15-inch MacBook Pro – Performance
This is the only MacBook that comes equipped with a quad-core CPU, significantly increasing your options when it comes to multimedia work. The dual-core 13-inch Pros are hardly slouches and can manage photo editing and Full HD video editing just fine, but the extra cores here make a significant difference.
Related: Intel Core i processors explained
The chip is the Intel Core i7-6700HQ, which clocks all the way up to 3.5GHz. More powerful options are available if you customise your order on Apple’s website, all the way up to a model that tops out at 3.8GHz.
The i7-6700HQ is a year behind the 7700HQ in the Dell XPS 15, but it still puts in a great performance, not least due to the ridiculously fast NVMe SSD that comes as standard.
TrustedReviews only uses one cross-platform benchmark in its suite, but it’s easy to compare the Dell XPS 15 with the MacBook Pro in Geekbench 4: the MacBook Pro managed single- and multi-core scores of 4168 and 12,400, while the XPS 15 managed 4327 and 13,259. They’re minor differences, but that multi-core score will make a difference in video rendering tasks. Elsewhere, the differences are minor, and I’d even go as far as to say the butter-smooth macOS will help the Pro feel faster in non-intensive use.
Graphics power comes in the form of AMD’s Radeon Pro 450, which is accompanied by 2GB of memory. It’s a handy chip for accelerating workloads in 3D applications and special effects in video editing software. However, its benefit in AAA games will be somewhat limited; even trying the ageing Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor benchmark at medium resulted in a choppy 27fps at just under Full HD resolution. eSports titles such as Counter-Strike will be just fine.
It is possible to upgrade your GPU to a Radeon Pro 455 or 460, with the latter shipping with 4GB of memory. The desktop RX 460 is, again, a decent chip for eSports but will struggle to play the latest games at maximum resolution.
If gaming is something you really want to do, consider the Dell XPS 15 and its much more powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050.
15-inch MacBook Pro – Battery Life
Battery life is the one area of this device to have caused controversy over the past few months. This has mostly been down to the high expectations of owners of older MacBook Pro models, who have been forced to downgrade battery life in favour of the lower weight, but also due to software issues that appear to have been mostly fixed. In comparison to older models, the six or so hours you can get of non-stop online work isn’t a big problem, although the big-battery Dell XPS 15 will go a bit longer if you’re careful.
In our cross-platform Netflix benchmark, playing an hour of Netflix consumed 20% of the battery, pointing to around five hours of playback at about half brightness.
I can see why owners of older models might be upset, but the trade-offs – for what is a desktop replacement, in my opinion – are worth it.
Should I buy the 15-inch MacBook Pro?
The 15-inch MacBook Pro is the most technologically advanced of all of Apple’s devices, and the most up-to-date as well. You pay a huge amount for its unique talents: the screen, the ThunderBolt ports, the keyboard, the build quality and the software to name but a few. And compared to the Dell XPS 15, the top-spec model of which barely touches the bottom-spec 15-inch MacBook Pro, it doesn’t look like great value in terms of performance.
But it still can’t really touch it in most other areas. If you – or your business – are willing to pay for it, this is the ultimate pro laptop. If not, there are plenty of options on the Windows side for you to try: the oft-mentioned Dell XPS 15, the Razer Blade and the Gigabyte Aero 14 and 15 are all great alternatives offering heaps of power.
Also consider the outlandish Microsoft Surface Book for portability and graphics performance, although you’ll sacrifice a couple of CPU cores for your troubles.
Apple is expected to unveil an updated MacBook Pro line-up in June, so if you can wait, you should as you’ll likely get better specs for the same money, or get the 2016 model on a slight discount.
Amazing design for which you pay a huge premium.