MacBook Pro 15-inch Review

MacBook Pro 15-inch Review
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Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

In the late summer of 2013, Apple introduced its all-new 15-inch MacBook Pro. It was an instant hit, and it immediately took the place of the 13-inch MacBook Pro as Apple’s “ultrabook” model.

It had been more than five years since Apple had refreshed the MacBook Pro line, so it was time to do so. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is thinner, lighter, faster, and featured a brighter Retina display. It was a major upgrade, and its popularity is due in large part to that.

The base price of the new MacBook Pro was $1,799. It came with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics processor, but it also included a new 16GB of RAM, up from the standard 8GB. It also included a 128GB solid-state drive and a Force Touch trackpad.

The MacBook Pro’s price tag is much higher than that of its predecessors, but it is thinner, lighter, and faster. But is it better than the 13-inch MacBook Pro? Let’s find out.

Design

MacBook Pro 15-inch Review

Even though this MacBook Pro has been out since 2016, it looks like the design seen between 2012 and 2015 that introduced the Retina display. Apple’s MacBook Pro is both iconic and stale, with an aesthetic that is both refined and aging. Compared to HP’s latest 15-inch Spectre x360, it’s not as impressive.

The MacBook Pro’s display’s bezels, especially the black bar above the screen, are also not holding up well over time. In comparison with the 0.15-inch side bezels on the 2019 Huawei MateBook X Pro, the 0.3-inch side bezels on the MacBook Pro look chunky.

With a weight of 4 pounds and 0.8 inches thick, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is lighter than the Dell XPS 15 (4.2 pounds, 0.7*0.5 inches) and the HP Spectre x360 (4.6 pounds, 0.8 inches). Compared to the MateBook X Pro, the MateBook X Pro is lighter at 2.9 pounds.

Ports and Touch Bar

Apple 15-inch

Despite the 15-inch MacBook Pro’s quartet of Thunderbolt 3 ports, it’s time to address its absence of the time-tested Type-A port, which is still important to many users – including professionals. There are Type-C and Type-A ports on the XPS 15, MateBook X Pro, and Spectre x360.

People who use accessories with the non-reversible USB port should just bring around an adapter or hub. It’s a lot to ask when we’re already paying Apple tons of money for the product.

The Touch Bar is present on every 2019 MacBook Pro, even if Apple refuses to give the MacBook a full touchscreen.

Sadly, its use is mostly limited to finding and inserting emojis. Touch ID is the best part of this bar, even though Apple gave that to the MacBook Air without burdening it with a Touch Bar

In my experience, the best thing to do is remove the Siri button from your Touch Bar so you don’t accidentally press it while touching-typing and miss the delete key by reaching too far (I’m far from the only one who’s experienced this). If you put the Mute button in its place, it will leave you more open to mistakes that are less disruptive.

Display

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Apple’s new 15-inch MacBook Pro screen is just as bright, colorful, and sharp as we have come to expect from Apple products. The reds of Peter Parker’s bloodshot eyes to the gold of his armor in Spider-Man: Far From Home showed how well the MacBook Pro displayed colors.

Even dark shadows appeared to be super dark. Furthermore, the Retina Display provided excellent detail in the fiery details of the monster terrorizing London’s Tower Bridge, as well as in the scratches and scrapes around Iron Man’s face.

According to our colorimeter, the MacBook Pro’s screen reproduces 114% of the sRGB color spectrum. The score from the Spectre x360 (157%) is below the average workstation score of 144%. It is similar to the scores from the Dell XPS 15 (115%) and MateBook X Pro (104.2%).

Its screen emits up to 403 nits of brightness, which beats the workstation average of 346 nits, the XPS 15’s 371 nits, and the Spectre x360’s 247 nits. At 497 nits, the MateBook X Pro shines even brighter.

Keyboard and Touchpad

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Apple’s fourth iteration of its controversial Butterfly-style key switch gives the MacBook Pro’s keys a clicky typing experience. Despite having a very shallow 0.6 millimeters of travel (well below the 1.5mm minimum we want), the keys require 71 grams of actuation force, which is higher than the 60 grams we require. In my testing, I clicked at a rate of 70 words per minute (with 94% accuracy), which is just below my average of 80 words per minute.

Apple has been under fire due to its Butterfly keyboard, especially when it comes to accidental double-clicks and stuck keys. Apparently, Apple has employed “a new material” that should help solve these problems, but we won’t know for sure until we’ve used the 15-inch MacBook Pro over the course of several weeks.

In addition to being large at 6.1 x 3.9 inches, the MacBook Pro’s Force Touch trackpad can fool most people with its haptic feedback, which substitutes for a physical click. Even though some people in our office don’t mind that it doesn’t click, I like the ones on most PC laptops, which do.

