Apple has announced a major update to its MacBook Pro laptop line, 13 months after the previous refresh on 7 June 2017 at WWDC 2017. The new laptops, which arrive in time for the important back to school/college buying period, are available with 13in and 15in screens and feature new eighth-generation Intel Coffee Lake processors, expanded storage and RAM options, T2 subsystem controller chips and True Tone screens.
In this article we round up all the latest news about the 2018 MacBook pro models: their release date, pricing, specs and new features.
When will the new MacBooks go on sale?
Right now, if you buy through Apple's website. The company says the laptops will be stocked by selected Apple stores and resellers later this week: given that the announcement was made on Thursday 12 July they really ought to be there by 15 July, but we'll update this when we have a firm launch date.
There are a range of configuration options - we'll discuss these in a little more detail in due course - so there are a range of prices too. But we know that the new 13in models (which all feature the Touch Bar) start at $1,799 in the US. That's the same as the cheapest Touch Bar from the previous generation.
The 15in models, again all featuring Touch Bar controls, start at $2,399 in the US.
We haven't got official UK pricing yet, but based on the US prices being the same as the 2017 generation we'd be surprised if they're significantly different from the old pricing - which would mean £1,749 for the entry-level 13in model and £2,349 for the 15in one.
You can currently get up to £200 off the MacBook Pro thanks to our exclusive code at Apple Reseller KRCS. Use the code MBP73 at checkout here. (Available until 5 August 2018, offering 7.3% off any model.)
Design (and keyboard)
Externally, the new MacBooks look the same as the 2017 models - all the changes are internal. That may be a worry for some, since there have been whispers of discontent about the keyboard of the past couple of generations of MacBook Pro which it seems are plagued by an issue where dust can render certain keys useless (read all about the MacBook keyboard problems here).
The good news is that the new MacBook Pro has a new keyboard that Apple describes in the press release as "an improved third-generation keyboard for quieter typing.” Given that the MacBook Pro keyboard is hardly deafening, you may be wondering what the point of the change is. Well the good news is that the quieter keyboard appears to be a symptom of another change that was noticed by iFixIt.
When iFixIt did its tear down of the new MacBook Pro they noticed that Apple has cocooned the butterfly switches in a thin, silicone barrier, which iFixIt believe is intended to prevent the dust and crumbs from getting stuck. This new design will, hopefully, avoid the problems that are plaguing the past few generations of keyboards with the ‘butterfly’ design.
An Apple patent application published in March looks remarkably like this silicone overlay design that the new keyboards are using - and it was characterized as a "contaminant ingress prevention and/or alleviation [mechanism].” Suggesting that the design was invented for the purpose of avoiding the problems people are facing with the older keyboard design.
While Apple has said that the "new third-generation keyboard wasn't designed to solve those [dust] issues,” (according to a Verge report), iFixIt suggests that the "the quiet angle is, quite literally, a cover up.”
Unfortunately the new keyboards aren’t completely unbreakable - we don’t suggest using one on the beach for example. iFixIt has ‘torture tested’ the new MacBook Pro and found that “just like last time, a few poorly placed particles bring the mighty butterfly down to earth, never to click again.” (Read the complete iFixIt report here).
The site pumped the keyboard “full of particulates to test our ingress-proofing theory”, initially the silicon barrier did a good job, but eventually “with the addition of more particulate and some aggressive typing, the dust eventually penetrates under the sheltered clips, and gets on top of the switch—so the ingress-proofing isn’t foolproof just yet.”
It’s unlikely that a MacBook Pro will actually encounter this kind of stress testing in normal usage, iFixit suggests that using it in a dusty room “won’t kill it” but does dissuade readers from using it on the beach.
When Apple introduced the redesigned butterfly mechanism keyboard with the MacBook Pro in 2016, it seems that a number of people had problems with keys repeating characters and other keys not working. Others claimed they made a high-pitched sound, and it is said a tiny spec of dust can render a keyboard useless so that the whole front of the MacBook needs to be replaced.
