Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (2018) Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Blazing overall performance; Fastest SSD ever in a laptop; Quieter (and more durable) keyboard; Hey Siri' support built in; Great Retina Display gets True Tone ; Awesome speakers

The Cons

Below-average battery life; Graphics performance falls behind competition; No full-size USB or SD Card slot; Expensive

Verdict

The 2018 MacBook Pro 13-inch is super fast and the keyboard is improved, but the battery life could be better.

As someone who's been working every day with a 2016 MacBook Pro -- and who is sick of seeing spinning beach balls during heavy multitasking -- I'm happy to report that the 2018 MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar (starting at $1,799) has the serious speed boost I've been waiting for.

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In fact, the 8th-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD in my $2,499 configuration is probably overkill. But I don't care, because 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.

In other ways, this 2018 MacBook Pro is a subtle upgrade, including a quieter keyboard, "Hey Siri" support and a True Tone display. Overall, the 2018 MacBook Pro 13-inch feels fast, but it's battery life falls short of the completion.

Design: Solid but no longer sleek

The MacBook Pro 13-inch has an identical design to its predecessor, which is good and bad. On the positive side, the aluminum design still feels solid, and the Touch ID button makes it a cinch to log in with a touch of your finger. The speakers still sound rich and full, too, with no distortion at top volume.


But as other notebook makers have slimmed down their wares, Apple's machine feels on the heavy side. And the bezels around the display are thicker than I'd like, especially toward the top.


I'd also like Apple to add some more color options to the MacBook Pro. You get Silver or Space Gray. No cool white, like on the Dell XPS 13 or HP Spectre 13, or any other hues.


At 3.02 pounds and 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches, the 2018 MacBook Pro isn't as portable as I'd like. For example, the Dell XPS 13 is a lot more compact at 12 x 7.9 x 0.46 inches and significantly lighter  at 2.65 pounds. The Huawei MateBook X Pro has a larger 14-inch screen and is still lighter than the 13-inch MacBook at 2.9 pounds.

Ports: Thunderbolt only

If you're looking for a full-size USB port or a microSD card slot, this is not the laptop for you. Apple continues to offer four Thunderbolt 3 ports on the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.


These ports offer blazing throughput and let you connect up to two 4K monitors at once. And, as Apple says, there are now 300 Thunderbolt 3 accessories in the market.

Keyboard: Quieter and (probably) more durable

The most controversial aspect of Apple's modern MacBook Pros has been its keyboards, and not just because they offer a shallow 0.55mm of travel. Some MacBook owners filed a class-action lawsuit over keyboard failures, while others have simply complained of stuck keys.

I have good news. Not only is the 2018 MacBook keyboard quieter, but it should be less susceptible to debris and stuck keys. I also find the layout a bit more comfortable than my older MacBook Pro.


In side-by-side tests with my 2016 MacBook Pro, the keyboard on the 2018 model is indeed quieter. It also has a slightly softer feel than my current laptop, though I noticed less of a difference in both feel and volume between the 2017 MacBook Pro and the 2018 version.

Regardless, I typed quickly with few errors on the 10FastFingers typing test. I notched 72 words per minute with 97.6 percent accuracy. My best score on the 2016 MacBook Pro was 75 wpm but I made more errors, resulting in 93.8 percent accuracy.

A teardown by iFixit of the new MacBook Pro keyboard has discovered that Apple has employed a thin rubberized layer of silicone under its keycaps. This should prevent dust from getting into the keys and reduce the risk of sticky keys, but I'll be using the new MacBook Pro for a month and will report back my findings.

Display: TrueTone makes a difference

On the surface, the 13-inch display (2560 x 1600 pixels) on the 2018 MacBook Pro doesn't look any different, but with True Tone turned on, the screen is easier on the eyes. That's because the system leverages a dedicated sensor to dynamically change the whitepoint on the display to match the color temperature in the room.


The result can be a more yellowish tint to things like Google Docs, but that actually makes for more comfortable viewing. You can always toggle this setting on or off in System Preferences if it proves distracting.

