Review: 2019 15-inch eight-core MacBook Pro - Refinement before redesign

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 3
Apple's new flagship eight-core 15-inch MacBook Pro may not have a flashy new exterior, but it is a high-performing machine that is finally everything Apple envisioned for this design.

2019 MacBook Pro still looks striking years later
2019 MacBook Pro still looks striking years later


Apple released the new MacBook Pros far from a presentation stage, with nary an Apple executive standing under a spotlight. From the get-go, Apple was clear that the new iron is primarily refinement rather than anything new. They did get some nice spec increases and a refined keyboard -- but the biggest news was that Apple was introducing the first eight-core processor in a mobile Mac.

If there was ever a justification for jumping on a Mac update the year preceding a likely redesign, the high end is it. So, we jumped on a maxed-out machine.

What we've got






There are several configurations of the 15-inch MacBook Pro available, though we opted for the most capable. We're testing the 8-core 2.4GHz i9 processor variant that can Turbo Boost up to 5GHz, 32GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, and VEGA 20 graphics. This retails for $4,149.

Optionally, you can opt for even more storage. You can get a MacBook Pro with up to 4TB, but it will run you an additional $2,400 on top of everything else.

If that seems steep but you'd still like excellent performance, you could shave $200 off by going for the base eight-core 2.3GHz processor, or shave off $400 by going with 16GB of RAM.

Performance

We've already presented benchmark testing. That suite of tests demonstrated that not only did the new machine have incredible performance boosts over the last generation i9, but it had next to no issues with excessive thermal throttling.

To be doubly-certain about the thermal situation, we performed our own series of tests but we aren't going to delve into that in any great detail here. The key takeaway is that the 2019 eight-core model runs cooler and faster than the six-core from 2018.

2019 8-Core 2.4GHz Geekbench results
2019 8-Core 2.4GHz Geekbench results


Comparing the two machines, Geekbench 4 results showed scores of 5879 and 29976 in single and multi-core tests, respectively. The multicore test is a giant increase over the six-core 2018 model which scored 22620 on the multi-core test, nearly 30-percent slower this 2019 model. The single core fared better as well, with a not-quite-as-impressive nine-percent increase in this model.

Our next benchmark was Cinebench R20 -- our new standard going forward following the discontinuation of Cinebench R15.

The highest score our MacBook Pro received in ten runs of the test was 3160, but the average across all the tests was slightly lower at 3096.

We felt it necessary to once more test both the graphics and the SSD performance even though we expected no changes. Our premonitions were spot on as there were no differences between the storage module or the Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics.

2019 Vega 20 Unigine Heaven results
2019 Vega 20 Unigine Heaven results are similar to last years


In graphics, we ran the Unigine Heaven benchmark. In this test, we set the quality to medium, disabled tessellation and stereo 3D, turned off anti-aliasing, and ran it at full-screen. It pulled in a max FPS of 147.4 and an average of 82.3 with an overall score of 2072.

2019 MacBook Pro Blackmagic Disk Speed Test results
2019 MacBook Pro Blackmagic Disk Speed Test results are similar to last years


On the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, we earned a 2627.4 Mb/s on the read speed and a 2626.3 on the write speeds -- near identical year over year, which is what we expected. These numbers will be slower on smaller SSDs so if you want the best performance, be sure to opt for at least 1TB of internal storage.

The keyboard

Apple made a couple of material changes in the 2019 MacBook Pro keyboard that are, by Apple's admission, designed to increase the reliability in the keyboard.




You can read further about these changes here, but they are quite minor and it is near impossible to say at this juncture whether or not these changes truly do make the keyboard more reliable. We will continue to monitor the repair data and compare to previous generations to see for ourselves but it is simply too early to tell with confidence.

Other than reliability, there are only minute differences when typing on the new keyboard versus the previous generation. They are the same size, the key caps feel the same, and they have the same amount of throw.


2019 MacBook Pro key membrane (Source: iFixit)


Internally, Apple even kept the controversial butterfly switch design. What they've done is refined the design once more with what appears to be a new process on the metal dome switch and replaced the silicone membrane with a nylon one.

That translates to slightly softer keys when typing, as well nearly imperceptibly less noise, which you need to break out an audiometer to detect. Those are likely just byproducts of attempting to make the keys more reliable.