The problem became so widespread that Apple changed its stance on repairs and will now offer free repairs for MacBook Pro's with affected keyboards.
You can sign a petition calling for Apple to recall the faulty Mac laptops and replace the keyboards free of charge, or even join a lawsuit and attempt to get damages from Apple. Read all about the problems with the MacBook Pro here.
New features and specs
Let's start with the headline specs for the two main models, before going on to discuss them in more depth.
MacBook Pro 13in (2018) specs
- Quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors up to 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
- Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics 655 with 128MB of eDRAM
- Up to 2TB SSD storage
- True Tone display
- Apple T2 chip
- Touch Bar
MacBook Pro 15in (2018) specs
- 6-core Intel Core i7 and Core i9 processors up to 2.9GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz
- Up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM
- Radeon Pro discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory
- Up to 4TB SSD storage
- True Tone display
- Apple T2 chip
- Touch Bar
So what do these specs mean in practice?
Apple has equipped its new laptops with Intel's latest eighth-gen processor chips, and claims these will produce dramatic speed boosts.
The 13in Pros have finally moved from dual-core to quad-core processors, and Apple says they offer twice the speed of the previous generation; the 15in model gets six-core processors and up to 70 percent speed gains on the 2017 generation. We won't be able to test these claims until we've got review samples in our labs, but Geekbench scores that leaked online in June 2018 suggest they're seriously fast. The mystery (six-core) device scored a single-core score of 4,902 and a multi-core score of 22,316, which is far ahead of any 2017 MacBook Pro.
The specific models of chip are interesting, too. For the first time Apple is making a Core i9 chip available (for the 15in models only): a colleague's detective work makes us believe it's the Core i9 8950K. The top-line 13in laptop gets an i7 which we believe is the Core i7-8559U.
In both cases these are Coffee Lake chips, an upgrade on the Kaby Lake chips in the 2017 machines. Coffee Lake should provide improvements in power consumption as well as speed.
There is also a build-to-order i9 processor option, however, it is said that this eighth-generation Intel Core i9, isn’t just the fastest it’s also the hottest. YouTuber Dave Lee in the video below claims that the Core i9 MacBook Pro chassis and cooling systems are not enough to maintain the Core i9’s clock speed. However, he used only Adobe Premiere, which he he admits isn’t optimized for macOS.
Another upgrade: RAM now tops out at 32GB for the 15in model instead of 16GB.
Previously, all the 13in models offered 8GB of RAM (although there was a build-to-order option for 16GB). The 15in models shipped with 16GB RAM as standard.
You can now get a 4TB SSD on the 15in Pro; the maximum in the 2017 generation was 2TB.
All of the new MacBook Pros models get the T2 subsystem controller chip previously seen in the iMac Pro. This isn't the main system processor - that duty is taken by the eighth-gen Core chip - but is instead tasked with running the subsystems and producing a simplified internal design. Our colleagues on Macworld US called the T2 "the start of a Mac revolution".
True Tone screen
Intriguingly, Apple has equipped the new MacBooks with True Tone screens. Apple's True Tone technology was first demonstrated in the 2016 iPad Pro: it adjusts colour and brightness output to compensate for changing environmental lighting conditions. It's a subtle feature but we're pleased to see it make the switch to macOS.
There are no other changes to the screen we know about. Apple has not yielded to calls for it to include a 4K display, for instance; screen resolution remains the same as previously.
Apple hasn't made any claims about improved battery life for the new MacBook models. However, the reduced power-consumption made possible by Coffee Lake mean there may be some improvements in this area. As ever, we will follow up with lab results when we've run them.
All of the updated MacBook Pro models come with a Touch Bar (and therefore Touch ID). Apple will continue to sell a non-Touch Bar 13in model, but it's not updated.
We feel that the Touch Bar is a gimmick, and the fact that Apple hasn't rolled it out to any other Macs to date means that developers aren't updating their apps to support it. But the wide support for it here shows that Apple is committed to the concept.