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Apple MacBook Pro 13 2018 (Touch Bar, i5) Laptop Review

Live-Review: Now with four (slowed down) cores. Apple updates the MacBook Pro 13 with a new quad-core processor and a True Tone display for 2018, but only the more expensive model with the Touch Bar. We have a closer look at the performance of the new MacBook Pro in the following review. What can you expect for the price of 1,999 Euros (i5)?

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Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro series. The exterior did not change, but the manufacturer from Cupertino finally uses Intel's 8th Gen. processors with four cores (Coffee Lake-U). Except for that, the displays now also support the True Tone technology, which is already familiar from the mobile devices iPhone or iPad, respectively.

Our review today is about the smaller 13-inch model, but only the more expensive Touch Bar version received the updates. The less expensive MBP 13 with function keys on the other hand is still sold with 2017 specs. Apple might be repeating the story of the MacBook Air, which did not get any updates for quite a while and became less expensive over the years. We are not fans of this development, because our reviews of the 2017 models showed the more expensive Touch Bar model was not the best choice for every user.

The price did not change and still starts at 1,999 Euros for the entry-level spec with a Core i5-8259U including Iris Plus 655 GPU, 8 GB LPDDR3-2133 RAM & 256 GB SSD storage. You can expand the memory all the way up to 16 GB (+240 Euros) and the storage up to 2 TB (+1,750 Euros), and the additional prices are once again extreme. We ordered our test sample directly from Apple's Austrian online shop; it is not a special press sample from Apple. 

Apple MacBook Pro 13 2018 Touchbar i5
Graphics adapter
Memory
8192 MB 
, LPDDR3-2133, soldered
Display
13.3 inch 16:10, 2560 x 1600 pixel 227 PPI, APPA03E, IPS, TrueTone, glossy: yes
Connections
4 USB 3.1 Gen2, 4 Thunderbolt, 4 DisplayPort, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm stereo jack, 1 Fingerprint Reader, Brightness Sensor
Networking
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 5.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 14.9 x 304.1 x 212.4 ( = 0.59 x 11.97 x 8.36 in)
Battery
58 Wh Lithium-Polymer
Operating System
Apple macOS 10.13 High Sierra
Camera
Webcam: 720p FaceTime HD
Additional features
Speakers: Stereo, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, 61W USB-C PSU, 12 Months Warranty
Weight
1.37 kg ( = 48.33 oz / 3.02 pounds), Power Supply: 269 g ( = 9.49 oz / 0.59 pounds)
Price
1999 Euro

 

Case - MacBook Pro with familiar shell

We already know the chassis design of the MacBook Pro 13 since 2016 and the current model is still available in the colors silver as well as space gray. There is still not much to criticize in terms of quality, which is also the case for tactile feeling of the metal surfaces. Based on our own experiences we can say that the case still leaves an excellent impression after longer periods of use, while plastic cases are more prone to wear (greasy surfaces etc.). We recommend our review of the MacBook Pro 13 2016 for more details on the case. The following pictures are from the 2016 model as well.

You still notice the age of the case as soon as you start to compare the weight and the dimensions, respectively. The MacBook Pro 13 is hardly a brick at little more than 1.3 kg and not bulky, either, but the competition caught up over the last years and sometimes even surpassed Apple. There are more and more devices with slimmer bezels, which enables larger display, and the weight is going down as well.

Size Comparison

Input Devices - Butterfly with silicone buffers

Keyboard

New silicone membrane (source: iFixit)
New silicone membrane (source: iFixit)

There have been a lot of discussions about the keyboard on the current MacBook Pro lineup. Apple uses keys with a very shallow travel to realize the slim base unit. The manufacturer uses its own Butterfly keys with very precise (and loud) key strokes, but the typing experience is just not comfortable for every user.

