Dual-core processors just aren’t enough for real professionals anymore. Graphics work, video editing and photo manipulation require more power than ever. And while Apple caught flack for a lack of power in the 13-inch MacBook Pro last year, the company’s update to quad-core chips packs a punch. The Core i7-8559U on our review config was speedy, and the laptop also features some of the fastest SSD storage we’ve ever seen. Additionally, it offers some features from the iPad, like True Tone and “Hey Siri,” for the first time on the Mac. But the design hasn’t changed, so if you’re not a fan of low travel keyboards and don’t want to live the dongle life with only Thunderbolt 3 ports, it still has shortcomings.
The 2018 refresh of the MacBook Pro doesn’t change the laptop’s aesthetics. It’s identical to the 2017 model with its slim design and strong build quality unlike almost any other manufacturer in the laptop space. Our review unit came in space gray, which remains my favorite shade Apple has ever produced, but it also comes in silver.
There are some downsides to keeping the same design. The bezels around the 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 retina display are thicker than on some competing notebooks — notably, Dell’s XPS line.
The island-style keyboard is flanked by two speaker grilles with a spacious touchpad below and, above, the Touch Bar, including the Touch ID fingerprint reader to sign in and to make payments with Apple Pay.
Apple’s decision to rely exclusively on Thunderbolt 3 ports is less polarizing than it was a year ago. Other notebook makers, like Dell with its XPS 13, are slowly starting to follow suit (but at least that notebook has a microSD card reader). Still, the total of four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side of the laptop, still necessitates the use of dongles for older hard drives, memory cards and monitors. An SD card reader would have been a nice addition.
Weighing in at 3 pounds and 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches, the MacBook Pro doesn’t have the same size advantage it used to over some Windows PCs. The Dell XPS 13 is slighter in every way at 12 x 8 x 0.5 inches and 2.7 pounds, and the Huawei MateBook X Pro, essentially a copycat of Apple’s design, is 2.9 pounds and 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches. Microsoft’s creative-oriented 13-inch Surface Book 2, however, is a heavier 3.6 pounds and 12.3 x 9.1 x 0.9 inches.
Our review configuration of the new MacBook Pro used an Intel Core i7-8559U with a 2.7GHz base clock and Turbo up to 4.5 GHz, 16GB of 2,133MHz LPDDR3 RAM, Intel Iris Plus 655 graphics and 2TB of SSD storage. That means that a light workload with 25 Chrome tabs, one of which was streaming a 1080p episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, was no problem for it.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the MacBook Pro smoked the competition. It earned a score of 17,348, surpassing the premium laptop category average (11,507), Surface Book 2, MateBook X Pro and XPS 13.
With our standard file transfer test, copying 4.97GB of mixed-media files was almost instantaneous. So we turned to the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, which measured speeds of 2,519Mbps. That’s the fastest I’ve ever seen and puts the premium laptop average (350MBps) to shame. It’s like it finished a race before the XPS, MateBook and Surface had time to start.
Those speed tests could be attributed to several factors. For one, Apple’s APFS file system is incredibly quick and can clone files with minimal amounts of data from the original. It also calculates data in a way that may make read speeds faster. Additionally, Apple’s T2 chip, which is showing up for the first time in a MacBook Pro here, serves as the SSD controller and could be working some other technical magic.
The MacBook Pro took 1 minute and 16 seconds to complete our Excel macro test, in which notebooks pair 65,000 names and addresses. That’s faster than the average, as well as the MateBook and the Surface. Only the XPS was faster.
On our Handbrake video editing test, the MacBook Pro transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in 14 minutes and 47 seconds,again far ahead of the average (21:35) and besting all of the competition.
Throttling? Not a Problem
To see how well the MacBook Pro 13-inch handles lengthy intensive tasks that heat up the CPU, I did a real-world video editing test. In Final Cut Pro X, I uploaded a 4K video I shot on my iPhone and added a soundtrack with some open-source audio. I added a bunch of transitions and exported my project as a 4K video.
You don’t need to worry about CPU throttling. During that time-consuming export, the average clock speed was just under 3GHz (0.3 above base), according to the Intel Power Gadget. That’s not to say it never ran below base clock speed, because it did for a few seconds at a time, but usually that meant that the Intel Iris Plus graphics were taking over in the rendering and exporting process. The CPU ran at an average temperature of 87 degrees Celsius (188.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
I ran Cinebench’s CPU test five times on the MacBook Pro and its competitors, and Apple’s offering not only offered higher scores than competitors, but also stayed relatively steady. While the MacBook Pro 15-inch launched with some throttling issues, on the 13-inch machine, it’s safe to consider them solved.
The Iris Plus Graphics, however, were outclassed by those in other devices. On the Dirt 3 gaming test, the MacBook Pro ran at 47 frames per second (fps), below the 69-fps average and the Surface Book 2 and Huawei Mate Book X Pro’s scores.
The 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 IPS display on the MacBook Pro is bright and vivid. This is the first time Apple’s True Tone tech, which adjusts the color temperature of the display based on the ambient lighting in the environment, has come to a laptop. It definitely looks great, but I spent the majority of my testing with it off. After all, professionals editing photos and videos need to know exactly which colors they’re working.
When I watched a 1080p trailer for Aquaman with True Tone on, Hera’s unnaturally red hair popped against the walls of a sandy cave, and the blues and oranges in a battle between sea creatures and fire monsters was extremely vibrant.
The screen measured an average of 327 nits of brightness on our light meter, surpassing the premium laptop category average of 307 nits, but falling below the Surface Book 2, MateBook X Pro and both the 1080p and 4K variants of the XPS 13.
It covers 125.3 percent of the sRGB color gamut, surpassing the average (111 percent), 1080p XPS 13 (117 percent) and MateBook Pro X (124 percent). Both the 4K XPS 13 and the Surface reached 130 percent.