First Look: MacBook Pro 2018 – these Macs are all about more, more, more

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First Look: MacBook Pro 2018 – these Macs are all about more, more, more

Apple has quite a lot to live up to with the MacBook Pro 2018. While the majority of fans remain satisfied with what the Pro line offers, a segment of them have become less enamored, and have been rather loud about it. The 2018 MacBook Pro is Apple’s attempt to address to those criticisms, while maintaining the identity of it’s premium laptop.

These fans demanded the truly latest processors. Done. They wanted 32GB of memory capacity. Check. They clamored for higher storage capacities. Ditto.

The keyboard has had this group of users in a tizzy for a year, so there’s a new generation in town. Everything about this version of the laptop is about more, more, more – and specifically more of what we want (though sharper screens remain overdue).

macbook pro 2018

Price and availability

What everyone will be excited to hear is that Apple has left the pricing of all its MacBook Pro models unchanged from last year. That means the 13-inch model with Touch Bar starts at $1,799 (£1,749, AU$2,699, AED 7,999), while the 15-incher begins at $2,399 (£2,349, AU$3,499, AED 9,999).

Sadly, the 13-inch model without the Touch Bar remains completely unchanged in terms of spec as well as price. At this point, if you’re looking at that model you may as well save up for another few months for the next, now-massive step up.

At any rate, what you can expect from the 13-inch with Touch Bar configurations includes 8th-generation, quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors with Turbo Boost speeds of up to 2.7GHz and 4.5GHz, respectively. Those chips will drive Intel Iris Plus 655 graphics with 128MB of eDRAM for more bandwidth in processing tasks. You’ll also be able to equip your machine with up to 2TB of SSD storage, and up to 16GB of RAM. 

The 15-incher is where the real fun begins. This year marks a lot of firsts for the MacBook Pro, starting with hexa-core Intel Coffee Lake processors, with your choice of Core i7 or – wait for it – Core i9 chips that can go up to 2.9GHz and 4.8GHz with Turbo Boost, respectively. These models can be fitted with up to 4TB of SSD storage, and this year finally brings capacity for up to 32GB of DDR4 memory. Better yet, every single model will come housing AMD Radeon Pro graphics (up to a 560 series) with 4GB of video memory.

Every one of these configurations – 13-inch and 15-inch – will come with the new True Tone display technology, Apple’s T2 chip with enhanced capabilities (like automatic storage encryption) and Touch ID biometric login via the Touch Bar.

Clearly, these are massive improvements on the power profile of the MacBook Pro, at last bringing the laptops to parity with their rivals in pure performance.You can buy either of these laptop’s on Apple’s website in the US right now, and stores will be getting them in due course. As for UK and Australia, we’ll update this page once we know more.

macbook pro 2018

Design

If you were looking for Apple’s hot new take on the look and feel of the MacBook Pro, perhaps 2019 is the year for you. This year is all about what’s on the inside – well, almost.

Apple had to do a considerable amount of redesigning of the internals of the MacBook Pro to accommodate the new, more powerful components. For instance, with DDR4 RAM being less power-efficient than DDR3 (but necessary to hit that 32GB capacity), Apple increased the battery size and capacity in the 15-inch model to offset impacts to battery life. The same was done in the 13-inch model on account of the newer processors.

Similarly, Apple has introduced its T2 co-processor to the MacBook Pro, which now combines all of the functionality of the T1 and previous T2 first found in the iMac Pro with some brand-new features, namely automated storage encryption, which we’re told has little to no impact on system performance.

Next up, Apple has brought the True Tone display technology first launched on iPad Pro to the MacBook Pro, which changes the color tone of the display to match that of its real-world surroundings. The idea is to ease the harshness of blue light and increase the realistic look of the screen’s contents. While we’re impressed by the display initially, we’ll need more time with it to properly evaluate its benefits.

Finally, the butterfly switch keyboard has been upgraded to a new 3rd generation. While Apple wasn’t keen to shed light on how the revision addresses concerns regarding the previous keyboard in terms of reliability (i.e. sticking keys), we’re told the core focus of the upgrade was to reduce noise, and this was certainly evident in the short time we tested the keyboard; however, we were also told that it should feel differently, but we’re not getting that yet.

Apple has also released three new leather sleeves for its two new MacBook Pros, which are nearly identical to those for the iPad Pro, and come in Saddle Brown, Midnight Blue and… ‘Black’. Pricing hasn’t yet been disclosed.

Going back to the display, we’re disappointed not to see thinner bezels and higher resolutions in the MacBook Pro displays this year, especially with 4K and HDR media only growing in popularity. (And with countless other premium laptops having offered these pro-grade features for some time now.)

macbook pro 2018

Performance

While our extremely brief time with the MacBook Pro leaves us limited in what we can say about the new laptops’ power levels, we’ve witnessed several demonstrations designed to showcase just that.

Apple tells us to expect up to a 70% increase in performance year-over-year with the 15-inch model, while the 13-incher is as much as twice as fast as before. Professional MacBook Pro users, like 3D animators, filmmakers and coders, told us that they especially appreciate the graphics improvements, encoding boosts and RAM increases, respectively.

However, it should be noted that such hardware improvements aren’t unique to the MacBook Pro: competing laptops have been equipped with these components for months, if not years in the case of DDR4 memory. Of course, that’s not accounting for the massive appeal of macOS among professionals in these fields, which will only be improving with the arrival of macOS 10.14 Mojave later this year.

To boost the power profile of these MacBook Pros even further, Apple has co-developed an external graphics processor (eGPU) with film software company BlackMagic Design. Going for $699 (about £529, AU$949), this eGPU is different in that the graphics card – an AMD Radeon Pro 580, to be exact – is included.

Apple’s idea here is to expertly calibrate the cooling to just one GPU to maximize the entire product’s performance. We thought the prime idea of the eGPU was the path to upgradeable graphics for laptops, but alas not it seems.

macbook pro 2018

Final thoughts

We’ll need to put the 2018 MacBook Pros through our full review process to see exactly what they can do, but expect to see at least comparable performance to competing laptops with similar components. This is exactly what disappointed fans have wanted since before the 2016 overhaul, and the improvements here should keep the MacBook Pro competitive for the next year more effectively than years past.

Based on our time with Apple’s new laptops, and with the professionals and creatives that use them we were able to speak with, it’s clear that the MacBook Pro’s influence continues to resonate. So it’s that much more heartening to see Apple support those fans with the latest and greatest in high-performance hardware.

Granted, we maintain that the time to go beyond Apple’s current iteration of the Retina Display – not to mention slashing the bezels – is well past. Apple has otherwise assuaged nearly every concern regarding the MacBook Pro’s power profile, but we’ll see exactly how well it’s done so in due course.

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