This is the brand new 2019 15” MacBook Pro, and out of all the devices that I own this is my true daily driver. I have used this thing solidly for at least 12 hours a day every week day and 5 or more hours at the weekend, so in total I have used this for at least 70 hours every week, and continue to do so.
In this review I want to cover the 3 biggest change!
Seeing as the 2019 models has the exact same design as the 2016, 17, and 18 models, there is not much to cover in that regard. But when I say this is the maxed out specs, I mean maxed out, apart from the 4TB of storage. Check out the specs of the model I am reviewing below:
2.3GHz 8-Core 9th Generation Intel Core i9 Processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz
32GB 2400MHz DDR4 Memory
Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 Memory
1TB SSD Storage
Ok, so in terms of the keyboard, this is Apple’s 5th butterfly design as they have been making small changes every single year since 2015.
Now Apple claimed that they changed some materials to make the keyboard significantly more reliable than before. However Apple did include the 2019 Models to their Keyboard Replacement programme on launch day, which raises doubt into how reliable these keyboards truly are.
iFixit did do a full keyboard teardown and they found that Apple replaced the silicone key switch cap with one made out of nylon, so it’s a bit sturdier and most of the components had slight changes to them, which I mentioned back in my 13” Review so feel free to check that out too.
But it terms of how the keyboard feels, it is very similar to the 2018 one, but feels a tiny bit sturdier. So overall I do like typing on the 2019 15” MacBook’s the most, but it’s still a butterfly keyboard so it’s still bad in terms of key travel and tactile feedback.
Considering that this is the maxed out version, you’d expect the performance to be maxed out too right? Well lets have a look.
Now the difference the 2019 model has over the 2018 model is that we now get an Intel i9 9th generation 8-core processor, which is actually Intel’s fastest laptop processor to date. We also get 8-cores up from 6, 16MP L3 cache up from 12MP on the 2018 6-core models, and a base clock of 2.4GHz down from 2.9GHz but we do get a turbo boost of up to 5GHz from 4.8GHz. Now just to clarify the Turbo Clock speed is just for a single core and only when the temperature is under 60 degrees, this is what Intel’s now calling ‘Thermal Velocity Boost’.
Unfortunately due to the still weak cooling system this model never reached 5GHz at all in my case. In fact, it even struggled to hit 4.8GHz. The highest that I’ve seen it hit was about 4.7GHz and that was only for a second or so.
But does it throttle you might ask? Well not as much as the 2018 one did.
Now since I also have the Vega 20 Model, the cooling is indeed better, with the fans being able to reach 6000 RPM’s from 5930 and 5490 on the 2018 non-Vega MBP’s. Add that to the fact that the GPU doesn’t heat up as much as, the CPU can run cooler meaning it can actually run at a higher clock speed than the 6-core 2018 model could, even though this is an 8-core CPU.
So the temperatures were lower when using it, 87-90 degrees was the top celling compared to 98 degrees on the 2018 model, and because of this the 2019 model was also much quieter as the fans didn’t start to spin up this early.
So how do those 2 extra cores and Vega 20 GPU translate to actual usage?
Well, let’s start out with some benchmarks first. Starting off with the CPU.
In the Geekbench 4 Single Core CPU test, the 2019 MBP scores 2.9% higher than the 6-core 2018 MacBook Pro, 18.6% higher than 4-core 2017 MBP and 25% higher than the 4-core 2016 MBP. Then in the Multicore test, the 2019 MacBook Pro scores 24.4% higher than the 2018 model, 47.3% higher than the 2017 and 51.2% higher than the 2016.
In Cinebench R15, the 2019 MBP scores 29.3% higher than the 2018, 48.6% higher than the 2017 and 45.4% higher than the 2016. Yes the 2017 started throttling more than the 2016 it seems. In Cinebench R20, the 2019 MBP scores 26% higher than the 2018, 46% higher than the 2017 and 42.5% higher than the 2016.
And next up, I ran our ZONEofTECH Keyshot 8 3D Rendering benchmark, which is a very CPU intensive task, and the 2019 model was 38.2% faster than the 2018, so a very big difference there, 53.3% faster than the 2017 and 42.1% faster than the 2016.
