Watch: Apple's 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar vs. 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro in performance

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in Current Mac Hardware edited December 2016
Apple recently released the first MacBook Pro redesign since 2012, and in typical Apple fashion, there's been some controversy over the new machines. People are talking about are the lack of legacy ports, and the need for adapters to use current devices and accessories. With so many Macbook Pro users waiting for this redesign, AppleInsider takes a closer look and compares the new 15-inch model to the old to see if you should upgrade to the 2016 model, or stick with 2015's version.





The new MacBook Pro is smaller in every dimension from the previous model. Even though it's not a huge change on paper, the change is immediately noticeable in person. If your MacBook Pro travels with you, you'll appreciate the smaller footprint. It fits better in laptop bags, where the older 15-inch model can be tight.

Even with the smaller and lighter design, the cooling performance isn't compromised. In our normal usage which includes video and photo editing, It was immediately noticeable how much quieter the new machine was.

Connected to a 31-inch 4K display, the 2015 model typically sits at 58C with fans fans at 40%. This generates a noticeable hum that can get annoying in quieter rooms, but your sensitivity to the noise may vary. Under the same conditions, the new machine runs 10C cooler and remains perfectly silent.
Overall from a professional photo and video editing perspective, the 2016 15-inch Macbook Pro is a fantastic redesign and update from last years model.
To take it a step further, we transcoded video footage to stress the processors. Under load, the latest Macbook Pro runs at an average of 85C at 50% fan speed. At full "turbo boost" speed, the 2015 model runs at an average of 93C with 100% fanspeed and has to slow down it processor to keep it from overheating.

Not only is the 2016 MacBook Pro cooler and much quieter, it finished transcoding 10 video clips about 15% faster.

The 15-inch 2015 MacBook Pro's speakers were one of the best on the market, but Apple has managed to make then even better with the 2016 model, implementing improved loudness, bass, mids, and highs. This new machine has hands down the best speakers available in a laptop this size and has no problem filling a room with sound.

Incorporating the DCI-P3 "Wide Color" color space, the display has also been improved, granting better color accuracy, contrast and brightness. The benefits of the new display are pronounced if you use your new MacBook Pro in bright rooms or outside.

Performance

Our new 15" MacBook Pro has the base 2.6GHZ processor compared to the 2.5ghz in the 2015 model. We started off with Geekbench 4, and found that the new MacBook Pro was actually 8% slower in the CPU Test.

With further inspection, even though the processor's base clock is slightly faster the max boost speed is 200 Hz slower, and under full load 400 Hz slower, which is what gave us the benchmark numbers.

Real world results, like our transcoding test say something else entirely, as the older MacBook Pro can't keep up the faster speed for long because of heat -- so, overall, the new MacBook Pro is faster and cooler.

Media editing tasks

In photo editing, both machines edited smoothly using Adobe Lightroom, but the latest 15-inch Macbook was about 8% faster in converting 50 edited raw photos to JPEG. That's not a big difference, as Lightroom along with most photo editing apps are more dependent on the processor and generally don't max out the machines unless you're applying a series of filters.

For video editing we see much more of a difference. The latest MacBook Pro is on average about 50% faster with heavier tasks showing the bigger improvements. Rendering a 5-minute 1080p video with luts and film grain applied was 52% faster, and the same project in 4K was 54% faster.

A much heavier project with multiple scaled 4K clips with effects was 94% faster. Along with these speed improvements the 2016 Macbook Pro runs cooler and quieter.

Entertainment!

If you like to play games on your portable machine, the 2016 Macbook with the AMD 460 graphics is about 60% faster in the "Heaven" Unreal Engine benchmark, and under BootCamp can play some modern titles like "Battlefield 1" with medium-to-high setting at a constant 60FPS -- which is something the older model could never do.

Dongle life?


Gone are the HDMI, Thunderbolt 2, and USB 3 type-A ports along with the SD card reader. Replacing them are 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports that can be adapted to almost any connection.

While most users seem to be frustrated by the loss of ports, USB-C is the future. Apple's change to these ports exclusively will drive the market for updated devices and cables much faster than if they would have left some USB ports, similar to the shift to USB with the original iMac.

Magsafe is also missing, which was a great feature to have if you're laptop cable is prone to being pulled. If this is critical, there are a few third party options for the USB-C Ports.

