What to ex­pect from 8th-gen In­tel pro­ces­sors

Ap­ple has re­freshed its MacBook Pro line with 8th-gen­er­a­tion (Cof­fee Lake) In­tel CPUs, writes Ja­son Cross

Macworld - - CONTENTS -

In April of this year, when all the high-per­for­mance Win­dows lap­tops tran­si­tioned to In­tel’s new 8th-gen­er­a­tion ‘Cof­fee Lake’ pro­ces­sors, Ap­ple fans were left scratch­ing their heads. If it of­fers such a huge boost in per­for­mance... why isn’t Ap­ple up­grad­ing the MacBook Pro?

Well bet­ter late than never, as they say. Ap­ple’s bump­ing up the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the 13- and

15in MacBook Pro (with Touch Bar) to the 8th-gen­er­a­tion In­tel chips, plus ad­ding a few other

good­ies that should help make them tear through your Fi­nal Cut and Pho­to­shop tasks.

We will test, bench­mark, and thor­oughly re­view the new MacBook Pros just as soon as pos­si­ble, of course. While you wait, let’s dive into the specs, com­pare them with what we know from Win­dows lap­tops, and paint a pic­ture of just how much bet­ter these new MacBook Pros may be.

4 is more than 2, and 6 is more than 4

The chief ben­e­fit of the new 8th-gen­er­a­tion Core pro­ces­sors from In­tel is a boost in core count. In the 13in MacBook Pro, you’re jump­ing up from du­al­core Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs to quad-core.

Cur­rently, the 13in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar of­fers a Core i5-7267U at the low end up to a Core i7-7567U at the high end. These are pro­ces­sors with a 28W TDP. We don’t yet have the ex­act model num­bers of the CPUs in the new MacBook Pros yet, but judg­ing by the an­nounced clock speeds and the sim­i­lar TDP nec­es­sary, we ex­pect to find a Core i5-8259U at the low end and a Core i7 8559U on the high end. This change would mean higher boost clock speeds (3.8GHz ver­sus 3.5GHz on the low-end model, 4.5GHz ver­sus 4GHz on the high­end model). It also means 6MB of cache in­stead of 4MB. The Iris Plus 655 graph­ics pro­ces­sor is es­sen­tially the same as be­fore, but with double the em­bed­ded DRAM, which should speed things up a bit at higher res­o­lu­tions.

For the 15in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, we’re likely look­ing at a bump from the Core i7-7700HQ to

the Core i7-8750H on the en­try-level ver­sion, with the maxed-out con­fig­u­ra­tion jump­ing from a Core i77920HQ up to Core i9 8950HK. Those pro­ces­sors all have a 45W TDP, but it’s a jump in max­i­mum turbo speed from 3.8- to 4.1GHz on the base model and from 4.1- to 4.8GHz on the high end.

Higher boost clock speeds are well and good, but the big­gest ben­e­fit is the higher core counts. The pow­er­house 15in mod­els jump from four cores with eight threads up to six cores with 12 threads. Those who like the more com­pact 13in model get an even big­ger in­crease, jump­ing from two cores and four threads to four cores and eight threads.

Big per­for­mance in all apps

Our col­leagues at PCWorld bench­marked the new Cof­fee Lake 6-core pro­ces­sors back in April and

came away very im­pressed. One would ex­pect that more cores would equal more per­for­mance in heav­ily multi-threaded ap­pli­ca­tions. Imag­ine their de­light when the new pro­ces­sors de­liv­ered sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter sin­gle thread per­for­mance as well.

For ex­am­ple, on page 53 you can see one of their WinRAR bench­marks show­ing the Core i7-8750H (the chip likely to be in the en­try-level 15in MacBook Pro) blow­ing the doors off the Core i7-7820HK, a faster chip than the 7700HQ found in the cur­rent 15in MacBook Pro.

But dial the test down to a sin­gle thread and it gets real in­ter­est­ing. The 8750H is still faster than the 7820HK, and much faster than the 7700HQ.