The temperatures were also significantly better. 75 degrees on the 2019 compared to 87 on the 2018, 97 on the 2017, and 98 on the 2016 and the clock speed was at about 2.7GHz versus 2.5GHz on the 2018 model, so very impressive so far.
Now when it comes to the GPU, in Geekbench 4 Compute, openCL test the Vega 20 2019 MacBook Pro was 24.8% faster than the 2018 with the 560X, 43.2% faster with the 2017 with the 560 and 34.6% faster than the 2016 with the 460. However, the 2016 MacBook Pro was recently replaced by Apple with a brand new case and cleaned fans, which is why I think it’s getting higher scores than our 2017, as there might be some dust in the fans.
In CineBench R15, the 2019 MBP was 18.7% faster than the 560X 2018, 35.3% faster than the 560 from 2017 and 33.4% faster than the 460 from 2016.
Next up we have the Unigine Heaven benchmark and here the 2019 was 38.9% faster than the 2018, 45.7% faster than the 2017 and 49.2% faster than the 2016.
So overall CPU wise, the 2019 is about 20-40% faster than the 2018 and GPU wise we get about a 40% difference. So quite some substantial gains so far.
Taking a look at some more real-world usage, in Final Cut Pro X I had our OnePlus 7 Pro blind camera test project and this was a massive one with a ton of 4K picture-in-picture clips, effects, titles and it was a full 15 minute 4K project. The 2019 MacBook Pro only took 16 minutes and 48 seconds to export this versus the 2018 which was 24.3% slower, the 2017 was 34.3% slower, and the 2016 was 33.8% slower. Now while 5 minutes or so doesn’t seem like much, on a bigger and more complex project, that would be substantially more and if you do this on a daily basis it will have a significant impact on your workflow.
Finally let’s have a look at the Disk performance. The 2019 and 2018 models were pretty much identical in terms of Write Speeds, 2017 and 2016 were 35.7% slower when using disk encryption. And in terms of the Read Speeds, the 2019 was identical to the 2018 and 16% faster than 2017 and 2016.
If you don’t use disk encryption for FireVault the results would be much more similar but if you do, since we have the T2 Chip on both the 2018 and 2019 models, the disk decryption is done in real time on the T2 chip itself and we get much higher IO performance.
Now there are a few more things that I want to address.
The reason why the 2019 is getting much better thermals isn’t just because of the faster fan speeds but also because of a brand new thermal paste. This is what I suspected in our initial video with the ‘20 Things You Didn’t Know’ but Quinn Nelson from Snazzy Labs has now confirmed this in his teardown.
Also if you’re thinking of using an eGPU on a 15” just don’t! You’re getting far better performance from a built-in dedicated GPU such as a Vega 20, especially in apps such as Final Cut Pro X which does not yet take full advantage of a GPU. A big update will be coming in November, in order to fix that.
Additionally if you’re upgrading from the 13” MacBook Pro you can actually have up to four 4K Monitors at 60Hz, two 5K monitors at 60Hz, or one 6K Apple Pro XDR display, potentially two but that’s not confirmed as of yet.
Aside from the keyboard and the performance I had one more thing that I wanted to address, and that was the T2 processor.
So, to my surprise I haven’t had any T2 crashes on my 2019 for the past 2 weeks. Unfortunately I had two T2 crashes on the same day on the 2019 MacBook Pro a few days ago. Shortly after I created a return for this model as it clearly has the same T2 issues as previous ones. Yes, after almost 3 weeks of using this daily, I am now sending it back.
But it wasn’t just because of the T2 crashes, on the exact same day, we’ve had a leak of an ECC (Eurasian Economic Commision) filing that showed Apple registering 7 brand new models of MacBook’s. Two of which are very likely to be that brand new redesign of the MacBook Pro, that Ming-Chi-Kuo talked about with a 16” display, a redesigned cooling system, and new keyboard that seems likely to actually come out this year. So I’m really looking forward to that, and until then this baby is going back!