Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018) Review Editor's Choice

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Insanely speedy general performance; Fastest SSD we've tested; Comparatively thin and light design; Vivid, sharp display; Improved keyboard; Strong sound; Long battery life

The Cons

Exorbitant price; Warm underside; No USB Type-A ports

Verdict

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is one of the most powerful laptops we've ever seen and is worth the splurge for the most demanding creative pros.

Sept. 24 Update: Apple's released macOS Mojave! Check out our review to see if you should update now, or wait until it's more convenient.

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Apple's new 15-inch MacBook Pro (tested at $4,699; starting at $2,399) has already seen dual controversies, but it's come out all-the-more-impressive for Apple. Not only have class-action lawsuits (1, 2) arisen about Apple's butterfly keyboard switches (the latest model seems to be more reliable), but a power-throttling bug was found and squashed, revealing some of the best laptop performance scores we've ever seen.

The big problem, though, is that this notebook's performance comes at a prohibitively expensive price. But with all of its power, in a thin and light (for its class) design, the new MacBook Pro is a force to be reckoned with.

Design: Thinner, lighter than the rest

The 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro looks just like its 2017 and 2016 predecessors, but the design is holding up rather well. It's a slim aluminum beast, made in silver and space gray with elegant, tapered edges.


The bezel around the screen may be thicker than you'll find on rivals such as the Huawei MateBook X Pro and the Dell XPS 15 but I'm OK with that. Apple's making no concessions about its webcam placement, keeping it in the top bezel. Those two Windows competitors place the webcam in the bottom bezel and deck, respectively, making for super-awkward angles.


Weighing 4 pounds and measuring 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches, the Apple MacBook Pro is thinner and lighter than the Dell XPS 15 (4.2 pounds, 14 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches), the 15-inch Kaby Lake G HP Spectre x360 (4.6 pounds,, 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches), the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Book 2 (4.2 pounds, 13.5 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches) and the Dell Precision 3530 (5.1 pounds, 14.8 x 9.87 x 1 inches).

Ports: Slim pickings

Unfortunately for those who still use boxy, Type-A style USB 3.0 devices, the MacBook Pro still only features Thunderbolt 3 ports, of which it provides four. On the flipside, these future-facing, reversible ports offer insanely speedy throughput and let you connect up to two 4K monitors at once.


And even if you're still holding onto Type-A accessories, Apple's here to  promise a brighter future, claiming that 300 Thunderbolt 3 accessories are in the market.

Display: Smarter than ever

The MacBook Pro's 15.4-inch display offers the crisp, bright image quality we've come to expect, and it got even better this year by borrowing a trick from Apple's other devices. Watching the Mission Impossible: Fallout trailer on the MacBook's screen, I noticed the warm oranges of an exploding car turning into a fireball, the serene blues of water flooding a sinking SUV and the verdant greens of trees on a faraway island.


I tested its 2880 x 1800-pixel panel out on a 4K documentary from the Evolve wrestling promotion, where performers were rendered so clearly I felt like I was in the front row. That meant the bloodshot eyes of Matthew Riddle registered clearly, as did the sweat stains on his Game of Death-style tracksuit and the fine leather grain on the back of his championship title.

MORE: The Best Laptops for Every Need

The 2018 MacBook Pros are the first to feature Apple's TrueTone technology, which Apple says "uses advanced multichannel sensors to adjust the color and intensity" of the screen. In our office, under  harsh fluorescent lighting, I found that the new MacBook could adjust the color balance to warmer tones better than it does under natural lighting. While watching videos, this color-balance adjustment looked completely natural, but as I typed in Google Docs, I noticed the background of my review gained an unnatural cream-colored hue.


According to our colorimeter, the MacBook Pro produces 117 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is higher than the 111 percent premium laptop average, and similar to (or tied with) the ratings from the Spectre x360 (119 percent), the XPS 15 (115 percent) and the Precision 3530 (117 percent). The Surface Book 2 hit a higher mark of 131 percent.

Watching the Mission Impossible: Fallout trailer on the MacBook's screen, I noticed the warm oranges of an exploding car turning into a fireball, the serene blues of water flooding a sinking SUV and the verdant greens of trees on a faraway island.

