MacBook Pro 2018 Analysis
In Apple’s history, there have been many important computers. Obviously the most important of them was the Macintosh, presented in 1984 by a Steve Jobs pletórico to an audience wishing to see something different. It was the counterpart of the «Think Different», a motto that the company used as a counter-offensive to the one used by the then great blue enemy, IBM: «Think». Apple’s DNA has never been conforming, even without using the well-known slogan.
The PowerBook was one of those computers that changed things. He plotted some distance with the «home» laptop – the iBook, which would come out later – and was geared towards the professional sector that required power on the move. It was an important jolt for the industry because it included things that although we now see common were popular thanks to these early models: from space for the palms of the hands after the keyboard, a trackball to move the mouse pointer, or the active matrix screen in the highest model of the range, the ** PoweBook 170**.
The first model released in 1991 placed Apple at the forefront of the computer industry. I like to talk about this before i start an analysis like this as it contextualizes the importance of design, the importance of software and hardware cohesion. With the original PowerBook, Apple dismissed the idea for the original Macintosh Portable, which was basically a battery-powered desktop computer. To get a genuine professional laptop, they brought to Sony the technical schemes for them to take care of the miniaturization, compacting it using the appearance of their own «Snow White» design guides. And since then, a world of possibilities has opened up that has brought us to this day, and this model that we are discussing today.
Specifications of the model analyzed
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018)
2.9 GHz Intel Core i9
32GB 2400 MHz DDR4
15.4 inches (2880 x 1800)
4TB SSD internal hard drive
Consistent design remains
The physical appearance of this new 2018 model is identical to the one we already knew at the end of 2016, when this new design was introduced. In my analysis at the time I was talking about «firm reinvention,» because Apple was once again evolving the appearance we all knew made something more practical, more robust, more compact and with a better chance of the future. This design is, having the same screen size on the 13″ model, smaller in wingspan as a MacBook Air – which if you remember marveled at its extreme lightness.
It’s nothing new, but we can talk about what it’s like to work this unibody design on a day-to-day basis, after using it for almost two years in two different generations: it certainly works. It reminds me a lot of the original PowerBook experience, a containment exercise for the time, as it’s really shocking again the level of technology that the brand can accommodate under its case. This also requires certain commitments, such as the low degree of repairability or the integration of all its components under a fully customized motherboard, without the possibility of expanding the internal hard drive or RAM once the purchase is made.
In return, Apple offers us an extremely compact and portable and durable design for our trips or day-to-day movements, with a maximum weight of 1.83 kg and a very contained wingspan, it is a marvel to wear it and have a workstation almost anywhere. The incredible and huge Force Touch trackpad with pressure sensitivity means that we don’t even want to take the mouse. This trackpad is exactly the same as previous generations, and its precision and familiar Multi-Touch gestures will help us a lot to be more productive.
The four USB-C ports are maintained, but in this generation Apple has managed to make them all run at the maximum transfer speed, 40 GB/s. In previous generations, only the ports on the left worked at this speed, but on these 2018 models (both 13″ and 15″ models) they work at maximum. This has been achieved this year as the new MacBook pro has more PCI-e channels and is especially useful if we connect high-resolution monitors (up to two external 5K) or high-performance external hard drives, oriented to the professional market where this laptop is pointing.
TrueTone display and powerful speakers
One of the things that is most important today on any device oriented towards the portable world or mobility, is the screen. It is almost more important that we can have it on top of a desk at home, since that of a MacBook Pro we will look at it in airports, various offices, on a moving train… The lighting changes of all these rooms influence how we see our digital world, and the display must be versatile enough to deal with these situations.
One of the most important aspects here is the «nits», the standard measure of luminosity of a digital panel. In the first generation of this laptop was set at 500 nits, being 67% brighter than its predecessors. We continue to maintain that measurement, and the P3 color space – the same one used by the film industry – to have 25% more colors than with traditional color space. The display is still completely spectacular, maintaining a very balanced level of contrast between the intensity of the colors and the most intense blacks, in any situation, at a native resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 with 220 pixels per inch.
-The screen is still gorgeous, maintaining the 500 nits of screen brightness and the P3 cinematic color space-
The great novelty of this generation is the incorporation of True Tone technology: we first saw it in iPad Pro, and it consists of using ambient light sensors to determine the white balance of the screen, which will be adjusted depending on where ‘re. If you’re working at night with warm lighting, the display will also show that chromatic warmth in the colors of the screen so that our eyes work more naturally. Of course, you can disable it if you are working with photography or video and want maximum color fidelity for your compositions. For any other situation: web browsing, general screen reading, spreadsheets, writing app, etc… The True Tone is a very good idea that will improve our visual comfort.
