New MacBook Pro 15 - which CPU + GPU upgrade or not for Rhino for Mac?

Does anyone have recommendations regarding the CPU + GPU options when buying the current gen MacBook Pro 15"?

CPU i7 vs i9 option:
Usually I max out the CPU + RAM, have a reasonable SSD size with the MBP but I am reading a lot of negative press about the MBP not really being able to make use of the i9 as of heat management issues - so bad in fact that due to throttling the actual performance is not better than it’s base i8 CPU option.

base model:
2.6GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz
2.9GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i9 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz + $300.00

GPU option:
Do these 2 GPU options make ANY sense for Rhino at all in performance + temperature management?

base model:
Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory

Radeon Pro Vega 16 with 4GB of HBM2 memory + $250.00
Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory + $350.00

I do not use any other software that would make use of the GPU upgrade - does Rhino benefit from these or is this money wasted?

Is there any word on reliability differences between the different GPU options (I was unfortunate enough to have had fried GPUs in past MBP generations and rather avoid that if one option is said to be more reliable than others) ?

all my input is based on online research and observation. i still own and run a mid 2009 macbook pro.

the i9 option seems to be as you also say, not worth the bucks. thermal throttling is mentioned very often. if i would buy another macbook pro right now i would get an i7 and use the rest of the money somewhere else.

i created a topic regarding ARM as a future alternative processor which would put aside this thermal issues, in case you are interested in what “could” happen at apple.

regarding graphics card i would go for the fastest available and even the vega 20 seems just ok enough, anything below would just be even slower. @nathanletwory can tell you probably a bit more if it makes sense and how much of the GPU is being used for Cycles for instance.

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On paper the Vega 20 looks good indeed. At least it is much better than the ntel Iris Plus Graphics 650 in my MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017), as the Raytraced mode in Rhino WIP (v6 to-be) can utilize it for the rendering. Alas I have no further experience with such niceties on MBPs, limited to the i5 and Intel 650…

I use a 2016 quad core i7 with the radeon 460 and for the most things it is enough also on my 5k lg display rhino runs fine (specially the 6wip with the new gpu „pipelines“). Okay the rendered viewport is a little bit laggy but it is still workabil. If you often use a fixed desktop place to work think about an epu solution. -less money (most cases) for a lot more gpu power. The thunderbolt3 connection is great for egpus

Thanks for the input guys.

I am still on a fully maxed out BTO mid '15 MacBook Pro:


For Rhino 5 for Mac it works mostly ok (I am using a 4K Eizo at my work station and have both this MBP and a current MacPro 6core hooked to the screen).
The only time when my current MBP and Rhino suffers is when working in complex models in surface mode and of course when running rendered mode (which I rarely ever do for work).

I rarely use the MacPro for this work though as it is way more convenient to run all work through the MBP and be able to take it and run.

Unfortunately this MBP just develops a swollen battery so I ordered a replacement and will have it completely refurbished once the new machine is up and running.

I ended up with a fully maxed out option except for the STUPIDLY expensive 4TB SSD (I only went for the more reasonable 2TB option).

I decided for the biggest GPU as the tests in rendering speeds I have seen are quite revealing - the difference over the basic 560 option is astonishing.

I also see that the port bandwidth is now ~double that of my current machine which will even allow to finally get a second 4K Eizo (it took me a long time to get used to work on a single monitor).
The new machine apparently can run 2x 4K screens - I hope this means it can do so at 60Hz and not only maxes out at 30Hz as the MacPro (Apple conveniently keeps that a secret in their marketing material).

I opted for the i9 although it does never seem to reach its full potential in the sleek, compact MBP shell but reports state that it does perform to a higher performance when opting for the biggest Vega GPU option (people seem to suggest that that GPU probably runs less hot, hence the CPU needing less throttling in return).

In the past I have always maxed out my MBP as I tend to run them over two upgrade cycles for ~3 years and rather like the added performance.

This time around though the markup for the biggest SSD option is OUTRAGIOUS in my opinion.
I still see the whole spinning drive to SSD evolution being utilized greatly by the manufacturers and vendors to properly increase margins at the cost of end users.

