MacBook Pro 2018 vs MacBook Pro 2017: What’s Changed?

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 12 Jul 2018

MacBook Pro 2018 vs. MacBook Pro 2017: What's Changed?

Apple today unveiled the 2018 refresh of its MacBook Pro lineup. While from the outside, the new MacBooks look just like the previous generation ones, they have received some major internal upgrades for better performance.

For the first time in years, it feels like the MacBook Pro is living up to the ‘pro’ tag in its name. In fact, it is such a major upgrade that even if you own a 2017 MacBook Pro with a Kaby Lake processor, you should look at the refreshed 2018 MacBook Pro lineup due to the major speed improvements that it offers.

In a nutshell, the 2018 MacBook Pro is like an ‘s’ iPhone upgrade. Its faster in almost every possible way which is ultimately going to be useful to everyone. The additional power should be particularly helpful for content creators and prosumers who were severely limited by the performance of previous MacBook Pro models.

If you are wondering what has actually changed between the 2017 and 2018 MacBook Pro, read our comparison below to find out.

Looking to buy the 13-inch non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro?

If you are more interested in the 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar, you will be disappointed to know that Apple has not upgraded it with faster Intel chips. The company continues to sell the 2017 variant alongside the upgraded 2018 MacBook Pro models with Touch Bar featuring faster internals.

2018 vs 2017 MacBook Pro: What’s Changed?

Powerful CPU and GPU

Intel has not really made huge performance improvements with its CPUs over the last few years. However, with stiff competition from AMD and the lack of any meaningful improvements forced the company to offer more cores at the same price and power envelope with its Coffee Lake series of CPUs. This is a great way of increasing the overall performance of any device as more and more apps are now making use of multi-threaded CPUs for improved performance.

Since Apple is also using Intel’s Coffee Lake CPU in its 2018 MacBook Pro lineup, the same set of improvements are applicable here. This means that while the base variant of the MacBook Pro continues to come with a dual-core chip, the core count for other models in the lineup has increased.

Previously, while the 13-inch model was limited to a dual-core processor, it now comes with a quad-core Core i5 or i7 processor. Similarly, the 15-inch MacBook Pro now comes with a 6-core Core i7 or Core i9 processor. For comparison, the 13-inch and 15-inch models of the 2017 MacBook Pro lineup topped out at dual-core and quad-core Kaby Lake chips, respectively.

The additional horsepower is going to come in extremely handy for content creators. The extra cores mean that renderings in Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro are going to finish at least 2-3x times faster, with heavier apps also showing significant performance improvements.

In addition to the powerful CPU, Apple has also switched to the latest generation of GPUs from AMD for its 15-inch MacBook Pro. The base model comes with a Radeon Pro 555X GPU, while the high-end variant comes with the Radeon Pro 560X. Both GPUs are a step up from the 4xx series GPU found on the 2017 MacBook Pro in terms of performance and efficiency.

However, unlike the jump in CPU performance, the GPU performance has only seen a modest jump this time around.

Radeon Pro

Like the 2017 variant, the 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro continues to make use of the integrated Intel GPU. The Iris Plus 655 GPU does not offer much of a performance improvement over the Iris Plus 650 found on the 2017 variant, but it does come with 128GB of eDRAM compared to 64GB found on the former.

More RAM and Storage

The 2017 MacBook Pro lineup made use of LPDDR3 RAM and could be configured with a maximum of 16GB RAM. For the 2018 model, Apple has made the switch to regular DDR4 RAM.

While more power hungry, the move does allow Apple to offer the 2018 MacBook Pro with up to 32GB RAM. However, this is only for the 15-inch variant which you can configure with up to 32GB RAM. Due to power constraints, the 13-inch variant continues to make use of LPDDR3 memory and is limited to 16GB RAM. Apple charging $400 on the 15-inch MacBook Pro to make the upgrade to 32GB.

Similar to RAM, Apple is also offering more storage on its 2018 MacBook Pro variant. While the 2017 MacBook Pro could be configured with a maximum of 2TB storage, the 2018 MacBook Pro variant can be configured with 2x more storage — up to 4TB. However, the upgrade is going to cost you as the switch to 4TB upgrade costs a whopping $2,400.

Same Size and Weight Yet Bigger Batteries

The 2018 MacBook Pro not only looks like the outgoing models, but it has the same dimensions and weight as them. While a change in dimensions was unlikely, the lack of an increase in weight is impressive. This is because Apple has used bigger batteries inside the 2018 MacBook Pro models to counteract the increased power draw from the CPU, GPU, and RAM. This is true for the 13-inch as well as the 15-inch variants.

It is likely that to maximize the internal space, Apple used stacked batteries on its MacBook Pro lineup this time around. It also likely soldered and integrated a lot of components on the logic board to keep the weight of the device in check.

True Tone Display

The display on the 2018 MacBook Pro remains the same as before with only one major improvement: it now features True Tone. Similar to Apple’s iPad Pro lineup, there’s a dedicated light sensor on the new MacBook Pro which changes the display color temperature according to the ambient light.

Interestingly, even the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro features True Tone tech. This feature is not present on the 2017 MacBook Pro lineup.

Like before, the display on the new MacBook Pro also continues to have DCI-P3 (wide-color) gamut support.

Hey Siri, T2 Chip, and Faster Connectivity

The 2018 MacBook Pro features Apple’s T2 chip which first debuted with the iMac Pro last year. This custom chip from Apple is used to handle the Secure Enclave and secure the boot process further. It also handles many other system tasks where it is more efficient than the Intel CPU.

The T2 chip also allows Apple to offer always-on “Hey Siri” voice recognition support. While the 2017 MacBook Pro also featured Apple’s custom T1 chip, it lacks always-on “Hey Siri” functionality.

The new MacBook Pro also features faster Wi-Fi ac and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity (vs. Bluetooth 4.2 on the 2017 model).

Third-generation Butterfly Keyboard

It is no secret that Apple has been subjected to a lot of criticism for its butterfly keyboard. Their reliability has been a major pain point for consumers, with Apple even launching a service program to please all affected customers and give potential customers a peace of mind.

With its 2018 MacBook Pro lineup, Apple has debuted its third-generation Butterfly keyboard which it says are quieter than before while typing. There’s no word from Apple in terms of improvement of the overall reliability of the keyboard. However, given the criticism it has received over the previous generation butterfly keyboards, it is anyone’s guess that there are improvements made in this regard as well.

For comparison, the 2017 MacBook Pro features Apple’s second-generation butterfly keyboard.

As the above comparison makes it clear, the 2018 MacBook Pro lineup is a major upgrade over the 2017 MacBook Pro in almost every aspect internally. The best part is that despite such major improvements, the starting price of the series remains the same as before. However, towards the high-end, one does end up paying significantly more but that goes hand-in-hand with the increased processing power.