Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018) Review: Is It Really Worth It?

A few years back, I reviewed the 13-inch MacBook Pro – the 2015 model, before the current redesign. It was the best productivity-focused laptop I’ve ever used, and even after switching to the 12-inch MacBook for a while, I still stand by that statement.

Fast forward to today, I have the latest 15-inch MacBook Pro on my desk. Complete with the Touch Bar, and completely decked out in hardware. It comes with an Intel Core i9 processor paired with 32GB of RAM, a Radeon Pro 560X GPU, and an absolutely huge 4TB SSD. How much does this configuration cost? A whopping RM28,486.
So here’s the big question: is the 15-inch MacBook Pro worth your money? Well, it’s not a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no, but I will admit one thing – it’s still my favourite laptop and platform after all these years.

One of the biggest reasons why I think MacBooks are superior to Windows laptops is the operating system. When I first switched to macOS from Windows, it felt completely foreign. I had no idea how to uninstall programs, and I even struggled to do the simplest of tasks like shutting down the laptop.

macOS is incredibly good to do some serious work.

However, once I’ve accustomed to the new environment, it’s an insanely good platform. It’s incredibly easy to install and uninstall programs – it only involves dragging and dropping – the plethora of trackpad gestures make it a breeze to navigate around, and macOS just feels so much faster, refined, and optimised in comparison to even the best Windows laptops.

Using macOS for my work purposes – which involves a lot of writing, web browsing, and light photo editing – is very enjoyable, but there is one caveat: it’s not optimised for gaming. Powered by a Core i9 processor and a Radeon Pro 560X GPU, you’d think you can at least run Fortnite smoothly on this 15-inch MacBook Pro. Well, for the most part, it…actually can, to my surprise.
Setting the resolution to 2048 x 1280 (the closest I could get to 1080p on the MacBook’s 16:10 display), Fortnite runs really good on this MacBook Pro. While there are some stuttering here and there – loading time isn’t great either – the battle royale game can run the game in excess of 60 frames per second with almost maxed out settings at this resolution. I was genuinely surprised by how well Fortnite ran on this laptop.

You still don’t buy a MacBook for gaming.

That being said, even if the 15-inch MacBook Pro is capable enough to do some gaming here and there, you don’t exactly buy a MacBook for gaming. On top of that, games in general run better on Windows – that’s just how things are. You can, of course, run Windows through Boot Camp on this MacBook to get better gaming performance, but that’s a different topic for another day.
Besides macOS and its gaming performance, the 15-inch MacBook Pro has some incredible hardware. Take the stunning 15.4-inch 2880 x 1800 Retina display. It is bright, vibrant, and it’s also a True Tone display now – the colour temperature of the display will be adjusted to match the ambient light in your surrounding. Yeap, it’s the same feature found on iOS devices, though professional users will want to switch the feature off for colour accuracy.
Beyond the display quality itself, I really have to commend Apple’s quality control – our unit of the 15-inch MacBook Pro had a virtually perfect display. There’s no dead pixel, it’s well-calibrated, and most of all, there’s no noticeable light bleeding at all. I’ve used my fair share of premium, high-end Windows laptops, and not many manufacturers can match Apple’s stringent quality control.

Top-notch hardware and quality control.

Aside from that, I’m absolutely blown away by the MacBook Pro’s fantastic stereo speakers. It’s by far the best set of speakers I’ve ever heard on a laptop, and it’s pretty amazing how good the audio quality is despite the thin chassis of the MacBook.
But not all is great about the 15-inch MacBook Pro, of course. The Touch Bar, for one, is something I could use without. Sure, I love the fact that it’s contextual – it’ll show the Google search bar when I’m using Chrome, for example – but I really find myself missing a physical Escape key. On top of that, I accidentally hit the Siri button on the Touch Bar several times when I was reaching for the Delete key.

The Touch Bar isn’t for everyone; myself included.

And then we have one of the most controversial hardware of the MacBook Pro: the extremely flat butterfly switch keyboard. Previous iteration of this keyboard is notoriously prone to breaking, and in response, Apple introduced a repair program for affected MacBooks.
For the most part, this third-generation butterfly switch keyboard on the 15-inch MacBook Pro is quite similar to its predecessor when it comes to typing experience. The difference? It’s supposedly quieter now with the addition of a thin layer of silicone, though many suspect this change was implemented to make it less prone to breaking.
Nonetheless, it does sound slightly quieter now, though key travel is still basically non-existent. Personally, however, I like typing on this keyboard. I’ve mentioned this before, but because the keyboard is so flat – with virtually no height difference between each key – I can move from one key to another effortlessly without consciously lifting my fingers. As a result, I’m typing faster on this keyboard, and I like the larger than usual key size – it improves my typing accuracy.

Still a great keyboard – if you can get used to it.

If you absolutely need good key travel on your laptop’s keyboard, this butterfly switch keyboard isn’t for you. But for what it’s worth, I had the same opinion in the past, until I actually had to live with it back on the 12-inch MacBook.
ext, we have the Force Touch trackpad, and it’s as great as I remember it to be. No Windows laptops can match the accuracy of a MacBook’s trackpad, and it’s still the same here. For starters, it’s a huge trackpad, and the static nature of the Force Touch trackpad means I can click practically anywhere on it to get a good clicking sensation through haptic feedback.

Good battery life, as always.

Another forte of a MacBook is great battery life, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro can get me through a typical work day quite comfortably – that’s easily between six to seven hours of continuous usage. As mentioned, my work flow involves a lot of writing and web browsing. Heavier users who do a ton video editing, on the other hand, will probably get less battery life.
I’ve avoided talking about this until now, but let’s address the elephant in the room: how’s the performance of the 15-inch MacBook Pro? When consumers started getting their units of the MacBook Pro, many notice that thermal throttling is a pretty serious issueespecially with the Core i9 model.

The fastest MacBook money can buy now.

After Apple rolled out a patch to solve the issue, that doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. It now runs faster than its predecessor, and as far as raw performance is concerned, it’s the best MacBook money can buy right now. Of course, there are reports that the 15-inch MacBook Pro still can’t sustain the peak performance of the Core i9 processor, but that’s the price you pay to get a slim chassis.

So, is the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro worth your money? Well, only if you’re really committed to macOS, and you need the most powerful MacBook money can buy now. Even though our review unit is a bit of an overkill – upgrading the SSD from a very usable 512GB to 4TB will cost you a whopping RM13,856 – the most “affordable” 15-inch MacBook Pro will still set you back RM9,999.

The #donglelife is here to stay.

On top of that, you’ll also have make do with only USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro. Sure, you’ve got four of them – all of them support Thunderbolt 3 too – but you’ll still have to depend on dongles to do any serious work, like transferring footage from an SD card to the MacBook.

Personally, the 15-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t quite suit my needs – the rumoured MacBook refreshis more my speed with its better portability and lower price tag. But if you’re a professional user who needs a capable mobile workstation, this MacBook Pro will serve you very well.
Just be ready to drop down a whole lot of cash for it.

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