The whole SSD soldered to the PCB affair is just EXACTLY THAT a scam - I loved that last gen aluminium MacBook Pro 15" a couple of generations ago - everything was user upgradable, drives, ram, proper extension port, replaceable battery. I hope we will see MacBook PRO machines again made for actual use as working machines at some point opposed to the latest Latte Macchiato accessory these computers have sadly deteriorated to.

just out of curiosity but also questioning the idea of economical work equipment. do you really need that kind or resolution to work with cad? if you are photographer or a film maker no doubt one can profit from higher resolutions, but when it comes to CAD, i have a 32" screen with 2560 x 1440 and that seriously is big enough to fill up my workplace. and eh you still can zoom in and out in less than an eye blink so that cant be an issue. constantly having 4 k firing out from the graphics card also just uses a lot of processing power/energy.

to compare, with my mid 2009 macbook pro with NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT 512 MB i still can work pretty well, also in larger set ups. in shaded mode it can of course become challenging but Rhino offers SetObjectDisplayMode, using this with a shortcut i can quickly switch the entire screen except the model i am working on to wireframe. that is sufficient.

more resolution more power, really is not necessary for plane modelling IMVHO. of course if you render then go for some faster stuff, but 4 K makes no sense to me and even less 2 x 4K screen.

I don’t only work in CAD on this workspace.

You would also never ever ever want to go back to lower resolution imaging devices once you have worked for a while on good quality screens.
Size doesn’t really matter, resolution and true colors at a minimum refresh rate of 60Hz are way more important for a good eye experience.

Whenever I have to go back to lesser screens, when hooking up the computer to a projector or a large screen for presentations I shudder.
The Eizo at my workspace was actually more costly than a well specced MacBook Pro costs but it is absolutely essential, the timesaving and hassle free color proofing alone is worth the money (I still remember the time when I had to spyder my screens and had to deal with third party software and the entire image proofing workflow was all manual - that feature alone is worth the extra cost of those screens).

I remember it was a real hassle to make the jump to 4K back when it was a new thing (it isn’t anymore) - Apple computers back then (~2012 / 13) just were not specced for it and it was a true hunt to find working cables and adapters to get the full bandwidth needed to feed a single screen at 60Hz.

It was also a huge let down when it turned out that the MacPro with all it’s up to 6 screen marketing glory could not properly feed several screens at high resolution AND 60Hz refresh rate due to it’s TB2 bandwidth bottleneck.

With TB3 this is now hopefully a thing of the past.

Re. high vs. low res imaging devices - the moment you went from regular 1440 resolution MacBooks to Retina 15" MacBooks (I still remember 3 gens ago when I had my first Retina MBP - my jaw dropped back then) you will never ever go back. It is the same with professional grade 4K screens vs lower res screens. Size doesn’t matter, resolution does a big deal.

The 32" Eizo is the best piece of computing gear I have ever had the pleasure to pay for. I recommend it to anyone who can depreciate it through a business. You don’t have to go for a 32" though I believe they also make 27" or maybe entirely different size nowadays.

Can you specify the model?

It is this model - highly recommended.

I would guess also that by now the prices have come down a bit from what they cost a couple of years ago, especially if you are in a major market like Europe or the US.

Considering I’m still on the inaugural 2012 15” retina MacBook Pro, it’s probably time I start looking at it’s replacement… but the thing is, the i7 & 16gb RAM configured into it continues to serve me quite well to this very day; running Rhino for Mac WIP and editing dSLR footage in Final Cut Pro. In my career with numerous (PC) laptops, my first MacBook Pro has been the longest lived. For a daily driver, the material build has held up astoundingly and all I can really complain about after 7 years is that I might have to replace the glued-in battery within the next two years at the rate things are going.

I’ve done my share of looking at the new rMBPs over the last two years and am thankful I’m in no way under the gun to make the purchase. If I HAD to pull the trigger right now, the largely unchanged chassis isn’t really built for the thermals of the i9. This has been discussed. Next major issue is their butterfly keyboard. This third revision they implemented with the silicone membrane still has users howling about stuck and/or repeating keys. Fine, they took away the MagSafe plug. They took away the SD card slot. The SSD drives have lately been SOLDERED to the motherboard. Price of their fetish to approach 0mm thickness.

