Apple Unveils New MacBook Pro Models; Remains Mum on New Mac Desktops

The latest 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops get more power and features, including available 6-core processors for the 15-inch model.

Apple MacBook Pro Upgrades

Apple has launched its latest and more powerful MacBook Pro laptop models with 13-inch or 15-inch displays and a number of new features, but the company still isn't talking about when such upgrades might be expected for its aging line of Mac desktops.

The updated MacBook Pro models were unveiled July 12 in several configurations including 15-inch models with up to six-core processors, support for up to 32GB of memory and improved third-generation Touch Bar keyboards for quieter typing.

The more powerful 8th-generation Intel Core six-core processors available in the 15-inch MacBook Pro will provide up to 70 percent faster performance, according to Apple, while the processors available in the 13-inch model are expected to provide about twice the performance of previous models for graphics professionals and other power users.

The latest MacBook Pros also now feature the Apple T2 chip, which was first introduced in the iMac Pro line-up. The Apple T2 chip provides enhanced system security with support for secure boot and on-the-fly encrypted storage. Both models will also be the first MacBooks to include Siri digital assistant by saying, "Hey, Siri," rather than just using the artificial intelligence engine through keyboard combinations. 

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro models, which start at $2,399, can be configured with six-core Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processors with up to 32GB of DDR4 memory and a maximum of 4TB of SSD storage. Radeon Pro discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory are available in all 15-inch models, as well as True Tone display technology and Apple's Touch ID fingerprint security feature. 

The latest 13-inch MacBook Pro models, which start at $1,799, can be configured with quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with up to 16GB of memory and a maximum of 2TB of SSD storage. The smaller MacBook Pros also include Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics 655 with 128MB of eDRAM, True Tone display technology and Touch ID. 

Buyers of the new machines will be eligible to update the devices in the fall when Apple unveils its upcoming macOS Mojave operating system, according to Apple. The machines are available immediately through Apple.com , select Apple retail stores and authorized resellers.

Apple did not reply to several email inquiries sent by eWEEK asking about when similar updates and new models may be arriving in the company's line of Mac desktop machines. The desktop line-ups have been aging without updates for some time, which has caused speculation that the company doesn't see a future in them.

Several IT analysts told eWEEK that the new MacBook Pro models may not be a significant upgrade for many current owners.

"It all depends on how old your [existing] MacBook is," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Unless you are doing video editing or programming, it's probably not worth upgrading from a two-year-old MacBook."

Bigger features would have made a difference for a wider range of buyers, he added. "If Apple wanted to get more people to upgrade, they could have added touch-screen and LTE options. That would have moved the base."

Moorhead said the lack of news about any new desktop models from Apple is surprising. "The rate of innovation on Mac desktops is disappointing to the installed base," he said. "I am hopeful Apple upgrades these in the next few months. Some of the technology for sale is five years old." 

Linn Huang, an analyst with IDC, agreed that the new MacBook Pros include upgrades that are "more iterative than significant." While features such as Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and True Tone displays should appeal to creative professionals, the addition of a Siri add-on "essentially helps better position Apple in the intelligent assistant race given Alexa integration into desktops and notebooks announced earlier this year."

The most interesting aspect of the latest models are the higher-end configurations that include up to 32GB of RAM, 4TB of storage and Intel Core i9 processors, said Huang. "The mobile workstation market has rapidly grown in the last two years with improved design being a major driver. Apple has had the design, and now has the required performance thresholds to meet mobile workstation users' needs."

Another analyst, Rob Enderle of Enderle Group, told eWEEK "the extra cores and Radeon graphics will be very appealing to those that use the products to edit or create media content.”

But for other customers "this is more of an evolutionary than revolutionary offering” with the big improvements coming from processors supplied by AMD and Intel rather than Apple’s own innovations, Enderle said.

For some users, though, "adding cores can actually have an adverse impact on performance” if the applications they use happen to be single-threaded, he noted. "So, it would be wise to test your older apps to make sure they aren't adversely impacted," Enderle said. "Apps that do photo and movie editing, common on Apple machines, should work much better as should programs like Microsoft Outlook which all tend to be massively multi-threaded and can use every core they are given."