On paper the speakers do not have major changes: they are still connected to the system power, thus deriving the power needed when they need it to achieve a wider dynamic range and above all more powerful bass. A few days ago some users emerged with noise problems in the speakers, but in my tests I have not noticed any problems or increasing the sound to the maximum or with different types of music.
-True Tone technology and its white balance using sensors will help us in sessions where we do not need color correction: spreadsheets, text, calculation programs, navigation…-
Keyboard: more comfortable, quieter and more protected
The keyboard was one of the big changes to the current design, with a new «butterfly» mechanism on which each key rested individually throughout its perimeter. This made the pulsation more natural. It was a low-profile keyboard but it had a good tour for such mechanisms, so it soon caught the attention of the people who usually use them to work on a day-to-day basis. Personally I liked the new system very much since I usually use keyboards with little travel, although as a point to improve, it made too much noise.
A few months later, there was controversy: some users complained that their keys were locked or not working after normal use with it. Apple had to take note and managed the problem with a free repair program that is still in place, plus several tips (such as cleaning with compressed air) for the biggest problem of this keyboard: microscopic dirt that «sneaks» between the keys. Not all keyboards have had this problem: my Late 2016 MacBook Pro works perfectly despite using it more than 15 hours a day.
-Some keyboards from previous generations had malfunctions: in this generation, Apple protects it by a membrane that also attenuates the sound of the pulsations.-
Although it is only an approximation to my typing way, it is noted that the improvement on the keyboard also increases my typing speed and reduces the mistakes, perhaps by having to put less pressure on each key and have a little more accompaniment in the journey of each of them. The sound reduction is also noticeable, especially if you go back to one of the keyboards of the previous generation. In particular, I remain delighted with this keyboard and with the important improvements of this generation on the laptop (this article has been written entirely on it).
Another new feature of this year is the addition of Apple’s T2 security chip, which stores the biometric information of the Touch ID, acts as a security enclave for the rest of the computer and also allows the «Hey Siri» to work for the first time on a Mac. The set works fantastic but I miss more Siri integration within macOS, for example, to search for files with Spotlight. The Touch Bar looks identical to previous years, but this time it also acquires the True Tone feature of the screen: it will adapt its white balance to the lighting of the room where we are, something that did not happen in previous generations and gives it a much more natural look in the whole of the rest of the keyboard, less «screen».
-The inclusion of the ARM T2 chip not only solves the system: it also allows us to use the «Hey, Siri» – although its integration into macOS is still very poor-
Coffee Lake on a MacBook Pro, at last
One of the commitments that we have to wait for a design as particular as that made by Apple to its laptops, is that of the miniaturization and customization of each chip that it carries. In the case of the CPU is something important since we not only talk about power, it also alters the architecture to some extent of the rest of the system. For example, in the first generation the inclusion of DDR memory was limited since those processors – Intel Skylake – were still compatible with DDR4 because of its high power consumption. Coffee Lake, Intel’s long-awaited new generation, already allows us to use them and we count on the 15″ models with 32GB DDR4 maximum that trigger performance especially when working with large files.
In order to power this new ultra-fast RAM, Apple has increased the battery of the laptop, but not to increase its «practical autonomy»: we still have the theoretical 10 hours that the company searches for in each product, and in my tests with office apps , web browsing, video conferencing and a virtual machine with VMWare, I have reached about 7 – 8 practical hours. If we work with Final Cut or some program that consumes a lot of computing power, the battery performance will last us about 4 – 5 hours depending on the size of the work we ask for.
The first synthetic results of power and performance were obtained with the traditional Geekbench 4.0 version 4.2.3 (401111):
You have the full report available in the Geekbench Browser, as you can see the numbers are spectacular, especially the increase in power in multiprocessor that is approaching 24000 points. The four-core 13″ model also gets a very good score: 4870 on Single-Core and 16262 on Multi-Core, one of the most remarkable changes we’ve seen in a single generation of MacBook Pro – which is coming close to doubling the performance of its predecessors. As a contextualization, the first 15- » MacBook Pro of this generation introduced at the end of 2016, got 4231 in Single-Core and 13307 in Multi-Core, and less than two years ago.
Another of the improvements that are most noticeable in this generation is undoubtedly the incredible speed of the integrated hard drives of the system. On paper, Apple tells us that they reach theoretical speeds of up to 3.2 GB/s, which is barbarity. In testing with normal use, I noticed a substantial increase in working with large files, and blackmagic testists are conclusive: practical read and write speeds around 2.7 GB/s:
However, these numbers are even more impressive knowing that they are transfers with encrypted data. How is it possible for these speeds to be achieved? The trick is on the T2 chip we’ve talked about before: in addition to being used as a safe enclave, Apple has managed to shift the encoding load of the files to this ARM processor, so that the main CPU is freed from it, being able to work in parallel and already improving the performance of the hard drives.
