On paper, it looked like an impressive, if predictable, set of internal component upgrades. Apple’s 13-inch and 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro models would get new eighth-gen Intel processors, more storage and RAM options, a color-temperature-sensing True Tone screen and other tweaks — all nice improvements over a ho-hum 2017 update. At the same time, the slim unibody aluminum design would remain unchanged since its last design overhaul in late 2016, keeping features both loved (the giant track pad) and not-so-loved (the slim-travel keyboard, the USB-C-only connections).
If anything, the expensive add-on option for one of Intel’s new six-core Core i9 processors would appeal to pro-level users, such as video editors and 3D artists, who may be starting to feel that Apple isn’t keeping up with their ever-expanding needs for high-end gear.
To say things got off to a rocky start is putting it mildly. First, there was confusion over that keyboard: Apple maintained that the new third-gen butterfly keyboard was quieter but otherwise unchanged — but a teardown at repair site iFixit revealed a totally new membrane that may well address the issue of sticky and dust-afflicted keys on earlier models that have prompted class action lawsuits against Apple.
Secondly, there was the speed throttling issue that emerged just days after the July 12 announcement: Some of the most gung-ho early adopters who ran out and got Core i9 MacBook Pros as soon as they were released found mysteriously throttled performance. YouTube tech personality Dave Lee first brought the issue to public attention with a video in which he demonstrated the heat and throttling issues. These results were soon replicated by others, including our own CNET Labs testing.
To its credit, Apple quickly investigated the issue and determined that a simple software bug was to blame. A software update to the MacOS operating system seemed to solve the issue, and you can read more about our pre and post-patch experience here.
If you’re one of those early adopters, instructions for how to install the MacOS 10.13.6 update are available here. The issue affected all of Apple’s new MacBook Pro models, both 13- and 15-inch. The entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar isn’t affected, as it has not been updated this year.
And now that the hype around this software bug is dying down, we’re left to consider just how much is actually new inside the MacBook Pro, and if it meets the needs of a creative class increasingly moving towards 4K-and-higher video, and other power-hungry tasks. A more in-depth analysis of the new features and performance of the Core i9 15-inch MacBook Pro follows, but first we’ll break down the key takeaways:
MacBook Go! Post-patch, the Core i9 version is much faster than last year’s high-end Core i7 model
The True Tone screen works well in a variety of lighting conditions
Options for up to 32GB of RAM and 4TB of flash storage can greatly help with video production
The “stealth” keyboard update makes it less prone to stuck keys, a major issue