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A tricked out MacBook Pro with all the extras

This high-end 15-inch laptop includes an Intel Core i9 CPU and lots more.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Update, July 24: Apple has confirmed the widespread reports of throttled CPU performance on its 2018 MacBook Pro models, which have emerged since the laptops were released earlier this month. CPU clock speeds were slowed down as internal temperature spiked during high-load computing sessions. The company says the issue was due to a previously undiscovered software problem, and that it has issued a patch in the form of the MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update (download here) that should address it.

Check out our forthcoming review to see test results before and after the patch is applied. The first take originally published July 12 follows.


Get ready for some serious sticker shock if you want the new MacBook Pro's most-buzzed-about new features. The model I unboxed for testing and reviewing is a 15-inch MacBook Pro, which already sets the price floor at $2,399. But, this high-end configuration included one of Intel's new six-core Core i9 CPUs, a whopping 32GB of RAM and a hefty 2TB flash storage drive. (2TB used to be the upper limit, now a 4TB drive is available for anyone who wants to drop an extra $2,000.)

Now playing: Watch this: Almost everything inside the new MacBook Pro is new and...
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All those upgrades that this specific laptop up to $4,699. That's expensive, even for the type of creative or technical professional who would be in the market for a machine like this. But, wow, it's some powerhouse. When you pull out almost all the stops, you're going to get a laptop that screams, and this one does.

This new 15-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch model with Apple's Touch Bar are the only new Mac laptops of 2018 to date, though the rest of the line is rumored to be getting a refresh before the end of the year. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Here's a rundown of all of the new and improved 13-inch and 15-inch specs:

  • New eighth-gen quad-core Intel CPU (i7 or i9).
  • Support for twice as much RAM (now up to 32GB).
  • Twice as much SSD storage capacity (now up to 4TB).
  • New display support for True Tone, which optimizes colors to ambient light conditions.
  • New T2 subprocessor for Touch ID security and encryption.
  • Hands-free Siri (say "Hey, Siri" to activate).
  • Modest tweaks to the super-flat butterfly keyboard intended to quiet key clack (but not to resolve dust-related issues)

For a deep dive into all the new features -- including True Tone screens, hands-free Siri -- check out our initial coverage. Want to hear how the biggest new features fared in our first day of hands-on testing? Read on.   

To the nines

This has been my first chance to test a laptop with Intel's eighth-gen, six-core Core i9 CPU. Previously, the 15-inch Pro topped out at a seventh-gen quad-core Core i7, itself no slouch, after the last line update in spring 2017.

Compared to a 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.9GHz Core i7, the new Core i9 was significantly faster in the initial tests we ran. Do you need that kind of power? Most mere mortals don't, which is why more affordable 12-inch MacBooks (£1,090 at Amazon.co.uk) and MacBook Air models are still perfectly fine for the websurfing masses. But this the MacBook Pro, and this one is really living up to the name. 

For example, when Apple briefed me on the new Pros, the company offered in-person testimonials and demos from several power users, including Carlos Perez, director of the record-breaking Despacito music video, who talked about how the larger storage and faster processor in the MacBook Pro could let him preview and color-correct 5K footage in real time, cutting out intermediary steps from his workflow.

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Carlos Perez, director of the record-breaking Despacito music video

Brooks Kraft

Consider the graphics power under the hood, too: While the AMD Radeon Pro 560 inside isn't necessarily a gaming GPU, photo, video and design professionals who are editing 4K video or rendering giant 3D models will find it to be a decent step up from the baseline Intel integrated graphics on the 13-inch model. But for video pros really looking to amp up the power, Apple is also promoting a new $700 external GPU box made by a company called Blackmagic -- albeit sealed with non-upgradeable Radeon video cards.

Tone on tone

True Tone is a display technology already found on recent iPhones and iPad Pros, using light sensors to automatically adjust the color temperature of the display to best match your viewing environment. It can make the color range warmer or colder on the fly by adjusting the white balance. For example, the screen will display colors in a way that better matches what that color would look on a real-world wall or object in your current lighting conditions.

Under all but the most extreme lighting situations, it's a subtle effect at best. For example, under warm studio lighting, True Tone reflected the color temperature of the room. Clicking the checkbox to turn it off quickly shifted the image back toward a colder tone with a more prominent blue tint.

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True Tone, off and on. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Anyone editing precise images or video who doesn't want that adjustment can turn True Tone off in the settings menu. And if you're working on an external monitor, the effect can also be used on certain supported external displays, including Apple's recent Thunderbolt Display and LG's UltraFine 4K and 5K monitors.

We'll be recruiting eagle-eyed CNET editors Lori Grunin and David Katzmaier to check this feature out in more detail in the near future.

Keep that keyboard quiet

What's the biggest issue people have with the MacBook's current keyboard design? Is it that the ultraflat keys don't have the same tactile response as the older, deeper keys? Is it the stories about small particles getting wedged in the tight keycaps, leaving some keys sticky or unresponsive? Or is it that the keyboard was just too clacky and loud?

