Apple gives MacBook Pros a much-needed shot of Coffee Lake


Apple delivered some much-needed updates to its highest-end MacBook Pros this morning. The 15" MacBook Pro will now offer six-core Coffee Lake CPUs and up to 32 GB of DDR4 memory, while 13" models with Apple's Touch Bar will use four-core Coffee Lake parts with 128 MB of eDRAM on package. The smaller MacBook Pro will still use LPDDR3 RAM.

We've already seen how Coffee Lake CPUs can boost mobile computing to new heights, and Apple is taking full advantage of that CPU range with the 15" MacBook Pro. Going by the boost speeds the company cites for its CPU choices, Apple will offer the Core i9-8950HK as a top-end option for demanding pros in this notebook. The company also says its 15" wonders will all come with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory for configurations with Radeon Pro discrete graphics, up from 2 GB in lower-end discrete graphics configurations of the past.

The move to DDR4 in the 15" MacBook Pro made me wonder about these systems' battery life, since off-charger endurance was one of the reasons the company cited for sticking with a maximum of 16 GB of lower-density LPDDR3 to begin with in its late-2016 and mid-2017 notebooks. Coffee Lake chips didn't add support for the more frugal LPDDR4 in their integrated memory controllers. The Verge says Apple increased the battery capacity of both models to make up for the extra power draw of the new CPUs and the 15" machine's memory subsystem, and the site reports that Apple expects no change in either system's battery life as a result.

Apple claims it's introducing a third generation of its recently-maligned butterfly keyboards with these notebooks to make for quieter typing, too. While many might have requested a new keyboard design that's harder to incapacitate with specks of dust and easier to repair, Apple told The Verge that those issues "have only affected a tiny, tiny fraction of its user base." Apparently, the clack of short-travel keys was more annoying.

Both MacBook Pro sizes now incorporate the T2 system-management processor that made its debut with the iMac Pro. The T2 handles solid-state storage controller tasks and on-the-fly disk encryption, and it allows the 15" MacBook Pro to house SSDs as large as 4 TB and the 13" model to stuff in as much as 2 TB of NAND. The T2 also processes the video stream from the notebooks' FaceTime web cams and provides hardware roots of trust for the operating system. On top of those weighty responsibilities, the T2 lets the new MacBook Pros handle "Hey Siri" invocations for the first time.

The screens and Touch Bars on these notebooks now incorporate Apple's True Tone display technology to shift white points in response to ambient lighting. They maintain the 500-nit maximum brightness and 100% DCI P3 coverage that have long been hallmarks of the modern MacBook Pro.

The new processors and other goodies don't occasion an increase in the base prices for either size of MacBook Pro. Apple says the 13" model with the Touch Bar will command a $1799 base price, while 15" models will start at $2399. Although neither model's configuration page is live yet, expect eye-watering prices if you start ticking option boxes. Both machines should be available today.

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