While most users will need at least 1 USB-C to USB-A adapter and SD card reader, many old devices can be used with an updated cable. In our use, this hasn't been a big deal. We do confess, though, that it would have been good if they kept the SD card slot.

External Video

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro has the advantage of being able to power either four 4K displays, or two 5K displays, like the new LG Ultrafine 5K that we have on order and can't wait to test out. We reviewed the 21-inch 4K model and its a display that technically matches the new MacBook Pro well and allows users to charge the computer, send display and audio signals, and connect to additional device with one cable.

Battery and charging

With regard to battery life, Apple claims the new machine can last up to 10 hours compared to 9 with last year's model. Many users have been reporting worse battery life with regular use. During 4K youtube playback, our 2015 MacBook Pro displayed 21% longer battery life than the 2016 MacBook Pro.

If you're on the go you can charge the 2016 MacBook Pro with a USB-C power bank, which is something the 2015 model can't do.

Testing the batteries during 4K rendering, the 2016 MacBook Pro lasted 40% longer before dying. So from our testing, during simpler tasks like web browsing, the efficiency of the latest processor doesn't completely make up for the smaller battery. In medium to heavy tasks, the 2016 MacBook Pro stacks up or is better than the older model.

Touch Bar

After about 2 weeks, we're using the Touch Bar more and more, and do find the extra features useful. The Touch Bar, which is also available in the smaller 13" MacBook Pro, is really responsive and customizable, and the timeline scroll function in Final Cut Pro and skimming through video on YouTube is a big benefit of the feature.

There's too many features to list here and initial thoughts of it being gimmicky are gone. Just like Force Touch, as time goes on there will be more uses for this technology, and it will only get better for the user.

Typing with the new keyboard

The Latest Macbook Pro uses the second generation butterfly key switches -- and we feel that the improved switches are great. This new keyboard gives much more physical feedback to the user than the first generation of the technology in the 12-inch MacBook, and that makes all the difference to us.

During an online speed test we were slightly more accurate with the 2016 MacBook Pro keyboard, even though we have years of experience with the old style keyboard.

The new trackpad is absolutely huge, and while initially thought to be excessive, we found it limiting going back to the smaller one in the 2015 model. The trackpad's size contributes to ease of use for multi-touch gestures, and we've found the palm rejection works great.

Overall from a professional photo and video editing perspective, the 2016 15-inch Macbook Pro is a fantastic redesign and update from last years model. If you've been waiting to upgrade, and if you're trying to decide which model to buy, we would definitely suggest the new model.





For more reviews, news, tips, features and more, subscribe to AppleInsider on YouTube.

We're also interested in your questions! If you want to know anything about the new MacBook Pro or LG UltraFine lineup, chime in on our forums and we'll address it.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 64
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,380member
    Apple introduced a sleek(yes), powerful(Yes/No) laptop in 2016. Touch strip is certainly novelty and flexible use multi-function but normal users don't even use Function keys. Hope, Apple keep one model without touch strip. Importantly, for models without touch strip need one/two extra Type-C port on other side..
    edited December 2016
  • Reply 2 of 64
     The touch bar offers a great productivity boost for anyone who works with FCP X, and I can see similar gains in other apps which have any degree of complexity close to it.  It doesn't take long to appreciate how well the workflow is improved by the touch bar's context switching behavior.  Clearly innovation is still alive and well at Apple.
    macpluspluswilliamlondonration alpscooter63
  • Reply 3 of 64
    wood1208 said:
    Apple introduced a sleek(yes), powerful(Yes/No) laptop in 2016. Touch strip is certainly novelty and flexible use multi-function but normal users don't even use Function keys. Hope, Apple keep one model without touch strip. Importantly, for models without touch strip need one/two extra Type-C port on other side..
    So you pass on the Touch ID and Apple Pay for a couple of redundant USB-C?