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The third-generation MacBook Pro keyboard. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you chose the third option, you're in luck! The new third-generation flat keyboard on the new MacBook Pro is quieter than the previous versions. Apple says this keyboard update has no new engineering or tweaks to address the sticky/stuck keys issue, currently the subject of both multiple lawsuits and a new Apple repair program.

Having used Apple's butterfly keyboard across nearly every product shipped with it, starting with the first 12-inch MacBook in 2015, I can say I've encountered the issue only occasionally. Not to the point where the keyboard ceases to function, but it was still frustrating when it happened. I found this cleaning methodology worked for all my stuck key issues. At the same time, I've talked to MacBook owners who have had to send their still-new laptops away for keyboard repair, so it is a real issue for some.

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This new keyboard may or may not perform better in the presence of dust, particles or other debris, but I can say it is indeed ever-so-slightly quieter. Not that the previous keyboard was especially loud. These new keys have a more muted "thunk" when pressed, rather than a sharp clack. It feels like a softer contact against the button of the key mechanism. You'd really have to try both generations of MacBook Pro keyboards side by side (which I did) to tell the difference. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Our testing continues

It's important to remember that  the changes and updates listed here apply to the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar gets most of the same updates, though it lacks the highest-end configuration options of the 15-incher: It's still limited to 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and it can't be configured with the new Core i9 processors.

But the 13-inch Pro without the TouchBar, the 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Air and all of the Mac desktops are still only available in their 2017 (or earlier) iterations -- at least for now. See the latest predictions about other Mac updates later this year here

In the meantime, we're continuing to test this new MacBook Pro, including extensive battery testing, so check back for updates. Some preliminary performance numbers are below. 

Geekbench 4 (Multi-core)

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018)
24,707
Razer Blade (15-inch, 2018)
18,015
Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017)
15,973

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (Multi-core)

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018)
942
Razer Blade (15-inch, 2018)
926
Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017)
764

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018) Apple MacOS Sierra 10.13.6; 2.9GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Radeon Pro 560X / 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 630; 2TB SSD
Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017) Apple MacOS Sierra 10.12.5; 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-7820HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Radeon Pro 560 / 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 630; 512GB SSD
Razer Blade (15-inch, 2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD


Here's how the new 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models compare with their 2017 predecessors:

2018 vs. 2017 Apple MacBook Pro specs


13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2018) 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2017) 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2018) 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2017)
Starting price (USD) $1,799 $1,799 $2,399 $2,399
Starting price (UK) £1,749 £1,749 £2,349 £2,349
Starting price (AUS) AU$2,699 AU$2,699 AU$3,499 AU$3,499
Display 13.3-inch 2,560x1,600-pixel 13.3-inch 2,560x1,600-pixel 15.4-inch 2,880x1,880-pixel 15.4-inch 2,880x1,880-pixel
Pixel density 227 PPI 227 PPI 220 PPI 220 PPI
Dimensions (imperial) 11.97 x 8.36 inches 11.97 x 8.36 inches 13.75 x 9.48 inches 13.75 x 9.48 inches
Dimensions (metric) 304 x 212mm 304 x 212mm 349 x 241mm 349 x 241mm
Thickness 0.59 in. (14.9mm) 0.59 in. (14.9mm) 0.61 in. (15.5mm) 0.61 in. (15.5mm)
Weight 3.02 lb. (1.37kg) 3.02 lb. (1.37kg) 4.02 lb. (1.83kg) 4.02 lb. (1.83kg)
Operating system MacOS High Sierra MacOS High Sierra MacOS High Sierra MacOS High Sierra
Processors 2.3GHz 4-core Intel i5 3.1GHz 2-core Intel i5 2.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 2.8GHz 4-core Intel i7
Graphics Intel Iris Plus 655 Intel Iris Plus 650 AMD Radeon Pro 650X (4GB) AMD Radeon Pro 555 (2GB)
Up-spec 2.7GHz 4-core Intel i7 3.5GHz 2-core Intel i7 2.9GHz 6-core Intel i9, Radeon Pro 560X (4GB) 3.1GHz 4-core Intel i7, Radeon 560 (4GB)
Storage 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB 256GB / 512GB / 1TB 512GB / 1TB / 2TB / 4TB 256GB / 512GB / 2TB
RAM 8GB / 16GB 8GB / 16GB 16GB / 32GB 16GB
Battery (Apple estimate) 10 hours 10 hours 10 hours 10 hours
Networking 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports 4x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), any can charge; 1x 3.5mm headset 4x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), any can charge; 1x 3.5mm headset 4x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), any can charge; 1x 3.5mm headset 4x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), any can charge; 1x 3.5mm headset
Cameras 720p FaceTime HD 720p FaceTime HD 720p FaceTime HD 720p FaceTime HD
Touch Bar/Touch ID Yes, powered by T2 subprocessor Yes, powered by T1 subprocessor Yes, powered by T2 subprocessor Yes, powered by T1 subprocessor
Trackpad Force Touch Force Touch Force Touch Force Touch
Colors Space gray, silver Space gray, silver Space gray, silver Space gray, silver

Note: Senior Editor Justin Jaffe contributed to this report. 

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