The MacBook Pro is also quite radiant, with a max brightness of 354 nits, leaping over the 307-nit average and the 289-nit Precision 3530. While that's similar to the 340-nit Spectre x360, it's not the brightest of them all, as the 417-nit Surface Book 2 and 371-nit XPS 15 outshine the MacBook Pro. The screen's brightness, though, is still strong enough for a wide range of viewing angles, as I saw colors retain their tones at 75 degrees to the left and right.

Keyboard, Touchpad: Improved

While Apple's only touting the 2018 MacBook Pro's keyboard as a quieter version, it's reportedly more reliable, as a teardown of the system confirms that a membrane rests underneath each key. This should prevent debris from entering the keyboard and, as a result, help avoid stuck keys.


I couldn't hear the difference when I tested this keyboard against that of the previous year's MacBook Pro. More surprisingly, -- after years of turning up my nose at butterfly-switch keys -- I didn't find these keys aggravating to use. I scored a good-for-me rate of 75 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test (my average is 80 wpm), and didn't feel any discomfort as I typed sections of this review on the laptop.

If vertical travel matters to you, the MacBook Pro's keys measure a mere 0.7 millimeters, so they don't move that much. By comparison, the XPS 15's keys have 0.8mm of travel, while the Surface Book 2 (1.2mm), Dell Precision 3530 (2mm) and Spectre x360 (1.4mm) offer more travel as well.

My comfort with these keys is partially tied to the mechanisms feeling snappier and more responsive. They require 63 grams of force to actuate, which is above the 60-gram minimum we look for, but less than the amounts found in the XPS 15 (70 grams), the Surface Book 2 (65 grams)  and the Precision 3530 (69 grams).

The MacBook Pro's massive 6.3 x 3.9-inch Force Touch trackpad is huge but non-intrusive, as I made it through testing without accidentally activating it. If this is your first MacBook in a while, just know that it doesn't actually move, instead providing haptic feedback to simulate a click. This means you'll need to learn how to use two fingers to drag and drop, which isn't that hard to get used to, as you can't really hold down on the touchpad with one finger, if the touchpad doesn't actually move.

Audio: Sweet and strong

Audiophiles and music pros will appreciate the MacBook Pro's internal speakers, which blast enough sound to fill a large conference room. Listening to Chance The Rapper's "I Might Need Security" on it, I noted how his verses came through clearly, how the bass thumped accurately and how serene the song's soul sample came through.

Performance: Superfast, World-Beating Speed

The most Pro thing about this MacBook Pro is how wildly fast it can be configured. Take, for example, our test unit, which features an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU and 32GB of RAM, which combine for blindingly fast performance.

It's not the kind of speed  I need as a writer, , but its the kind I enjoy. And as a prospective video editor, it's the kind of torque that widened my eyes. The following results came after applying Apple's MacBook Pro software patch, which fixed a throttling issue.

With Excel, TweetBot, QuickTime, Handbrake and OnePassword open in the background, I proceeded to split my screen between 16 Chrome tabs and a 4K video,  confident that I'd see nary a bump in the road. And I was right, as the interface never even flinched or stuttered as I moved from tab to tab and between apps.

The MacBook Pro's Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU and 32GB of RAM combine for blindingly fast performance.

That speed demonstrated itself on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, where the MacBook Pro posted a massive score of 23,138, more than twice the 11,318 premium notebook average. That tops the 19,809 from the workstation-class Precision 3530 (Intel Xeon E-2176M with 32GB of RAM) and the 19,755 from the Dell XPS 15 (Core i7-8750H with 16GB of RAM). Apple's score also torches both the 12,505 from the Surface Book 2 (Intel Core i7-8650U with 16GB of RAM), and the 15,340 from the Spectre x360 (Intel Core i7-8705G with 16GB of RAM).

Apple's got the fastest storage in the north, east, west and south, as the 2TB SSD in the MacBook Pro demonstrated. After our traditional file-copy test produced rates much higher than expected, we validated those with a synthetic benchmark, the BlackMagic Disk Speed Test. On this test, the Pro recorded write speeds of 2,600 MBps and read speeds of 2,724 MBps, which leave the 419 MBps category average in the dust. We saw similarly low rates from the SSDs in the Spectre x360 (221 MBps), the XPS 15 (221 MBps) and the Surface Book 2 (318.1 MBps), though the Precision 3530's 848 MBps mark isn't bad.

MORE: Which Laptop CPU is Right for You?

