I just got back from checking out Apple's new, 2018 MacBooks Pro. I'm excited because I didn't just get the regular old product briefing and hands-on time with the new displays and new keyboards — yeah, there's a new keyboard! I mean, I got that, and it's fine, it's good, but I also got a lot more.
I got to spend a couple of hours talking to real pro photographers, scientists, video editors, music producers, and developers who have been living on these new machines for a week or couple already. I got to see live demos, and hear all about if and how the new hardware had changed or improved their very demanding, very high profile workflows. And that was legit awesome.
So, yeah, I'll have an in-depth review of my own as soon as I've spent some more time with the new MacBook Pros. But if you're considering to hit the buy button today, I want to help you make the most informed decision possible before you do.
Which MacBooks and MacBooks Pro are being updated today?
The flagships MacBooks Pro are being update today:
- 13-inch MacBook Pro with TouchBar
- 15-inch MacBook Pro with TouchBar
NOT being updated today:
- 12-inch MacBook
- 13-inch MacBook Air
- 13-inch MacBook Pro (without TouchBar)
What are the specs on the MacBook Pro (2018)?
13-Inch MacBook Pro:
- Quad-core Intel 8th generation (Coffee Lake) Core i5 and i7 processors up to 2.7 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz and double the eDRAM
- Intel Iris Plus 655 integrated graphics with 128MB of eDRAM
- 16 GB of LPDDR3 memory.
- Up to 2TB of SSD storage
- True Tone displays
- Apple T2 chip
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
15-inch MacBook Pro:
- Hex-core Intel 8th generation (Coffee Lake) Core i7 and Core i9 processors up to 2.9 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.8 GHz
- Up to 32GB of DDR4 memory
- Radeon Pro discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory
- Up to 4TB of SSD storage
- True Tone displays
- Apple T2 chip
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
How big a difference does Coffee Lake make in the MacBook Pro (2018)?
Coffee Lake is the code name for Intel's latest, 8th generation processor architecture. And yeah, Intel is still stuck in what feels like endless optimization cycles right now. What they're lacking in process advances, though, they're trying to make up for with a significant escalation in cores.
The 13-inch has been upgraded to quad core, which is great. There are options for i5 and i7 up to 2.7 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz and double the eDRAM. That's paired with Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics 655 with 128MB of eDRAM. You never get the same performance with integrated graphics as you get with discrete, but you get power efficiency which is good at the smaller, more portable end of the lineup.
The 15-inch, by contrast, is all about power. So, it has Radeon Pro discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory (on all configurations) and a hexa (6) core processor, with options for i7 and Core i9 processors up to 2.9 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.8 GHz.
That makes it up to 70% faster, something environmental photographer Daniel Beltra said was notable to him. On his previous-generation MacBook Pro, he'd start a complex project and then go get coffee. On the 2018 MacBook Pro, he'd start a complex project, get up, and discover it was already be done. Great for work. Bad for coffee.
Lucas Gilman, who's been working on the Gigapixel project Beauty & the Beast joked that the new MacBook Pro was handling his current building-size images with no problem at all, and he was looking forward to seeing how much further he could push it.
Oak Felder who's produced hit songs for Demi Lovato, Alicia Keys, Alessia Cara, and more, did a live demo for us. He took a Music Memo from one of his artists, loaded it into Logic Pro X, and so fast my eyes could barely follow, he added all the accompanying tracks that ended up being part of the song — which is right now in the Top 20.
On the previous generation, he said he's hit the limit on effects around 15-20% of the time. He hasn't hit it yet on the 2018 MacBook Pro.
Oak stressed the best thing you can do for an artist is get the hell out of their way, and he said the new MacBook Pro was getting all the bottlenecks out of his way.
Same with Spencer Ludwig, who produces his music on a MacBook Pro also using Logic Pro X. He did a live performance with his trumpet while the MacBook Pro just handled everything else.
You can now have 32 GB of RAM and 4 TB of SSD on a new MacBook Pro?!
While memory is the same on the 13-inch — up to 16 GB of high-efficiency LPDDR3 — the 15-inch now has an option for up to 32 GB of DDR4. Non-LPDDR memory is less energy efficient, though. So, to compensate for it and for the power draw of the extra cores, Apple is increasing the size of the battery. You don't get any extra battery life, mind you, but you don't lose any either. It's still Apple-standard 10 hours. (And I couldn't tell much if any difference lifting a new 15-inch compared to a previous generation 15-inch.)
All design is compromise and this is a smart one. Since Apple first announced the new MacBooks Pro, I've been hoping for a high-end SKU on the top geared for people who really need maximum hardware, just like there's been a low-end SKU on the bottom for people who really wanted the bare minimum. Now, we're getting it, and I'm super happy about it.
Developer Leah Culver, who made her fame with Pownce but is now on Breaker, said she hadn't gone nuts on multiple concurrent simulators and VMs — though Apple did demo that for us — but that the responsiveness was still incredible. Likewise student developer Akshaya Dinesh, who typically has a ton of apps running, including Unity, which she uses to create VR experiences.