Audio

When listening to Assume Form by James Blake in the Laptop Mag offices, I was impressed with the MacBook Pro’s amazing sound, from the bumping bass of “Where’s The Catch” to Rosala’s seductive vocals. I had to turn down the volume because the MacBook Pro gets so loud that I couldn’t hear the British musician even when a door was closed in a meeting room.

As long as there is no utility for managing audio output, something that other notebooks include for customization, I’m fine. This describes the sound of the MacBook Pro – it’s just right.

Performance

The MacBook Pro we tested is equipped with a powerful 9th Gen Intel Core i9-9980HK processor and 32GB of memory. When I split my screen with a YouTube video and a dozen Chrome tabs, there were no stutters or lags as I navigated between tabs and moved around the video. However, you shouldn’t expect anything less with this much power. So, I ran the normal test with Mail, Safari (with 10 tabs), Messages, Slack, Things, Bear, iTunes, and Discord open in the background. As part of the test, I was also trimming a 1080p MP4 video in QuickTime. All of these activities did not slow down the MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Pro racked up a mark of 31,012, which is 46% higher than the 21,246 average for workstations, and higher than the 19,775 from the XPS 15, the 21,889 from the Spectre x360, and the 17,134 from the MateBook X Pro (Core i7-8565U, 16GB RAM).

Apple has continued to offer seriously fast SSDs to its pro users. As a result of Black Magic’s storage speed test, its 4TB PCIe SSD recorded 2,610.8 Mbps write speeds, which is 19% faster than the MateBook X Pro’s 1TB NVMe SSD’s 2,190 MBps write speeds.

The MacBook Pro finished our Handbrake test, which tests how long it takes a laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p, in 8 minutes and 10 seconds, about 25% less time than the category average of 11:17. It took longer for the XPS 15 (10:12), Spectre x360 (10:45) and MateBook X Pro (22:50).

In terms of gaming performance, the MacBook Pro’s 4GB Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics card ranks middle of the pack. The device clocked 120 frames per second during the modest racing game Dirt 3 at maximum settings, which is about two-thirds faster than the category average of 192 frames per second and the 4GB Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti-powered XPS 15 (189 frames per second). This same card is used in the Spectre x360, but with a much lower frame rate of 61 fps.

Battery Life

The 15-inch MacBook Pro has more battery life than most workstations. Using WiFi at 150 nits, the Laptop Battery Test (Wi-Fi surfing at 150 nits) took 10 hours and 21 minutes, nearly 4 hours longer than the 6:28 category average. The XPS 15 (11:53) lasted longer, whereas the Spectre x360 (8:09) and MateBook X Pro (8:19) ran dry in less time.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro lasts longer than previous models, so you might want to consider this model. On the Laptop Battery Test, the smaller MacBook Pro lasted 8:41, more than 1.5 hours shorter than its bigger brother.

Webcam

Even though the 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,399, its 0.7-megapixel webcam could be found on a $399 laptop.

The laptop doesn’t suffer from this defect, as nobody expects an internal webcam that doesn’t wash out lighting sources or skimp on detail, two problems evident from a selfie I took in our office. The shirt and skin tone are fairly accurate, so it’s usable.

Heat

Despite the Core i9 MacBook we tested packing a lot of heat, it remained relatively cool during testing. When we streamed HD video for 15 minutes on the notebook, our heat gun recorded temperatures below our 95-degree Fahrenheit threshold: 83 degrees on the touchpad, 93 degrees on the keyboard, and 91 degrees on the underside.

Software

macOS Mojave comes pre-installed on the MacBook Pro, a less-than-stellar update. One of the most promoted new features was Dark Mode, which will roll out to iOS this fall. Another favorite feature was the Continuity Camera.

With Project Catalyst, macOS Catalina will bring iPad apps to macOS this fall, and allow iPad owners to extend their desktops. Also, iTunes is dying, to be replaced by Music, Podcasts, and TV apps.

Pros Cons
Lots of battery life Still uses ‘Butterfly’ keyboard
Powerful sound Price starts high and gets crazy-expensive
Sharp, colorful display No USB Type-A ports
Superior speed

Conclusion

In a nutshell, the 2019 MacBook Pro 15-inch is blindingly fast, with 9th generation Core i9 performance and SSD speeds that give the competition whiplash. The MacBook Pro’s downside is that it has remained largely unchanged for too many years, and arguably with the Butterfly-key switch for far longer than it should have. At least the new Butterfly key mechanism sounds promising for this year. Furthermore, it has a great display, powerful audio, and long battery life.

The Dell XPS 15 is definitely the better choice if you need the most endurance, as it also lasted 1.5 hours longer on a charge, though its display isn’t as bright and it isn’t as fast. For those looking for the best MacBook and those who can afford its ultra-premium price, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is the way to go.