Apple just released the long-awaited new 2018 MacBook Pros, and while identical at first glance, there are a lot of features that differentiate them from the 2016 and 2017 models.
Improvements across the line
Both new models also include a brand new butterfly key mechanism that Apple says gives a quieter experience. With any luck, the reliability issues from the older butterfly keyboard issues have now been laid to rest, but we'll keep you up to date with that as time goes on.
The new MacBook Pro is the first Mac to feature Apple's True Tone technology. The technology debuted on the iPad Pro line, measuring the ambient color balance and adjusts the screen so colors are displayed more accurately.
In another first, the new MacBook Pro is now the first Mac ever to support Bluetooth 5.0.
Apple also touted speakers with high-fidelity sound that are connected directly to system power, but we'll have to compare them for ourselves to see if they're actually better.
Both new Touch Bar models also include the T2 Chip, which debuted on Apple's iMac Pro. It controls the FaceTime camera, the speakers and audio, system management, and the SSD, all by itself, freeing up the main CPU's power.
The T2 chip also has dedicated hardware to automatically encrypt all of the data on the SSD drive, without affecting processor power.
By far, the biggest change that the T2 brings across the board is the addition of "Hey Siri", making it the first Mac ever to support it. Now that MacOS Mojave is bringing the Home app to Mac, you'll soon be able to use Hey Siri to control HomeKit devices, straight from your new MacBook Pro using the technology.
13-inch MacBook Pro
First of all, the base 13-inch model with function keys is literally unchanged! Nothing at all is different, and it's priced at the exact same $1299 as before.
However, there are huge changes with the Touch Bar model.
For the first time, Apple has made a 13-inch MacBook Pro available with four cores. The new processor is clocked at the same 2.3GHz clock speed as the base model's chip, with boost speeds upped to 3.8GHz. Both speeds are the same as last year's base 15-inch MacBook Pro's quad-core chip, except that the chip in the 13-inch is an i5 processor instead of an i7.
You also have the choice to upgrade the 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro to a four-core i7 for $300, and the turbo boost clock is up to 4.5GHz. For comparison, the best available processor on last year's 15-inch MacBook Pro could only turbo boost up to 4.1GHz, so this processor should easily outperform previous MacBook Pro models when performing multi-core tasks.
The graphics chip on the new model has also been upgraded to Intel's Iris Plus 655 compared to the old 650. Storage is upgradeable to 2TB of PCI-E Flash storage instead of hitting the ceiling at 1TB on last year's model.
The old 13-inch Touch Bar had a 49.2 watt-hour battery, and the new model has a 58 watt-hour unit. Apple hasn't adjusted battery life estimates, so it remains to be seen what real-world impact that this will have.
The price remains $1799 for the base-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, the same cost as last year's Touch Bar model.
15-inch MacBook Pro
The 15-inch MacBook Pro, has even more upgrades, including the long-awaited bump up to 32GB of RAM. Both RAM options are now upgraded to 2400MHz DDR4 memory. Last year's models used 16GB of LPDDR3 memory.
The DDR4 will have an impact on battery life, but the new models have a 10 percent larger battery, from 76 watt-hours to 83.6 watt-hours, so our best guess right now is that the 2018 model will be about equal to the 2017 in battery life.
The all-time biggest change is an upgrade to Intel's new 8th generation 6-core processor. The new processor is clocked at 2.2GHz with a turbo boost clock of 4.1GHz, matching the turbo boost clock of last year's best CPU option. Given cache capacity and speed improvements, the new base 15-inch model should outperform the best 2017 15-inch Model in terms of single-core performance, even if you have 16GB of RAM.
For multi-core performance, however, the new base model should now completely destroy last year's best MacBook Pro thanks to the new six-core chip.
You can also pay an extra $400 over the base model for the top-of-the-line 2.9GHz i9 six-core processor that turbo boosts up to an insane 4.8GHz, the highest turbo boost speed ever seen on any Mac.
There is now a 4TB SSD option, for an equally large price. Fully outfitted with the fastest processor, max RAM, and max storage brings the price for a fully-loaded 15-inch MacBook Pro up to a massive $6,699.
Users now have the option of a Radeon pro 555X or 560X. Initial research suggests that they are basically the same chips as the 2016 model, other than a slight boost in clock speeds. We'll dive more into this in the future and get back to you.
Better across the board
This year's new MacBook Pro models have a boost in value compared to last year. How much, though, remains to be seen.
Once we get our hands on the new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, we'll be doing a lot of testing and comparisons, as we always do.