MacBook Pro 15 (2016) With AMD Radeon Pro Vs. Dell XPS 15 (2017) Nvidia GTX 1050: Reviewers’ Take
The latest AMD Radeon Pro GPU is a good fit for the slimmer MacBook Pro. But how do reviewers think it stacks up? I asked two.
Apple states in the MacBook Pro late 2016 press release that the new MBP 15 “features powerful Radeon Pro discrete graphics delivering up to 2.3 times more performance than the previous [AMD R9 M370X] generation.” Is that enough against competition like Dell’s XPS 15 (early 2017) with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050?
(Note that I use both the late 2016 MacBook Pro 15 and early 2017 Dell XPS 15. I’ll attach my thoughts at the bottom.)
Lisa Gade, founder and editor in chief of MobileTechReview.
Nvidia 10 series is a huge leap: “The graphics story is a sad one if you’re a Mac person. The AMD 450 Pro is closer to the old GTX 950M to 960M,” Gade told me in an email, referring to the $2,400 MBP 15 model ($2,399) that has a Radeon Pro 450 with 2GB memory. “Given the huge leap in performance for Nvidia 10 series cards, even the tepid GTX 1050 is significantly faster than the AMD 450: 30% to 50% faster,” she said.
“In fact, though the AMD 460 Pro offers a significant jump in performance over the 450, it’s still a bit slower than the GTX 1050,” she said, referring to the custom-order MBP 15 model that’s $2,600 ($2,599) with the Radeon Pro 460 with 4GB memory.
MacBook Pro’s Radeon Pro suits its design: Gade gave a more in-depth assessment in a review of the MBP 15 and the Radeon 450, 455 and 460 GPUs that are available on the MBP 15. “These are low power dedicated GPUs and they generate less heat and consume less power than higher performance cards like the Nvidia GTX 1060. We suspect that’s why Apple chose AMD since thin and light were more important for this redesign than performance improvements.”
“Also, these AMD cards support 5K monitors, and Apple sees that as an important marketing point vs. PCs that typically stop at 4K resolution. In fact, the 15 [inch] MacBook Pro can drive two 5K monitors…Our AMD 450 outperformed the AMD R9 M370X in our last generation Mac, though not by a wide margin. It’s enough of a bump to net you 5-8 fps more in games like Tomb Raider…The Radeon 450 performs almost as well as the last generation Nvidia GTX 960M used in the Dell XPS 15. The higher end AMD cards will do even better, though the AMD 460 still falls well short of the old GTX 970M and even farther behind Nvidia’s current generation 10 Series cards for laptops.”
See Gade’s review of the of the XPS 15 9560 here.
Gordon Ung, Executive Editor at PC World:
In comparing the Radeon Pro 450 with GTX 1050, Ung dropped an Enter The Dragon analogy. “The Mac Book Pro plays O’Hara and all kinds of 1970s ass kicking happens with the XPS 15 playing Bruce Lee. I’m talking OpenGL, OpenCL and gaming-on-gaming, fist and foot in face action,” he said.
He continued. “When the Macbook Pro 15 came out I actually heard a groan in the galaxy…frustration at Apple again not actually addressing the pro users needs. And what do pro users need? Performance above all. That’s really what sets the casual users apart from the professional user. And by the way, gamers also need performance too.
“However, battery life on the Macbook Pro 15 is…awesome for a quad-core, 15-inch laptop which is funny because it’s the one thing Mac users hate about the Macbook Pro,” he said.
Additional thoughts (per my own experience with both the late 2016 MBP 15 and early 2017 XPS 15):
I have a feeling I may be in the minority but I like what Apple has done. Though I don’t obsess about GPU performance, I like the horsepower that Apple has squeezed into its 4-pound 15-inch laptop — however slightly comprised (because of thermals) and pricey that horsepower may be. It’s incredibly hard to pack a quad-core Intel processor (2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ 6th gen “Skylake”) and discrete AMD graphics into a high-quality 0.6-inch thick, 4-pound laptop (those pesky heat issues can ruin lesser thin-and-light designs). So, I’m grateful for what Apple has done. I value the portability (a lot) because I’m often on the road.
On the other hand, Dell has also done an amazing job of getting the Core i7-7700HQ 7th gen Kaby Lake processor, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB GDDR5, a 512GB SSD, and a massive 97WHr battery into a 4.5 pound, 0.66-inch thick laptop with an 15.6” 4K UHD (3,840-by-2160) InfinityEdge touch display for a relatively low price of about $2,070 versus a starting price of $2,400 for the MacBook Pro 15.
I’ll let the reader decide which wins the day.