If you enjoyed the keyboard before, you will enjoy it now. If you didn't like it before, nothing here will change your mind. It is the same keyboard, just possibly more reliable.

But, we'll see about that in about six months.

Our daily workhorse

The MacBook Pro is the daily workhorse of countless individuals from professionals to students. It is what very nearly everybody at AppleInsider clacks away on day after day. After years of using this design MacBook Pro, there is much we've come to love about it. It is quite compact, if not a bit on the hefty side. It is exceptionally portable and we love the USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Thunderbolt 3 is the future and we've been living in it for a few years. Since the original debut, USB-C is all the more ubiquitous. We live entirely dongle-free thanks to the availability of new USB-C cables, like the new Lightning ones. New gadgets that get released also are using USB-C such as the latest GoPros, the latest Nikon and Canon cameras, and more.

Thanks to USB-C we also get universal battery packs that work just as well on our iPhone and iPad as they do on our Mac. We use the Zendure SuperTank as an easy portable power supply and the Zendure SuperPort 4 for a 100W USB-C charging port with three other ports left for our iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch.

We love USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 and haven't missed other I/O in the slightest. And, if you embrace it instead of fighting it, you probably will too.

As for that Touch Bar -- we don't use it as often as we should. At times a touch screen for function keys and the like is less user-friendly than a simple row of physical keys.

At the same time, it is far more user-friendly for other uses such as a color picker, editing in Final Cut Pro X, opening documents and switching tools in Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. There are absolutely cases where the Touch Bar doesn't make as much sense, but in a surprisingly large number of pro use cases, it is beneficial.

Refinements, not redesigns

Everything about the new MacBook Pro is a refinement, but not a redesign. Apple tends -- but isn't tied -- to redesign its MacBook Pros roughly every four years. We saw this overall design debut in 2016 and here we are three years later.

2019 MacBook Pro is a great daily driver
2019 MacBook Pro is a great daily driver


Over the course of those years, we've seen refinement over refinement, bringing us to this 2019 MacBook Pro. The cooling has been tinkered with, the butterfly keyboard has had subtle improvements, the specs continuously have been beefed up, all within the same shell.

That is both a positive and negative. On one hand, this MacBook Pro is the vision Apple has for this machine. This is what it looks like after all the kinks have presumably been worked out and Apple's vision realized.

If you were going to grab a MacBook Pro in the past few years, this is the one you would want it to be. At the same time, the design -- which looks still solid for its age -- is starting to show its age. We've seen competitors with incredibly thin designs, much narrower bezels -- even in Apple's own iPads, and the Touch Bar still doesn't see as much use as it should.

All of those could be in some way enhanced with a next-generation design, that may or may not arrive in 2020. Because of that future, many will wait it out. However one also has to consider that with a new design comes potential new issues for Apple to iterate on. We think that it's a wise move to jump on board now after all of Apple's iterating, and it's not like your old hardware spontaneously combusts when something new is released.

There has never been a better time to choose a portable Mac rather than a desktop with the amount of power now packed into this machine.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

Save up to $250 on 2019 MacBook Pros

If you want to grab a new 2019 MacBook Pro, Apple Authorized Reseller Adorama is knocking $200 to $250 off select 15-inch models with coupon code APINSIDER, plus no interest financing when paid in full within 12 months with the Adorama Credit Card. For a full rundown of the latest offers and product availability, be sure to check out our 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro Price Guide.

$150 to $250 off 2019 15" MacBook Pros

Plus save $100 to $200 on 13" MacBook Pros with upgrades

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,897member
    Queue the bitching about the keyboard in 3, 2, 1......
    Eric_WVGGraoulduke42lkruppchiadarren mccoyjeffharris
  • Reply 2 of 19
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,968member
    Can't wait the next MBP upgrade with Intel 10nm, carry over keyboard refinement,possibly screen improvement,WiFi6,LPDDR4 32GB RAM,performance improvement and lower TDP with better battery life, etc. Unless Apple surprised everyone with ARM based MB/MBA/MBP.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    hypoluxahypoluxa Posts: 657member
    wood1208 said:
    Can't wait the next MBP upgrade with Intel 10nm, carry over keyboard refinement,possibly screen improvement,WiFi6,LPDDR4 32GB RAM,performance improvement and lower TDP with better battery life, etc. Unless Apple surprised everyone with ARM based MB/MBA/MBP.
    They probably will with the ARM in the next 24-36 months....it's coming, the writing is on the wall.
    edited June 2
  • Reply 4 of 19
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 569member
    ...if Apple envisioned locking customers in to ram, storage and special keyboard/component dependence would this make some sense...?