Video editors will be happy to hear that the MacBook Pro converted a 4K movie to 1080p in 10 minutes and 16 seconds, less than half of the 21:50 category average, and even less than the time posted by the Precision 3530 (11:11). The XPS 15 (10:12) finished in slightly less time, while the Surface Book 2 needed 23 minutes.  The Spectre x360 (15:01) and the Surface Book 2 (23:00) took longer.

The MacBook Pro didn't thrill as much on the Excel Vlookup test, though, with a time of 52 seconds, that comes in under the 1:33 category average, but is longer than the 44-second mark earned by both the XPS 15 and the Precision 3530. The Surface Book 2 (1:31) and the Spectre x360 (0:57) again took longer.

Graphics and Gaming: Not As Impressive

Even with its AMD Radeon Pro 560X GPU with 4GB of memory -- the fastest MacBook Pro isn't as beastly in the graphics department as we expected.  On the OpenGL portion of the Cinebench R15 benchmark, which measures graphics performance, the 2018 MacBook Pro yielded a score of 106.22 frames per second. The XPS 15 (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti with Max-Q) did better, with 118.13 fps on the same test.

When we ran the Cinebench R15 test in five rapid successions, the MacBook Pro frame-rate dipped about 6 points from 106.22 fps to 99.94 fps, and the XPS 15 fell about 11 points, from 111.65 fps to 100.29 fps.

The MacBook Pro ran the modest Dirt 3 racing game set to medium graphics at 1080p at 83 frames per second. That's only a few notches above the 69 fps category average, and far below the rates from the Precision 3530 (214 fps), the XPS 15 (189 fps) and the Spectre x360 (182 fps).

Battery Life: All Day

The MacBook Pro is one long-lasting laptop. The notebook endured 10 hours and 20 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test -- web browsing at 150 nits -- which is almost 2 hours longer than the 8:22 premium notebook average. The XPS 15 (11:53) and the Surface Book 2 (11:34) made it longer, while the Precision 3530 (8:53) was closer to the average. The HP Spectre x360 lasted a mere 5:20.

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

To get the most battery life out of your machine, make sure Automatic Graphics Switching (found in System Preferences under Energy Saver) is enabled, as battery life can be as low as 5:43 if it's disabled.

The T2 Chip Improves Siri, Touch Bar

In what feels like a wait-and-see upgrade, Apple upgraded the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar with a new, proprietary chip called the T2, which enables such security measures as anencrypted SSD and a secure boot process.


But the T2's biggest perk is adding the option to activate Siri with your voice, without touch, as you'd do on your iPhone. My testing suggests that's only going to work well if your iPhone's not within earshot, as I activated Siri on my phone during testing.

So, what does this mean for you? Siri can be your DJ ("Hey Siri, play Chance the Rapper"), help with your eyesight ("Hey Siri, set Night Shift") and act as your web navigator ("Hey Siri, open ESPN.com"), all without your hands leaving their place on the keyboard. Yes, this feels only slightly more novel and helpful than the Touch Bar -- a forgotten gimmick, up there with 3D Touch on iOS -- but it's a step in the right direction.

Oh, and the Touch Bar itself? That's the other "panel" in the MacBook Pro getting True Tone display technology, but you won't notice unless you take time out of your day to squint.

Heat: Runs a Little Warm

The MacBook Pro gets a little warm, though we're not surprised since it's both thin and light and super-speedy. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video on the notebook, our heat gun clocked its keyboard and underside at 99.5 and 96.5 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, measurements that exceed our 95-degree comfort threshold. Its touchpad stayed acceptably cool, at 86.5 degrees.

MacBook Pro 15-inch Cost: Money Trees Required

Bring money. The MacBook Pro we tested costs a whopping $4,699, and includes an 8th Gen Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD and a discrete AMD Radeon 560X GPU with 4GB of memory.

If that price just gave you a panic attack, don't worry, the 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,399, in a config that includes an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of memory, a 256GB SSD and a Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.

Bumping that machine up to the Core i9 CPU costs a mere $400 extra, as does doubling its RAM to 32GB. Since both memory and storage are soldered onto the MacBook Pro, you should also realize that you only get one shot to upgrade the internal SSD: a 512GB drive costs an extra $200, the 1TB drive costs $600 and the 2TB upgrade costs $1,400.

