The 2015 version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro has slightly faster hardware and longer battery life, but it’s largely remained the same as its predecessor. That still makes it a fast and sturdy laptop with a good screen Given the high resolution and the hardware used, a battery life of eight and a half hours is excellent, you pay for that and upgrades are especially expensive.
- Good screen
- Long battery life
- Sturdy housing
- Expensive upgrades
- Speed gain compared to the previous generation
In the spring of 2015, Apple gave its 15-inch MacBook Pro a minor hardware upgrade. The laptops were equipped with a touchpad with Force Touch and the more expensive model received a new video card, where the Nvidia GPU was replaced by AMD. number of changes is small, other reviews have preceded it. For the sake of completeness and to be able to use the benchmark results for future reviews, we summarize the changes in this short review. We mainly focus on the changes: the video card, the SSD and the longer battery life.
From the outside, the MacBook Pro 15 has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction in 2012. The laptop is, especially given the smooth hardware it contains, quite thin and weighs just over two kilograms. Thanks to the metal housing, the laptop feels solid.
At first glance, all 15″ MacBooks with Retina display look the same, but the differences are in the details. This latest generation model has a different touchpad that supports Force Touch. Thanks to the new AMD video card, now also two 4k screens at 60Hz can be connected via mini displayport.In the previous generation with Nvidia GPU, two 4k screens could also be connected, but then the maximum refresh rate was 30Hz, or 60Hz with one screen.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard of the MacBook Pro has also remained unchanged compared to the previous generation. Typing is pleasant, thanks to the clear feedback and the fairly deep travel of the keys. The keys have backlighting that can be set in sixteen steps, although you can also let the built-in light sensor automatically choose a brightness.
The touchpad is new on the 15″ MacBook. Just like the 13″ MacBook Pro introduced at the beginning of 2015, the large version now also has a touchpad with Force Touch. In simple terms, this means that a vibrating motor in the touchpad ensures that it seems that you are pressing down on the surface, while in reality that is not happening. If you push harder, you make a Force Touch click, which feels like you’re pressing the touchpad even deeper.
We were first introduced to Force Touch while reviewing the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and we weren’t quite convinced by its functionality at the time. In short, it was a useful addition, but not a feature we would really miss. In the meantime, however, Apple continues to tinker with its new trackpad. With the arrival of OS X El Capitan, it is therefore possible to enable ‘silent clicking’, so that when you touch the touchpad you only feel the ‘click’, but do not hear it .
Apple also added Force Touch support for moving images in an update to its office software. If you drag an image in a document to the center of the page, you will feel a short tap on the touchpad to indicate that the image is exactly centered, while a yellow line shows the same on the screen. The same yellow line appears on laptops that do not support Force Touch, but you will of course not feel a tap in the touchpad. Force Touch is therefore still not indispensable, but it is becoming more and more convenient.
Hardware: same CPU, new GPU and SSD
In October 2013, the 15″ version of the MacBook Pro was equipped with a processor from Intel’s Haswell generation. Although successor Broadwell has been available since the summer of 2015, Apple has not made the step to the new processor generation. That is not illogical, because the successor to Broadwell, Skylake, is now also available and in all probability the new MacBooks will also be equipped with that processor.
The CPU upgrade that the 15-inch MacBook Pro received in the summer of 2015 is therefore not impressive and results in a 200MHz higher clock speed. The model we tested received a Core i7-4870HQ processor, where the base model has the with a Core i7-4770HQ. The most interesting upgrade under the hood is that of the GPU, where the Nvidia GT 750M was replaced by AMD’s R9 M370X. That new GPU is not available in the base model, which has the built-in Intel Iris 5200 GPU should do.
Apple seems to want to keep both AMD and Nvidia on friendly terms and therefore regularly changes suppliers for the GPUs in its computers. Still, the choice for AMD is striking, because although the name does not suggest it, the GPU used is already an oldie. The M370X has already appeared in various laptops under the name M270 and first appeared in 2012 on desktop video cards under the name HD 7770. It is therefore a GPU with 640 stream processors, based on AMD’s gcn 1.0 architecture.
The results in 3DMark show on the one hand that the switch from Nvidia to AMD has resulted in a faster GPU. The M370X is clearly faster than the 750M, but not as fast as current Maxwell-generation Nvidia GPUs, such as the GTX 960M.
In Sleeping Dogs, the M370X appears to lose out to the GTX 960M, just like in 3DMark, but it is faster than the GT 750M. In Grid 2, the M370X is faster than the competition from Nvidia. From the limited number of GPU benchmarks we run on laptops, we can at least conclude that the M370X is an improvement over the GT 750M, but that Apple might have been faster with a GTX 960M. However, video cards are no longer used only for games, but are increasingly used to accelerate other tasks, for example by means of OpenCL. AMD’s good OpenCL support may also have been a reason to opt for an AMD GPU.
Although the video card is the biggest change on the new 15″ MacBook, the upgrade of the SSD should not go unmentioned. The 13″ MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air were already equipped with this new SSD in early 2015, which can be recognized to the G suffix. Our test MacBook was equipped with the 500GB model of that new generation. A larger SSD of 1TB is also available, but the additional cost of six hundred euros is hardly in proportion to the costs of the more expensive hardware.
The new SSDs excel in our tests with AS-SSD in sequential read and write speed, but no progress appears to have been made in random reading and writing of 4k blocks. However, AS-SSD only gives an indication of the performance of the SSD. Traces are more reliable , but due to Apple’s proprietary connector, we can’t test the SSDs in our SSD test system.
Screen and battery life: excellent
The screens and battery life have been strong points of the MacBook Pro laptops in recent years and that doesn’t change much with this latest generation. The 15″ Pro has an IPS screen with a resolution of 2880×1800 pixels, which gives an aspect ratio of 16:10. The maximum screen brightness is 364cd/m², while the contrast is 964:1.
The screen has a glossy finish, which produces reflections, but Apple has managed to limit that considerably by laminating it. The screen is very neatly calibrated, with a ΔE value of less than 3, which means that the deviation from the sRGB reference is invisible to the human eye.
The battery life of the 15-inch MacBook Pro is eight and a half hours during browsing, an hour more than the version that was released in October 2013. The reason for that longer battery life will not only be the modest increase in the battery capacity of 95 to 99.5 Wh, but also in the new version of OS X. In 2013 we tested with OS X Mavericks, but in the meantime we are two generations further and have arrived at OS X El Capitan, which in turn contains the necessary optimizations that make the operating system more efficient use of the hardware.
This battery life is therefore very good for a 15-inch laptop with a high screen resolution and sturdy hardware. If you want an even longer battery life, Apple sells three other MacBooks that last longer on a battery charge, but also have a smaller screen and less to be quick.
The cheapest 15″ MacBook Pro is in the Pricewatch for just over two thousand euros, and then you have the variant without AMD video card and with a 256GB SSD. Compared to the previous generation, only the CPU and SSD have become slightly faster , although you will not notice that quickly in practice. So if you still have a 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina screen, the changes are so small that there is little reason to upgrade. That actually also applies to the more expensive version that we tested, which is equipped with a 500GB SSD and an AMD R9 M370X video card. That video card is a bit faster and offers the option of connecting two 4k screens at 60Hz. If you do not intend to connect such screens and you are not concerned about the graphical speed, then there is little reason to upgrade with this version.
Whether or not you upgrade, a new MacBook Pro is still a significant investment. You get a lot in return, because the laptop is fast, is solidly put together and has a well-calibrated screen with a high resolution. There is also a long battery life of eight and a half hours. However, be aware of the price of upgrades, because it is high and the configuration cannot be adjusted afterwards.