2018 Apple MacBook Pro Vs 2017 MacBook Pro With Touch Bar: What’s Changed?


Just a day after Ming-Chi Kuo's report, Apple has proceeded to refresh the MacBook Pro lineup. Upgrades for the notebook have been gradual, as Cupertino ushered in a new design with the 2016 lineup and proceeded to launch minute upgrades (that allegedly include a keyboard fix), with the 2017 lineup. However, safe to say, it's the 2018 lineup that really hits the sweet spot with the MacBook Pro, especially for the 15" variant.

It's also safe to say that Apple was perhaps 'forced' to upgrade the notebooks this year, in order to stay consistent with their 'Pro' branding. After all, a dual-core processor on a 13" laptop that comes with the moniker MacBook 'Pro' and the risk of keyboards failing doesn't really cut it. Additionally, the lack of 32GB of RAM on the 15" variant, which could run you in excess of $2,000 feeds into claims that Apple removed the needs of professional users from its portfolio a long while back.

Now, with the sudden refresh, the first question on everyone's mind is - has Apple really redeemed itself? Take a look below to find out more.

2018 Apple MacBook Pro Vs 2017 MacBook Pro - What's New In The Upgrade?

The 13" MacBook Pro has perhaps been the most unloved notebook from Apple's end. Not only did it feature a dual-core i5 capable of a maximum configuration to 3.5GHz , it did not feature a dGPU, RAM was once again limited to 16GB due to Intel's lack of compatibility. Does this change with the 2018 lineup? No, it does not. RAM is still limited to 16GB and there's no dedicated GPU either for the 13" variant. Let's start off with design and move forward to the performance.

13" 2017 MacBook Pro Vs 13" 2018 MacBook Pro - Design & Display Changes

Safe to say, there are no major external design changes this year. Apple's limited itself to a hardware refresh and what Apple's calling a third generation keyboard for 'quieter' typing. Of course, whether this stands the test of time via dust resistance still remains to be known, but Apple did learn from its mistakes on the 2017 lineup, which has far fewer complaints as opposed to its predecessor.

Now, let's move towards the real design details. Dimension wise, the 13" 2018 MacBook Pro measures in at 0.59"x11.97"x8.36". These are the exact same dimensions of the 13" 2017 MacBook Pro as well, so we're seeing no refinement of the notebook's overall form. Both the models also weigh in at 3.02lbs, so it's going to be impossible to distinguish the pair visually.

There are no changes to the ports either, with both of the 2018 and 2017 models featuring four Thunderbolt USB-C ports. There are no changes for the front camera either, with the same 720p FaceTime HD camera also making it on the 2018 lineup. Video support remains the same with one 5K display, and two 4K or 4K HD displays.

Resolution for the screen does not change either, with a 2560x1600 native resolution at a pixel density of 227ppi and a brightness of 500 nits. Therefore, if you're satisfied with the aesthetics, display, and ports of your current 13" MacBook Pro and do not need the additional performance boost then there's no need to upgrade to the 2018 variant.

13" 2018 MacBook Pro Vs 13" 2017 MacBook Pro- Apple Takes An Overdue Semi-Serious Approach Towards Performance On The Smaller Notebook

Finally, the performance bit. It's here where the 2018 MacBook Pro upgrade truly makes an impact, even for the 13" variant. The 2018 13" MacBook Pro features Intel's Coffee Lake 8259U processor (Core i5), clocked at 2.3GHz with Turbo Boost of up to 3.8GHz, a 6MB L3 cache and 28W TDP. This can be upgraded to the Core i7 8559U which is clocked at 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost of up to 4.5GHz, an 8MB L3 cache and 28W TDP.

Both these processors feature four cores unlike those for the 2017 model. Additionally, we're not sure why Apple chose the 8259U and not the 8269U as the base variant for the 2018 MacBook Pro. Both have similar TDPs but the latter is clocked higher with 2.6GHz base and 4.2GHz Turbo Boost. Storage for both the models starts at 256GB and is configurable up to 2TB for the 2018 model.

In comparison, the 2017 13" MacBook Pro features Intel's Kaby Lake processors manufactured on the 14nm process, same as Coffee Lake. The basic variant of the 2017 13" MacBook Pro comes with Intel's Core i5 7267U, clocked at 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost of up to 3.5GHz, a 4MB L3 cache and 28W TDP. This could be upgraded to either the Core i5 7287U, clocked at 3.3GHz with Turbo Boost of up to 3,7GHz, 4MB L3 cache and 28W TDP. Or, if you need more power, a Core i7 variant clocked at 3.5GHz with 4.0GHz, a 4MB L3 cache, and 28W TDP is also available.