Bottom Line

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is definitely the best yet, with some of the fastest speeds we've ever seen, a smarter screen and a better keyboard. All that power is kept behind an expensive lock and key, though, with our test model costing $4,699, and a Core i9, 32GB of RAM config starting at $3,199.

If that price made you flinch and reconsider, the $1,559 XPS 15 offers decent speeds at a much more affordable price, though it's got a 1080p screen and its hard drive is notably slower. Need more power? The $2,632 Dell Precision 3530 offers not-too-shabby speeds, but it's heavier, lasts less time on a charge and its display is dimmer. The $2,940 Surface Book 2 is also more affordable, and provides a detachable touch screen (which the MacBook Pro doesn't) but it's slower in every single way we tested. All three of these alternatives offer both USB Type-A and Type-C ports, too.

At the end of the day, though, there is no laptop as thin and light and powerful as the new MacBook Pro, and that is enough of a reason to merit its price as any.

Credit: Laptop Mag

CPU Intel Core i9-8950HK
Operating System macOS Sierra
RAM 32GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 2TB
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type PCIe SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 15.4
Highest Available Resolution 2880 x 1800
Native Resolution 2800x1800
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of memory
Video Memory 4GB
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 6.3 x 3.9 inches
Ports (excluding USB) USB-C
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt 3
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
USB Ports 4
Warranty/Support 90 days of complimentary technical support with a one-year limited warranty
Size 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches
Weight 4 pounds
Company Website www.apple.com
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23 comments
  • Neil Bhisma Says:

    I really like your blog, as we know that it is good to know about the review plays an important role while buying any expensive product. Useful as well as helpful information. But still anyone wants to know more about it, then follow this link: https://www.applemacsupportnumbers.com/apple-customer-support/

  • Darren M Says:

    Love that your 4K video test wasn't the typical nature doc, but a pro wrestling one instead!

  • Michae charles Says:

    Need of it but no money i here people saying they are so fast on perfomance.

  • ivo welch Says:

    has the brightness gone from 460 nits in the previous macbook pro 15 generation (e.g., see hp spectre x360) gone down to 350 nits in this generation?? this would be bad news for outdoor operation. which 15" does well for long use outdoors?

  • CKCKCK Says:

    I switched from 2015 13" MBP,great improvement on everything(except battery life, before I got 12 hours,now only 10).With nice screen and graphics, everything runs smoothly(even high-end games).Some people complain about the 4 USB-C ports but I am completely fine with it,I bought a third-party adaptor which is way better than Apple's overpriced dongles.If Apple gives us back the unbeatable battery life, give more uses to the beautiful looking touch bar,lower the price to around $1200, more people are gonna consider this instead of the cheaper windows alternatives.

  • Nitesh Singh Says:

    Hard drive speed test shows one label called "DO NOT USE" ;)

  • Fernando Scheps - ITCentralPoint.com Says:

    Personally, I think this is a very nice machine and I am planning to buy one to return to the Mac world.
    I´ve had the 2013 MacBook Pro 15 int the past as my first and only Mac till now. Then I sold it 2 years later and decided to go back to Windows.
    I purchased the XPS 15 9550 and it was a disaster, long ago were the times were Dell was offering good support, I even purchased a Thunderbolt 3 dock at the time which never arrived to me because they cancelled the shipment due to a recall. The machine had screen flickering when in lowest brightness, the dedicated video card never works properly and all videos where flickering. A technician came to my house, changed screen and motherboard, all the same problems. I sent it back.
    The I tested the Ms. Surface Pro 4 and it was OK in general without the extra power and dedicated graphics card, still was behaving strangely when using the Ms. Dock and an external Dell screen, returned the Surface Pro 4 and bought an Asus UX501VW which was the closest to what I was looking for, out of the box one of the keys on the keyboard failed and when pressed too on the side the key would remain tilt. Then there is this annoying noise called "Coil Whine" that sounds like an old hard drive, (I have 2 SSD´s so I know its not from that) and contacted Intel about it, they said I need to talk with Asus. I contacted Asus, they told me they are not able to guarantee that this problem wouldnt occur in another model. I have to execute warranty on this thing and then sell it.

    As you can see, I purchased the top recommended options of Windows computers and was unsatisfied with all of them. I could test the Razer Blade which looks very good, but its as expensive as the Macbook Pro, so I am going for the later again.

