The 15″ MacBook Pro 5 999 € said the future MacBook Pro 16″

The rumour is clear : Apple will introduce a new MacBook Pro 16″ before the end of the year. We do not, we are risking not to draw the portrait-robot of this machine of which we know nothing, but we can probably draw it in a hollow. In the same way as the new Mac Pro “cheese-grater” responds to criticism directed against the old Mac Pro ” trash “, this future MacBook Pro 16” will likely to be criticism directed against the current 15″MacBook Pro.

However, we have spent two weeks with the MacBook Pro 15″ ” all options “, a dream of geek with a processor Intel Core i9 able to reach 5 GHz and a graphic card AMD Radeon Pro Vega 16 with 4 Gb of memory HBM2, a real Mac Pro laptop which is worth 5 999 € with its SSD 4 Tb. This is obviously the laptop, the most powerful of the range, but also the most frustrating, who suffers from crippling defects.

The problem of the heat release

The Intel Core i9 “series -” not enough for you, even though it is the first chip octacœur in a Mac laptop, of which the frequency can go up to 4.8 GHz ? Well add 220 €, and you will get the intel Core i9-9980HK, the chip is “mobile” the most powerful of the catalogue of Intel. In the jargon of the founder of Santa Clara, the suffix ” H ” refers to the chips in the circuit graph ” high-performance “, in this case a Intel core UHD 630 clocked at 1.25 GHz, while the ” K ” refers to the chips that are unlocked, that is to say, those that can overclock.

This last letter is the only difference between this processor is optional, and the serial number… but the functions ofoverclocking is not available on Mac. What good is choose this chip, then ? The processors that receive the suffix ” K ” are chosen among the most fastest and more stable from one production batch. With 100 MHz extra core and 200 MHz at a peak, the Core i9-9980KH is 4 % faster than the Core i9-9900H. Up to you to see if it is worth 220 €.

A test Geekbench CPU, which gives a good idea of general performance, both in tasks that require a single heart and in tasks exploiting all of the cores.

Things are more clear-cut on the map graphic : AMD Radeon Pro 555X/560X series do not play in the same category as the AMD Radeon Pro Vega 16/20 optional. These are equipped with memory HMB2, seven times faster than the GDDR5 memory of the first. These mobile versions of the cards Vega 56/64 iMac Pro are tailored for the scientific calculation, the 3D composition, the creation of content for VR, and more generally GPGPU applications.

But there is a — big — but. With a “dumb” processor Core i7-9750H and a “simple” graphics card AMD Radeon Pro, 555X, MacBook Pro 15″ just to keep pace. With components even more powerful, it collapses under the effort. Oh, the cooling system stands up well to the heat of the processor, which can run for hours at a time between 2.3 GHz on all of the sixteen cores logical and 4.4 to 5 GHz on a pair of cores, even when the air conditioning struggling to maintain our offices below 27 °C.

A test Geekbench Metal, which gives a good idea of the graphics performance, particularly in the uses of GPGPU more general interest.

But it takes a shot of hot as soon as the graphics card turns on. After only a few seconds, the internal temperature affects the fateful bar of 100 °C, and the system must immediately lower the frequency of the components. The series models use this measure for throttling aggressively, to limit the speed of fans, Apple is focusing on the silence to performance.

This model custom made work of its fans, but they never manage to hold the temperature at a level that would allow a gradual increase of the frequency of the components. To this plan yet restrained, the battery will not hold a lot more than an hour. Gold to get the best performance, in particular on the graphic plan it is necessary to connect the machine. In short, it would be necessary to speak of a “Mac Pro transportable” more than a ” Mac Pro laptop “, a comparison all the more fair that the Mac Pro barely also to cool the graphics cards.

A machine that is thicker… and more expensive

Thus begins our portrait in the hollow of the MacBook Pro 16″. Incredibly sophisticated but deeply flawed, the 15″ MacBook Pro is also frustrating that the Mac Pro was. The new Mac Pro is designed to respond specifically to the criticisms, and one can imagine that the same logic is at work to justify the design of this new machine with a screen size ever used by Apple. The other computers in the range, and more broadly the major trends in the industry, can show the way.

The iMac Pro, and even the future Mac Pro, have huge radiators. The MacBook Pro 16″ will not be able to accommodate the same blocks of solid metal, but will have probably a more advanced system than the 15″ MacBook Pro, a small pipe connected to two fans. Intel has enjoyed some success with his system of ” cooling hyperbaric “. The fans and the chips are placed in a sealed chamber, whose pressure is higher than ambient pressure by the addition of fresh air, which hunting the hot air to the outside.