Thermal Throttling, State of the Nation
One of the most famous American YouTubers uncovered shortly after the launch of these new MacBook Pros a problem he had with his brand new laptop with i9 processor: in one of the render tests he did to test the power of the system, he realized that the process time took longer than in previous generations. This even alerted Apple itself, which came to contact him to repeat the tests he did in his lab in order to find a solution. In Applesfera we informed you promptly of the problem, but we do not wait to publish the analyses of each model and we asked our expert Julius Caesar to investigate the subject: in this very complete article you can find all the details of the story and its solution by Apple.
As a simple explanation to the entire intuget, it is due to a sum of various factors – hardware and software failures. In hardware, i9 processors drag on an issue that affects not only Apple, but all laptops that are designed with a thin profile (Dell, HP, or Acer between them), and it’s about heat dissipation in such designs. When a processor as powerful as a heati9, the system starts the so-called Thermal Throttling – a speed drop to self-protect and let the heat not spoil the chip. That’s why in Dave’s trials with Premiere CC and very complex raw files, performance seemed worse than in previous generations. Apple did not test with Premiere despite having done stress tests with the big suites like Final Cut Pro X, DaVinci Resolve, Maya, etc… The problem with Premiere CC is that it’s not highly optimized on Mac and made the problem even more apparent.
-The sum of Intel design issues with the i9 and its heat dissipation in slim profile laptop, was the main problem – Apple solved it by updating the software-
To add to the end of the trick, we also add one of the biggest problems of x86 technology: all the cores of a processor must operate at the same power (therefore if the speed is reduced for safety, it is reduced for six cores at once) and cannot use heterogeneous computing technologies as does the ARM architecture for example – where each core can specialize in a self-solving task by managing its frequency to be also more energy efficient.
With all this data on the table, Apple searched for solutions and released a firmware update to fix it: in addition to all of the above, the company realized that Intel’s prompts to load data from 6-core computers were incorrect – they were treating them as quad-core machines. This, and optimizations to be able to dissipate heat more efficiently using the design’s asymmetrical blade cooling system, has managed to put the laptop back within the expected operating parameters. Of course, the laptop will continue to warm up in extreme tasks, but this will not cause the decline of accused power nor will we see it perform worse than previous generations. In my tests, the cooling system has been activated at the expected times: Final Cut Pro X exports with complex files, games with high graphic load, … but it has never presented an unusual load or an unexpected ignition of the ventilation system, nor have I noticed a decrease in system performance.
On this MacBook Pro, the Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB GDDR5 RAM. It’s an evolving graphics card that included Apple in previous generations. Synthetic graphical testing is more complex to assess as Apple is switching graphics drivers from the traditional OpenCl to its own proprietary Metal technology on macOS Mojave and iOS 12. On both operating systems, games and apps will continue to use OpenCL and OpenGL, but the company has marked both libraries as «outdated» and each developer will have to port them to Metal in the future.
It has its logic: Apple does not seek greater cohesion between the rest of the world and them, but if between its ecosystem – where iOS predominates with great force. Using a technology like Metal on both iOS and macOS, crossing apps and probably the same games as «universal binaries» in the future will end up coming for both operating systems. This is only a preview of the future, so for synthetic testing even while on macOS High Sierra, I have done them using LuxMark with the current OpenCL library. The resulting score is as follows:
To contextualize this data, we can compare it with those obtained in LuxMark forums: the benchmark used is the most complex scene of the measurement system – the rendering of a hotel hall. As we see in the results obtained by other users and other systems, the obtained value is very similar to that obtained by cards such as the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. This results in many nuances, but the system to the set with the processor works and resolves very noticeably. For example, exporting the BryceX test to 5K with all kinds of filters applied and a direct export without preprocessing in the background takes approximately 32.29 seconds using the latest version of Final Cut Pro X and the Apple ProRes 422 codec. It’s a good figure for a laptop, it’s not the 10-18 seconds of large workstations with better graphics cards, but neither are the 98 – 120 seconds of other configurations with more bottlenecks in graphic question.
However, the system works completely smoothly when working with multiple VMWare VMs, compiling large Xcode projects or working with various 4K video channels in Final Cut Pro X, working in real time. It is evident the improvement in general power that combines main processor, graphics processor, improvement in RAM/hard disk and support of the ARM T2 chip that encodes encrypted files in parallel while we use them. This cohesion is the main weapon of a laptop with that important relationship between the hardware and software that Apple offers.