Then there is the problem with defective keyboards on the MacBook Pros, and Apple even introduced a special repair program. Even small objects (dirt, crumbs, etc.) can result in problems (keys won't work anymore). Apple did not mention this issue when they announced the 2018 models, but advertised a quieter keyboard. Our colleagues from iFixit already disassembled a 2018 model and found a new silicone membrane underneath the keys. They ensure a quieter typing noise, but also seem to prevent the intrusion of dirt, so it might be an reaction to the problems after all. We can obviously not check whether this solution works in the long term.

Update: Internal service documents from Apple confirm that the new membrane is supposed to prevent debris from entering the butterfly keys.

Display - MacBook Pro 2018 adds TrueTone

The basic specs of the 13.3-inch IPS screen did not change this year: 2560 x 1600 pixels (227 PPI) aka Retina display, 500 nits brightness, and full P3 color gamut. The TrueTone support is the only new feature and we already know it from the iPhone or iPad, respectively. The white balance automatically adjusts according to the color temperature of the ambient light, which is supposed to create a more natural picture. The manual Night Shift mode, which reduces blue color contents, is still available. The latter can also be adjusted in the settings (automatic activation depending on the time, warmer or cooler picture).

493
cd/m²
513
cd/m²
496
cd/m²
515
cd/m²
519
cd/m²
512
cd/m²
498
cd/m²
502
cd/m²
492
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 519 cd/m² Average: 504.4 cd/m² Minimum: 4.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 95 %
Center on Battery: 524 cd/m²
Contrast: 1573:1 (Black: 0.33 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 0.4 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.3
ΔE Greyscale 2.2 | 0.64-98 Ø6.5
Gamma: 2.22
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2018 Touchbar i5
APPA03E, , 2560x1600, 13.3
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2017 Touchbar i5
APPA034, , 2560x1600, 13.3
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2017
APPA033, , 2560x1600, 13.3
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
B140QAN02.0, , 2560x1440, 14
Dell XPS 13 9370 i7 UHD
ID: Sharp SHP148B, Name: LQ133D1, Dell P/N: 8XDHY, , 3840x2160, 13.3
Huawei Matebook X Pro i5
Tianma XM, , 3000x2000, 13.9
Response Times
-3%
9%
-19%
-62%
16%
Response Time Grey 50% / Grey 80% *
46 (21, 25)
48 (23.6, 24.4)
-4%
42.8 (22.4, 20.4)
7%
59.2 (28.4, 30.8)
-29%
69.6 (32.4, 37.2)
-51%
40.4 (19.2, 21.2)
12%
Response Time Black / White *
32 (17, 15)
33.6 (16.4, 17.2)
-5%
28.8 (14.8, 14)
10%
34.4 (16.4, 18)
-8%
44 (24.4, 19.6)
-38%
25.6 (11.6, 14)
20%
PWM Frequency
118000 (75, 150)
119000 (80)
1%
3759 (20)
-97%
Screen
-8%
-46%
-58%
-110%
-125%
Brightness middle
519
551
6%
588
13%
578
11%
478.5
-8%
442.7
-15%
Brightness
504
514
2%
561
11%
533
6%
466
-8%
428
-15%
Brightness Distribution
95
88
-7%
92
-3%
84
-12%
86
-9%
84
-12%
Black Level *
0.33
0.48
-45%
0.45
-36%
0.38
-15%
0.43
-30%
0.31
6%
Contrast
1573
1148
-27%
1307
-17%
1521
-3%
1113
-29%
1428
-9%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
0.4
0.8
-100%
1.7
-325%
1.9
-375%
3.09
-673%
2.24
-460%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 max. *
2.8
1.4
50%
3.5
-25%
3.8
-36%
5.94
-112%
7.19
-157%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
2.2
1
55%
1.9
14%
3
-36%
2.4
-9%
9.7
-341%
Gamma
2.22 108%
2.16 111%
2.33 103%
2.14 112%
2.063 116%
1.42 169%
CCT
6908 94%
6672 97%
6738 96%
6377 102%
6883 94%
6227 104%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
77.92
88.8
69.47
61.6
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
99.94
100
98.36
95
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 calibrated *
0.8
2.06
1.11
Total Average (Program / Settings)
-6% / -7%
-19% / -35%
-39% / -50%
-86% / -97%
-55% / -97%

