23 July 2018

The world’s shortest review of the 15-inch 2018 MBP

I just upgraded from a 2015 Retina MacBook Pro to the new 6-core 2018 model.

I had a lot of trepidation about upgrading, considering all the reviews trashing the “butterfly” keyboard since its introduction (Marco Arment went so far as to say the my old 2015 MBP might never be surpassed), plus the recent FUD surrounding thermal throttling in the 6-core model. (Edit: Apparently throttling has been fixed.)

Here are my thoughts on the change, obviously taken from the perspective of using this for full-time software development:

  • Oh my God, the power. I will never buy another laptop with fewer than 6 cores. The only metric I care about: full recompile times on X-Plane’s large C++ project dropped by about 40% compared to the 2015 model. (!!!)
  • Complaints about thermal throttling are massively overblown (probably subject to specific CPU+GPU-intensive workloads). I benchmarked 10 recompiles in a row and didn’t see any throttling.
  • The level of hardware engineering here is still unparalleled. It’s thinner than the 2015 model, prettier, and may have better battery life. (An apples-to-apples comparison with my 2015 model is no longer possible, of course.)
    • Related: The screen is (unbelievably) both easier to open with one hand and more stable when open. (Nothing irritates me more than a laptop’s screen shaking as I use it.)
  • USB-C is both great and terrible. (Charge from any port? Fantastic! Need an adapter for “old” USB? Ugh.) Obviously this will alleviate itself over time as more stuff goes “natively” USB-C. I may end up buying a Lightning-to-USB-C cable so that my phone can use the same power adapter as the laptop, which would be nice. For now, this travel-sized hub helps a lot.
  • The über-polarizing keyboard takes some getting used to, but I like it. (Which surprised me, because based on reviews, I expected to either love it or hate it.)
  • The Touch Bar is a useless gimmick if you’re the kind of person who obsessively memorizes keyboard shortcuts (which I am!). I’d much rather have a physical Escape key, but remapping Caps Lock to Escape works fine.
  • Touch ID on the keyboard is “just” fine. I use it, but I wouldn’t miss it if it weren’t there.
  • The oversized trackpad is also “just” fine. It’s smart enough not to be activated by resting my palms on it when typing, but having to go alllllllll the way to the lower right to activate a right-click is a bit annoying.

Overall, it’s still the best laptop I’ve ever owned, hands down—just like my 2015 model was when I bought it.