Whilst I have been on vacation Apple went and released the new MacBook Pro machines and then Russ highlighted why he probably would not be buying one even though he is a self-professed Apple fanboy because his Mac Pro Trashcan and 2015 MacBook Pro are both still meeting all his needs, so why spend the money?
My situation, on the other hand, is somewhat different as I still have a 2010 Cheese-grater Mac Pro as well as a 2012 MacBook Pro, which after 6 years is starting to misbehave, so I am looking at the new MacBook Pro as a replacement.
My Existing MacBook Pro
As you can see I have a 6-year-old MacBook Pro with a 4 core 2.3GHz i7 processor with the maximum 16GB of RAM and 1.5GB stock graphics chip, which has served me well as a general purpose laptop that is also my mobile office as well as my portable Pro Tools system. I have started to notice that if I pick it up by one corner strange things happen especially if I have a browser open. as well as a number of problems which may be software or hardware related. But in all honesty, it has served me well and has only started to misbehave in the last few months.
Not Been Impressed With MacBook Pro Machines Until Now
As a result, I have been looking at a possible replacement but the cost of a replacement, which until now effectively provided no significant improvements, still having i7 processors, still a Quad Core machine and so other than getting a new laptop there wasn't a lot going for it until now.
So back from vacation I am going to take a look at what it would take to get a sensibly specced machine that would be a worthy replacement to my 2012 MacBook Pro that would serve me for another 6 years both as a general purpose laptop that I also use for PowerPoint Presentations as well as being the core of my portable Pro Tools system, that could support a Thunderbolt expansion chassis so I could take my HDX system on the road if necessary.
Spec For Mac Based Pro Tools Computer
This is the current Pro Tools 2018 Minimum System Requirements for a Mac from Avid...
- Intel® Mac with Mac OS X 10.11.6, macOS 10.12.6 or 10.13.3
- Intel® Core i5 processor (Pro Tools Standard), Intel® Core i7 processor (Pro Tools Ultimate)
- 16GB RAM (32GB or more recommended)
- Internet connection for installation
- 15GB disk space for installation
- USB-port for iLok authorization (iLok 2 or iLok 3 required)
- PCIe slot for HDX or HD Native card (incl. one power connection on the motherboard), Thunderbolt-port for supported PCIe-chassis
- or USB-port, FireWire-port or Thunderbolt-port for CoreAudio-supported audio device
- Supports 64-bit AAX plug-ins in Pro Tools
New Processors And More RAM
There are 2 key areas in the new MacBook Pro specs that interest me, new i9 6-core processors and support for 32GB of RAM. Until now the MacBooks and Mac Minis have both been restricted to a maximum of 16GB of RAM and 4-core processors so the option of 32GB and 6-core processors is very appealing.
What Can I Get And How Much Will It Cost?
So off to the Apple website to see what MacBook Pro I could get that would play nicely with Pro Tools.
Once on the Apple Store, you have a choice between a 13" or 15" MacBook Pro. Looking at the 13" option, which I wouldn't be averse to as it is a little smaller, once I get to the processor options, you cannot have the new i9 or 6-core processors. Moving over to the 15" option the base spec is as follows...
- 2.6GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz
- Retina display with True Tone
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
- Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
- 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory
- 512GB SSD storage
- Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
I now can choose between i7 or i9 6-core in the processor options. To give me as much future proofing as possible the extra $300 for the i9 processor option is worth taking.
Moving on to the memory, because the RAM is soldered onto the motherboard I am forced to up the memory at this stage rather than buying the extra RAM from a 3rd party source like Crucial, which adds $400 to the price.
When it comes to internal storage the standard SSD is 512GB. My current MacBook Pro has a 500GB spinning rust drive, which I have to work hard at not overfilling. Again I am unable to change the drive as it too is soldered onto the motherboard just like the RAM, so I am going to select a 1TB drive which adds another $400 to the price.
Finally, I can choose my keyboard and as I am a Brit I will select a British keyboard. (Note that on the Apple UK site the keyboard choice defaults to British).
The Bottom Line
So what is the bottom line? I have priced it up on the US and UK Apple Store prices. I have provided VAT exclusive prices to provide a better comparison to the US pricing and also as I am VAT registered this is the price I will actually pay.
|US Dollars||UK Sterling ex. VAT||UK Sterling inc. VAT|
|15" MBP Base Price||$2,799||£2,249||£2,699|
|i9 6 core processor upgrade||$300||£225||£270|
|32GB RAM Upgrade||$400||£300||£360|
|1TB SSD Upgrade||$400||£300||£360|
|Extras - 2TB instead of 1TB||$400||£300||£360|
What About Upgradeability And Heat?
