Apple’s largest notebook gained a Force Touch trackpad and a speed bump in mid-2015, and the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is now offered in 2.2GHz and 2.5GHz models (there’s a build-to-order 2.8GHz option, too).
As you’d expect from the ‘big’ MacBook Pro, you get a stunning Retina display, which looks fantastic, and a Core i7 processor that delivers excellent performance when stacked up against the Retina 5K iMac.
Unlike the recently-released 13-inch MacBook Pro, there’s no generational upgrade to the CPU. Here you get last year’s 22nm Haswell processors rather than the even more power-efficient 14nm Broadwell of the 13-inch version (although that model is limited by having a dual-core i5 processor).
This is an odd decision in light of CPU developments, so maybe we’ll see the 15-inch models leap straight to Intel’s Skylake architecture – but that’s likely to be at least a year away. So, it’s easy to be forgiven if you think this all sounds underwhelming and a little underdeveloped for something that should have moved on after almost a year.
But it’s not the whole story by any means. We looked at the 2.2GHz version only, so couldn’t test the new AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics, but we were very pleased when comparing its benchmark results against the 2.5GHz version from last year, which had a discrete graphics processor in the form of an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M with 2GB GDDR5 memory. This new model’s graphics benchmarks are down on last year’s 2.5GHz model, which you’d expect given its Intel Iris Pro GPU.
For example, frames per second in Unigine Heaven 4.0 were down from 11 to 7.5, but in our Arkham City tests, the frame rate was slightly up from 46 to 49, yet down a fraction at 19 rather than 23 when running at the display’s native resolution.
Elsewhere there are some clear wins. Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test brings to the fore Apple’s claim that the flash storage in this new model is up to 2.5 times faster, delivering sequential read speeds of up to 2.0GBps (we recorded nearly 1.8). Write speeds were in the region of 1.2 times faster – still very pleasing.
CPU performance was also not far from last year’s 2.5GHz model, only really losing out on single-core performance. As for battery life, we gained an extra hour in our streaming test, which is not to be sniffed at. All this adds up to a machine that’s been slightly tweaked to eke out every last bit of performance from components that are looking a little aged.
It seems like this MacBook hasn’t really moved on, but tiny tweaks ensure it’s still a great machine. After all, the mid-2015 model can't be considered ot innovative by Apple’s standards, but the largest of Apple’s notebooks is still a stunning Mac and a total powerhouse in general.
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