    edited December 2016 Solisteveh
  • Reply 4 of 64
    rbonnerrbonner Posts: 635member
    Very nice review!!!
  • Reply 5 of 64
    Very helpful review, especially on the heat & fan noise. I have found with the lid closed running external display the mbp is also quiet, with down firing speakers (mannered grilles) helping audio in suit. My biggest caveat is there seems no DisplayPort support &/for Target Display Mode - I hope Apple decides to support this, or is working on it (it may be a lot of work), to allow use with the existing infrastructure of iMacs & peripherals - as I understand it DP support is a part of the Thunderbolt specification...
    ration al
  • Reply 6 of 64
    I guess it will be reference design for next 3 to 4 years and will be stuffed with newer updated internals when available like new Intel processors with support for 32 GB of RAM and others. The design will not change till some new breakthrough technology appears. Like thin batteries or OLED keyboard or something like that.
    ration al
  • Reply 7 of 64
    wood1208 said:
    Apple introduced a sleek(yes), powerful(Yes/No) laptop in 2016. Touch strip is certainly novelty and flexible use multi-function but normal users don't even use Function keys. Hope, Apple keep one model without touch strip. Importantly, for models without touch strip need one/two extra Type-C port on other side..
    Why would anyone need 5 or 6 USB-C ports in their laptop? If you're going to be connecting that many things at one time (which is unlikely ever for 99%+ of users), you're going to want them plugged into a dock of some sort. And asking Apple to make and sell models without a feature like the touch strip is likely going to fall on deaf ears. If you want a cheaper computer without all the bells and whistles, buy a used one. This works for car buying, it can work for computers.
    Mikeymikepscooter63steveh
  • Reply 8 of 64
    irelandireland Posts: 17,092member
    Your videos have improved by lots. I particularly like your open conversational style.
    iphonenickdreyfus2
  • Reply 9 of 64
    A great balanced review. Well done.
    Mikeymike
  • Reply 10 of 64
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,372member
    Feel a bit sad that a controversy on a new Apple product is now seen as "typical", it's still the exception rather than the expectation; the majority of Apple products are controversy free.

    Really nice video though, slick, informative and well presented.  Good stuff.
  • Reply 11 of 64
    rbonner said:
    Very nice review!!!
    ^^^ This!

  • Reply 12 of 64
    Nice Review.
    Well Done.

    my primary takeaway is that 
    ….Now, more than ever, we need Really New Battery technology, across all mobile devises
  • Reply 13 of 64
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,275member
    I have to say, I was looking at the 2016 MBP.  However after looking at benchmarks, I thought... huh... I can get a 2015 that performs better!  I found one on sale for Black Friday and got it Monday.  It was the maxed-out, top of the line MBP from late 2015. Number 6 in the GeekBench browser for Macs.

    What I noticed immediately... the thing was bloody huge!  I have a 13" MBP now and this was too big for me. Too heavy too.  That and the fan noise was loud when performing basic tasks.  I realized that there's more to a computer than just raw benchmark numbers.  It needs to fit your needs like a glove.

    I stopped in at BestBuy and actually decided to play around with a 2016 13" MBP with TouchBar.  I fell "in love" with it.  It's so light and responsive. The Touch Bar is great. The keys feel nice. The TouchPad is crazy huge.  The screen is amazing.  Now I find in this review... benchmarks don't mean squat. They don't measure real life performance. Apple knows this.  The SSD combined with silent operation, faster I/O and better use of the processor in day-to-day use makes up the difference.

    The long story is this... Apple came out with a new design and it still improves on last year's model in nearly every way.  The design is wonderful and each year the components will increase in speed and capacity and USB-C will become the new standard.  I can guarantee you that you will love this new form factor. Maybe you need more RAM or speed or whatever. Wait until next year if that's what you absolutely need.