* ... smaller is better

Our test model of the MacBook Pro manages an average luminance of little more than 500 nits. This means it meets the advertised value, but our two 2017 test devices (especially the non-Touch Bar MBP 13) were even brighter. However, we also see improvements for the brightness distribution as well as the black value (0.33). Black contents appear richer and the contrast ratio was increased as well (>1573:1).

CalMAN Grayscale (target color space P3)
CalMAN Grayscale (target color space P3)
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps (target color space P3)
CalMAN Saturation Sweeps (target color space P3)
CalMAN ColorChecker (target color space P3)
CalMAN ColorChecker (target color space P3)

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Almost full P3 gamut (CalMAN)
Almost full P3 gamut (CalMAN)

The factory calibration is also a bit worse compared to last year, at least compared to the Touch Bar model. However, we are criticizing on a very high level here, because all the deviations (compared to the P3 reference) are already below the important mark of 3. CalMAN determines 99% P3 coverage.

Performance - 4 Cores in the MacBook Pro 13

Apple's compact MacBook Pro 13 Touch Bar always used Intel processors with a nominal TDP of 28 Watts, so they had a performance advantage over almost every other subnotebook equipped with the common 15W CPUs. The integrated eDRAM cache is another advantage for the processor, but primarily for the integrated graphics adapter.

This year we get much more performance in multi-thread scenarios thanks to the new quad-core processors. The two available CPUs are also equipped with twice as much eDRAM cache (128 vs. 64 MB), which should improve the performance even further. Apple's devices are usually pretty good in terms of performance utilization, so we are eager to see the results of the new quad-cores.

The Apple MacBook Pro 13 is powerful enough for almost any requirements thanks to the implementation of a native quad-core CPU. Only the GPU performance can be a bottleneck depending on your applications, but it is possible to use external GPUs. We will have a closer look at this topic in the section GPU Performance below.

Apple finally switched to DDR4-RAM in the bigger 15-inch MacBook Pro, but the smaller 13-inch system is still limited to 16 GB LPDDR3-RAM. LPDDR4 is not supported by Coffee Lake-U, and Apple probably did not want to accept the increased power consumption of DDR4-2400.

Processor – Coffee Lake-U disappoints

Almost all new subnotebooks are shipped with Intel's Kaby Lake Refresh CPUs since the end of 2017. They offer four instead of two CPU cores, which improves the multi-core performance dramatically. Apple follows and surpasses the competition thanks to the implementation of Intel's 28W CPUs. However, they are based on the Coffee Lake architecture (Coffee Lake-U), so it is basically a slower Coffee Lake chips instead of a fast Kaby Lake-R model. They also differ in terms of manufacturing process (14nm++ vs. 14 nm+), and the new process already includes updated micro code against Spectre v2.

Apple offers two different models from the Coffee Lake-U series: the Intel Core i5-8259U as well as the Core i7-8559U (+360 Euros). The only difference is the clock (CPU and iGPU), because both CPUs are quad-cores including Hyperthreading and without vPro support. Our entry-level spec is equipped with the Core i5 with a base frequency of 2.3 GHz and Turbo speeds of up to 3.8 GHz for two cores (3.6 GHz for four cores). The price is an interesting detail. The difference between the two models is "just" $111 US according to Intel. There are obviously differences for every manufacturer, but the additional charge of 360 Euros for the Core i7 is extremely high.

Apple offers two CPUs for the new MacBook Pro 2018 (source: Apple).
Apple offers two CPUs for the new MacBook Pro 2018 (source: Apple).