    I am hoping from a simply (user) logical perspective we see:
    - 2019 mac pro (fully retail component upgrade capable)
    - 2019 30"+ 4K mac monitor
    - 2019 30"+ 4K imac pro (fully retail component upgrade capable)
    - 2019 17" 4K macbook pro (for those that hate squinting, fully retail component upgrade capable)
    - 2019 mac mini with vega graphics (fully retail component upgrade capable)
    - 2019 keyboard backlit w/touchbar (if meanignfully committed)

    If not has Apple actually been listening as promised?

    It all seems pretty simple to me?

    edited June 2
  • Reply 5 of 19
    Every time I look at the pricing I have to remind myself that I'm going to keep that laptop as my primary computer for 5-8 years. Only then does the pricing make sense.

    Same goes for all of my Apple equipment. Most of my gear is at the 5 year mark now and I recently ditched a 10-year old MBP and another 9-year old MBP just after Mojave came out.
    hypoluxaanantksundaramMisterKit
  • Reply 6 of 19
    hypoluxahypoluxa Posts: 657member
    Every time I look at the pricing I have to remind myself that I'm going to keep that laptop as my primary computer for 5-8 years. Only then does the pricing make sense.

    Same goes for all of my Apple equipment. Most of my gear is at the 5 year mark now and I recently ditched a 10-year old MBP and another 9-year old MBP just after Mojave came out.
    Exactly. 
    anantksundaram
  • Reply 7 of 19
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,223member
    macxpress said:
    Queue the bitching about the keyboard in 3, 2, 1......
    I think the word you’re after is ‘cue’...

    And yeah, the keyboard sucks. 
    edited June 2 henrybaychemengin1apres587
  • Reply 8 of 19
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,211member
    At that price, it sure as hell better last well beyond 5 years! There’s so little changing in performance these days, and future performance improvements will continue to be less and less dramatic. There’s no justification for continuing to buy a new machine every couple of years, and certainly not at this price. 8 years should be the minimum. Then again, that makes this a prime scenario for Apple to do something dramatic to the architecture that will guarantee people need to dump these in a couple years because of CPU platform change or some other “required new hardware” to support the OS. Platform changes suck for those of us who depend on a consistent and reliable platform and software that’s not typical end-user fare.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    KITAKITA Posts: 187member

    If you were going to grab a MacBook Pro in the past few years, this is the one you would want it to be. At the same time, the design -- which looks still solid for its age -- is starting to show its age. We've seen competitors with incredibly thin designs, much narrower bezels -- even in Apple's own iPads, and the Touch Bar still doesn't see as much use as it should.

    All of those could be in some way enhanced with a next-generation design, that may or may not arrive in 2020. Because of that future, many will wait it out. However one also has to consider that with a new design comes potential new issues for Apple to iterate on. We think that it's a wise move to jump on board now after all of Apple's iterating, and it's not like your old hardware spontaneously combusts when something new is released.
      It really seems like Apple is sitting well behind their competitors this year in terms of what the machine could have been offering (OLED display, vastly superior graphics, potentially higher ram options, quality keyboard, useful ports in addition to Thunderbolt 3).

      Just take a look at a breakdown of some major 15-inch laptops in 2019:

      Apple MacBook Pro 15
      • 15.4” 2880x1800 IPS display
      • Up to Intel Core i9-9980HK (8 core 9th gen)
      • Up to 32 GB RAM
      • Up to 4 TB NVMe
      • Up to AMD Vega 20 4 GB VRAM

      Razer Blade Studio Edition 15
      • 15.6” 3840x2160 OLED display
      • Intel Core i7-9750H (6 core 9th gen)
      • 32 GB RAM
      • 1 TB NVMe
      • NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 16 GB VRAM

      Dell XPS 15 7590
      • Up to 15.6” 3840x2160 OLED display
      • Up to Intel Core i9-9980HK (8 core 9th gen)
      • Up to 64 GB RAM
      • Up to 2 TB NVMe
      • NVIDIA GTX 1650 Max-Q  4 GB VRAM

      Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2
      • Up to 15.6” 3840x2160 OLED display
      • Up to Intel Core i9-9980HK (8 core 9th gen)
      • Up to 64 GB RAM
      • Up to 4 TB NVMe
      • NVIDIA GTX 1650 Max-Q  4 GB VRAM

      Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED
      • 15.6” 3840x2160 OLED display
      • Up to Intel Core i9-9980HK (8 core 9th gen)
      • Up to 64 GB RAM
      • Up to 4 TB NVMe
      • NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q  8 GB VRAM

      edited June 3
    • Reply 10 of 19
      chasmchasm Posts: 1,597member
      If not has Apple actually been listening as promised?