The guts of the 15″ MacBook Pro. Image iFixit (CC BY-NC-SA).

Thanks to this system, the first HP Spectrum shipping the processors in the MacBook Air in a chassis comparable to that of the MacBook. For the moment, however, it has never been used to cool processors and especially graphics cards — as powerful as those of the MacBook Pro. If we do not doubt the ability of Apple to make it better without making it thicker, it is difficult to imagine a machine more fine. Despite his immense steam chamber, the Razer Blade 15 heater box, even though its profile exceeds that of the MacBook Pro of 5 mm.

These few extra millimeters to allow Razer can fit a graphics card as powerful as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q with 8 Gb of VRAM GDDR6. Thinner than the Razer Blade, but thicker than the MacBook Pro, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 embeds an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 Gb of VRAM GDDR5. It would be surprising that Apple transforms the MacBook Pro into the tank with components desktop, in the manner of the Alienware Area-51m, but also that it does normalize not cards AMD Radeon Pro Vega on this machine, which should oversee the range.

The cooling system on the Razer Blade 15. Image Razer.

This ends up in pushing for a cooling system as effective, but that involves a bill in excess of towards the 3 000 €. This would have the merit of being clear : the MacBook Pro 16″ would be the other MacBook Pro the iMac Pro is the iMac, a machine that extends the range to the top. This new MacBook Pro would also be unaffordable, as the Mac Pro, but also clearly defined and sharply specialized.

A machine is modular for better maintenance ?

A more insidious problem, but even more important than that of the cooling is that of maintenance. It should, of course, to refer to the case of the keyboard mechanisms ” butterfly “. The MacBook Pro 15” 2019 has the honour of being one of the few brand new machines that are already integrated in an exchange program ! The analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the reliability of which is not to be demonstrated, ensures that the next portable will return to the mechanisms of the chisel, the reliability of which is to demonstrate not more.

But more broadly, the recent recall program is a series of batteries shows the problems posed by the design of the MacBook Pro. The slightest glitch will cause an immobilization of the machine for several days to several weeks, without replacement, of the abysmal conditions for a machine that is professional. What a contrast with HP, which machines are among the most modular on the market ! The battery of theEliteBook 840 G6, a computer barely thicker than the MacBook Pro, can be changed in less than five minutes.

The battery, the RAM, and the SSD HP EliteBook 840 G6 can be removed in a few minutes. As on the old MacBook Pro. Image iFixit (CC BY-NC-SA).

As his modules of RAM and SSD, also, the removal of the keyboard and trackpad require a few additional minutes. The MacBook Pro in the mid-2000s show that Apple is capable of doing so, and the MacBook is able to do so without sacrificing the finesse nor the integration. This machine is the only one whose battery was attached to the lower cap, and could be exchanged in a few minutes.

After a detour through the memory chips LPDDR3 soldered, Apple is returned to the memory modules DDR4. Will return it to the arrays of SSD ? The argument of better integration for a better speed no longer holds, since the SSD of the iMac Pro is the fastest of the range, so that it takes the form of a module detachable. Apple has found the solution to reconcile modularity and speed : just deport the controller NVMe on the motherboard.

Manufacturers of laptop professionals have widely adopted graphics cards in the format MXM (Mobile PCI-Express Module), which ensures a certain modularity, or at least allows you to replace a defective component. And if Apple conceived of a mobile version of the modules MPX of the Mac Pro ? This could help drawing parallels between the two machines, to define a range resolutely professional, expensive but very flexible.

To regain the confidence of the pros

The challenge is simple : to regain the confidence of professionals. Borders are thinner around the screen or a button to the left of the Touch Bar will probably be well-received, but will not be sufficient. Apple may not resolve deep issues with superficial adjustment. The Mac Pro shown in the example : in responding to criticism without detour, he was able to convince users who were the Apple to the gemonies, even though we do not know much yet of this machine (read : WWDC 2019 : Apple prepares for the era of ” post iPhone “).

The 17″ MacBook Pro had its fans (I’m one of them), although because it was a machine out of proportion, overly reasonable for its limited clientele. The MacBook Pro 16″ could resume its role as a flagship, truly designed as a work station portable, and not as a piece of jewelry terribly compromised. A new step in the great work of the reconquest of the pros.