Otherwise, the Retina Display on this MacBook is just as good as its predecessor. When viewing a trailer for Pose on FX, I could make out every crevice in a character's lips during a close-up.

Based on our testing, this panel covers a good 119 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That's better than the Spectre 13 (111 percent), but the MateBook X Pro (124 percent) and XPS 13 (130 percent) scored higher.

Touch Bar: It works

The Touch Bar above the keyboard also gets the True Tone treatment to match the main display. This mini touchscreen (2170 x 60 pixels) does come in handy at times, such as for using music controls in the Spotify app, scrubbing through images with your finger in the photos app, and picking a favorite site to launch in Safari by touching its icon.


But a couple of years after Apple launched Touch Bar, I see this feature as nice to have and not a must-have. For what it's worth, though, this is the only feature on this $2,500 machine that made my kids "ooh" and "ah."

Performance: This is crazy fast

It's rare that I don't believe the results coming out of our lab, but in this case I had to do a double take. Based on our file copy test, which involves duplicating 4.97GB worth of files, the 2018 MacBook Pro has the fastest SSD I've ever seen in a laptop.

It took the system just 2 seconds to complete this task, 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 SSDs in competing Windows ultraportables are six times slower, with the otherwise speedy Dell XPS 13 offering 399.4 MBps and the average premium laptop hitting 279.3 MBps.


With its 8th-gen, quad-core Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, the 13-inch MacBook Pro also smoked the competition on Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance. Apple's laptop scored 18,055. The next closest finisher, the XPS 13, notched 14,180, and the HP Spectre 13 (13,090) and the Huawei MateBook X Pro (12,913) were also far behind the MacBook Pro.

In terms of real-world performance, I haven't experienced any spinning balls so far in my testing, even as I've juggled 21 tabs in Chrome while I streamed Spotify in the background and used the Stride messaging app on the side.

MORE: Which Laptop CPU is Right for You?

The 13-inch MacBook Pro can handle demanding tasks well, too, such as transcoding a 4K video to 1080p using the Handbrake app. Apple's system took 16 minutes and 57 seconds to complete the task, which is more than 4 minutes faster than the premium laptop average and 2.5 minutes faster than the 2017 MacBook Pro. Still, the Dell XPS 13 was faster at 16 minutes even.


How about productivity? The 2018 MacBook Pro was neck and neck with its Windows cousins, taking 1 minute and 16 seconds to match 65,000 names and addresses in Excel. The XPS 13 was again faster at 1:08, as was the Asus ZenBook 13 (1:10), though the MateBook X Pro took a leisurely 1:49.

Graphics: Could be better

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.

On the Dirt 3 racing game, the MacBook Pro's Iris Plus Graphics 655 turned in a lame 38.8 frames per second on medium settings and 1600 x 1050 resolution. You can get a Windows laptop with more powerful Nvidia MX150 graphics -- like the MateBook X Pro and Asus ZenBook 13 - that delivers more than 110 fps.

T2 Chip: "Hey Siri" is here

"Hey, Siri. Skip track."...... "Hey, Siri. Open Safari to CNN.com" …. "Hey, Siri, lower the brightness." "Hey, Siri. Show me photos of my dog."

These are just a few of the commands I uttered during my testing, and Apple's assistant obliged. And I could do this all without touching the MacBook Pro, because of the new T2 chip inside. Yes, there's a Siri button on the Touch Bar, but you won't need to use it now. All you need to do is train the MacBook to learn your voice while setting up the laptop.


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. But some commands I was hoping would work didn't. such as "Turn True Tone on." And if you have an iPhone, you'll want to turn Hey Siri so as not to activate your phone at the same time.

The T2 chip enables some other key features, including full disk encryption for data stored on the SSD and a secure boot process.

Battery Life

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.