As I mentioned in my article Is There A Problem With The New 2018 MacBook Pro? Check Out Our Initial Analysis Now the reports and tests about the heat and throttling back have largely been undertaken with video related tests and will also be stressing the GPU too. It is not currently clear how this throttling will affect Pro Tools users and this requires more investigation. Watch out for an article exploring this in more detail.
Moving onto the Upgradeability as I concluded in my article...
As to the options with this new MacBook Pro, 32 GB of RAM is the maximum and so buying that factory installed is OK, after all, 32GB is the maximum that the new MBP can support so there is no reason to want to upgrade it in the future. Having the i9 processors is great news and choosing them at the outset knowing I cannot upgrade them is no big deal. The only slight fly in the ointment is not being able to upgrade the SSD storage. What you buy on day 1 is what you have to have for the lifespan of the machine, but that is the only issue I can see with the lack of user upgradable parts in this machine.
Yes, I am probably paying over the odds paying $400 for an extra 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Looking at normal DDR4 RAM from a supplier like Crucial, 16 GB is around $200, but as we know with user upgradable RAM on machines with limited slots, you often had to take out the RAM Apple supplied and then buy the full amount of the desired RAM. In this situation, I would have probably had to buy 32GB of DDR4 RAM which works out at around the $400 Apple want to charge me to end up with 32GB of RAM, so all in all that isn't as bad as it might have been.
Looking at the storage prices. I am being asked to pay an extra $400 for another 500MB of SSD storage or $800 to take the stock 512GB up to 2TB.
A 1TB SSD drive would be around $400 with a 2TB SSD drive coming in at around $800 so from a price point of view the differences are nothing to write home about.
OK, I could have sold the old 512GB SSD and the unused stock RAM and recouped some of the cost, but having the secure knowledge that I have Apple approved RAM and SSD components correctly fitted in my new MacBook Pro is very reassuring.
Whilst we are looking at the SSD, the issue of lifespan has come up. There have been concerns about the lifespan of the SSDs because they are soldered in. Would the SSD wear out before the MacBook Pro?
Estimating the lifespan of anything is notoriously difficult, but the shortcoming of an SSD is that they have a finite number of read-write cycles. Hence the question, will a soldered in SSD fail before the computer it is in, fail? There is an interesting article from the How-To Geek website that Russ refers to in the comments section of our article Is There A Problem With The New 2018 MacBook Pro? Check Out Our Initial Analysis Now - Updated. In this How-To Geek article How Long Do Solid State Drives Really Last? Michael Crider says...
The market for SSDs has matured considerably, and we’ve got a lot more data on…well, data. The good news is that SSDs are probably much more reliable than you think, and certainly at least as good as hard drives in terms of data retention and failure rates. The bad news is that SSDs tend to fail more often with age, and not with extended data reading and writing, as formerly predicted.
They go on to explain how vendors measure the projected lifespan of SSDs and also point to research untaken by big data users like Google and Facebook. When it comes to their conclusions Michael says...
A ~250GB SSD can be expected to die sometime before one petabyte written—though two (or perhaps three) of the models exceeded that mark, it would be wise to plan a contingency in case your specific drive under-performs, even if it uses more expensive SLC memory.
In order to reach a petabyte of total written data, the average consumer would have to use his or her computer more or less nonstop for a decade, maybe even multiple decades. Even gamers or “power users” will probably never reach the stated maximum amount of data written for a drive under its warranty.
In other words: You’ll probably upgrade your entire computer before your SSD fails.
That makes interesting reading and comes from research undertaken and commisioned by companies for whom data matters. In addition, if you do not back up your data, whether it's your client project drives or the boot drive of your shiny new MacBook Pro then you are asking for trouble.
Overall although the convenience of user upgradable parts is nice, in the case of this MacBook Pro, I can go for the maximum supported RAM and not pay too much over the odds, I can get the fastest processors available in a portable Mac and I can get an SSD that is likely to outlive the laptop it is in. All I need to do is decide how big it should be. So we come back to the overheating issue...
Will I Be Buying A new MacBook Pro?
The answer is probably. I plan to wait to see if this heat and throttling issue is a real-world problem for my requirements including Pro Tools and more on this to come. If it is, it may be worth waiting for the 2nd generation of MacBook Pro laptops that have a revised cooling solution, or a software solution which manages the heat build up better.
In the light of my research and situation, will you be considering a new MacBook Pro? Do share your thought in the comments below.