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Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018) review: Fast and powerful, but not for everyone

By Kenny Yeo - 19 Aug 2018

Introduction

The 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks are now powered by Intel's latest 8th generation Core processors.

Just weeks ago, Apple dropped the new MacBook Pro upon us. These new notebooks feature Intel’s latest processors, updated displays, and an improved keyboard. The Core i9 version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro also dominated the headlines for throttling under heavy loads. Now, we are going to find out for ourselves how Apple’s latest MacBook Pro notebooks perform and how bad the throttling, if any, really is.

 

What’s new?

The new MacBook Pro might look identical on the outside but it comes with a number of notable improvements. Let’s get right down to them.

The new Core i9-8950HK is Intel's most powerful mobile processor ever.

  • Processors - The newest MacBook Pro notebooks are powered by the latest 8th generation Intel Core processors. The 15-inch models will get hexa-core Core i7 and Core i9 processors which are said to provide up to 70% more performance than the previous generation. The Core i7 processors will be offered in the two off-the-shelf models, whereas users demanding more can opt for the Core i9 as a custom configuration. Here’s a summary of the processors on offer:
Processor Comparison
Model Cores/Threads Base clock speed Turbo clock speed Cache
Core i7-8750H 6 / 12 2.2 GHz 4.8 GHz 9MB
Core i7-8850H 6 / 12 2.6 GHz 4.3 GHz 9MB
Core i9-8950HK 6 / 12 2.9 GHz 4.1 GHz 12MB

 

  • Memory - The 15-inch models will get 16GB of DDR4 memory as standard. Users have clamored for a 32GB option and the newest 15-inch models can now be equipped with up to 32GB of DDR4 memory. But be warned, this option is pretty costly.
     
  • Storage - Like any respectable high-end notebook, the 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks come with PCIe-based SSDs. In the past, you could spec your 15-inch MacBook Pro with up to 2TB SSDs. Now, you can have up to 4TB. But again, this option will put a sizable hole in your pockets. If you are upgrading from the entry-level 15-inch model, spec’ing a 4TB drive will set you back a staggering S$4,760.

The display is gorgeous and TrueTone technology does help alleviate eye fatigue.

  • Display - We still get Retina displays with 500 nits of brightness and support for the wider DCI-P3 color space. Resolution is also unchanged at 2,880 x 1,800 pixels. What has changed is that the displays on the newest MacBook Pro notebooks now have TrueTone technology. True Tone technology automatically shifts the white point of the display to match the color temperature of the room. The result is a more natural and comfortable viewing experience. This piece of tech first appeared on the iPad Pro and was subsequently introduced on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus as well as the iPhone X. If you have used any of these devices, you would have experienced True Tone. It does a great job of alleviating eye fatigue but professionals whose work requires accurate color reproduction (videographers, photographers, designers, etc.) might want to turn it off as it might skew your judgment of colors.

The keys have almost no travel but they have a clickety action that I find satisfying.

  • Keyboard -The latest MacBook Pro notebooks come with what Apple calls its third-generation keyboard. It has a butterfly mechanism, which gives it a low profile but also makes it more stable than your typical keys with scissor mechanisms. If you are new to the MacBook Pro, you are going to need some time to get used to the keys because they have almost no key travel. Personally, I’m quite fond of these keys as they have an affirmative click action when you strike them, which lets you know when you hit a key.

    Apple says they have now made the keys quieter but they didn’t specify how. However, what popular fix-it and teardown site iFixit has discovered is that there is actually a thin piece of silicon membrane around the switches that, presumably, was designed to prevent debris from getting underneath and interfering with the operation of the switch mechanism. I found the new keys to only be quieter by the tiniest of margins. I doubt most people will notice.

The Apple T2 chip is also responsible for the Touch Bar and Touch ID.

  • Apple T2  - The Apple T2 made its debut in the iMac Pro, and like its predecessor the T1, the T2 is responsible for numerous security and hardware operations. On the security front, it is responsible for securely booting the MacBook Pro and encrypting the storage. It also contains numerous other controllers like the system management controller, audio controller, and even the storage controller. It also manages the Touch ID, Touch Bar, and is responsible for enabling Hey Siri. In short, it is the security and hardware hub of the MacBook Pro.

 

Ports haven't changed. You still get four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports capable of delivering up to 40Gbps of data.

Size and dimensions are unchanged, which is quite remarkable considering the new hardware that the latest MacBook Pro possesses. But more importantly, this means the latest 15-inch MacBook Pro remains to be one of the thinnest and most compact 15-inch notebooks around. It isn’t quite LG gram 15 thin and light but at 1.83kg heavy and 15.5mm, few other 15-inch notebooks come close.

In all, professionals demanding only the latest and greatest in hardware should be pleased by the improvements in the new 15-inch MacBook Pro. In particular, the ability to accommodate up to 32GB of memory should be seen as a willingness on Apple’s part to listen to the requests of professionals.

8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 9
  • Value 7.5
  • Mobility 8
The Good
Extremely powerful
Gorgeous display
Fantastic trackpad
Very well built
Four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports
Compact and light for its class
The Bad
Options are extremely expensive
Fans are loud under load
Keyboard needs some getting used to
Touch Bar appears superfluous
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