Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2015) review:

Old-school MacBook Pro is good for the dongle averse

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CNET Editors' Rating

1 user review

The Good The 15-inch MacBook Pro has a brilliant Retina Display, powerful processor and new graphics card options, plus faster flash storage and a new Force Touch trackpad.

The Bad It offers only the most minimal upgrades over last year's version, despite a very high starting price. The new AMD graphics don't do much for gamers.

The Bottom Line Current 15-inch MacBook Pro owners won't feel the need to upgrade, but the handful of tweaks included here keep this expensive system at the top of the list for powerful midsize laptops.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Battery 9.0

Late 2016 update

In October 2016, Apple updated its laptop portfolio, delivering an overdue refresh of its 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros. Considerably slimmer and lighter than their predecessors, the new models come equipped with larger Force Touch trackpads and Apple's new, dynamic Touch Bar. (A 13-inch model without the Touch Bar was also announced.) And the Touch Bar is very cool: the mini touch strip contextually changes to icons in different apps and sliders, hot keys, and function buttons emerge on the fly as needed.

The new models make some potentially difficult tradeoffs, however. Perhaps the most significant one is that the new MacBook Pros have far fewer ports than the older ones. The previous generation had a total of seven: two USB, two Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, SD, MagSafe and headphone. Besides a headphone jack, the new 15-inch model has four -- and they're all of the Thunderbolt/USB-C variety. The new 13-inch Touch Bar model also has four (all Thunderbolt) but the 13-inch model without Touch Bar has only two!

Be warned: Buying a new MacBook Pro will likely force you to invest in a variety of adaptors for all your legacy devices. (Ironically, you won't be able to connect Apple's own iPhone 7, with its Lightning Connector, to any of the new MacBook Pros without an adapter.)

The new 13-inch MacBook Pros have Intel Core-i processors that are faster than the older 12-inch model's Intel Core-m series; they also support Thunderbolt 3 and come equipped with more USB-C ports. But they're a full pound heavier and cost at least $200 more. The new 13-inch model with the TouchBar starts at $1,799, £1,749 and AU$2,699; the 13-inch model without it starts at $1,499, £1,449 and AU$2,199; and the new 15-inch model starts at $2,399, £2,349 and AU$3,599. The older MacBooks, which remain available, start at $1,299, £1,249 and AU$1,999 (12- or 13-inch Pro) and $1,999, £1,899 and AU$2,999 (15-inch Pro).

The Apple laptop portfolio still includes the 13-inch MacBook Air -- with specs unchanged -- but the 11-inch MacBook Air is now available only to the educational market; to buy one, you'll need to be associated with a school or university or find one online somewhere.

Editors' note: The review of Apple's 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro, originally published in June of that year, follows.

Apple's MacBook Air and Pro lines have remained steadfastly rock-solid in their look and feel for several generations. Each year brings a handful of tweaks and updates, typically only to internal components, from better hard drives to faster Wi-Fi to new processors. It's only because both the Air and Pro designs were so far ahead of the curve when first introduced that these laptops still look so up-to-date.

For 2015, nearly every MacBook has received an update of a some kind, although these have largely been of the blink-and-you'll-miss-it variety. Both the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro have moved up to Intel's fifth-generation Core i-series processors, also known by the codename Broadwell, while the 13-inch Pro also added Apple's new Force Touch trackpad.

That clickless touchpad, which uses four sensors and some haptic feedback rather than a traditional hinge, was one of the highlights of the new 12-inch MacBook , a low-power, 2-pound ultraportable that was Apple's sole new laptop design in years.

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Compared to all the changes listed above, and the entirely new 12-inch MacBook, the 15-inch MacBook Pro feels like it's been slighted in the update department. The 15-inch Pro gets the Force Touch trackpad, and a faster solid-state hard drive, plus updated graphics in the form of an AMD Radeon R9 M370X GPU. But arguably the most important component upgrade is missing, as the Core i7 CPU here is the same as last year's model (the fifth-gen Core i7 chips from Intel are only starting to trickle out now).

Despite the lack of major changes, the 15-inch MacBook Pro remains Apple's biggest and most powerful laptop, and a great all day, everyday productivity machine, especially if you need the extra GPU power for photo or video work, or the generous screen real estate the 15-inch Retina panel provides.

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Prices stay the same, at $1,999 for the base model (£1,599, AU$2,799) and $2,499 (£1,999, AU$3,499) for our upgraded test unit, with a bigger 512GB hard drive and the AMD graphics. That makes this a major investment, especially compared with the 13-inch Pro, which can be had for as little as $1,299 (£999, AU$1,799). Unless you specifically need the size, power or features of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, that 13-inch model is our current pick for the most universally useful all-around MacBook.

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2015)

Price as reviewed $2,499
Display size/resolution 15.4-inch 2,880 x 1,800 Retina screen
PC CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4870HQ
PC Memory 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Graphics AMD Radeon R9 M370X
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Apple OS X Yosemite 10.10.3

Design and features

With only some minor internal changes, this MacBook Pro looks identical to the one we reviewed in mid-2014 , and in fact the product design has only slightly changed since 2012.

Aside from being a year older, most of our impressions about the design of the last several iterations of this laptop remain the same.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is slim, but with a wide desktop footprint. Especially compared with newer, lighter laptops, it feels denser than it looks at first glance, but with that comes a certain sense of indestructibility, thanks to the flex-free aluminum construction. It's not a carry-all-day-every-day package, although one could tote it around to and from work, or on the occasional day trip without much trouble.

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