Apple’s newest 15-inch MacBook Pro proved controversial when it launched at end of last year. It was late and featured changes to the design that everyone instantly had an opinion on. From a nearly singular approach to the ports on its sides to the Touch Bar strip that gives you tool-specific buttons and control surfaces – instead of the expected touchscreen – it seemed everyone on Twitter could quickly tell you whether these were good or bad (mainly bad it seemed).
Forming a useful opinion about things that change the way you work or interact with a piece of hardware takes time, even for a seasoned reviewer. After spending a month using the new MacBook Pro – using tools that support the Touch Bar such as Photoshop – I can say that the new MacBook is neither as bad as its decriers have insisted nor as innovative as Apple has claimed. It’s just like the previous model, but faster and with a moderately useful new feature. The real but isn’t an inherent problem with the MacBook Pro itself – it’s that its competition from the likes of Dell and HP superseded it last year, and Apple hasn’t really caught up.
Updated 23/2/17 to remove After Effects test results. Learn more below.
Apple MacBook Pro 2017 review: Performance
This MacBook Pro was almost as late in arriving as Japandroids' last album. Dell and HP upgraded their pro laptops – the Precision 5510 and ZBook Studio G3 – to Intel’s then new 6th-generation Core i7 processors at the beginning of 2016. Apple’s arrived nearly nine months later, having not been updated since mid 2015. So late, in fact, that laptops with 7th-generation ‘Kaby Lake’ chips have just been announced – including the Precision 5520, which will ship in the next couple of months.
Then, either the MacBook Pro will be outdated again – or Apple will release a minor update for the new chips. Both of these could be reasons not to buy this MacBook Pro – though Kaby Lakes is rumoured to not include much in the way of a performance boost. We’ll get back to you about this when we’ve seen a pro-spec Kaby Lake laptop.
Our review MacBook Pro is top-of-the-line. It has a 2.9GHz Core i7-6920HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 460 graphics chip (which turns itself off when you’re in plugged in, leaving Intel HD 530 graphics system built into the motherboard) and a fast 1TB NVMe SSD. This takes the base price of £1,957.50 (plus VAT) up to £2,275.
For comparison, we tested it against 2016’s best laptop – Dell’s Precision 5510 – and also its other key rival, HP’s ZBook Studio G3. Both of these had a 2.8GHz Xeon E3-1505M chip. Both have Nvidia Quadro M1000M graphics chips – though the Dell’s chip as 2GB of RAM and the HP’s has 4GB. The Dell had 16GB of RAM (though unlike the MBP you can increase this to 32GB), and the HP had the full 32GB. Both had 512GB SSDs, but the ZBook Studio’s drive – like the MacBook Pro – was an NVMe drive for faster reading and writing of data.
In the Cinebench rendering test – which is based on the processor alone – the MacBook Pro proved to be slightly slower than the either the Dell or HP laptops.
The new MBP outpaced the Dell Precision 5510 in Cinebench’s realtime 3D test, which is unsurprising as Apple’s AMD chip has twice the RAM of that of Dell’s Nvidia. Against the more equally matched (in terms of RAM) HP ZBook Studio though, the older Quadro chip bested the new AMD Radeon Pro 460.