      It all seems pretty simple to me?

      Let me save you some time: all 16 of the people who want this fantasy list of super-expensive machines are not a large enough market for Apple to bother with. Good luck with your next platform.
      macxpressMisterKit
    • Reply 11 of 19
      henrybayhenrybay Posts: 103member
      macxpress said:
      Queue the bitching about the keyboard in 3, 2, 1......
      Your keyboard is playing up...I assume you were trying to type ‘Cue’. 
      chemengin1
    • Reply 12 of 19
      LatkoLatko Posts: 398member
      chasm said:
      If not has Apple actually been listening as promised?

      It all seems pretty simple to me?

      Let me save you some time: all 16 of the people who want this fantasy list of super-expensive machines are not a large enough market for Apple to bother with. Good luck with your next platform.
      At least one who understands the concept of price elasticity - to regulate demand
    • Reply 13 of 19
      dysamoria said:
      At that price, it sure as hell better last well beyond 5 years! There’s so little changing in performance these days, and future performance improvements will continue to be less and less dramatic. There’s no justification for continuing to buy a new machine every couple of years, and certainly not at this price. 8 years should be the minimum. Then again, that makes this a prime scenario for Apple to do something dramatic to the architecture that will guarantee people need to dump these in a couple years because of CPU platform change or some other “required new hardware” to support the OS. Platform changes suck for those of us who depend on a consistent and reliable platform and software that’s not typical end-user fare.
      That has been true over the last few years, but it will not be in the next couple of years. Here are some things that will be changing the laptop market (and note, this isn't about AMD being awesome, they just happen to be a major driver of some of these changes):

      0) Nearly everything is driven to a large extent by process technologies. The industry is nearly over the EUV hump. I expect continuous advances at least down to 3nm-class. This will drive large density and power efficiency gains, and in many cases (GPUs, NPUs, etc., at least, if not CPUs) major performance wins.
      1) AMD APUs and mobile CPUs. Based on what we know of the desktop CPUs, and especially the quite astonishing TDP of the midrange units (65W, which isn't astonishing until you remember we're talking about AMD!), their laptop CPUs are likely to threaten Intel just as much. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 12-core 45W chip (suitable for the 15" MBP) by this time next year, though it could also take longer. The APUs could in turn be big winners for the 12 and 13" class machines. Of course, for mysterious reasons, Apple seems to want to pretend that all these CPUs don't exist, but if they keep that up, they're just going to look silly, and slow, and expensive. Either way, it will change the landscape.
      1a) And then there's Apple. They already have demonstrated tech that can keep up with Intel's best. When they finally put their own CPU into a laptop, expect fireworks. They won't replace Intel (AMD?) entirely right away, because emulation will be needed for some software, making their CPUs underperform in that use case. But people's heads are going to explode over geekbench, SPEC, and other benchmarks. Depend on it. Real-world performance with ARM binaries will not disappoint.
      2) GPUs are still not having the impact you'd otherwise have expected, because of the price surge from crypto. Datacenter use is also warping the market. So mid and low-end users are still not seeing the benefit of 7nm-class GPUs. That's probably going to change over the next year, maybe starting with Navi, though you can be sure nVidia will have an answer.
      2a) The big question mark here is, will Apple get into it with their own GPU tech, before doing an A14XXX for their Mac laptops? If I had to bet, I'd say no, but I'd rather not make that bet. Their architecture is liable to be capable of putting up a good fight against AMD and nVidia.
      3) PCIe4 is here, in AMD 5xx chipsets, 3xxx CPUs, and shortly in already announced SSDs, which will suddenly make the Mac's look slow, for the first time (close to 5GB/s reads, vs. ~2.6GB on the MBP15). It'll also be in Navi GPUs. This extreme increase in available bandwidth (giving AMD3xxx the equivalent of 48 PCIe3 lanes, and maybe more importantly 8 of those going to the PCH) has no answer from Intel, nor will it soon, I think. What it'll look like in AMD laptop CPUs is unknown, AFAIK, but it's significant.
      4) USB4 is coming next year. With the end of royalties to Intel (for the part of it that's Thunderbolt), expect adoption to explode. It'll be much easier to feed USB4 ports too, if you have PCIe4 lanes to connect them.
      5) Crosspoint, or other solutions, may get cheap enough to matter. If they do, that's another spike in SSD speed. This is probably down the road a bit more.
      6) Screen tech will be revolutionized 2-4 years out. MicroLEDs, probably, but there are other possibilities as well.
      7) WiFi 6 is just hitting now. It'll get more important over the next couple of years. 5G too, though I am quite skeptical about use cases for the mmWave band.
      8) The biggest wildcard of all: VR. This will drive changes in tech we probably can't envision yet, not so much on a fundamental level (fancy screens, GPUs, motion detection, etc.), but in terms of UX issues which drive design decisions. (Note that mmWave is likely to be a major use case for VR, for tether-free operation, though not over public cell networks.)
      9) There's more but I'm running out of steam.

