Apple 15-inch 2.9GHz MacBook Pro review: A laptop that pro app users will love

Editor’s note: we have supplemented this review with new benchmarks using the macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update that fixes the laptop’s throttling problems. Our mouse rating remains unchanged from the original posting of this review.

Since its introduction in 2016, the MacBook Pro as we know it today has produced mixed reactions from its users. People love the combination of size, weight, and performance. But there are legitimate issues that make people hesitate or even regret buying a MacBook Pro: keyboard problems, the need to find ways to work with its Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, a low RAM ceiling.

With the 2018 MacBook Pro, Apple has addressed some of those issues. And if you’re lamenting that I didn’t say all of those issues, well, there are some things that, in an effort to move towards a particular technological ideal, Apple won’t change. But as a whole, the 2018 MacBook Pro is a better laptop than its 2017 predecessor, and a vast improvement over the 2016 model.

This review takes a look at the 15-inch MacBook Pro, with a 2.9GHz Core i9 processor, 32GB of memory, a 2TB SSD, and 4GB Radeon Pro 560X graphics. It’s a customized laptop that sells for $4,699.

Coffee Lake, the star of the 2018 MacBook Pro

After much anticipation, it’s here, the eighth generation of Intel’s Core processors. Finally. Now, if you only pay attention to Macs, you may not know that Intel released these processors last April, and it was a mystery as to when they would appear in an Apple laptop. New PC laptops with these processors (code-named Coffee Lake) appeared, and the performance numbers were impressive. So, for over three months—and over a year since the MacBook Pro was last updated—we’ve been left to imagine how Coffee Lake MacBooks would perform.

2018 macbook pro 02 Dan Masaoka/IDG

The 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro uses 6-core Coffee Lake Intel Core processors.

The major difference between the Core processor in the 2018 15-inch models and previous models is that it now has six processing cores, two more than before. Apps that can take advantage of multiple processing cores will benefit—professional-level apps, like high-end video, audio, and photo editors. But even if all you use are productivity apps that use only one processing core (a spreadsheet, email, a browser), you’ll find a nice boost in this machine.

The high-end CPU that you can get in the 15-inch MacBook Pro (and the one in this review) is a 6-core 2.9GHz Core i9 with Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz and 12MB shared L3 cache. To get this processor, you need to customize the $2,799 standard-configuration model that has a 6-core 2.6GHz Core i7 CPU. (In addition to the $2,799 model, Apple offers a $2,399 standard configuration model with a 6-core 2.2GHz Core i7 processor.)

In another welcomed upgrade, Apple made the switch from DDR3 RAM in previous MacBook Pros to DDR4 RAM in the 2018 models. DDR4 is faster, but it demands more power, and to meet that demand, Apple increased the amount of battery in the 2018 MacBook Pro. That increase meets DDR4’s requirements, and thus, you won’t see an more battery life. There’s more good news about the memory: The maximum amount you can have installed is now 32GB, double that of the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro. This is one change that users have been wanting for a while.