Benchmarked: AMD's Radeon Vega 20 gives MacBook Pro big graphics boost

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited December 4
The brand new Radeon Pro Vega 20 GPU option for the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro is supposed to substantially improve graphical performance. AppleInsider puts the top-of-the-line model fitted with the GPU and the Intel Core i9 processor against the base MacBook Pro equipped with a Radeon 560X to see how much of a difference there is between the two configurations.

The MacBook Pro with Vega 20 running Unigine Heaven
The MacBook Pro with Vega 20 running Unigine Heaven


The option to buy the recently-introduced Vega-based GPU configurations aren't immediately offered when customers attempt to buy a 15-inch MacBook Pro from Apple's website. After selecting the model starting at $2,799, two new options under "Graphics" are presented, consisting of a $250 add-on for the Vega 16 GPU and a $350 option for Vega 20.



Both Vega graphics options are packing 4 gigabytes of AMD's latest and greatest second-generation High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2,) which is faster and more efficient than the GDDR5 paired with the Radeon 560X. We went with the more expensive Vega 20 to squeeze out the most performance from Apple's flagship notebook, as well as opting for 32 gigabytes of RAM and the Core i9 six-core processor.

Starting with Geekbench 4's OpenCL Graphics test, the Vega 20 achieves a 37-percent better score than the Radeon 560X, which is seriously impressive. While $350 sounds like a lot to pay, if you're already spending close to or more than $3,000 on hardware, it's probably worth the extra cost for this kind of performance.



For Geekbench 4's Metal test, there's not as much of an improvement, simply because the Radeon 560X is already a strong performer. We still saw a 23-percent improvement from the Vega.



We then tested Unigine Heaven, a benchmark that uses both the processor and graphics card to simulate a video gaming scenario.

Here, the Vega 20 crunched almost twice as many frames per second as the Radeon 560X with the i9 processor, an improvement we weren't expecting to see. This might be the first MacBook capable of running some of the latest video games at high graphics settings and frame rates.



Windows 10 was then installed using Bootcamp for a retest of Unigine Heaven's benchmark, and we were surprised to see that the score went up to 49 frames per second. This shows there's a huge difference between Mac and Windows for gaming, and suggests more testing in this area should be conducted in the future.

15-inch MacBook Pro with Vega 20 undergoing the Unigine Heaven benchmark in Windows 10
15-inch MacBook Pro with Vega 20 undergoing the Unigine Heaven benchmark in Windows 10


We were curious to see if the new models had any effect on how the i9 processor performed under Cinebench R15's CPU test. To our surprise, the MacBook Pro with the Vega 20 graphics averaged 57 points higher than the i9 MacBook Pro with 560X graphics, but we're not sure if the result is due to software improvements or possible changes made to the cooling system to accommodate Vega.



While these benchmarks certainly do show there is a considerable performance boost by opting for Vega 20, it is only part of the story. AppleInsider will be performing more tests in other areas, including video editing, to see how it stands up.

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For a limited time, Apple authorized reseller Adorama is taking $225 off every Mid 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro with Vega 16 or Vega 20 graphics for AI readers. This deal, which can be activated with coupon code APINSIDER using the pricing links below and in our Price Guide, delivers the lowest prices anywhere on the newly released configurations. What's more, Adorama will not collect sales tax on your order if you live outside NY and NJ. For most customers, that incentive combined with our $225 coupon will save you between $470 to $790 on these brawny new machines.

To snap up the discounts, you must shop through the pricing links below or in our Price Guide and enter coupon code APINSIDER during checkout. Need help? Send us a note at deals@appleinsider.com and we will do our best to assist.

