Apple Finally Updates 15″ MacBook Pro w/ Force Touch; 5K iMac Gets Price Cut

At its unveil event for its smartwatch wearable Apple, Inc. (AAPL) refreshed its laptop PC line by reviving the Macbook w/ a new 12-inch netbook-like ultrathin.  It also refreshed the existing 13-inch Macbook Pro to have Force Touch.  It also added Intel Corp. (INTC) Broadwell CPUs to the 13-inch MacBook Pro and assorted MacBook Air models.  But left out of the party was the 15-inch MacBook Pro model.

Yesterday Apple rectified that by refreshing the 15 inch MacBook Pro model to include the new Force Touch trackpad.  It also made other improvements to the 15 inch MacBook Pro.  While the storage capacity stays the same, the speed of the SSD is bumped 2.5x (I’m assuming that’s read speed) for a claimed 2 Gbps throughput.

Also improved is the battery.  Apple estimates that the refreshed model will get an extra hour of battery life to bring the estimated iTunes video playback battery life to 9 hours.  It also adds in faster quad-core processors, although it’s important to note that these are fourth-generation i-Series Haswell (22 nm) chips, not the newest 14 nm Broadwell chips that are in the 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro model.  That’s to be expected, though, as Intel has yet to make quad-core 14 nm parts widely available.

And the high end $2499 USD 15-inch MacBook Pro model gets a graphical refresh to Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s (AMD) Radeon R9 M370X, which Apple estimates to be 80 percent faster than the aging NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) Geforce mobile GPU model it had been using.  This R9 M370X configuration comes with 2 GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory, so you don’t have to worry about the GPU eating up part of the 16 GB of onboard DDR3L memory.

It’s worth noting that this is a brand new AMD mobile GPU that previously had only been spotted in benchmark leaks.  It’s believed to be based on the Strato XT chip.  Benchmarks showed its synthetic performance to be just shy of last generation’s top model — the R9 M295X — and nearly twice the raw power of its immediate predecessor the R9 M270X.

In addition to refresh to the 15-inch MacBook Pro, Apple also slashed $200 off the price of the iMac w/ 5K display, to bring the price to $2299.  It also introduced a $1999 a slightly trimmed down 5K iMac model, which may be a psychologically significant price point for some consumers.

The cheaper 5K iMac comes with an AMD Radeon R9 M290 versus the R9 M290X GPU in the pricier model.  It’s unclear whether this is a lower end variant of the M290X or if Apple’s website merely has a typo.  The fact that the press release also reads “M290” suggests this is some trimmed down variant from AMD.  No official information is listed about it on the site for the mobile Radeon family.  

It also comes with a 200 MHz slower Haswell quad-core chip (3.5 GHz for the low end model vs. 3.7 GHz for the pricier SKU).  The lower end model also swaps the 1 TB hybrid flash/disk SSD (“Fusion drive”) for a standard 1 TB mechanical HDD.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s worldwide marketing SVP, feted the new and upgraded computers, commenting in a press release:
The response to the new MacBook and updated 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has been amazing, and today we are thrilled to bring the new Force Touch trackpad, faster flash storage and longer battery life to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.  Customers love the groundbreaking iMac with Retina 5K display, and now with a new lower starting price, even more people can experience the best desktop we’ve ever made.
The new models are available online and at Apple’s retail stores.