Similarly, while the 13-inch stays capped at 2 TB of solid state storage, the 15-inch can now go to 4 TB. That'll hurt the wallet, I'm sure, but it'll also going to delight every on-the-go video editor who's ever dreamt of ditching external drives — which is pretty much all of us.
In fact, that's exactly what Carlos Perez of Elastic People and his editor, who designed and edited Despacito, the record-breaking music video, seemed to love the most.
Although they didn't have the new MacBook Pro when they made the video, as soon as they got it, they loaded up all the original 5K RED footage into Final Cut Pro, and it all fit right on the internal drive.
That meant no more external drives to worry about, no more proxy media, and no more stutters or stammers when previewing things
They also loved the speed. Recording artists are hard to get in touch with so, when they do have the artist on the line, they want to get as much feedback as possible. Perez's team said that, with the new MacBook Pro, they could render a four minute video in two minutes, message it to the artist, get feedback, make changes, and send back a new video in less than real time. And that was invaluable.
Janet Iwasa, PhD, Biochem Professor at Univ. Of Utah. She models molecules in Maya loved the new performance as well. Previously, she could only use her MacBook Pro to VNC into her Workstation. Now, she can do almost everything right on the new MacBook Pro.
The Apple T2 chip is coming to the MacBook Pro (2018)?
Apple T2 replaces the T1 chip from the previous generation models. In addition to taking over the Touch ID, Apple Pay, and other Secure Enclave tasks, they also handle realtime encryption, secure boot, and a lot of the controller functions, just like on iMac Pro.
It also enables "Hey, Siri!" for the first time on a Mac. ( Which will be especially good when a macOS Mojave ships this fall and brings with it full HomeKit support to the Mac. )
It's really interesting to watch Apple ship portables with hybrid Intel and ARM architecture. They're uniquely positioned to do that kind of thing, and it really does make you wonder how far they'll be able to take it.
Are the new MacBook (2018) displays really TrueTone? Really?!
Yes, TrueTone is also coming to the 2018 MacBooks Pro! And not just to the main display, but to the TouchBar as well. (Though, honestly, I would have preferred the Taptic Engine in the latter's case. Maybe next time!)
Just like on iPad Pro and iPhone X, a specially designed ambient light sensor constantly measures color temperature and adjusts the display so whites stay looking paper white and not florescent blueish or incandescent yellowish light.
Because the MacBook Pro already has individually calibrated and color managed DCI-P3 displays, the result is terrific. Looking at it side-by-side with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, it was identical, which is beyond impressive.
Beltra said that, because he spends weeks and months on the road shooting, and ends up triaging everywhere from jungles to colored tents, the idea of TrueTone on the MacBook Pro was compelling. He didn't want to have to worry about where he was and what it was doing to the temperature of the display. He juts wanted to concentrate on his work.
Is there a new MacBook Pro design? Is there a notch?
No new design. No edge-to-edge display. No OLED. No TrueDepth cameras. And no notch. At least not this year.
Typically, iPad gets the big new tech first, then the Mac.
But there's a new keyboard on the new MacBook Pro?
There is a new keyboard. Or rather, newish. It's a 3rd generation Butterfly and Dome switch set up. That's not what scissor-key fans are going to want to hear, but Apple believes it's a better, more stable, more precise overall typing experience and is sticking with it.
It's been reengineered though, and while I'm sure — or at least I desperately hope — reliability will improve — the major focus was on reducing the loudness. That, according to Apple, has been some of the most intense feedback the company has gotten over the new keyboards.
Apple's addressing it not just in volume but in tone as well. Apparently, tone matters as much to human perception as volume.
I've only had a few minutes typing time on it, but it is significantly less loud. It also feels punchier, like it's got more attitude when you're hitting it and wants to hit you back harder. I'll be curious to see how it ages.
Again, I vastly prefer the butterfly keyboard to the old, loosey goosey scissor switch keyboard. But my preferences aren't everybody's preference, and Apple needs to keep a broad customer base happy, so I'll also be curious to see other people's impressions when they get their hands on it.
Apple did tell me their Pro Workflows team — the Avengers originally assembled for the upcoming Mac Pro — did have their fair share of input.
How does the new MacBook Pro look so far?
The 2018 MacBook Pro is getting a huge boost in performance, especially at the top-of-the-line 15-inch level. I'm sure I'm not the only video creator drooling over the prospect of a 6-core, 4 terabyte portable workstation to edit with on the road.
TrueTone is also terrific and I'm glad it's coming to the Mac but I still want it everywhere. Continuity TrueTone it if you have to, but get it on my iMac and Apple TV, please and thank you.
And the T2 continues to be the most fascinating architectural improvement to the Mac in years. You just can't beat hardware security at that level.
If you're a hardcore MacBook Pro users and you've been waiting on more cores, more memory, and more storage, the new 15-inch MacBook Pro is for you.
How much does the new MacBook Pro cost and when will it become available?
The new 13-inch starts at $1,799. The new 15-inch at $2,399. And they're both available today on Apple.com, and later this week at Apple Retail and resellers.
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