15-inch MacBook Pro Review | A True Professional Grade Powerhouse
Unlike the iPhone, updates to Apple’s MacBook lines don’t occur at a specific time each year like clockwork. Incremental internal updates are most common, with bigger changes to the laptop’s exterior design happening every couple of years or so. The new 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro hasn’t seen a drastic overhaul aesthetically, but some series updates to the hardware give it a significant increase in performance for creative professionals and power users alike.
The exterior of the new MacBook Pro remains nearly identical to the previous two iterations. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as last year’s MacBook Pro was already a gorgeous bit of kit. Even by Apple’s lofty standards, the build quality on the current design of the MacBook Pro is a step above. Holding it in our hands, the two halves of the laptop feel as though they’ve been sculpted out of a single piece of metal. Small recesses are carved out on the front and rear for the fans and the lip for lifting the display. With the lid closed it’s less than 2cm tall and weighs just 1.8kgs. On either side, you’ll find two Thunderbolt 3 ports capable of 40Gbps of full-duplex data transfer. That sort of bandwidth allows you to simultaneously run 4K monitors, hard drives and charge devices from a single port.
Gesture controls are easier than ever with the enormous trackpad. Thankfully, it has pretty accurate palm rejection so your inputs don’t get muddled along the way. It also features Force Touch, that gives you contextual information across a range of apps and system features by clicking an item and then applying more pressure. The Touch Bar has continued to improve as more applications have updated to make use of the extra input source. It changes depending on what application is currently open and in most cases it streamlines your workflow. For example, in Final Cut Pro X, the Touch Bar showed the timeline of video we were editing and we could immediately swipe to specific sections with our free hand.
All Touch Bar MacBook Pros also have a fingerprint reader for unlocking and authorising online payments with ApplePay. Speedwise it’s on par with the iPhone’s TouchID, and streamlines your online experience with nothing more than a touch on the sensor required to access your passwords.
Apple’s butterfly keyboard has seen an improvement as well. There is a small increase in key travel, and a new silicon membrane has been added to reduce dust build-up and muffle noise. Like most of Apple’s laptops, they’re illuminated so you can still see the keys when typing in dark environments. This is now the third generation of the butterfly keyboard and feels like the realisation of Apple’s original vision of the ultimate low-profile keyboard. Overall it’s an enjoyable typing experience.
The already excellent display has been refined again with the addition of True Tone, first debuted on the iPad Pro. Sensors next to the FaceTime camera continually assess the brightness and colour temperature of your surroundings and adjust the white balance of the display accordingly. We tend to turn it off when performing tasks that require optimal colour accuracy, such as photo and video editing. However, for general day-to-day tasks, it works well at keeping the display consistent as your surroundings change.
As the Pro in the name implies, this laptop was designed to handle the most intensive workloads power users and creative professionals can throw at it. This year’s jump in performance is due to the upgrade to Intel’s new eighth-generation processors. The base model 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with a hefty 6-core i7, a decent increase from last years quad-core offering. Our model, however, is configured with the beefier 6-core i9, debuting in a Mac for the first time. Paired with 32GBof speedier DDR4 RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 560graphics card with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, and a lightning-fast 2TBSSD; it is just about the fastest portable computer you can buy today.
After using the built-in Migration Assitant to transfer our data over, we began to put the new MacBook Pro through its paces with some of our normal creative workflows. The increase in power from its updated hardware was immediately noticeable. We were able to make and preview colour corrections on a 4K video in real time on Final Cut Pro. Editing photos between Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop was seamless, with large batches of photos exporting with our edits in seconds.Outside of heavier, power-hungry workflows, the new MacBook Pro is simply a joy to use. Everything opens and loads instantly thanks to the SSD, which happens to be the fastest ever made, and switching between apps is seamless due to the faster RAM.
Running alongside the upgraded processor from Intel, is Apple’s own T2 chip for updated security encryption and to keep Siri always running in the background. The virtual assistant can perform almost all of the same tasks it can on mobile devices (sans Homekit features), plus a few extra macOS specific commands. It adds some real functionality and we found ourselves asking it to set reminders and timers as well as control the music playing while our fingers were busy tapping away on the keyboard. Because it has its very own processor to control these functions, the delay is minimal and carrying out tasks doesn’t disrupt the workflow.
15-inch MacBook Pro Review | The Wrap-Up
Windows laptops have stepped up their game in terms of design and performance in recent years, but the new 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro shows that Apple still remains the king of premium laptops. No one else can match the MacBook Pro’s marriage of beautiful design and performance. Many professionals use a MacBook Pro for portability, but still require a more powerful computer such as an iMac to do more processor intensive work. The new 15-inch MacBook Pro could change this. It offers such a giant leap in performance that it could be the only computer a high-end user needs.