2018 15" MacBook Pros with Vega 16 graphics 2018 15" MacBook Pros with Vega 20 graphics
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    I am genuinely excited about the Vega 20 option, though the minimum entry point is over $2.9K. Still, these early benchmarks look promising.
    I want to see some FCPX and Compressor benchmarks, please. Those are my main workflows. Can you compare it to the base 6-core Mac Pro with the D500 chip? It's nearly the same price, but it's much older hardware. I'd also like to see where the MacBook Pro Vega 20 stacks up against the base 8-core iMac Pro which costs $1K more than a similarly spec'd MacBook Pro Vega 20. Thanks!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    71973 OpenCL sounds impressive but compare it to a NVIDIA GTX 1070 in a three year old $1300 PC laptop which gets 162679 for OpenCL. Apple also has not updated OpenCL for the past five years.
    edited November 22 ednl
  • Reply 3 of 23
    Apple has deprecated OpenCL at WWDC'18 and the path forward is Metal.
    chiamacpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    ne1ne1 Posts: 30member
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.
    Curiouserandcurious
  • Reply 5 of 23
    I need to know if my Vega 20 MBP can mine enough bit coin after I go to bed to pay for Vega 20 in 3 years. 
    entropys
  • Reply 6 of 23
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,635member
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.
    Apple would never let anyone know what's coming in the pipeline. No company would do that for that matter. If you're so concerned with it buy an eGPU enclosure with an even better graphics card. 
    watto_cobranetrox
  • Reply 7 of 23
      Seems like we should also include price per day ratio kind of like a  performance per watt
     I’m even more pissed off because I bought mine October 1 fully loaded and now this don’t tell me about pipeline releases 
  • Reply 8 of 23
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.

    I can understand your frustration! I'd be pissed too. Unfortunately it's just pure luck. I still haven't picked up a new MBP, but you did.
    edited November 23 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,433member
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.
    Christ on a bicycle, what does it take to make you people happy?

    Apple is not innovating fast enough. 
    Apple is innovating too fast. 
    Apple is preaanouncing stuff that’s not ready. 
    Apple is not preannouncing which would cause their sales to dry up while folk wait. 

    Grow up!



    ednlmacguimacxpresscornchipwatto_cobradangermouse2fastasleep
  • Reply 10 of 23
    Rayz2016 said:
    Grow up!
    Gold! 'Don't buy what we're selling now because we're going to ship some newer stuff in a few months! And don't buy then either, because in a few more months we may ship something else. And due stop by the Mothership and will give you the road map to our release dates for the next two years.'
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 774member
    macxpress said:
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.
    Apple would never let anyone know what's coming in the pipeline. No company would do that for that matter. If you're so concerned with it buy an eGPU enclosure with an even better graphics card. 
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.

    I can understand your frustration! I'd be pissed too. Unfortunately it's just pure luck. I still haven't picked up a new MBP, but you did.
    Rayz2016 said:
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.
    Christ on a bicycle, what does it take to make you people happy?

    Apple is not innovating fast enough. 
    Apple is innovating too fast. 
    Apple is preaanouncing stuff that’s not ready. 
    Apple is not preannouncing which would cause their sales to dry up while folk wait. 

    Grow up
    These replies are spot on. Virtually no company announces specs for new hardware ahead of time and Apple never does. Historically, they come out with new laptops in the fall, so it should have been no surprise that they came out with new laptops. I can understand being frustrated, but you how and why are you blaming Apple? Would you have been happy if they released a laptop that only had a 20% performance boost? 
    Rayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23
    These replies are spot on. Virtually no company announces specs for new hardware ahead of time and Apple never does. Historically, they come out with new laptops in the fall, so it should have been no surprise
    I have no horse in this race since I’m still on a 2013 MBP, but can buy the frustration. We’ve waited a long time for something that seemed like an innovation or step forward (seems a bit reminiscent of PPC days) so when you jump into a flagship after all that time you expect you’ll be sitting on latest and greatest for 12 months. Really feels liike something went wrong with the pipeline in this case.  Then us apple folks are expecting that purchase to still look pretty good over next 36 months, whereas Vega has made last month’s latest and greatest already look mid-pack. Almost all of that is buyer psychology, but even so, jumping in at $3k to $5k “feels” riskier now, even though Vega is enough of a jump that it has probably significantly de-risked depreciation in dollar or capability terms (probably well beyond the value of $350 - when’s the last time we saw a mobile graphics jump like that?).  Maybe Apple needs to give all of those disappointed folks a $350 discount on an external EGPU box. 
  • Reply 13 of 23
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,635member
    These replies are spot on. Virtually no company announces specs for new hardware ahead of time and Apple never does. Historically, they come out with new laptops in the fall, so it should have been no surprise
    I have no horse in this race since I’m still on a 2013 MBP, but can buy the frustration. We’ve waited a long time for something that seemed like an innovation or step forward (seems a bit reminiscent of PPC days) so when you jump into a flagship after all that time you expect you’ll be sitting on latest and greatest for 12 months. Really feels liike something went wrong with the pipeline in this case.  Then us apple folks are expecting that purchase to still look pretty good over next 36 months, whereas Vega has made last month’s latest and greatest already look mid-pack. Almost all of that is buyer psychology, but even so, jumping in at $3k to $5k “feels” riskier now, even though Vega is enough of a jump that it has probably significantly de-risked depreciation in dollar or capability terms (probably well beyond the value of $350 - when’s the last time we saw a mobile graphics jump like that?).  Maybe Apple needs to give all of those disappointed folks a $350 discount on an external EGPU box. 
    Apple doesn't owe anyone shit. Jesus people, you're unbelievable! First everyone bitches because Apple never updates anything. Now its, Apple updated something too soon and now they owe us something. They can't friggin' win! Technology advances...deal with it! Any technology purchase is a risk. You will never have the latest and greatest forever, even if its just a couple of months. 

