Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (2017) review: Performance boost delivers better value for money

mpb-15-2016-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    8.1 Excellent
  • $2,399.00

Pros

  • Improved performance
  • Lightweight, slimline design
  • Innovative Touch Bar
  • High-quality Retina display

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited to 16GB memory
  • No user upgrades or repairs
  • USB-C connectivity only

Apple's June WorldWide Developer Conference had more than its fair share of product announcements, including the forthcoming iMac Pro and HomePod smart speaker. But perhaps a more important long-term development was Apple's belated discovery of virtual reality. If nothing else, the need to embrace VR has forced Apple to admit that Macs just don't cut it when it comes to the sort of 3D graphics performance required for this emerging technology.

As a result, Apple's flagship 15-inch MacBook Pro received more than just the expected Kaby Lake speed bump, also benefitting from a significant GPU upgrade.

Price & performance

The MacBook Pro got a major revamp last November, introducing a new, slimmer design, along with the eye-catching Touch Bar, so there's no significant change to the laptop's basic design.

mbp-2017-front.jpg

The 15-inch MacBook Pro's Retina display is bright (500 nits) and delivers 220ppi resolution. The laptop weighs 1.83kg and is 15.5mm thick.

Image: Apple

The 15.4-inch Retina display offers 2,880-by-1,800-pixel resolution (220.5ppi) and 500-nits brightness, and is both a treat for the eye and well suited to graphics and video-editing work. At 1.83kg and measuring just 15.5mm thick, the MacBook Pro is also impressively slim and light for a laptop that delivers high-end performance.

Prices remain unchanged too, starting at a hefty £2,349 (inc. VAT; £1,957.50 ex. VAT, or $2,399 in the US) for the 'entry-level' model, which is now equipped with a 2.8GHz Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a Radeon Pro 555 GPU with 2GB of VRAM, and a 256GB SSD.

We tested the higher-end standard configuration, which costs £2,699 (inc. VAT; £2,249 ex. VAT, or $2,799 in the US) and now packs a Core i7-7820HQ CPU running at 2.9GHz (up to 3.9GHz with TurboBoost), 16GB of RAM, a 4GB Radeon Pro 560 GPU, and a 512GB SSD.

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While the price points remain the same, these 2017 updates do provide a significant improvement in performance. In fact, the new £2,699 model that we tested delivered very similar results to a custom, BTO-configured model from last year that cost a full £3,329 (inc. VAT; £2,774.16 ex. VAT, or $3,499 in the US).

mbp-2017-geekbench2.png

Geekbench 4 processor benchmarks for the 2016 and 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro, running 6th and 7th generation Core i7 processors respectively, with 16GB of RAM.

Image: ZDNet

Processor performance in Geekbench 4 was slightly better than the 2016 BTO model, scoring 4760 for single-core performance and 15,890 for multi-core (compared to 4550 and 14050). Graphics performance was almost identical to last year's model, reaching 85fps when running the Cinebench R15 OpenGL test, while the AJA storage tests also reported similar scores, with write and read speeds of 2000MB/s and 2500MB/s respectively.

Battery life doesn't seem to have been affected by the more powerful GPU, still lasting for 7.5 hours when streaming video from BBC iPlayer (with the brightness level lowered to a perfectly watchable 50 percent), so you should certainly be able to get a full days' work from the MacBook Pro when you're out of the office.

Of course, the MacBook Pro's weaknesses remain the same: it's a professional-level laptop that's limited to a maximum 16GB of RAM, with no user upgrades or repair options available.

Conclusions

The 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro is still expensive, but it's undoubtedly better value for money than last year's model: our £2,699 (inc. VAT) review unit delivered professional-level performance that would have cost more than £3,300 just a few months ago.

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Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Operating System Apple OS X 10.13 High Sierra
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core i7 (7th Gen) 2.8 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 3.8 GHz
Number of Cores Quad-Core
Cache L3 - 6 MB
64-bit Computing Yes
Features Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Cache Memory
Type L3 cache
Installed Size 6 MB
RAM
Memory Speed 2133 MHz
Configuration Features provided memory is soldered
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Installed Size 16 GB
Memory
RAM 16 GB (provided memory is soldered)
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Speed 2133 MHz
Storage
Interface PCIe
Display
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
Resolution 2880 x 1800 (WQXGA+)
Widescreen Display Yes
Monitor Features 220 ppi, Wide Color Gamut
Type LED
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size (metric) 39.1 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation WQXGA+
Environmental Parameters
Humidity Range Operating 0 - 90% (non-condensing)
Hard Drive
Type SSD
SSD Form Factor soldered
Capacity 256 GB
Audio & Video
Multi-GPU Configuration 1 single GPU card / integrated GPU
Graphics Processor AMD Radeon Pro 555 / Intel HD Graphics 630 - 2 GB GDDR5 SDRAM
Sound Stereo speakers, three microphones
Input
Type Force Touch trackpad, Touch Bar, keyboard
Localization & Layout English
Features Multi-Touch Gesture Recognition, Touch ID sensor, ambient light sensor, force click, multi-touch touchpad, pressure sensitivity
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Processor
CPU Type Core i7
Generation 7
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 2.8 GHz
Optical Storage
Drive Type no optical drive
Type none
Battery
Capacity 76 Wh
Technology lithium polymer
Run Time (Up To) 10 sec
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Output 87 Watt
Connections & Expansion
Interfaces 4 x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3
Headphone output
Header
Brand Apple
Product Line Apple MacBook Pro
Model with Touch Bar
Localization English
Country Kits United States
Packaged Quantity 1
Miscellaneous
Color space gray
Case Material aluminum
Included Accessories USB-C power adapter
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 4.2, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
System
Notebook Type notebook
Platform Apple Mac OS
Hard Drive Capacity 256 GB
Introduced Mid 2017
Monitor
Diagonal Size 15.4 in
Dimensions & Weight
Width 13.8 in
Depth 9.5 in
Height 0.6 in
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 1 year warranty
Environmental Standards
ENERGY STAR Certified Yes
Physical Characteristics
Weight 4.03 lbs
Power
Min Operating Temperature 50 °F
Max Operating Temperature 95 °F
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Apple OS X 10.13 High Sierra
Type Apple AirDrop, Apple AirPlay, Apple Image Capture, Apple Keynote, Apple Launchpad, Apple Mac App Store, Apple Mac OS X Chess, Apple Mission Control, Apple Numbers, Apple Pages, Apple Preview, Apple Automator, Apple QuickTime, Apple Safari, Apple Stickies, Apple System Preferences, Apple TextEdit, Apple Time Machine, Apple iBooks, Apple iMovie, Apple iTunes, Calendar, Apple Calculator, Contacts, Dictation, Drivers & Utilities, Game Center, Maps, Messages, Notes, Notification Center, Photo Booth, Reminders, Apple DVD Player, Siri, iCloud, Apple Dashboard, Apple Dictionary, Apple FaceTime, Apple Font Book, Apple GarageBand
Video Output
Multi-GPU Configuration 1 single GPU card / integrated GPU
Graphics Processor AMD Radeon Pro 555 / Intel HD Graphics 630
Graphics Processor Series AMD Radeon Pro, Intel HD Graphics
Video Memory
Technology GDDR5 SDRAM
Installed Size 2 GB
Input Device
Backlight Yes
Interfaces
USB-C Ports Qty 4
USB-C Features USB Power Delivery

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Where To Buy

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, space gray, 2017)

Part Number: MPTR2LL/A
Price
$2,399.00

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