2018 MacBook Pro (15 inch) Review

The Good:

  • Major internal upgrades to CPU (8th gen Intel), RAM, storage and display
  • Improved battery life compared to previous models
  • Creative professionals have all the power they need

 

The Bad:

  • The basic design has not been updated
  • High-performance models a very expensive
  • Only provides USB-C ports
  • PC competition offers more captivating hardware at lower cost

 

This MacBook is exactly the upgrade most Mac fans were waiting for. It improves the internals, battery life and keyboard (the one major issue with the previous generation). However, it’s beginning to feel like Apple is falling behind the competition. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great laptop, and perfect for any creative professional. However, Apple used to be known for it’s innovation, and this MacBook is definitely not innovative.

 

Hardware

The exterior of the 2018 MacBook Pro features the same slim unibody aluminum case that was introduced back in 2016. There are thinner and lighter laptops available, but nothing feels quite as sturdy and robust in the hand as a MacBook. Also back is the Touch Bar, which is still more of a gimmick than anything else.

macbook pro 15 inch 2018 pic 4
credit: apple.com

A significant amount of the improvements come inside the laptop. The 2018 MacBook Pro sports the new 8th generation Intel processors and additional RAM and storage options. The 13-inch model features the quad-core i5 and i7 chips. The 15 inch model has the six-core i7 and i9 processors that can turbo boost up to 4.8GHz. The 15 inch model can also be configured with up to 32GB of RAM, a 4 TB SSD, and a dedicated Radeon Pro 560X graphics.

The 2018 MacBook Pro also features Apple’s T2 chip, which makes booting and file encryption more secure by bringing things like audio and SSD controllers into a single location.

 

Keyboard and Trackpad

Apple was really impressed with itself when it released its new butterfly keyboard a few years ago. However, it wasn’t welcomed with much fun fare, as it featured an extremely low amount of key travel, a pronounced clickity sound, and keys that were prone to malfunction from dust and debris. The 2018 MacBook Pro’s keyboard is better than previous generations, but it still has the smallest amount of key travel of any premium laptop. Most laptop keyboards have between 1.5mm and 2mm of travel, but the MacBook Pro has less than 1mm. Apple has improved the tactile feel, clickity noise, and dust and debris problems by adding an additional silicone layer underneath the keys, but we still find the competition’s keyboards more comfortable to type on.

Sitting just below the less-than perfect keyboard is a nearly perfect touchpad. Apple gestures are buttery smooth on the gigantic touchpad, and it continues to be one of the best on the market.

 

Display

The MacBook Pro’s Retina Display features an IPS panel with a 2880 by 1880 resolution at 220 pixels per square inch. Something that we love is the brightness, and at 500 nits, the MacBook Pro can be used outside as well as in direct sunlight. Apple has also given the MacBook Pro an improved color-temperature-sensing True Tone screen, a technology first introduced on iOS devices. True Tone uses an ambient light sensor to change the white balance of the screen and Touch Bar depending on your environment. This makes the screen look more natural and helps with screen fatigue.

 

USB-C and… more USB-C

USB-C is definitely the future. It is the do-it all port that can handle external GPU’s, displays and everything else in between. Apple is all-in with the USB-C, and you’ll find four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports on the MacBook Pro, and nothing else.

macbook pro 15 inch 2018 pic 3
credit: apple.com

Having four USB-C ports definitely helps future-proof the MacBook Pro, but for today, many believe the sweet spot for laptop i/o is two USB-C Thunderbolt ports, plus some legacy ports like a SD card reader, USB 3.1 or HDMI out. It’s surprising to see Apple omit things like the SD card reader, as Apple knows its core user-base are content creators, and content creators need a way to upload and download media. Unfortunately, MacBook Pro users will be living that dongle life for the foreseeable future.

 

Using the MacBook Pro

The 2018 MacBook Pro is definitely a mixed bag. The exterior is still a gorgeous design and very durable. But Apple seems to be adhering to the “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” mantra, and it would be nice to see something new on a device that costs well over $2,000.

With that said, the additional power is a welcomed upgrade, and using the 2018 MacBook Pro is as good as you would expect. The capabilities that are packed into this machine is impressive. In Geekbench 4’s multi-core test, the Core i7 13-inch model scored an astounding 18,837, as compared with around 15,200 from similarly spec’d machines form 2017. What that means is that if you’re doing CPU-heavy work like video and audio editing, or compiling tons of code, you’ll definitely notice an improvement.

Apple has also given the 2018 MacBook Pro voice-activated Siri, a first for a MacBook. It works similarly to Siri on iOS, but you’ll have to be close to the laptop to use it because Apple did not include any far-field mics (something Lenovo has done with its recent laptops).

Gaming is also on the table with the new MacBook. Newer titles like The Witcher 3 played at around 30 fps without lowering the screen resolution. You won’t be able to replace a dedicated gaming laptop with the new MacBook, but it’s nice to know you can have some legitimate fun if you want to.

 

Battery

Apple listened to its customers and improved the battery performance in the 2018 MacBook Pro. On our standard batter test which involves looping an HD video until it dies, it lasted an impressive 12 and ½ hours. For comparison, the Surface Laptop lasted nearly 15 hours and the 2016 MacBook Pro lasted 11 hours on the same test.

 

Pricing and Competition

The 15 inch MacBook Pro is designed to get real work done, and that capability comes with a really big price tag. The entry-level model starts at $2,399, but that does give you 16GB of RAM and a dedicated Radeon 555X graphics. The 13 inch variant with Touch Bar starts at $1,799 with a Core i5 Processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD.

If you’re an Apple power-user, the 2018 MacBook Pro is more or less, exactly what you’ve been looking for. If an iPhone is in your pocket and a MacBook is in your bag, you’re used to the sticker-shock and understand that’s the price you have to pay to enjoy the smooth and reliable Apple eco-system.

For everyone else, there are a lot of compelling PC’s like HP’s Spectre, Lenovo’s Carbon and Asus’s ZenBook.

 

Summary

This latest generation of MacBook Pros may seem understated, but 2018 has brought some significant improvements, especially under the hood. The new models are more powerful than ever, and the 15 inch model offers the best prosumers can ask for.

macbook pro 15 inch 2018 pic 2

However, it’s a mixed bag when looking at the MacBook Pro as a whole. The screen is one of the best that can be found on a laptop, but the keyboard is one of the worst at this price point. The trackpad is the best on the market, but the port selection is really subpar for this class.

The 2018 MacBook Pro is informative on the state of Apple’s laptop lineup overall. Apple is simply not the innovator it once was. Other manufacturer’s have been offering the same CPU’s and graphics for months, along with much more creative takes on what the laptop can be.

 

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