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

That's well below the premium laptop average of 8:28 and also behind the MateBook X Pro (9:55) and Core i7 XPS 13 with 4K Screen 8:23. Last years's 13-inch Pro with a Core i5 CPU yielded 8:40 on this test. If we get our hands-on a Core i5 MacBook we'll see if that performs better.

Heat: Or lack thereof

The 13-inch MacBook Pro's fan could get loud for a bit when I really pushed it, but it didn't run hot. On our heat test, which involves streaming a full HD video for 15 minutes and then measuring three different areas on the system, Apple's laptop kept fairly cool. The touchpad registered 86.5 degrees, and the area between the G and H keys hit 93.5 degrees. The underside only rached 92.5 degrees. All of these measurements are under our 95-degree comfort threshold.

MacBook Pro 2018 Price and Configurations: Bring money

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with TouchBar I reviewed starts at a steep $1,799 for a quad-core, 8th gen Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. For $1,999, you can up the SSD to 512GB.

My (gulp) $2,499 configuration includes a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Note that jumping from a Core i5 to Core i7 CPU costs $300, and it's $200 each for doubling the RAM from 8GB and the SSD storage from 256GB when configuring your own system.

Bottom Line

The 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is not a laptop for the masses, by dint of its price but also its power. But if you're a creative pro or power user who demands a laptop that's fairly portable, this system should mostly satisfy. The speed alone is great, and having Hey Siri on board proved more convenient than I thought it would. The quieter keyboard is also a welcome improvement. However, the battery life on this ultra-premium system is below average.

Windows ultraportables like the XPS 13 have surpassed Apple with their sleeker and lighter designs, and you can get more powerful graphics for hundreds of dollars less in systems like the Huawei MateBook X Pro. Both of those laptops also last longer on a charge. For this amount of dough, I also think Apple should offer a discrete GPU without requiring you to jump up to the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Overall, if you're a macOS person, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is a smarter and faster powerhouse.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, Editor-in-Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptopmag.com, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, Editor-in-Chief on
CPU Intel 8th-gen Core i7
Operating System macOS Sierra
RAM 8GB
RAM Upgradable to 16GB
Hard Drive Size 256GB SSD
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type NVMe SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 13.3
Highest Available Resolution 2560 x 1600
Native Resolution 2560 x 1600
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel Iris Plus 655
Video Memory Shared
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 5.3 x 3.3 inches
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt 3
USB Ports 4
Warranty/Support 90 days of complimentary technical support, 1-year limited warranty.
Size 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight 3 pounds
Company Website https://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/
Add a comment
13 comments
  • blahinc Says:

    > 8th-gen, quad-core Core i7 processor

    Are you retarded? Unknown cpu?

  • Tomasz Kurzak Says:

    Am I wrong or did You compare NVMe drive in this macBook to SATA based SSDs in competition?

  • esteban Says:

    The MacBook pro comes in different prices and types. Evaluating the most expensive is the best way to show all the characteristics of this laptop. The 15-inch MacBook pro has up to 3.1GHZ quad-core intel core i7 processor and 4.1ghz up to 4.1ghz turbo boost processor. This means that the computer clock speed will work at a speed of 3.1 computer speed with a 4.1 turbo help the higher the number the better the processor will be. This shows how fast the computer can execute through an internet search or any other task performed in the computer. That shows a pretty impressive speed for a laptop and can be used for anything in general with that speed and processor is suited for any type of job and perform well enough.

  • Esteban Says:

    The MacBook pro comes in different prices and types. Evaluating the most expensive is the best way to show all the characteristics of this laptop. The 15-inch MacBook pro has up to 3.1GHZ quad-core intel core i7 processor and 4.1ghz up to 4.1ghz turbo boost processor. This means that the computer clock speed will work at a speed of 3.1 computer speed with a 4.1 turbo help the higher the number the better the processor will be. This shows how fast the computer can execute through an internet search or any other task performed in the computer. That shows a pretty impressive speed for a laptop and can be used for anything in general with that speed and processor is suited for any type of job and perform well enough.

