Apple today announced their refreshes of two of their products aimed at professionals and consumers who just like good hardware – they are the new 2015 Macbook Pro 15 with Retina display, and the iMac 27-inch lineup, now separated into a base and a high-end model. Along with the refreshed hardware, the base iMac 27-inch comes with a much cheaper entry price and both iMac models now have UltraHD 5K displays as standard. Interested? Hit the jump to learn more.
We’ll start with the Macbook Pro 15, since that’s what most people in the market for a high-end, professional-grade notebook will be looking at. The 2015 models are only slightly upgraded as far as processors and memory defaults go, with both the base and high-end models offering the exact same Core i7 processors with Intel Iris Pro HD6200 graphics and 16GB of DDR3-L memory (soldered into the motherboard). Apple still includes the LED-backlit IPS 15-inch 2880 x 1800 display, which OS X pixel-doubles, bringing the desktop resolution down to an effective 1440 x 900 resolution display area. However, OS X does this whole scaling thing rather intelligently, so it is possible to get more desktop space by tweaking the scaling settings.
There are some benefits to the 2015 model over the 2014 models, though. Battery life is extended thanks to a slightly larger battery (which also increases the notebook’s weight), but that’s a welcome improvement in any case. Graphics also gets quite an upgrade, with the high-end model ditching Nvidia’s Geforce GT 750M for AMD’s brand new Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. There’s not a whole lot of information at this point available about this GPU, but it is probably a mobile version of AMD’s Tonga family, which the desktop R9 285 belongs to.
There’s also hints that this is a semi-custom version of the card as well. In the official specifications for the Macbook Pro 2015 lineup, Apple notes that the R9 M370X has automatic graphics switching with the Iris Pro GPU. This would be the first time that AMD’s Enduro switching technology has been updated to support Intel’s Haswell graphics, so that’s a major change there. Under the specifications for the video outputs, the maximum resolution for the Thunderbolt 2 port is 5120 x 2160 at 60Hz, which also means that Apple is getting ready to sell a 5K Cinema display in the future.
Storage performance also gets a boost, moving to PCI-E x4 lanes instead of x2 in the 2014 models. If these drives use the NVME protocol instead of AHCI, one can expect a 2x speed increase over the previous generation of flash memory. If the 2015 refresh is anything like the 2014 model, the SSD will use the M.2 form factor and can be replaced with any other compatible SSD of any size. There are 2TB versions of M.2 drives out there, but they are ludicrously expensive.
On the iMac side of things, the 27-inch base model is looking pretty good. The $1999 price point forces a drop on the unit’s performance overall. The processor drops to the Core i5-4590, with a base clock of 3.3GHz, a boost clock of 3.7GHz and a TDP of 84 Watts. It is joined by AMD’s Radeon R9 M290, which doesn’t seem to exist outside of Apple’s specifications table. There’s no entry on AMD’s website for this particular GPU, so this could be another semi-custom design specifically made at Apple’s request, or a lower-clocked R9 M290X, or this could be a typo and it is really a Radeon R9 M280.
Storage performance also takes a dive here, dropping from a 1TB Apple Fusion drive (a 1TB drive with a SSD cache) to a regular 1TB 7200RPM 3.5-inch spinny disk. This isn’t awesome performance by any stretch of the imagination, so I can see quite a few enthusiasts doing a custom order for this machine and specifying a 256GB of 512GB SSD instead. You can do the upgrade yourself, but it does void the warranty.
Its pretty neat to see Apple go for AMD’s graphics once again and that gives me hope, personally, that they’ll be the first company to embrace AMD’s products when they start including high-bandwidth memory (HBM) on them.