MacBook Pros with Vega graphics options go up for sale


Vega Mobile lives, and we now know just how much it'll cost for the privilege of adding Radeon Pro Vega 16 or Radeon Pro Vega 20 power to Apple's MacBook Pros. The company has updated the listing for its highest-end portable system to include those graphics options, as spotted by The Verge.

The highest-end 15" MacBook Pro configuration is the only way to get ahold of Radeon Pro Vega mobile chips. This machine starts at $2799 and includes an Intel Core i7-8850H CPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 512-GB SSD, and a Radeon Pro 560X graphics processor built on the Polaris architecture. Adding a Pro Vega 16 chip to that MacBook Pro runs $250, and a Pro Vega 20 is another $100 (for $350 extra in total).

While that may sound like a lot of money on its face, we can work back to see whether Apple is gouging pro customers on pixel-pushing power. To start, the company says that the Radeon Pro Vega 20 offers up to 60% higer performance in graphics workloads compared to the Radeon Pro 560X, and that allows us to make some interesting guesses.

By my estimate (achieved in part with clock-speed ranges obtained by Anandtech), the raw single-precision compute power of a Pro Vega 16 should be about 2.43 TFLOPS. In turn, the Pro Vega 20 should be good for about 3.33 TFLOPS. If we work back from that 3.33 TFLOPS figure, it suggests the Radeon Pro 560X's 1024-ALU shader array is good for about 2.08 TFLOPS.

Without ROP and texture-unit counts, we don't know the full potential performance picture for these chips just yet. Still, the Pro Vega 16 could shadow a mobile GTX 1050, while the Pro Vega 20 might have the chops to duke it out with a mobile GTX 1050 Ti.

Going by peak single-precision throughput alone, our estimates would mean the Pro Vega 16 offers about 16.8% higher performance potential for only a 9% increase in price, while the Pro Vega 20 only commands a 12% price increase for its considerable performance boost over the 560X. Compared to the extortionate $400 Apple wants to double the MacBook Pro's flash storage from 512 GB to 1 TB, the Pro Vega chips seem like no-brainer upgrades if you have the scratch.

Both Vega parts also have access to considerably more memory bandwidth than the Polaris chip, thanks to their use of HBM2 RAM, and architectural features like accelerated mixed-precision math that could pay dividends in some workloads. Still, for those who want more pixel-pushing power than Polaris can provide, the Vega option could be quite appealing indeed.

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