Knock on wood, as long as nothing catastrophic happens to my still-serviceable rMBP, I fully intend on holding out for the rumored upcoming 16” retina MacBook Pro. Word is, this may be a redesigned chassis. I intend on seeing if this is the case as I’d want it configured and designed for an i9 CPU, 32GB RAM, and whatever model VEGA graphics. Yes, Rhino is much more reliant on the CPU, but many of us may be using an external Renderer and THAT’S where it’ll pay to have the much faster VEGA over Radeon Pro. GIven the bad publicity over the current keyboards, I’d expect the 16” rMBP to finalize the issue.

My (2017?) SurfacePro 4 is delegated to ZBrush sculpting and it’s laudable Windows Hello login feature is something I’d demand in ANY future MacBook. The new iPhones and iPad pros are using face login. Complete the trinity, Apple. Bring Face ID to the rMBP!

Last time I checked, the footprint for my apps & OSX was around 300 gigs. I’d be perfectly happy to configure my soldered-in SSD at a Terabyte. I live-edit my video footage off a Samsung T5 drive. Even via my 2012’s USB 3 connection, it’s faaaaast. The Final Cut Pro timeline scrubs in real-time off the T5. The remaining 700 gigs of internal SSD space will be way more than I need to store Rhino project files.

With some serious issues piled onto the 2019 retina MacBook Pro, I’d anticipate/expect Apple to announce something at June’s event or some point later this year. Keep the safety on that trigger as long as possible!

Not really helpful re. the thread topic.

It is great if one does not have the need to upgrade. Good for you, stick with the machine you have as long as it is working for you.

Also I have been a huuuuuge fan of the outgoing last aluminum MacBook Pro 15"
It had a superior screen aspect ratio, was available in matte non reflective screen option, had the most versatile I/O, had replaceable batteries, so you REALLY had long battery life away from the grid if needed be, had all major components user upgradeable and had Apple’s best keyboard option for typing ever.

What I and any other MBP user had to learn is:

These features will never make a comeback.
Get over it.

Each new generation the MBP does improve on performance - sure with some it really is only an incremental performance gain, with other it is more substantial.

Some features of the current machines are downright horrible (only 4 ports, one of which is taken up by the charger, the useless emoji bar, still sticking to highly reflective screens, the useless keyboard, the decision to prioritize slim, sleek design over highest possible performance, etc …).

… but what are you going to do? Get a few generation old model on ebay and have it refurbished?
This may well be an option if these computers are used in a private household - it is non viable as a mere tool to get work done.
You get the machine that does the job best and that fits a budget, run it until it is depreciated, upgrade to the next.

My old machine (fully specced BTO 2015) will actually be refurbished (swollen batteries) and will replace a 2012 MBP 15" which is still in operation in the business. We always go for the latest, fastest and replace the oldest machine in operation. We don’t live in the glory old days of Steve Jobs machines.
I wish he was still alive and MBP would still have a focus on Pro users. … but he isn’t and Apple hasn’t.

They still make the worlds most efficient computing devices, hence we keep buying them.

Re. the actual thread topic.
The overheating + throttling issues have been reported by several testers to have been largely resolved by firmware updates.
Sure the true potential of an i9 CPU in this generation MBP will never be achieved (short of operating the components in a liquid cooled lab assembly) but updated tests by several have shown that:

  1. the i9 option does provide a performance upgrade over the i7
  2. when speccing the i9 with the optional Vega 20 GPU the cooling situation improves measurably and the i9 clearly outperforms the i7 option in CPU intensive tasks

If the budget fits, it seems to be a valid option on paper.
I shall see once the machine arrives (Apple sure takes their time when speccing a BTO through a business account - funny enough all the dongles have arrived already … it truly is a DongleBook Pro indeed).

Just a little feedback for people who are in the same situation:

I went for a complete fully optioned MacBookPro 15" 2018 except for the SSD (I only chose a 2TB SSD upgrade, as the additional ~1600 USD + taxes to spec the 4TB SSD seemed very little value for the money).

I can now actually work smoothly with fully rendered models (all materials rendered) in Rhino 6 WIP on the same WIP built where before the same 3DM file would render as a slideshow and actual smooth work in the model would only be possible when flat shading or wire frame rendering.

