Apple quietly updated its site to announce that new GPU options are coming to the MacBook Pro. In late November, the high-end 15-inch MacBook Pros will be available with the Radeon Pro Vega GPU, the same AMD GPU graphics architecture used in the iMac Pro. The new GPU features High Bandwidth Memory, which doubles the memory bandwidth at lower power and results is faster graphics performance that Apple says is up to 60% faster than the AMD Radeon Pro 560X.
According to Apple’s MacBook Pro webpage, the Radeon Pro Vega 16 and 20, each with 4GB of HBM2 memory, will be available in late November as part of the MacBook that comes configured with a 2.66GHz 6-core CPU and 512GB of SSD storage.
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Jason Snell, writing for Six Colors:
After a week of controversy following the posting of a video that claimed the new 15-inch MacBook Pro could experience massive slowdowns, Apple on Tuesday acknowledged that the slowdowns exist—and that they’re caused by a bug in the thermal management software of all the 2018 MacBook Pro models. That bug has been fixed in a software update that Apple says it’s pushing out to all 2018 MacBook Pro users as of Tuesday morning.
Here’s the official Apple statement, furnished to Six Colors by an Apple spokesperson:
Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we’ve identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro. A bug fix is included in today’s macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended. We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70% faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2X faster, as shown in the performance results on our website.
The controversy caused this past week over throttling reports surely isn't the kind of publicity Apple was hoping for with its latest updates to the MacBook Pro. There's been all kinds of speculation as to the reasons for the excessive throttling that's been reported, with one popular theory claiming it's an issue with the MacBook Pro's thin body – an error similar to that found with the current Mac Pro, whose enclosure can't sufficiently handle the additional heat caused by powerful chips and heavy workflows.
While official tests will take some time to confirm Apple's message, it's great to see that the i9 MacBook Pro's issues don't appear to be hardware-related, and Apple moved swiftly to solve them.
iFixit ran more tests and took a closer look at the keyboard membrane that was added to the 2018 MacBook Pro released last week. It turns out, the membrane is one sheet of die-cut silicone with tiny cutouts to allow keycaps to connect to the butterfly switches beneath.
To test how well the new design holds up against dust, iFixit sprayed a new MacBook Pro with a dusting of paint additive. They then tore apart the notebook and found:
Lo and behold, the dust is safely sequestered at the edges of the membrane, leaving the mechanism fairly sheltered. The holes in the membrane allow the keycap clips to pass through, but are covered by the cap itself, blocking dust ingress. The previous-gen butterfly keys are far less protected, and are almost immediately flooded with our glowing granules. On the 2018 keyboard, 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. Time will tell how long the barrier will hold up.
iFixit followed up by testing with grittier sand, which managed to cause keys to stick.
It’s good to see that the MacBook Pro’s keyboard withstands fine particles better than earlier models in testing. The real test, of course, is long-term human testing. Only time will tell whether the 2018 MacBook Pros can hold up when faced with a crumbly muffin in your local café or the pollen blowing across your keyboard as you browse the web in your backyard.
In a press release today, Apple announced updates to its MacBook Pro line of notebook computers. The new models feature faster 8th-generation Intel processors with six cores in the 15-inch model and four cores in the 13-inch model. According to Apple, the 15-inch model is up to 70% faster and the 13-inch model two times faster than earlier models.
The new notebooks also support up to 32 GB of RAM and include a True Tone display and Touch Bar. The 15-inch model can be configured with up to 4 TB of SSD storage, while the 13-inch model is limited to a maximum of 2 TB. The new MacBook Pros feature Apple’s T2 chip, which debuted in the iMac Pro and adds ‘Hey Siri’ support to the Mac.
In the wake of issues with recent-generation MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, Apple has also updated the keyboard of the new MacBook Pros to a new, quieter third-generation model. Apple’s website doesn't address the new keyboard's performance or whether the issues experienced with earlier models have been resolved. However, according to a story on The Verge:
This new third-generation keyboard wasn’t designed to solve those issues, Apple says. In fact, company representatives strenuously insisted that the keyboard issues have only affected a tiny, tiny fraction of its user base.
In addition to the new notebooks, Apple introduced a leather sleeve for the MacBook Pro that is available in Saddle Brown, Midnight Blue, and Black, which is similar to the leather sleeves available for the MacBook.