That’s the magic of higher boost clock speeds and in­creased cache. If we look at Cinebench

per­for­mance scal­ing from one thread up to 12, we see that even on low thread counts we can ex­pect the new gen­er­a­tion to de­liver around a 15to 20 per­cent boost, with high thread counts up at 50 per­cent. The bot­tom line is that we ex­pect the 15in MacBook Pros to be 15- to 50 per­cent faster in CPU-lim­ited tasks.

And that’s just the jump from the 4-core to the 6-core chips. Imag­ine the boost we’ll see on 13in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, where the cache and boost clock speeds go up and the core counts double. Com­bined with the fact that more apps are able to ef­fec­tively uti­lize five to eight threads than nine to 12 threads, the 13in MacBook Pro is likely to re­al­ize its po­ten­tial more of­ten than the 15in model. Ap­ple’s smaller MacBook Pro is go­ing to re­al­ize a big­ger per­for­mance in­crease, more of­ten.

Not just a CPU bump

The new MacBook Pros ben­e­fit from more than just the im­pres­sive gains of In­tel’s 8th-gen­er­a­tion Core pro­ces­sors. There are qual­ity-of-life im­prove­ments like True Tone dis­plays (which we love on the iPad Pro, iPhone 8, and iPhone X), a new third-gen­er­a­tion but­ter­fly key­board that isn’t quite so noisy, and you can load them up with double the RAM (up to 32GB).

But Ap­ple also snuck the T2 chip (first found in the iMac Pro) into the MacBook Pro. As Mac­world’s Ja­son Snell cor­rectly pre­dicted, the T2 (and fu­ture T-se­ries chips) are likely go­ing to push down into all Macs over time. In the new MacBook Pros, the

T2 chip does ev­ery­thing it does in the iMac Pro: it’s the au­dio pro­ces­sor, it han­dles im­age pro­cess­ing for the FaceTime cam­era, it con­trols stor­age (in­clud­ing of­fload­ing file en­cryp­tion), it’s the se­cure en­clave for Touch ID, and it pro­vides se­cure boot and sys­tem man­age­ment.

That means less work for the CPU, which should fur­ther boost per­for­mance just a lit­tle bit. It also means bet­ter FaceTime video qual­ity and, fi­nally, ‘Hey Siri’ sup­port on a Mac lap­top.

Not ev­ery­thing gets a big boost

Un­for­tu­nately, the new MacBook Pros don’t offer ev­ery­thing we hoped for. Even if it’s qui­eter, we sus­pect many users will still take is­sue with the but­ter­fly key­board. The USB-C-or-die port sit­u­a­tion hasn’t im­proved. And if you don’t like the Touch Bar, you’re stuck in the past – there are no up­grades at all in the 13in MacBook Pro with­out Touch Bar. Nor is the MacBook or MacBook Air get­ting an up­grade, but we’ll hold out hope that we’ll see im­prove­ments for those be­fore the end of the year.

If there’s one area in which you shouldn’t ex­pect a huge im­prove­ment in per­for­mance, it’s graph­ics. The Iris Pro 655 found in the 13in MacBook Pro isn’t much dif­fer­ent from the Iris Pro 650 you find to­day. The em­bed­ded DRAM has dou­bled, and that will help a bit at high res­o­lu­tions, but the GPU still has 48 ex­e­cu­tion units and 384 shad­ing units, and the max­i­mum clock speeds only get a tiny lit­tle boost.

The 15in model – which al­ways in­cluded dis­crete graph­ics – in­cludes a Radeon Pro 555x with 4GB

of RAM. It’s nice that ev­ery model has 4GB of video RAM now in­stead of the en­try-level ver­sion be­ing equipped with only 2GB, but we’re oth­er­wise look­ing at the same GPU here. An up­grade to

Vega-based graph­ics would have been great.

More cores mean much faster mul­ti­threaded per­for­mance

Even with one thread, In­tel’s pro­ces­sors are faster

Even with low thread counts, the 8th-gen Core chips are much faster

In­clud­ing the T2 in the new MacBook Pros makes it more than just a CPU up­grade

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