Moving towards the GPU and RAM, the 13" 2018 MacBook Pro is still limited to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM clocked at 2133MHz, same as its predecessor. At the GPU side, the 2017 13" MacBook Pro features Intel's Iris Plus Graphics 650. The 2018 13" MacBook Pro, on the other hand, features Intel's Iris Plus 655, an upgrade which is the natural outcome of jumping a generation. The 650 has a base clock rate of 300MHz and a max rate of 1050, 1100 and 1150MHz as you move up the processor chain. The 655, on the other hand, features 350MHz base and 1050 or 1200MHz maximum frequency depending on the processor.

To conclude, if you were holding out on a MacBook Pro purchase simply due to performance issues, the 13" 2018 MacBook offers a significant boost over its predecessor. While needs will depend on usage, if you're an everyday user or even like to edit the occasional video and make detailed spreadsheets, the 13" variant will be more than enough for your needs.

The 15" 2018 MacBook Pro Vs The 15" 2017 MacBook Pro - Processor, RAM And GPU Specifications

(Since dimensions and design also remain unchanged for the 15" variant of the MacBook Pro, we'll skip that bit and move directly to performance.)

Performance specifications for the 15" 2018 MacBook Pro show that Apple really has taken criticism for neglecting professional users to heart. The company has introduced some very important upgrades, which will undoubtedly make a lot of users happy. At the processing end, the 15" 2018 MacBook Pro features Intel's Core i7 8750H, with six cores (12 threads), a base frequency of 2.2GHz, Turbo Boost of 4.1GHz, L3 cache of 9MB and a 45W TDP.

You can also upgrade to the 8850H which feature a 2.6GHz base frequency, 4.3GHz Turbo Boost, 9MB L3 cache and 45W TDP. If you want to go all out, then the highest-end processor for the 2018 15" MacBook Pro is Intel's Core i9 8950HK with a base frequency of 2.9GHz, Turbo Boost of 4.8GHz, 12MB L3 cache and 45W TDP.

The 2017 15" MacBook Pro, on the other hand, features Intel's 7700HQ (Core i7), with base frequency of 2.8GHz, single-core Turbo Boost of 3.8GHz, 6MB L3 Cache and 45W TDP. This can be upgraded to the Core i7 7820HQ, with base frequency of 2.9GHz, single-core Turbo Boost of 3.9GHz, 8MB L3, and 45W TDP. Both the processors are quad-core CPUs, and therefore underpowered when compared to the ones found on the 2018 lineup.

At the GPU end, both categories of GPU see an upgrade. You get to choose between AMD's Radeon Pro 555X or the 560X with the 8750H variant. The Radeon Pro 555X and 560X feature 4GB GDDR5 memory. With the Core i9 variant, you get the 560X by default. For comparison, the 2017 15" MacBook Pro features either the Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB GDDR5 or the Radeon Pro 555 with 2GB GDDR5. As a side note, both the 13" and 15" variants of the 2018 MacBook Pro can support up to four discrete GPUs - so rest assured, you won't run out of any juice on that end. Nevertheless, Apple has copped out with GPUs as the 555X really doesn't change much over the 555.

Finally, the RAM. Apple makes the jump to DDR4 from LPDDR3. This jump comes with its own set of complications. For starters, DDR4 might be better than LPDDR3 when in use, as RAM is constantly receiving power inputs, rather than a fixed supply throughout PC uptime. However, when in standby, DDR4 is an absolute power hog, with background power draw making up for 50% of energy requirement when compared to the 17% for LPDDR3. This cost will hurt Apple but is necessary if it wants to offer 32GB of RAM with the 2018 15" MacBook Pro.

To compensate for this increase, Apple has also increased the battery capacity of the 2018 MacBook Pro lineup. The 15" 2018 MacBook Pro has an 83.6 Wh battery, a 7Wh increase over its predecessor.


So, what really has changed over the year? The 13" MacBook Pro receives a big power upgrade that will land it around the same ballpark as last year's 15" model. Apple's decision to stick with AMD's 55X and 56X GPUs won't win it any fans but the decision to upgrade to 4GB GDDR5 is a good one. The move to DDR4 is forced, as Apple is pushed in a corner by claims of neglecting the needs of professional users.

GPU performance for the 13" 2018 MacBook Pro will also see an important boost, due to the increase in eDRAM. Additionally, while not mentioned above, the upgrade to True Tone will have its advantages, allowing for better display adjustments. Showing off its design muscle,  Apple's also increased battery capacities for both the 13" and 15" variants - while keeping dimensions the same.  This means that accessories will remain compatible with this year's refresh.

As an added note, while we haven't mentioned it here, the Apple T2 will bring with it important storage performance. Thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stay tuned. We'll keep you updated on the latest.