Really complex assemblies in Rhino 5 work now beautifully smooth without ever having to revert to hide part of the assembly or wireframe shading where before work in those assemblies was very cumbersome.
With this performance I do not see myself seeing the need to wait for the next MacPro release and rather sticking with these current MacBook Pros with the convenience of a truly mobile device.

The fully specced CPU is ABSOLUTELY worth it as CPU intensive tasks are substantially improved over the mid 2015 fully specced machine and I would believe that the highest spec Vega GPU option plays a significant roll in the better rendering capabilities.

Apart from design related issues with the current generation MBP this was money well spent and It is a very useful upgrade over the old machine and judging from benchmarks even worth the upgrade over the base spec machine (better heat dissipation behavior of Vega option over base GPU when speccing i9).

I absolutely H A T E the absolutely useless gimmicky Touch Bar and the very cheap feeling and badly sounding keyboard (not a big issue as I use almost exclusively external Apple BT keyboards) and I find the large sized trackpad very questionable (no added functionality for my uses as I completely ignore gesture based UI but the penalty of lacking the formerly existing finger resting place between keyboard and touchpad).

USB-C, dongle hell and external screens:
For anyone who like me is switching from old world connectivity (Thunderbolt 2 Raid drives and accessories and USB 3.0 accessories) to USB-C here is two most important KEY TIPS you MUST follow if you have any 4K or 5K screens in operation:

  • buy the latest OWC Thunderbolt 3 14 port hubs immediately and save most of the dongle headache in the studio
  • buy a Hyperdrive dock (to extend the miserable I/O situation) and a Hyperdrive USB-C to miniDisplay port 4K60Hz adapter (to get a) 60Hz and b) direct miniDisplayport connectivity) on the road without external power supply to the accessory
  1. Apple’s own USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapters DO NOT WORK WITH MINI DISPLAY PORT CABLES !!!
  2. Apple does not offer ANY solution in their web shop or their local Apple shops to get 4K @ 60 Hz !!!

You must get third party accessories to get higher than 30Hz refresh rates from 4K screens !!!

It was a major headache to find out about this and find the best solution.
OWC from my experience has always been a first rate supplier for Mac related accessories and in this case again bend themselves over backwards and exceeded any expectations to get this issue resolved fast.

software and migration:
Should you like me depend on using a SpaceMouse for CAD work and really depend on It, BE VERY PATIENT with the supplier. Driver support is very sketchy and slow for current Mac OS builds and since Mojave and it’s drastically increased safety features some functionality fails until driver support is improved (i.e. no reliable wireless SpaceMouse support any longer as of driver issues).

Also, should you still like me favor migration from Mac to Mac from the old days where you would simply make a SuperDuper Clone or Carbon Copy Clone from a backup drive to the new Mac to get up and running FAST ? DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER EVER DO THIS with any current gen MacBook Pro with their new security chip and finger print reader !!!

You will in specific cases lock out your admin user profile and not be able to recover without COMPLETELY WIPING your SSD first.
Migration with this current gen of Mac computers should be exclusively done through Migration Assistant with your old machine connected through USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 or USB-C to USB3.

Don’t EVER attempt to use SuperDuper or CCC to clone a backup to your new main drive - IT WILL FAIL.

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I run a 2010 Macbook and rarely have performance issues and I do large models in Rhino (and used to work for a computer manufacturer).

You get the LEAST bang for the buck with CPU upgrades. The CPU is rarely the choke point in a computer system. Memory provides the best investment and the graphics processor usually comes next. The biggest chock point(s) on a computeris the system bus(es). It is much slower than the processor. Plus, Intel tends to skimp on cache, which degrades the benefit from higher processor speeds.

A 16GB memory upgrade on a Mac costs $400.
A 2.2GHZ to 2.9GHZ upgrade also costs $400.

Unless you are doing molecular modeling that runs for days, you’re not going to notice the processor difference but you’ll notice the memory difference.

You can check to see if you can still self-upgrade a Macbook these days. In the past you could upgrade memory for a lot less than apple charges. They may have blocked that.

You have a choice between the Radon Pro 555X and 560X as the graphics card. The latter is $100 more. Oddly, they have the same amount of memory in both options. There is very little difference in performance between the two. If you need great game performance, then pay the $100. Otherwise, I’d say go with the 555X.

I believe all Macbooks come with a SSD these days. That used to be a good upgrade.