well here as it does on the iPad Pro — at least when you’re looking at the screen. The color temperature changes and whites are much easier on the eyes.”
Dana Wollman of Engadget agrees that True Tone is a nice addition, but has a warning for some creatives. “I imagine this feature will be great for everyday use,” she writes, “but people like photographers who are picky about color will probably want to disable it while they’re working.”
A better butterfly keyboard
Apple won’t admit it, but it seems its “quieter” butterfly keys are merely a side-effect of a silicone membrane that’s been added to keep out debris. It seems even the smallest particles can destroy first- and second-generation switches.
Whatever the case may be, the early reviews agree that the new keyboard is a joy to type on.
“You know that feeling when you put your hands on a keyboard and you feel like you can just fly on it? This is one of those,” Mann writes. “It’s quiet, yet still maintains a solid tactile response and the size feels right.”
’Hey Siri’ is nothing special
Alongside it’s faster Intel chip, the new MacBook Pro has an Apple T2 processor that allows for improved security and “Hey Siri” functionality.
“This is a pretty handy feature to have, and I can see myself using it often, especially for those queries that are specific to the notebook,” explains Laptop Mag. “But some commands I was hoping would work didn’t.”
“Siri knows which side her bread is buttered on. Ask her to play a movie and she’ll confess that she can’t do that,” adds TechCrunch. “More functionality is surely on the way. For now, however, Siri on the desktop is more a nice addition than necessary feature.”
Is new MacBook Pro worth the upgrade?
Deciding whether to upgrade to the 2018 MacBook Pro is easy. Do you need a quieter keyboard? Do you need a faster notebook? If you answered no to those questions, there’s no need to fork out for Apple’s most powerful machine. If you said yes, it’s time to open your wallet.
“Those who expect a lot more from their machines will no doubt be excited to see what these laptops can do,” concludes TechCrunch. “The new MacBooks aren’t a fundamental rethink by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re a welcome acknowledgment that the company still considers creative pros a key part of its DNA.”
“This machine really only makes sense for the serious creative professional (and it’s the most expensive laptop Apple’s ever made), but in my opinion it’s the best by a long shot,” adds Mann. ”I don’t regret holding onto my late 2013 MacBook Pro all these years, but after experiencing these insane speed boosts and with today’s maturing accessory line-up, it’s definitely time for an upgrade to the new MacBook Pro.”
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