    The build quality of the Apple MacBook Pro has no competitor. Hope to see a company building high quality products with long warranty by default due to its confidence on their building quality. I just wished they would incorporate the 1060 Nvidia cards instead of ATI Radeon...

    I just hope I can get used to MacOS again when at work I need to work with Windows (still 7).

    Or maybe I just use the Mac for everything :)

    Fingers crossed.

  • Hick M Says:

    MacBook Pro 2017 here. The battery life is a blatant lie from Apple's part. No matter what I do, in normal use I can't extract more than 4h of battery life (and that is if I'm lucky).

  • Mike C Says:

    I've had the 15 this machine for about 6 months now. It works OK. I appreciate its lightness, the sound is great and like the wide color gamut screen. Its not a fast machine as far as comparisons with PCs go and one can't realistically do video editing on it without being attached to power and cooking the bottom. This said, my beef with as a BUSINESS machine is twofold 1) it is so difficult to put together and repair, that when it goes give trouble, it takes awhile to fix. I had a broken key and Apple Care failed me big time compared to what was available 5-10 years ago. (You can't just replace a key, they have to change the entire top case and that's a messy job). 2) the non-standard ports cost me big time. I was giving a presentation at a convention which uncharacteristically used HDMI outputs. My VGA dongle could not be patched to the system and fortunately there was a nearby Apple Store that was only too happy to swallow up 73 bucks. All in all, I'm neutral about this machine. My old 2014 MBP Retina serves as a trusty backup. I would strongly suggest to Apple to rethink its 'thin is better philosophy'. Business users might be willing to trade off on that for a more robust machine which is less of a hassle to repair and to connect to.

  • Karlos Rodriquez Says:

    LOL they're not leaving anyone behind, more like dragging people forward into the future. Before you trolls bash this magnificent piece of engineering, name one laptop that makes a close alternative. Trick question -
    There isn't any!

  • Joe Napp Says:

    I've been using my 2016 Macbook Pro 15" (with every option possible) for a few months and I cannot believe how much slower it is than my late 2013 MBP. I'm going back to it and giving the 2016 to my wife.

  • peter magu Says:

    mac book pro is suitable but try and upgrade on processor

  • BiggusDickus Says:

    The TouchBar is actually OLED, not LED which is incorrectly stated in your summary.

  • Comrade L Says:

    What kind of site is this who doesn't correct an error signaled by a reader for three weeks ? Your comparison with XPS 15 4K gamut is grossly mistaken. XPS 15 4K has 100% sRGB and 90% AdobeRGB as measured by another site.

  • Eric T Says:

    "The Pro's 6.1 x 3.9-inch trackpad looks comically large on this new model, but I enjoyed having plenty of space to pinch to zoom or use multi-finger gestures to flip between windows."

    Exactly what I thought, but I actually found it inconveniently large intruding on where I would normally rest my hand and having to use the side of the trackpad rather than the middle for navigation.

  • Comrade L Says:

    mistake in comparation: XPS 15 the 4K version doesn't have only 72% sRGB as you said it yourself here @http://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/dell-xps-15

  • Rico Viqueira Says:

    In your "configurations" section you mention this, "...2.2-GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, Intel Iris Pro Graphics and two USB-C ports. This version only comes in Silver." when talking about the 2015 model. It does not have USB-C ports.

  • Patts Says:

    Pamm, when was the last time you bought a laptop, 15 years ago? IBM no longer makes laptops! Thinkpads do not = IBM. They're crappy Chinese products now with spyware preinstalled.

  • John D Says:

    @James it's neither. It's OLED - not LED or LCD.

  • Magnus M Says:

    One cool thing about the USB-C is that you can use a hub/dock which connects to a monitor, charger, printer, SD, and Ethernet with more. Then you only need to connect one single USB-C cable to your MacBook, and it instantly changes and is connected to all your devices.

  • Pamm M Says:

    Seem to me that they are leaving the professional people behind. We still use the ethernet port and for some things wi-fi. USB port too. We have used MAC's since 1985, but overall, I have to now re-think what to upgrade to. MAC or shudder IBM.

  • James Says:

    Great review. At the end you called it an LED strip which I think you have confused with LCD strip ;)

  • Benjamin Gaudet Says:

    You should not compare Mac Book Pro 15 Cinebench performance with XPS 13, but XPS15 i7 (GTX 960M): 147 Points (Mac Book : 79)
    XPS 13.

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