2018 15-inch MacBook Pro review: Better, faster, stronger, throttle-ier?

Enlarge / The Apple MacBook Pro with 15-inch touch pad from 2018

Samuel Axon

Apple tries to convince Mac users who were dissatisfied with recent technological and design choices. But even though many of these users have expressed frustration, sales of MacBook Pro have been relatively strong.

Part of this disconnect comes down to analyzing what Apple means when it adds the "Pro" label to a piece of hardware. Naturally, the term means different things to different people depending on exactly what the professionals are.

Then there is the fact that the MacBook Pro has gone through a double life not only as a professional workstation, but as a high-end Mac client. Many people buy MacBook Pros that are not professionals – at least not professionals to do the kind of things they might need from a $ 3000 computer. These users buy it because it is simply the best performing Mac laptop.

So, what kind of professionals are the recently revised MacBook Pros? Is it a profitable investment for consumers? We recently spent a week with the highest specification of 2018 MacBook Pro 15 inch to find out.

Technical characteristics

Let's start with the specifications of the 13-inch model. The entry-level specification is priced at $ 1,299 (although the one with the touch bar starts at $ 1,799.)

The screen is unchanged from the previous one. This is a 13.3-inch LED backlit IPS display with a resolution of 2560 × 1600 pixels, or 227 pixels per inch. It reaches a maximum of 500 nits of brightness and supports P3 Wide Color and Apple's True Tone feature.

Datasheet at a glance: MacBook Pro 15 inch 2018
2880 × 1800 to 15.4 inches and 500 nits
macOS High Sierra 10.13.6
Intel Core i9 6.9-GHz 6-core (4.8 GHz Turbo) with 12 MB shared L3 cache
32 GB 2400 MHz DDR4
Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16 GB HBM2 memory
802.11ac Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11a / b / g / n; Bluetooth 5.0
4x Thunderbolt 3, 3.5mm headphone
0.61 inches × 13.75 inches × 9.48 inches (1.55 cm × 34.93 cm × 24.07 cm)
4.02 lb (1.83 kg)
1 year or 3 years with AppleCare + ($ 379)
Price as revised
$ 6,699
Other advantages
FaceTime HD 720p camera, stereo speakers, three microphones

There are two CPU options in the 13-inch model: a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 quad-core processor and a 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor for $ 300 more . The RAM is LPDDR3 (so the same as last year) at 2133MHz. The basic specification is 8 GB, but it can be upgraded to 16 GB for $ 200. Solid state storage starts at 256 GB, with more expensive options of 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB.

These chipsets bring Intel Iris Plus 650 graphics – this time with 128 MB of eDRAM, twice as much as before. For reference, last year's models had only two cores and less storage maximum. For connectivity, you have four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

And then there is the 15 inch, which we are looking at today. It starts at $ 2,399. Once again, the display is the same: a 15.4-inch LED backlit LED backlit IPS display, with a resolution of 2.880 × 1,800 at 220ppi, with P3 Wide Color and True Tone support .

There are three Intel processor options, all Coffee Lake / 8th generation: a 2.2 GHz Core i7 processor with six cores and Intel's Turbo Boost up to 4.1 GHz; a 2.6 GHz Core i7 with 4.3 GHz Turbo Boost and a 2.9 GHz Core i9 with six cores and Turbo Boost up to 4.8 GHz. The base specification has 16GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory – compared to LPDDR3 last year, and there is now an option to upgrade to 32GB for $ 400.

The basic GPU is a Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5, and you can upgrade to 560X with the same amount of memory for $ 100 more. All 15-inch models have additionally integrated Intel's UHD Graphics 630.

Things get really wild when you take into account the SSD. Options start at 256 GB, but you can upgrade to 512 GB ($ 200 more than the base specification), 1 TB ($ 600), 2 TB ($ 1,400) or, for the first time, 4 TB ( $ 3,400). For connectivity, we're looking at four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack again.

Some notes on configurations and prices

Our evaluation unit is a 15-inch model with the Intel Core i9 6-core processor (8950HK). It also means 32GB of DDR4 2400Mhz memory, a discrete Radeon Pro 560X graphics processor with 4GB of GDDR5 memory and a massive 4TB flash storage.

To buy a MacBook Pro with the same specifications from the Apple Store, you have to spend $ 6,699. This is obviously a scandalous territory for most consumers (but not necessarily for all pros), but note that the storage upgrade accounts for about half of that price. Dropping the SSD to a more modest 512GB lowers the price at an even more expensive price but more normal at $ 3,500.

Aside from connecting Thunderbolt devices such as external SSDs and eGPUs, there is no realistic upgrade path for this computer's components. So make sure you have what you need in the initial setup if you buy.

But do you really need to jump for these additions? I live in Los Angeles, and many of my friends work in Hollywood in the kind of creative roles that Apple had in mind with this machine. So I asked some video editors friends to ask them if they were going to shell out $ 3,200 to get 4TB of internal storage.

I have different answers. Unsurprisingly, needs and priorities vary even within the same profession. To be fair, however, they worked in different types of roles. The former works on a major broadcast network producing and publishing on-air commercials, and the second is an independent producer and story editor for documentary films and reality TV shows on Netflix and cable networks.

