I owned a second-hand, sticker-encrusted Titanium PowerBook G4 that was stolen during a road trip. I've upgraded, repaired, purchased, gifted, traded, and tinkered with iBooks and MacBooks galore, both for work and for fun. However, the more recent MacBooks I've used have been a mixed bag. Not only are Apple's last couple MacBook iterations unrepairable and non-upgradeable , but I find that the computing experience has been compromised in some key areas.
Apple's laptops used to be so competitive that I'd recommend them just for use with Windows. But then PC manufacturers started upping their game, and since late , it's been extremely hard to recommend the Pros. How did we get to this place? The new MacBook Pros attempt to atone for some of the line's recent performance missteps by throwing powerful new processors, tweaked graphics cards, a massaged keyboard, more RAM, and bigger SSDs into a product meant for the professionals who consistently rely on these machines.
Apple gets complaints from the Mac faithful. Mac fans are a passionate minority who like to kvetch about everything from file systems to UI consistency. The top complaint might be that the Cupertino company just isn't as consistent at updating its products as other PC makers. For instance, the Mac mini continues to feature Intel chips from And desktop users still wait with bated breath for the triumphant return of the Mac Pro, which was last released in and…never got better internals.
Thankfully, the eighth-generation Intel processors in the absolute newest MacBooks give pro users a big reason to consider upgrading. In every model, you'll get more processor cores, better graphics be they discrete or integrated and overall faster performance. This is especially the case with the inch models. Apple pro laptops were capped at four cores for a long time—until now.
The new eighth-gen Intel chips in these machines, no matter which inch you pick up, now include two bonus cores. As muscle car fans might say, there's no replacement for displacement, and these tiny silicon engines give you a whopping total of 6 cores and 12 threads, leaving previous Macs in the dust at the drag strip. I was able to use the new MacBook Pro to encode a video into the demanding H.
The Cinema4D performance from this laptop was impressive, and they noted a marked improvement in render times of 3-D frames with complex material reflections. Most folks will opt for the cheaper i7-based models. After that update, I noticed significantly more consistent speeds with less fluctuation than before.
But even I was wowed by the additional headroom the new CPU grants users. I could keep working in Chrome while running an intensive app like Handbrake in the background without noticing much, if any, slowdown. I could easily make it through a few hours of light work and web use without getting range anxiety. In the redesign of its top-tier notebooks, Apple switched out a tried-and-true scissor switch with the now-infamous butterfly mechanism, reducing key travel to a measly half a millimeter.
The company spun the decision as one to increase the "stability" of said keys, though I don't think that's a complaint anyone ever had with the softer, more comfortable MacBook keyboards of yore. Personally, I feel that in swapping the Pro keyboard for the shallow butterfly-style version, Apple severely damaged its MacBook Pro line. Anecdotal reliability issues aside myself and coworkers have suffered through jammed key switches on our last-gen MacBooks, for what it's worth , I was told by its defenders that the butterfly keyboard just "takes getting used to," which isn't something you could say about the excellent input devices built into the laptop's forbears.
These new MacBook Pros have a similar butterfly keyboard mechanism. The choice is bound to be similarly controversial, even though Apple's touting its improved switch design. Teardowns show that the new version of the keyboard adds a silicone baffle under each keycap. Whether it's designed to keep dust from jamming up the switch or to simply muffle the sound of the keyboard is beside the point. I'd say that the new keyboard is a little quieter, but it mostly has a less obnoxious sonic signature.
The new switches had a slightly softer feel to them, which my sensitive fingers appreciated. But, for me, this is still a sub-par keyboard. I shouldn't have to "get used to" a keyboard on a multi-thousand-dollar computer, and it shouldn't make my hands hurt doing what it was designed to do.
The older keyboards were better, and Mac users deserve a better typing experience for what they're paying. Then there's the Touch Bar. Somewhere between a keyboard and a touchscreen, this tiny display sits atop the keyboard and offers up some alternative, touch-friendly controls.
You can program it to display controls from third-party apps, like Adobe Photoshop, but I've found that the Touch Bar works best for me when it's set up to act like a normal assortment of buttons. Y'know, that vivid, high-resolution screen where all the real work gets done? Of course, Windows 8 may soon even the field in this regard.
This means better viewing angles and potentially more accurate colours. Indeed, for the first time in a MacBook, viewing angles are as good as they get. You can view material from as far to any side as you like, without noticeable contrast or colour shift.
Apple has also done away with the glass cover that created the bezel-free look on older MacBooks, instead using only two layers compared to the previous three. This brings the actual display closer than ever and significantly lowers reflections, all without losing any of the aesthetic benefits of a glass front though it is likely to be a little more fragile than screens that do sport the extra layer.
As you would hope, the image characteristics of the Retina panel are pretty good. Already vibrant colours are further perceptually enhanced by the glass finish, as are inky blacks. Backlighting is beautifully even. Just to put things into perspective, this 15in laptop manages to cram in more pixels than your average 30in monitor, most of which count 2, x 1, The lowest of these is based on 1, x , and results in huge icons and text.
The highest preset the fruity company gives you is 1, x 1, Quite aside from losing desktop real estate, third-party software will need to be programmed to specifically get the most out of the Retina Display — and so far only a few MacOS-specific programs are fully compatible, though giants like Photoshop CS6 are soon to follow.
One fairly painless BootCamp Windows 7 install later, however, and we can admire our desktop in native 2, x 1, The same can be said for games. PCMark 07 General: Entertainment: For permanent storage, the base model has a GB SSD, which should be adequate for most users considering you can hook up fast external storage through USB 3. However, in a more demanding DirectX 11 title like Stalker Call of Pripyat, that average fell to 28fps, and this was still only at Medium detail.
On the other hand, in Diablo 3 we could run at native Retina with all settings turned up to max and anti-aliasing, and we still got a perfectly playable experience, with an average that rarely dipped below the magical 30fps barrier. While the latest Blizzard game is not exactly a graphical powerhouse, Diablo 3 does go to show that playing recent, blockbuster titles at Retina resolutions is not just possible but very pretty indeed. Mind you, this is quite common for light and thin laptops packing these kind of components.
Our only real concern here is the lack of upgrade potential. MobileMark 40 percent screen brightness, wireless radios disabled, mixed productivity minutes. Apple claims battery life of seven hours, which is identical to the previous, fatter MacBook Pro. We ran the same Windows 7-based benchmark that we submit every laptop to on the MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display and achieved five hours and 44 minutes.
The similarly-sized Samsung Series 7 Chronos , for example, managed seven and a half hours in the same test, albeit with a 1, x screen. In other words, if you use the MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display casually it will hold up to the claimed time, otherwise if you were to work on it throughout the day, you can expect under six hours.
Perhaps the closest configurable competitor at the moment is the Sony VAIO S15 , which is a similarly-sized premium, metal-clad powerhouse sporting a backlit keyboard and 1, x 1, IPS screen. And now that Apple finally offers USB 3. Unlike other sites, we test every laptop we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We never, ever, accept money to review a product. Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.
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