      The key takeaway is... don't expect the stagnation of the last few years to be maintained over the next five years. It's going to be a wild ride!
    • Reply 14 of 19
      MisterKitMisterKit Posts: 263member
      NNo keyb ard probblems her .
      chemengin1
    • Reply 15 of 19
      jeffharrisjeffharris Posts: 552member
      Mine was just delivered. Upgrade from a 2012 MBP 15" Retina!
      Now all I have to do is keep from jumping out of my skin all day waiting to get home!
      hypoluxa
    • Reply 16 of 19
      hypoluxahypoluxa Posts: 657member
      Mine was just delivered. Upgrade from a 2012 MBP 15" Retina!
      Now all I have to do is keep from jumping out of my skin all day waiting to get home!
      I upgraded last summer to the 2018 6-core model from the 2012 non retina. Everything is going good with it so far. No keyboard issues yet. I do however have an external Apple keyboard I use plugged into it, so I rarely use the native keyboard.
    • Reply 17 of 19
      jeffharrisjeffharris Posts: 552member
      hypoluxa said:
      Mine was just delivered. Upgrade from a 2012 MBP 15" Retina!
      Now all I have to do is keep from jumping out of my skin all day waiting to get home!
      I upgraded last summer to the 2018 6-core model from the 2012 non retina. Everything is going good with it so far. No keyboard issues yet. I do however have an external Apple keyboard I use plugged into it, so I rarely use the native keyboard.
      That's what I do, using it 99% at a desk. External wired keyboard and trackball. I rarely use the keyboard.

      My wife got a 2018 15" MBP and loves it. She has had ZERO keyboard issues and types a lot. 
    • Reply 18 of 19
      I am really not a fan of usb c.  The idea I great, the size is great but it suffers from really poor implementation.  This is not an Apple problem but a USB problem.   First there are WAY too many types and it is difficult to know which port is which version.   The same with the cables.  Once you have figured out which port flavors you have you have to find the correct cables.  Then once you purchase them you have remember which is which.   And finally it is just too easy for the cable to pull out of the port.   This problem has already been solved a couple of times already.  I just don't understand why we are going through this again.   The thunderbolt port and cable has similar problems to usb c as well.  Every time I move my iMac just a little the thunderbolt cables tend to pull out often times just enough to make the connection not work or be flaky but not enough to look like it has pulled out.   Very annoying.  Which is too bad because the performance is great when working and the promise of one cable to rule them all is great idea too bad it hasn't worked that way.
    • Reply 19 of 19
      jimh2jimh2 Posts: 149member
      Every time I look at the pricing I have to remind myself that I'm going to keep that laptop as my primary computer for 5-8 years. Only then does the pricing make sense.

      Same goes for all of my Apple equipment. Most of my gear is at the 5 year mark now and I recently ditched a 10-year old MBP and another 9-year old MBP just after Mojave came out.
      You need to factor in the resale value. My $2800 2014 is holding value at $800, making the 5 years of usage about $400/year. I want the new, but am holding out for the supposed 16", which I think is only going to be new display with less bezel and another CPU boost. The keyboard means nothing to me as I am almost always connected to an external monitor and keyboard.
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