  • Michael Jiang Says:

    seems it not includes the competition with the memorys, ddr3/lpddr3/ddr4

  • Great2BNate Says:

    I second Manny's request about the heat issue/concern. I think there's no debate that the i5 runs cooler than the i7, but at 3.1ghz and 3.5ghz turbo, what's the temps and/or heat map on the new 13" touch bar 2017 macbook pro?

  • nick123 Says:

    this isn't true atleast not to my specific models. I bought a 2017 MacBook Pro 15 inch with 256g. It was acting slightly odd with it glitching a little and slow internet performance despite me having other devices connected to the same wifi having no issue. I found a Best Buy open box 2017 for cheaper and it had 512g, so I ordered it and kept the other, to test the open box side by side to the new one just incase it was acting weird too. I found it used less RAM and sometimes more of the processor but actually,significantly less of the processor, I had about 6 live feeds on youtube, 2 Flickr pages which was slowing down my original MacBook Pro (just two Flickr pages would use 9 gigs of RAM). After doing all this I noticed the one with 512 gigs was draining the batter 10 percent faster but was overall slightly faster handing iTunes and all these other things going on at once, using less RAM and less of the processor usually. Then I checked its specs and saw it was actually a 2016 model..... Thats ridiculous.I also literally clicked and did everything at the same time for this test. What a JOKE.

  • Jen Siang Says:

    Bought it four months ago and had to bring in for repair twice. The second time, they are still unable to fix it after one week. Apple support refused refund and replacement request. Buy at your own risk.

  • Patrick Says:

    I sure wish you had included the surface book with performance base through the article too...you had it in the original battery chart and then it disappeared

  • Nitesh Singh Says:

    Curious how the x360 did so much better in Dirt, when on paper its graphics, even being a gen ahead, should be decently behind the Iris 550 in the rMBP. Was it tested in macOS on the Macbook? That would be a big drop in performance vs Windows on boot camp, macOS can lose a good 30% of your graphics performance thanks to a 6 year old OpenGL graphics stack. Metal is nice but few mac games use it.

  • Manny Says:

    Thanks foe the review.

    No heat review? Was really looking to hear about the heat in this review as you have done in non-touchbar varient.

    Please do advise. Im strictly looking at the 13inch models and heat is a concern of mine.

    Thank you

  • kimmik Says:

    Nicolas, i think you're going to struggle to make the 13" mbp "faster" than your quadcore 2012 15".

    in the non-demanding applications, it'll feel no different.

    in the multicore, ie demanding applications, 6th gen dual core will be similar or slower than 4th gen quadcore.

    personally i think you should wait another year, skip this generation. if you really cant wait, you should look at activity monitor and get a feel as to how much ram you actually use doing "intensive" activities. you might be surprised that you never used more than about 8gb, in which case there is little need to pay for 16gb.

    the only aspect of the new mbp thats hands down faster in, is ssd transfer speed. but that doesn't have major real life impact compared to already fast previous generation mac ssd.

    in summary, i think you should wait a year or two. if you cant, any of the new touch bar macbooks will probably do fine with your demands.

  • Nicolas Grodner Says:

    Hello,

    I really liked your review of the new Macbook Pros and was wondering if you could help me decide before buying one.

    I currently own a 2012 2.6 Ghz Macbook Pro Retina 15" with 16 GB of RAM. I find it too big and heavy and would like to switch to the new 13" MBP with the Touch Bar.

    I'm not an actual "Pro" but I'm what you could call a "heavy amateur". I use Lightroom a lot and do sometimes some little video editing.

    So I'm planning on buying the 13" MBP Touch Bar and was wondering if I should preferably put my money into extra RAM or a faster CPU ?

    Since I currently have a MBP that still works pretty well, with a quad core CPU, 16 GB of RAM and a discrete GPU, I'm worried that my new 13" MBP might feel a little slower or not enough faster.

    Again, the main reason why I want to switch to the new 13" MBP is because I want a smaller/lighter PC.

    Do you think you could enlighten me ? :)

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