The new MacBook Pros are also part of a Back to School promotion that Apple announced today.
It wasn’t long after Apple changed the mechanisms of its MacBook keyboards that reports of sticky keys and other problems surfaced. Over time as anecdotal evidence mounted, it became apparent that the problem was widespread, but of course, only Apple knew exactly how common the issues were.
Now, in response to the keyboard problems, Apple has begun a keyboard service program to fix or replace keyboards with faulty butterfly switch mechanisms. From Apple’s support page about the program:
Apple has determined that a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:
- Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
- Letters or characters do not appear
- Key(s) feel "sticky" or do not respond in a consistent manner
The program covers MacBooks and MacBook Pro models from 2015 onward. Service is free of charge for four years after the first retail sale of the computer. To check if your model is covered, visit Apple’s support page for a complete list of eligible models.
My MacBook Pro’s keyboard hasn’t failed, but I know several people whose keyboard has, and I’ve had a few occasions where keys would become sticky for a short period. If my keyboard ever fails, I expect it will be at the most inopportune time, but at least that hassle and frustration won’t come with a big price tag too.
Two days ago, Apple issued a statement disputing battery life tests run on the new MacBook Pro by Consumer Reports. Based on those tests, Consumer Reports concluded it couldn’t recommend the laptop. After retesting, Consumer Reports now recommends the MacBook Pro. In a new article explaining the retesting, the publication says:
Consumer Reports has now finished retesting the battery life on Apple's new MacBook Pro laptops, and our results show that a software update released by Apple on January 9 fixed problems we’d encountered in earlier testing.
With the updated software, the three MacBook Pros in our labs all performed well, with one model running 18.75 hours on a charge. We tested each model multiple times using the new software, following the same protocol we apply to hundreds of laptops every year.
Shortly before the winter holidays, Consumer Reports announced that the new MacBook Pro had failed to earn its ‘recommended’ rating due to poor battery life caused by Safari. Apple disputed the testing done by Consumer Reports and worked with it over the holidays to track down the discrepancy between its testing and Consumer Reports’ results. Today, Apple released the following statement to a handful of outlets, including iMore and The Loop:
"We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results," Apple told iMore. "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we've ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we're glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro."
There have been reports of battery life issues with the MacBook Pro that are unrelated to Safari, but this should put the Safari issues raised by Consumer Reports to rest.
A million hot takes have been posted about how the late-2016 MacBook Pro with USB-C is the undeniable proof that Apple doesn’t care about developers anymore. They took away all the ports! No Esc key! It’s just a more expensive MacBook Air!
But in some ways, the new MacBook Pro is the most techy and expandable laptop Apple has ever made. They are trusting their pro users to wade into murky USB-C waters in search of the holy grail of a universal, open standard for moving data and power between devices.
I’m not here to change your mind about the MacBook Pro. Yes, it’s probably too expensive and more RAM is better than less RAM. But everyone posting complaints without actually using a MBP for a few weeks is missing out on all the clever things you can do because it is built on USB-C. Over the past week or two with a new MacBook Pro (15in, 2.9ghz, TouchBar), I’ve been constantly surprised with how USB-C makes new things possible. It’s a kind of a hacker’s dream.
His examples make me wish the iPad Pro had a USB-C port to plug anything into it without having to buy adapters.
Apple posted a video on YouTube promoting the new Touch Bar MacBook Pros. The video cuts frenetically between a long line of Edison bulbs exploding down a darkened street and into the countryside, and scenes of human inventions from the discovery of fire to a robot walking down a street. The spot concludes with ‘Ideas push the world forward,’ echoing the line ‘They push the human race forward’ from Apple’s famous 1997 ‘Crazy Ones’ ad.
The ad then cuts to the line ‘Introducing a tool for all the ideas to come.’ A MacBook Pro comes into view with an Edison bulb on the screen. A hand scrubs back and forth across a slider on the Touch Bar making the video of the exploding bulb fast forward and rewind. The video does a nice job demonstrating the marquee feature of the new MacBook Pros, but an even better job, through its use of pacing, music, and editing, of giving a sense of the speed at which technology advances in what feels like an oblique response to critics of the changes made to Apple’s laptop line.