    As for me... I sold the new MBP I just bought at a discount and ordered a maxed out 2016 MBP 13" and will be plenty patient for it to arrive later this year.
    randominternetpersonpscooter63
  • Reply 14 of 64
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 16,877member
    So the new one is faster and has some new features, while dropping some older tech?  Hmmm.  Shocker.  
    Soli
  • Reply 15 of 64
    wood1208 said:
    Apple introduced a sleek(yes), powerful(Yes/No) laptop in 2016. Touch strip is certainly novelty and flexible use multi-function but normal users don't even use Function keys. Hope, Apple keep one model without touch strip. Importantly, for models without touch strip need one/two extra Type-C port on other side..
    Why would anyone need 5 or 6 USB-C ports in their laptop? If you're going to be connecting that many things at one time (which is unlikely ever for 99%+ of users), you're going to want them plugged into a dock of some sort. And asking Apple to make and sell models without a feature like the touch strip is likely going to fall on deaf ears. If you want a cheaper computer without all the bells and whistles, buy a used one. This works for car buying, it can work for computers.
    The 13" non-touchbar model only has two USB-C ports on one side. He would like at least one more on the other side for convenience.
  • Reply 16 of 64
    This article read more like a fluff article.  Many reported worse battery life with real world work...but AI watched a YouTube video and claimed better battery life.  Watching YouTube all day is not real world work.  USB-C is the future...until the next port comes around in a few years.  They said the same thing about USB, FireWire, and even Thunderbolt 1 and 2 ports.  Apple should have included a few free dongles with a laptop that now cost hundreds more than the model it replaced.  Everyone out there still uses USB-A for printers, scanners, and even Apple's very own iPhone.  No one has USB-C peripherals, so everyone needs to buy either new cables or dongles to plug into existing displays, printers, hard drives, etc.  People with 5 year old MacBooks can consider upgrading, but anyone with a 2015 model would be an idiot to upgrade to a more expensive model with a worse keyboard.  The touchbar is nice, and I used one in person, but it is definitely not the reason to upgrade to the new model.  
  • Reply 17 of 64
    ben20ben20 Posts: 119member
    Great article, especially about the noise level. The lower noise level makes it worth to buy.
  • Reply 18 of 64
    wood1208 said:
    Apple introduced a sleek(yes), powerful(Yes/No) laptop in 2016. Touch strip is certainly novelty and flexible use multi-function but normal users don't even use Function keys. Hope, Apple keep one model without touch strip. Importantly, for models without touch strip need one/two extra Type-C port on other side..
    You sound like you are contradicting yourself here.
    You say "normal users don't use function keys". True. That is why the Touch Bar is so useful. It can (does) replace function keys with things that "normal" users will actually find useful, and therefore, actually use.
    ration alsteveh
  • Reply 19 of 64
    irelandireland Posts: 17,092member
    tommis said:
    The real reason the Macbook Pro costs so much has nothing to do with tech!! https://medium.com/@tommismeli/why-does-the-new-macbook-pro-costs-so-much-3a26fc005190#.553t6a9v0
    The issue with that article is it ignores how you build a brand to begin with. What Apple are known for is producing minimally designed products that usually tend to be intuitive, beautifully made and come with customer service no other CE company provides. That's the brand. Not "fashion". Fashion, or style as I'd rather name it, is part of the brand but that's more a result of Apple wanting their stuff to look good for aesthetic and ease of use concerns.

    Part of the price you're paying for with the brand is if things do go wrong you tend to get exceptional customer service. They saw by my purchase history I was a good customer so they swapped my out-of-warranty 2013 MBA for a new one after trying to fix it a few times.

    I do think though even counting that the new machines are still overpriced, especially outside the US, and the new iPhones certainly are as well. The dollar is stronger far more than the 2% increase in tax here in the last 6 years and yet new flagship iPhones have increased in price at least 25%. The constant price increases the last 3 years has tbh tarnished my view of the Apple brand. It's certainly affected my view of the company. I'm no longer a shareholder so I can be totally honest now. Charging €114 collectively for front and back covers of an iPad mini is just that bit too greedy for my liking. They're not even way better than what others provide, so the price is not justified. And telling me I don't have to buy them isn't an argument against something being overpriced—it's confirmation of it.

    Anyway...

    I'm going to run my MBA into the ground over the next five years and consider a MBP then, we'll see where the price goes. I'm not holding my breath on that.
    edited December 2016 randominternetpersonration al
  • Reply 20 of 64
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,453member
    tommis said:
    The real reason the Macbook Pro costs so much has nothing to do with tech!! https://medium.com/@tommismeli/why-does-the-new-macbook-pro-costs-so-much-3a26fc005190#.553t6a9v0
    The real reason is fashion? Brand value? You're full of shit. Sorry I followed your link, but others don't need to unless they want to see the old Apple-snob tropes in full monte.

    Back to reality:

    The real reason for the higher price is the R&D, the retooling for the aluminum, the Touch Bar and its development, the fastest SSD in the industry, and above all, and most obvious to anyone with a brain, the oxide-backed display, which is the key to the heat and power management for the new form factor, and whose development Apple has been bankrolling for several years with display makers.



    edited December 2016 Eric_WVGGsphericrandominternetpersonMikeymikeration aljkichlinepscooter63roundaboutnowbb-15johnsawyercjs
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