    When does this stop? So if Apple gave them $350 off a eGPU case and the video card that was purchased for it was updated the following month, does the manufacturer of that card owe you something again? 

    Nobody owes anything to anyone for any product purchased and updated afterwards. If I buy a car today and next month its updated to a totally brand new car, I'm not going to get a refund of some sort from the dealership/manufacturer. 

    The society today is just fucking unbelievable! Everyone thinks they're always owed something. I don't know where we went wrong...

    Bottomline, I guess Tim should just be fired! He sucks as a CEO! Steve would have given a discount! /s
    edited November 23 Rayz2016watto_cobrafastasleep
  • Reply 14 of 23
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,635member

    MplsP said:
    macxpress said:
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.
    Apple would never let anyone know what's coming in the pipeline. No company would do that for that matter. If you're so concerned with it buy an eGPU enclosure with an even better graphics card. 
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.

    I can understand your frustration! I'd be pissed too. Unfortunately it's just pure luck. I still haven't picked up a new MBP, but you did.
    Rayz2016 said:
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.
    Christ on a bicycle, what does it take to make you people happy?

    Apple is not innovating fast enough. 
    Apple is innovating too fast. 
    Apple is preaanouncing stuff that’s not ready. 
    Apple is not preannouncing which would cause their sales to dry up while folk wait. 

    Grow up
    These replies are spot on. Virtually no company announces specs for new hardware ahead of time and Apple never does. Historically, they come out with new laptops in the fall, so it should have been no surprise that they came out with new laptops. I can understand being frustrated, but you how and why are you blaming Apple? Would you have been happy if they released a laptop that only had a 20% performance boost? 
    And if Apple would have waited for the Vega graphics option, these same people would be bitching up a storm because Apple never releases anything new anymore, or its taking too long and I'm gonna go build a Hackintosh instead. 
    cornchipwatto_cobrafastasleep
  • Reply 15 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,433member
      Maybe Apple needs to give all of those disappointed folks a $350 discount on an external EGPU box. 
    Maybe you should learn to deal with life's little disappointments. As someone already said, they owe you absolutely nothing.

    But you're free to sell the machine you've got and then wait indefinitely for whatever Apple might announce.
    edited November 23 watto_cobramacxpress
  • Reply 16 of 23
    tipootipoo Posts: 973member
    Any chance you could get a picture with the bottom removed? 

    Curiously the i9 in this seems to score better than the same i9 from months ago (accounting for the patch), so I wonder if the cooler is redesigned to deal with Vega. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 23
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,131member
    macxpress said: would have given a discount! /s
    And a personal email with an apology!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23
    ne1 said:
    Those of us who purchased top of the line MBPs in August are just getting angrier and angrier. Apple made a mistake not letting us know this was coming.
    I guess you don't pay attention to the history of computing. If a company announces that it will have something that is much faster and better than they are selling now, they won't sell enough devices. Businesses have been bankrupt as a result of announcing them prematurely. Get over with it. It's the way technology works.
    macxpress
  • Reply 19 of 23
    Capitalism at work, boys. Apple is only about making profits, so why so angry and surprised when they release an improved version of what you bought shortly after the initial release.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    It's quite a compelling upgrade for 2017 MBP owners now. You go from 4 to 6 cores, from Polaris to Vega graphics, from T1 to T2 security chip, and get a more reliable keyboard.
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