Apple usually removed the TDP limit for Intel processors, so the temperature was the only limiting factor. This is the case here as well, and we can see consumption values of almost 50 Watts. We noticed that the Kaby Lake-R quad-cores get really hot at clocks of more than 3 GHz during all our reviews, and we were obviously eager to see how Coffee Lake-U with the improved 14nm++ process performs.

The Cinebench R15 Single score is in the expected range, but we were surprised when we saw the Multi score. Based on our experiences with Kaby Lake-R, we expected more than 700 points, but the MBP 13 only manages 608 points (macOS). This means the test model os beaten by system like the Dell XPS 13 or the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Many manufacturers adjust the TDP limits dynamically, so a lot of systems with the common Core i5-8250U are faster than the MacBook Pro 13 2018.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel Core i7-8550U
168 Points ∼100% +9%
Dell XPS 13 9370 i7 UHD
Intel Core i7-8550U
165 Points ∼98% +7%
Asus ZenBook S UX391U
Intel Core i7-8550U (Quiet Mode off)
165 Points ∼98% +7%
Asus ZenBook S UX391U
Intel Core i7-8550U (Quiet Mode on)
108 Points ∼64% -30%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2018 Touchbar i5
Intel Core i5-8259U (macOS)
154 Points ∼92%
Average Intel Core i5-8259U
 
154 Points ∼92% 0%
Huawei Matebook X Pro i5
Intel Core i5-8250U
146 Points ∼87% -5%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2017
Intel Core i5-7360U (macOS)
145 Points ∼86% -6%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2017
Intel Core i5-7360U (Win10)
140 Points ∼83% -9%
Lenovo ThinkPad T480s-20L8S02D00
Intel Core i5-8250U
143 Points ∼85% -7%
Asus Zenbook UX3430UN-GV174T
Intel Core i5-8250U
143 Points ∼85% -7%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2017 Touchbar i5
Intel Core i5-7267U (OSX)
141 Points ∼84% -8%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (20 - 169, n=222)
110 Points ∼65% -29%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Lenovo ThinkPad T480s-20L8S02D00
Intel Core i5-8250U
724 Points ∼100% +5%
Lenovo ThinkPad T480s-20L8S02D00
Intel Core i5-8250U (undervolted)
716 Points ∼99% +4%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel Core i7-8550U (undervolted)
708 Points ∼98% +3%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel Core i7-8550U
648 Points ∼90% -6%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2018 Touchbar i5
Intel Core i5-8259U (macOS Software Update)
687 Points ∼95%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2018 Touchbar i5
Intel Core i5-8259U (macOS)
608 Points ∼84% -11%
Average Intel Core i5-8259U
  (608 - 687, n=2)
648 Points ∼90% -6%
Dell XPS 13 9370 i7 UHD
Intel Core i7-8550U
639 Points ∼88% -7%
Asus ZenBook S UX391U
Intel Core i7-8550U (Quiet Mode off)
602 Points ∼83% -12%
Asus ZenBook S UX391U
Intel Core i7-8550U (Quiet Mode on)
301 Points ∼42% -56%
Asus Zenbook UX3430UN-GV174T
Intel Core i5-8250U
596 Points ∼82% -13%
Huawei Matebook X Pro i5
Intel Core i5-8250U
516 Points ∼71% -25%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2017 Touchbar i5
Intel Core i5-7267U (OSX)
383 (min: 377, max: 385) Points ∼53% -44%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2017
Intel Core i5-7360U (macOS)
362 Points ∼50% -47%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2017
Intel Core i5-7360U (Win10)
346 Points ∼48% -50%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (32 - 721, n=229)
299 Points ∼41% -56%

So how is this possible? We observed the clocks and the power consumption of the processor with the tool Intel Power Gadget (macOS). The following screenshot shows the behavior of the CPU during a single CB R15 Multi run. The processor starts with the full 3.6 GHz for about 5 seconds, which corresponds with a consumption of 48-49W. The cooling solution is quickly overpowered and the CPU hits 100 °C, which results in a clock reduction. The consumption fluctuates heavily between after that (between 20-40W), which obviously impacts the clocks. And we are talking about one single run of the Multi test.