The first m & # 39; s said that while filmed footage takes up a tremendous amount of disk space, video producers and publishers already have the habit of working on an external drive, and the connection existing for this (Thunderbolt 3) is good enough to make this workflow relatively painless. "I do not see any reason to pay extra for flash storage," he concluded.

But the second friend told me that you can not showcase your work on the fly without additional equipment for certain types of productions – she specifically named big-budget reality shows that make a lot of things on the set of candidates. She said, "It's a lot of money," but that she "can imagine scenarios where this might be helpful."

It does not matter where you stop, it's expensive computers, and most consumers do not need to spend that much. The entry-level specification of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is pretty good for most people who want good performance from a laptop, and the aging MacBook and MacBook Air are still attractive machines for everybody. And there are the parallel worlds of Windows laptops and two-in-one, Chromebooks and even the iPad, all also viable options, depending on your priorities.

In my opinion, there are mainly three types of people who would spend $ 6,699, $ 3,500 or even $ 2,699 on this laptop: the creative professionals and developers (and businesses that employ them) whose livelihood depends performs. married to the Mac platform and has no other viable choices with a pretty strong video performance, and well-heeled consumers who just want the best computer that they can buy, that's not a good choice. they need it or not.


The MacBook Pro is available either in the money we've known for a long time, either in the "space gray" that Apple introduced on the lineup in 2016. If you liked the 2016 MacBook Pro and 2017, you will like that one. If you have not done so, it will not change your mind. This is because the basic design remains the same.

The MacBook Pro 2018 still has a static and non-illuminated Apple logo, unlike Pre-Touch Bar models. It's probably for the better, if we are honest.

Samuel Axon

The 2018 MacBook Pro from the front.

He also always has the gigantic touch pad. It took me getting used to when I started using a MacBook Pro with this basic design, but I like it now.

Samuel Axon

The keyboard does not look different, but it feels subtly different.

Samuel Axon

Sorry, still not full size USB. Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C is here to stay.

That's the 2018 MacBook Pro next to the 2017 MacBook Pro. Can you tell the difference? I did not mean it.

Samuel Axon

Again, both models side by side, this time with the lid closed.

Samuel Axon

The only major difference in the design department is the keyboard, so let's start there – there is a lot to unpack on this subject.

The keyboard: Butterfly 3.0

The third-generation MacBook Pro butterfly keypad represents a further improvement over its immediate predecessor, which is an even smaller improvement over the original keyboard introduced on the 2016 MacBook Pro. this machine is quieter than its predecessor. It is, but not radically. It also has a slightly softer feedback for each key. I like changes; it smells and it just sounds a bit more like the old chiclet keyboards.

There are a host of users who do not like these butterfly keyboards. I am not one of them. I find that the short drive allows me to type faster than most other keyboards, and I do not mind the clatter that they have. J & # 39; appreciates. But it comes down to personal preferences. Apple chose this keyboard design because it allows the company to make its laptops thinner and because the short ride allows people who adapt to these keyboards and who love them to to type very quickly.

If you liked the previous butterfly keyboards, you'll love this one. If you have not done it, I doubt that it changes your mind.

Then there is the question of reliability. The 2016 MacBook Pro's butterfly keyboards have a dust problem. The keys could get stuck and locked – you could have had a situation in which a key was repeated indefinitely even if it was not pressed or did not record a press at all.

According to the reports we saw, it was more common with the 2016 version of the keyboard than the 2017 one – the latter apparently made some small adjustments that improved the rate of change. failure. But the problem was pretty widespread that Apple has launched a repair program for these keyboards; users who encountered the problem could have it repaired for free, whether they bought AppleCare or not.

I met him myself in a 2016 model; my "z" key is stuck. Because of the way the computer is built, Apple had to replace the entire keyboard and other hardware around it to solve this problem. It did not cost anything because I had AppleCare, but the receipt I received revealed that it would have cost $ 700 otherwise. Apple replaced my 2016 keyboard with the slightly improved 2017 model, but we learned that the 2016 and 2017 models that are served by the program will unfortunately not receive the 2018 keyboard instead.

When Apple showed us this new MacBook Pro 2018 earlier this month, no claims have been made about improving keypad reliability. But thanks to a disassembly to iFixit and an internal document that would have been distributed to authorized service providers Apple, we learned that this keyboard seems to answer these reliability problems . There is now a membrane under the caps that can prevent debris from getting under the keys.

Apple has not publicly confirmed this, but it might have reasons not to do so. Problems with keyboards in previous models have led to some lawsuits, and publicly discussing changes could complicate these lawsuits. Whatever it is, I believe that it is likely that this keyboard will not have the same frequency of problems. Another clue: Apple says that the 2018 keyboard is not covered in the repair program.

I like this keyboard and I think that most people who will be interested in it will get used to it, even if it will take a period of adaptation if you come from any something completely different.

My only major complaint about keyboards on the MacBook Pro was the reliability issue up until now. So, if this iteration is less likely to need repairs, so much the better. But if you hate him, you hate him. No matter which side you fall in, I do not think this drawing will disappear anytime soon.

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