The new MacBook Pros don’t look at all different on the outside, but they’re much, much faster on the inside.
On sale today, I had a chance to go hands-on with both the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (starting at $1,799) and 15-inch MacBook Pro (from $2,399), and I came away impressed with their sheer speed. But I’m not sure whether Apple has gone far enough to address other complaints.
MacBook Pros have always given Windows-powered workstations a run for their money, but the new 15-inch MacBook Pro is ridiculously powerful. We're talking 6-core, 8th-gen Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processors, up to 32GB of DDR4 memory and (this is not a typo) up to a 4TB SSD.
The result is a system that's up to 70 percent faster overall than the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is getting a big speed boost as well, promising to be about twice as fast as the previous model. That's thanks to 8th-gen quad-core Core i5 and Core i7 processors, Intel Iris graphics and up to a 2TB SSD.
New 2018 MacBook Pros: Key Specs
|13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar||15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar|
|CPU||Quad-core Intel Core i5 and Core i7||6-core Core i7 and Core i9|
|RAM||Up to 16GB||Up to 32GB RAM|
|Storage||Up to 2TB||Up to 4TB|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Plus 655 (128MB of eDRAM)||AMD Radeon Pro 555X or 560X (4GB RAM)|
|Display||13.3 inches (2560 x 1600 pixels)||15.4 inches (2880 x 1800 pixels)|
|Ports||Four Thunderbolt 3||Four Thunderbolt 3|
|Battery||58 watt-hours||83.6 watt-hours|
|Size||11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59 inches||13.75 x 9.48 x 0.61 inches|
|Weight||3.02 pounds||4.02 pounds|
Alas, Apple is not upgrading the 13-inch MacBook without Touch Bar. And it's staying at the same relatively high $1,299 starting price.
Keyboard: Quieter, but not more durable
I know what you're thinking. What about the keyboard? The new MacBooks for 2018 have a third-generation butterfly keyboard with the same low travel as their predecessors, but Apple has worked to make them quieter. I had only a few minutes to play with the 13-inch and 15-inch models, and I did notice a slight improvement in the typing experience, but I'll need more time with the machines to render a verdict.
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Apple isn't making any claims about increased durability on the new MacBook Pro keyboards, despite some users complaining about (and even suing over) failing keyboards on existing MacBook Pros. Apple instituted a repair program recently to help those affected and said it was "a small percentage of keyboards."
True Tone Display and Touch Bar
Both the new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBooks also come with True Tone displays for the first time, which means you'll get more natural-looking colors in response to ambient light, thanks to a new dedicated color-temperature sensor. Plus, the Touch Bar itself supports True Tone to match the screen. Apple hasn't made any other changes to the Touch Bar, but the upcoming macOS Mojave will add some software improvements.
Apple is adding bigger batteries to the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros. The 15-inch model now has 7.6 more watt-hours, which helps compensate for the more power-hungry DDR4 RAM. However, the rated battery life for the new MacBook Pros remains the same as before. Expect up to 10 hours from both systems.
T2 Chip: 'Hey, Siri'
Want to talk to Siri without pressing a button? The new MacBooks pack a dedicated Apple T2 chip that enables you to say "Hey, Siri" and just speak your commands or queries. This chip also adds dedicated storage encryption and secure boot capabilities for the MacBooks.
A New eGPU option
If you want even more graphics might, Apple has worked with Blackmagic on an eGPU that packs an AMD Radeon Pro 580 card with 8GB of memory for $699. This device can stand vertically to save space and comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, four USB 3 ports and one HDMI port.
Once you plug the Blackmagic eGPU in, it will deliver up to 2.8 times faster performance to the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and up to eight times the performance for the 13-inch Pro.
Having quieter keys is nice, but I would have liked to see Apple add more key travel to the MacBook Pro keyboards. Apple also didn't shrink the bezels around the display, which would have helped modernize the design more. Nor are there any new color options for the aluminum chassis; it's still just Space Gray and Silver.
Unsurprisingly, Apple is sticking to its guns when it comes to ports; there are still four Thunderbolt 3 ports on both the 13-inch Pro with Touch Bar and 15-inch Pros. I would have liked to see at least a microSD card slot for photographers.
Despite not changing much on the outside, the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro represent more than just a refresh from Apple. The internal upgrades should make a big difference in everyday performance but especially with intensive workloads, whether you're batch-editing photos or compiling code.
But at $1,799 and $2,399, these are steep starting prices, so we'll have to see if the speed boost is worth the premium. Stay tuned for our full reviews.