Ap­ple MacBook Pro with Retina dis­play (15in, 2.5GHz, mid 2015)

Tech Advisor - - REVIEWS -

The new 15in MacBook Pro for 2015 has ar­rived, pick­ing up a trio of com­po­nent up­grades on the way. Ap­ple’s best lap­top fea­tures the same de­sign and lay­out as the first Retina notebook that launched in 2012, and once again two mod­els are avail­able – here we fo­cus on the top model with 2.5GHz pro­ces­sor and AMD graph­ics.

Ap­ple pi­o­neered the track­pad on lap­tops back in the early 1990s, when Win­dows lap­top fac­to­ries were still fit­ting up­side-down­mouse track­balls or lit­tle rub­ber point­ing sticks in the mid­dle of the key­board. The track­pad is now all but ubiq­ui­tous as the way to in­ter­act with ev­ery notebook com­puter of any faith.

Un­der Ap­ple’s stew­ard­ship, the con­cept has seen track­pads grow larger in size, in­crease in pre­ci­sion and sen­si­tiv­ity, and no­tably gain multi-point touch recog­ni­tion to al­low new hand ges­tures to guide the user through a com­puter’s GUI.

The new Force Touch track­pad is some­thing of a de­par­ture though, and even though the track­pad looks iden­ti­cal on the sur­face, it is now a fixed un­mov­ing con­struct, re­ly­ing on strain gauges, elec­tro­mag­net so­le­noids and ad­di­tional pro­ces­sors and al­go­rithms to do its work. Su­per­fi­cially, the same as it was in the first Uni­body MacBook of 2008 it may be, but still wa­ters run deep.

As we found with first the 13in MacBook Pro and then the new lit­tle MacBook, the Force Touch track­pad al­lows you to con­trol the strength of the ‘click’ for nor­mal clicks (Light, Medium, Firm); and ad­di­tion­ally to register an ex­tra, deeper click when you press slightly longer and more firmly.

The Force Touch con­cept works well on the MacBook Pro, al­low­ing you to deep click on the fast-for­ward and rewind but­tons in Quick­Time Player, for ex­am­ple. The harder you press, the faster the speedup. Another use­ful ben­e­fit, if one that takes some men­tal train­ing to get used to if you’ve been driv­ing track­pads for years, is that you can press any­where on the track­pad sur­face with equal pres­sure to elicit a click, rather than along just the front edge.

Ap­ple does not seem too par­ti­san when it comes to favour­ing ei­ther of to­day’s two mak­ers of PC graph­ics pro­ces­sors, tend­ing to os­cil­late be­tween fit­ting ei­ther nVidia or AMD’s graph­ics adap­tors. Since the 15in MacBook Pro with Retina dis­play was in­tro­duced back in 2012, there has been a build us­ing dis­crete nVidia graph­ics in ad­di­tion to low-power in­te­grated In­tel graph­ics, start­ing with the nVidia GeForce GTX 650M for the Mark I; and for the past two re­freshes, the slightly bet­ter GTX 750M.

Now we see the pen­du­lum swing back to AMD, with the in­clu­sion of a Radeon R9 M370X graph­ics pro­cess­ing unit. It is fit­ted with 2GB of GDDR5 video mem­ory, the same quota as the out­go­ing nVidia part.

Graph­ics

You won’t find this AMD graph­ics pro­ces­sor on other lap­tops though as the part seems to be cus­tombuilt for Ap­ple. Note that like all GPUs that Ap­ple has fit­ted to its pro­fes­sional-la­bel MacBook Pro note­books ever since the line was launched in 2006, the 2015 MacBook Pro takes a con­sumer-grade graph­ics adap­tor, here bear­ing the Radeon name.

The AMD Radeon R9 M370X looks to be based on a 28nm ar­chi­tec­ture co­de­named Cape Verde that dates back to 2012, and this par­tic­u­lar ver­sion runs an 800MHz GPU clock, 1125MHz mem­ory clock (4500MHz ef­fec­tive speed, af­ter the qua­dru­pling prop­er­ties of GDDR5 RAM) and 128-bit mem­ory bus. It has 640 stream pro­ces­sors for par­al­lel pro­cess­ing and 40 tex­ture map­ping units.

Com­par­ing the AMD chip with nVidia’s graph­ics is not easy, as its ar­chi­tec­ture is slightly dif­fer­ent, with a spec­i­fi­ca­tion list­ing shad­ing units (384) and ren­der out­put pro­ces­sors (16) be­sides a count of 32 tex­ture map­ping units. How­ever, the pre­vi­ous nVidia GTX 750M did have a slightly faster core-clock speed of 926MHz, the same size 128-bit mem­ory bus, and a faster mem­ory clock of 1254MHz.

Ap­ple re­ports that the new AMD graph­ics are faster than the out­go­ing nVidia so­lu­tion, and these claims were borne out in our test­ing in ev­ery in­stance, up to and in­clud­ing a 70 per­cent per­for­mance in­crease in one game.

Be­fore the graph­ics bench­mark re­sults, it’s worth re­it­er­at­ing that the CPU is the same as when we last tested the breed in sum­mer 2014. We ran the usual pro­ces­sor tests any­way as part of our com­pre­hen­sive rou­tine to en­sure noth­ing un­ex­pected had arisen, and found fig­ures that were within 1 per­cent tol­er­ance of last year’s re­sults. This means a sin­gle-core Geek­bench 3 score of 3717 points, ris­ing to 14,325 points in multi-core mode; Cinebench 11.5 with re­sults of 1.54- and 6.41 points re­spec­tively for the two modes; while Cinebench 15 re­ported 132- and 602 points.

For ref­er­ence, Dell’s com­pa­ra­ble copy­cat com­puter is the Pre­ci­sion M3800, which runs an In­tel Core i7-4712HQ at 2.3GHz, and gives bench­mark scores around 5 per­cent slower in Cinebench, and up to 18 per­cent slower in Geek­bench.

Cinebench will also test graph­ics ren­der­ing per­for­mance with an OpenGL rou­tine, and in our tests of the mid-2015

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