New MacBook Pro's Dedicated AMD Graphics Chips Are 'Significantly' Faster and Support Dual 5K Displays

Apple dropped Intel's integrated Iris Pro graphics in favor of dedicated AMD graphics across its entire new 15-inch MacBook Pro lineup, resulting in performance improvements over previous models. Perhaps more interestingly, the switch to AMD provides expanded external display support that desktop users have patiently waited for.

lg-ultrafine-5k-macbook-pro
As Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica explains, AMD's Polaris-based Radeon Pro 450, Radeon Pro 455, and built-to-order Radeon Pro 460 GPUs in the new 15-inch MacBook Pro support up to six displays, whereas Intel's integrated GPUs affixed to the logic board can drive a total of three displays.

The expanded support enables the new MacBook Pro to drive two of Apple and LG's new UltraFine 5K displays at 60Hz simultaneously. Intel's GPUs can't because, due to bandwidth limitations of the DisplayPort 1.2 spec, the two 5K displays technically function as four displays. This method is known as Multi-Stream Transport (MST).

When you hook one of LG's 5K monitors to one of the new MacBook Pros, what you're actually seeing on the screen is two pictures stitched together to make a single seamless image. This is because the version of the DisplayPort spec supported by Intel's GPUs and almost all monitors these days—version 1.2—doesn't have enough bandwidth to drive a 5K display at 60Hz all by itself. […] Apple is actually pushing two DisplayPort 1.2 streams to the monitor over the single Thunderbolt 3 cable.

There’s nothing wrong with this method, except that it cuts down on the number of external displays your computer can support. Intel’s integrated GPUs can drive a total of three displays, but you use up two of those three streams to drive one 5K monitor and one of them to drive the laptop’s internal display. AMD’s GPUs support up to six displays, so you can use two of those connections for one 5K monitor, two of them for the other 5K monitor, one for the laptop’s internal display, and still have one left over for yet another monitor if you really wanted to use one.

Apple could have used Nvidia's faster Pascal-based GPUs, which support DisplayPort 1.3, but Thunderbolt 3 and most monitors do not support the higher-bandwidth spec yet. In the meantime, Nvidia's GPUs can only drive up to three displays beyond the main MacBook Pro screen — not enough for dual 5K displays over MST.

Apple will have more flexibility again when DisplayPort 1.3 becomes more common. Those future laptops will be able to drive two 5K screens plus a laptop’s internal screen using just three DisplayPort streams instead of five. For now, though, if pushing two high-end 5K screens at once was a design goal for Apple, AMD was the only way to go.

In terms of performance improvements, Cunningham benchmarked the mid-range 2.7GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro with the Radeon Pro 455 graphics chip to determine just how much faster the notebook truly is compared to the 2016 12-inch MacBook and older MacBook Pros released over the past few years.

ars-2016-macbook-pro-benchmark
He found the Radeon Pro 455 to be a "significant boost" over the built-to-order dedicated GPUs available in the 2012-2015 MacBook Pro models, namely the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650M, Nvidia GeForce GTX 750M, and AMD Radeon R9 M370X respectively, but said the new MacBook Pro remains unsuitable for high-end gaming and VR.

Is it disappointing that Apple didn’t decide to push the envelope a little more? Sure. Is it too bad that performance and power efficiency were apparently sacrificed in the name of external display support? Yes. Are these midrange GPUs in any way inconsistent with any MacBook Pro released in the last decade? No.

Apple officially says the 15-inch MacBook Pro offers up to 130% faster graphics performance, and up to 2.5x more computing power per watt, compared to the previous-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro, but those stats are based on the built-to-order Radeon Pro 460 chip that costs between $100 and $200 extra.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
52 months ago

Crazy how the Radeon Pro 455 is barely faster than the Iris integrated graphics.

That's onscreen test. In offscreen test Radeon Pro is much faster than previous gpu. According to Ars Technica, 2016 Macbook Pro is rendering at 3360x2100 by default instead of 2880x1800.

Offscreen:

Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
Imagine this. A crappy video card is much much faster than a previous crappy video card when only compared to the crappy video cards Apple chooses. These cards are 100x less crappy than the crappy choices of last gen, Yay!

Nevermind its still high end GPU computing performance of 2008 just in a smaller package. Thanks Apple!
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
460 is a budget GPU.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
Glad to read my 2015 MBP is faster than the new 2016 MBP
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
no **** sherlock of course its a significant boost compared to old 28nm technology. stack the 455 or 460 against any "current" gen gpu tech and its literally the bottom of the crap barrel.
[doublepost=1479149816][/doublepost]

How is that perspective? It's a desktop GPU. Unless you're talking about the 1080M, in which case you're looking at a laptop that's only portable on wheels.

And just for perspective, the 2012 Cray Titan outFLOPs a dual Xeon workstation.

there is no 1080m all current gen laptop have desktop gpu in them. since the 16nm gpu is efficient enough to be not cut back like all the previous gen. so hes not wrong when he say to put in perspective.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
Ok, so we'll add this "pro" to the list of cons.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First Impressions From New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Owners

Thursday October 22, 2020 4:20 pm PDT by
It's already Friday, October 23, in Australia and New Zealand, which means some customers who purchased an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro already have their new devices in hand. We've seen dozens of reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from media sites, but now first impressions from regular Apple customers are available. Image via MacRumors reader Boardiesboi New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro owners are...

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

Apple Distributing New Heated Display Removal Machine for iPhone 12 Repairs

Thursday October 22, 2020 6:20 pm PDT by
Apple is providing Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers with a new heated display removal fixture for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro repairs, according to information obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source. To open iPhone 12 models, technicians will be required to slide the device into a specialized tray, and then place the tray into the high-temperature fixture for two...

Apple VP Kaiann Drance Interview Addresses Battery Life, MagSafe, and Power Adapter Concerns

Friday October 23, 2020 3:37 am PDT by
Apple's Vice President of iPhone Marketing, Kaiann Drance, has provided a new interview to Rich DeMuro on the Rich on Tech Podcast, to discuss the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Although much of the interview repeated points from Apple's "Hi, Speed" event, there were a number of interesting tidbits regarding the affect of 5G on battery life, MagSafe concerns, and the lack of a power adapter in...

Teardown Video Confirms iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Use Same 2,815mAh Battery

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:47 am PDT by
With the iPhone 12 launching on Friday and in just a few hours to Australia and New Zealand, hands-on videos, teardowns, reviews, and other iPhone-related content has been coming out. A new teardown video delves into both the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro, confirming battery life for both models and giving us a closer look at their internals. The video from Io Technology is in Chinese, but ...

Images of Supposed AirPods Diagnosis Tool Shared Online

Thursday October 22, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly rolling out a new tool to Apple service providers for testing AirPods, according to leaker known as "Fudge," who shared images of the tool on Twitter. Apple appears to be seeking to reduce unnecessary AirPods services by more accurately diagnosing the cause of a fault. Instances of a dirt-blockage, which may be difficult to ascertain visually, can apparently be...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Apple's AirTags Revealed in Newly Published Patent Applications

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:13 am PDT by
Two patent applications filed by Apple appear to depict the company's widely expected AirTags item trackers (via Patently Apple). The filings, which include a large number of images, are titled "Mounting Base for a Wirelessly Locatable Tag" and "Fastener with a Constrained Retention Ring," and describe a wirelessly locatable tag that can be used to determine the absolute location of an...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...