MacBook Pro 2018: Everything you need to know about buying Apple's updated laptop

Apple has updated both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro 2018 with Touch Bar. Here's everything you need to know about the changes.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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The long-awaited MacBook Pro refresh has landed, and sees both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro 2018 with Touch Bar getting a significant hardware bump.

Let's take a look at what's new.


Must read: Apple refreshes the MacBook Pro, but won't quell worries about Mac's future

Apple's refreshed MacBook Pro 2018 models: Here's what's new, spec by spec

Silicon upgrade to 8th-gen Intel Core

First up is Apple shifting the processor up to the 8th-generation Intel Core platform, with the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID getting a 2.3GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, and the higher-specced 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID getting processors ranging from the 2.2GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor to the 2.9GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i9 chip.

All the Intel Core processors feature Turbo Boost technology that allows the clock speed to the boosted beyond the base frequency.

Depending on usage scenario, owners can expect up to twice the performance for some actions such as importing RAW files into Adobe Lightroom, and more modest performance increases for actions such as WebKit compiling or rendering in Autodesk Maya.

More RAM

Another big upgrade is the expansion of the 16GB of RAM ceiling for higher-end MacBook Pro models, raising it to 32GB.

Speed of the RAM has been upgraded too on the 15-inch model, with the aging DDR3 technology replaced with higher-performing 2400MHz DDR4.

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For those who need more RAM to get more done in less time (Apple has clearly heard the screams of those working with 4K and 5K video, VR rendering, and high-end coding work), this will be a welcome change.

More storage, but at a huge cost

Storage has also been expended for the higher-end 15-inch MacBook Pros to go up to 4TB of SSD storage on selected models (up from 2TB), but this option adds a whopping $3,200 to the price tag, so it's not going to be the sort of thing that has wide appeal.

For the 13-inch model, the maximum storage has been doubled to 2TB.

Those who don't need high-performance internal storage will save a lot of money by augmenting a more meager internal SSD with lower-cost external storage.

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Modest graphics boost

Graphics performance has also been beefed up to offer the Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory at the high end, offering around 2.1 TFLOPS performance.

However, even the 13-inch MacBook Pro gets a decent graphics upgrade, powered by an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 integrated graphics chip with 128MB of embedded DRAM, which is twice as much as the previous generation.

For those wanting more GPU performance, it's worthwhile remembering that these new laptops also support eGPU technology. For high-end applications such as content creation, VR, and even gaming, adding an external GPU to a MacBook Pro can significantly boost performance.

Apple added eGPU support in macOS 10.13.4 and are supported on MacBook Pro systems released in 2016 or later, the iMac 2017 or later, and the iMac Pro.

Display remains the same

The Retina Display displays on the new MacBook Pros with Touch Bar remain unchanged:

  • 13.3-inch, 2,560 × 1,600 (16:10) with 227 pixels-per-inch, 500 nits brightness, wide color (P3), and True Tone technology
  • 15.4-inch, 2,880 × 1,800 (16:10) with 220 pixels-per-inch, 500 nits brightness, wide color (P3), and True Tone technology

"Hey Siri" and the T2 chip

The updated MacBook Pros will also be the first to support "Hey Siri," allowing you hands-free access to the voice assistant.

This feature, along with the Touch ID security features and the Touch Bar are powered by a custom chip Apple called the "T2."

Goodbye MagSafe 2

The MacBook Pro was the last holdout for the MagSafe 2 connector, but with this refresh Apple's entire laptop lineup has switched over USB-C charging.

MagSafe 2 was far from perfect, but it did prevent damage to the laptop. Break the USB-C port and you're looking at replacing the entire mainboard.

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True Tone comes to the MacBook Pro

The updated MacBook Pro laptops also come with True Tone displays that change their color temperature based on the color temperature of the room, and now the Touch Bar will also support True Tone technology.

The True Tone technology first made an appearance in Apple products on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro back in 2016, before making its way to the iPad Pro 10.5-inch, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2017), the iPhone 8/8 Plus, and the iPhone X.

The headphone jack lives on

For the port junkies out there, you'll be pleased to know that the configuration is unchanged, with there being four Thunderbolt/USB-C ports offering 40/10 Gbps of bandwidth respectively, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Yes, the headphone jack might be dead on the iPhone, but it lives on with the MacBook Pro.

Performance, performance, performance

All-in-all, Apple says that the 15-inch model will have a 70 percent performance increase, and the 13-inch model should double its performance.

The actual performance bump will, of course, vary depending on the MacBook Pro specification, and the workload, but as a general trend the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2018 models seem to higher levels of performance compared to the previous generation models than the 15-inch MacBook Pro 2018 models do.

Battery capacity

The higher-performing hardware clearly needs more power to run, because Apple has bumped the battery capacity in this refresh. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch ID now has a 58-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery, with that increased 83.6-watt-hour (from 54.5- and 79-watt-hour, respectively).

This increased battery capacity, however, doesn't translate into increased battery life, with Apple still sticking to the usual "up to 10 hours wireless web/iTunes movie playback and up to 30 days of standby time."

Has Apple updated they keyboard?

There have been claims (along with class-action lawsuits) that the MacBook Pro keyboards using the "butterfly" technology being susceptible to damage from dust and debris. Apple claims that the updated MacBook Pro laptops feature a "third-generation butterfly keyboard, but it seems that the update has more to do with making the laptop quieter than it does with making it more resistant to damage from stuff getting into it.

UPDATE: It turns out that Apple may have tweaked the keyboard by adding a silicone membrane beneath the keycaps to help prevent damage from dirt and dust.

That said, Apple now offers a four-year repair warranty on keyboards, which should go some way to offer peace of mind.

The Force Touch trackpad appears unchanged.

The price man, what about the price?

Well, for the base model of both sizes, the prices remain the same ($1,799 for the 13-inch model, and $2,399 for the 15-inch model). However, things like 32GB of RAM and 4TB of storage quickly add thousands to this.

Super-sizing to the 2.9GHz 6-core 8th-gen Intel Core i7 for a 2.9GHz 6-core Intel Core i9 that adds an extra $300, and bumping the RAM from 16GB to 32GB adds another $400.

But it's storage that really gets out of hand fast, with the 4TB option add a whopping $3,200 to the price tag.

Read also: Why the Mac you know has no future | Apple boosts performance of 13-, 15-inch MacBook Pros - TechRepublic | It's gone! 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro vanishes from Apple Store - CNET | Best ultraportable laptops for business | Best laptops

What about finishes?

You get to choose between Space Gray and Silver.

Encase your new MacBook Pro in leather

Yes, Apple makes leather sleeves for the new MacBook Pros, and they are priced at $179 for the 13-inch version, and $199 for the 15-inch version, and they will be offered in brown, blue, and black.

When do the updated MacBook Pro laptops go on sale?

The MacBook Pro 2018 laptops were available on the day of announcement, July 12, 2018.

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