Cinebench R15 Multi (macOS)
Cinebench R15 Multi (macOS)

Even this performance level cannot be maintained due to the high temperatures. The score levels off at about 580 points during our Cinebench Multi loop, another 5% compared to the original score. We will repeat the Cinebench loop with Windows where we can use more comprehensive monitoring tools to see average values for the clocks, the temperatures, and the consumption.

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Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64-bit macOS Red: Factory settings; Yellow: After software update

We are extremely surprised by the supposedly bad efficiency of the Coffee Lake-U processor. We tested the Kaby Lake-R quad-cores extensively over the last couple of months, because they are shipped in almost every subnotebook. The standard Core i5-8250U in the ThinkPad T480s is a good example, because the performance is only limited by the temperature (similar to the MBP 13). It runs at a steady clock of 3.4 GHz at a consumption of about 30W (so even a bit less than the new MBP 13) and scores more than 700 points, so it is 20% faster (!). The high consumption of 48-49W at the full 3.6 GHz is strange as well when we compare it with Kaby Lake-R. The Core i7-8550U, which reaches up to 3.7 GHz for all four cores (100 MHz more than our MBP 13) "only" consumes 41-43 Watts.

We will investigate further, but it seems Coffee Lake-U is just not as efficient as Kaby Lake-R. This is obviously not just Apple's problem, but Intel is to blame as well. This begs the question why the new 28W models are not based on Kaby Lake-R. All in all, the new MacBook Pro 13 is faster than the old previous 2017 model, but some Windows devices are faster with supposedly slower CPUs. The advantage of the optional Core i7 should be very small, and it might even be slower than the i5 due to higher temperatures (especially under sustained workloads.

Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
154 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
687 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
33.91 fps
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.3 %
Help

GPU Performance

The integrated graphics adapter of the Apple laptop is a familiar solution, because the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 is just a regular Iris Plus Graphics 650 with more L4 cache (128 MB vs. 64 MB RAM). It is still the GT3e model of the Kaby Lake GPU, which reaches a maximum core clock of 1050 MHz in combination with the Core i5-8259U. The optional Core i7 manages a GPU clock of up to 1200 MHz. More technical information about the Iris Plus Graphics 655 is available here.

Thunderbolt solutions, which are natively supported by the current macOS, are interesting if you need more GPU performance. There should not be any significant CPU limitations thanks to the new quad-core processors. Apple sells a Thunderbolt eGPU from BlackMagic with a Radeon Pro 580, for example. We will receive a similar solution from Gigabyte (RX580 Gaming Box) soon and test it with the new MacBooks as well.

First Impressions - MacBook Pro 13 2018 falls short of expectations

In review: Apple MacBook 13 Touch Bar 2018
In review: Apple MacBook 13 Touch Bar 2018

The support for the TrueTone feature is certainly a nice addition, but the most important component of the 2018 MBP 13 update is the new quad-core processor. The results after our initial benchmarks are, however, sobering and fall short of our expectations. The Coffee Lake-U chip consumes more power than Kaby Lake-R CPUs and the MacBook Pro 13 hits the temperature limit of the CPU after a couple of seconds. The performance advantage seems to be limited to the integrated graphics adapter, but we will check that thoroughly over the next couple of days.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Apple MacBook Pro 13 2018 (Touch Bar, i5) Laptop Review
J. Simon Leitner, Andreas Osthoff, 2018-07-18 (Update: 2018-07-25)
Andreas Osthoff
Andreas Osthoff - Senior Editor Business
I grew up with computers and modern consumer electronics. I am interested in the technology since I had my first computer, a Commodore C64, and started building my own PCs after that. My focus here at Notebookcheck is the business segment including mobile workstations, but I also like to test new mobile devices. It is always a great experience to review and compare new products. My free time is filled with a lot of sports, in the summer mainly on my bike.