Back in July 2018 Apple silently released the new 2018 MacBook Pros, without any event or anything, it randomly appeared on their website and it turned out to be a significant upgrade over the 2017 and 2016 models. It came with an i9 6-core processor, from the i7 quad core one that we got before, it came with 32GB of RAM, the Radeon 560X GPU over the 560, a True Tone Display, an improved keyboard as well as up to 4TB of 3.2GB/s flash storage. This thing was a huge upgrade over the 2017 model.
I’ve been using it every day for 12 hours, sometimes more, for about 6 months now, so what are my overall thoughts?
Like I said in the introduction, the keyboard itself has had quite a big improvement. I type a lot on my MacBook Pro and with the 2017 model I was forced to use an external keyboard but on this one I can comfortably type fast enough without making a considerable amount of spelling errors.
Apple also added a tiny wrap around the keys to protect them from any dust and debris that could get inside the switches. This makes the keys a bit quieter than before but definitely more tactile as there’s a more key travel thanks to the wraps.
The speakers are also way better than they were before. I mean, they’re were already great on the 15” 2017 model, but now they have even more bass and they’re also louder than before.
The new True Tone Display means that the MacBook Pro will automatically adjust the color temperature in order to match the lighting in your room and I honestly love it! It makes reading and writing so much easier on the eyes, and what’s pretty cool about it is that it also works on the TouchBar as well as with LG’s UltraFine 5K and 4K Monitors, as long as you keep the MacBook Pro’s lid open.
The only issue that I have with True Tone (and it’s quite a big one really) is that if you do any Video or Photo Editing, it will not automatically turn itself off. Even in 1st party apps such as iMovie or Final Cut Pro X it wouldn’t automatically turn off. This means that you would need to constantly remind yourself to dig through the settings app and disable it every single time you need to edit and image or video, otherwise your whole color temperature would be messed up.
So here’s hoping Apple at least add a shortcut on the touch bar to do this!
Ok, let’s talk about the performance.
So aside from the 2 extra cores and 4 extra threads that we get with the 2018 models, we also get 32GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory, which is even faster than the LPDDR3 2133MHz memory that we had in the 2017 models. The 560X is about 10-15% faster than the 560 was in 2017. So the main improvement here is in terms of the CPU and the RAM.
Now just 3 months after Apple released the 2018 MacBook Pros, they decided to release one more update. That was an additional GPU option which was the Vega 16 and Vega 20 Options, for the 15” MacBook Pros. Honestly, this broke my heart. Not just mine but everyone else’s who bought a maxed out 2018 model just month or so before. That’s because the Vega 20 models especially, are finally a massive improvement over even the 560X that we got a few weeks before. Apple could’ve at least said that they were going to release a major GPU option a few month later, or release the 2018 models in November, but nope they kept silent and screwed over everyone who bought a 2018 15” MacBook Pro.
But I digress. Anyway here’s how the 2017 compares to the 2018 560X and 2018 Vega 20:
Geekbench 4 Single Core:
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 4742
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 5608
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 5698
Geekbench 4 Multi Core:
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 15829
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 23795
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 25086
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 689
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 1013
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 1073
Disk Read Test:
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 2504R MB/s
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 3106R MB/s
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 3081R MB/s
Disk Write Test:
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 1587W MB/s
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 3004W MB/s
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 2987W MB/s
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 8:39
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 5:50
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 -5:36
Looking at this, even though both the models have the exact same CPU, it seems like the Vega 20 MBP does perform better even in CPU demanding tasks. This is because Apple has slightly redesigned the internals. I took the back covers off and you can see how much bigger the GPU is on the Vega 20 model. This is because the GPU memory is now inside the GPU itself. This is why AMD memory is called HBM2, it’s their second generation of high bandwidth memory and the only way it can be faster than the standard GDDR5 is by being placed inside the GPU rather than outside, like we have on the 560X model.
The Vega 20 can also achieve more performance per watt than the 560X, meaning that the wattage can be lowered and therefore the GPU temperatures are lowered as well which means that in return the CPU has more room to breathe since Apple’s using a unified cooling system for both the CPU and the GPU.
But how do they compare in GPU tests?
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 86fps
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 106fps
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 111fps
2017 i7 16GB 560 -19fps
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 21fps
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 38fps
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 13min 51s
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 11min 48s
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 10min 51s
2017 i7 16GB 560 -35fps
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 39fps
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 78fps
2017 i7 16GB 560 - 16fps
2018 i9 32GB 560X - 19fps
2018 i9 32GB Vega 20 - 28fps
So CPU wise you do get a small improvement but GPU wise you get almost a two times increase in performance. So if you’re into gaming this is going to be huge improvement compared to even the 560X model. If you’re into video editing, the improvement is just about 10% on the Vega 20 compared to the 560X.
Finally the last thing that I want to cover in this section is the T2 processor. So this is something that Apple initially added to the 2017 iMac Pro and then to all new Macs released afterwards.
The 2018 MacBook Pros, the 2018 MacBook Air, and the new Mac Mini all come with the T2 chip. What it is essentially is an ARM based processor, very similar to Apple’s A10 chip that’s inside the iPhone 7 and it handles all the background system processes such as; the boot sequence, the microphones, the camera processing, even the disk encryption. This is the reason why we got double the write speeds on the 2018 MacBook Pro vs the 2017 model when using FireVault.
So the T2 lifts a lot of the lighter workloads from the main Intel processor, allowing it to perform faster, and what Apple did is remarkable! They have devices that run on both the x86-64 platform as well as the ARM platform. This is something that’s even more difficult to do than a MacBook running just on an ARM processor such as Apple’s A12 or so processors.
But the downside to this is that every Mac with the T2 processor will crash a lot! I’ve had my 2018 MacBook Pro for 6 months at the time of writing this, and this thing has crashed close to 40 times already. And yes, I did lose some work in the process. It’s a nightmare to be honest. I’ve had T2 crashes with the Vega 20 MBP as well, the Mac Mini, 2 Mac Minis actually and the MacBook Air.
So unfortunately, even though Apple’s T2 processor is supposed to make your MacBook more secure, which it does, it also has a negative impact on the usability, just because of how often it crashes your system.
So overall, I do love my 2018 15” i9 560X MacBook Pro. It’s by far the best mac that I’ve used and even though it’s far from perfect, what with all the T2 crashes, but it’s still an amazing device overall. I’m using Thunderbolt 3 to its full potential, connecting directly to my server, the Mac Mini, my 5K monitor as well as sometimes my Vega 64 eGPU as well. If you’re into gaming than yes the Vega it is worth it, otherwise the 560X is still a great GPU for content creation.