If you haven’t yet ordered your new MacBook Pro, AMD has provided a little help by showing what kind of performance differences you can expect if you opt for any of the upgrades on offer.

If you’re buying the 13-inch model, then you don’t get much in the way of GPU options. All the machines have Intel Iris integrated graphics, and the only difference between them is a 540 chip in the base model versus 550 in the other two – with no configuration options beyond that.

But things get more interesting with the 15-inch MacBook Pro …


All 15-inch specs have an AMD Radeon Pro GPU, built on the latest Polaris architecture. Here’s what the company has to say about them before we get into the numbers:

The MacBook Pro powered by state of the art Radeon™ Pro 400 Series Graphics is built on the cutting edge Polaris architecture with future-ready display technology. Precisely fabricated using the latest 14nm FinFET process means high quality visuals are achieved without sacrificing portability.

[The chips feature] 4th generation Graphics Core Next [which] accelerate workloads normally reserved for the main processor. It features versatile asynchronous compute, updated shader engines, enhanced memory compression and new geometry capabilities in a compact and efficient package.

Looking at the options Apple offers, the base model has the 450 with 2GB memory, with the option of a $200 upgrade to the top-spec 460 with 4GB memory.

The higher-spec machine steps things up to the Radeon Pro 455 with 2GB memory, with the same option of maxing out on the 460 – but this time as a $100 upgrade given the higher starting-point.

What do you get for your money? AMD’s microsite details the performance differences. All three GPUs offer the same memory bandwidth of 80GB/s, though the top-end 460 of course has twice the memory. The differences between the chips show up in compute units and peak performance.

  • Radeon Pro 450: 10 compute units, peak performance of 1 teraflop
  • Radeon Pro 455: 12 compute units, peak performance of 1.3 teraflops
  • Radeon Pro 460: 16 compute units, peak performance of 1.86 teraflops

We’ll of course need to await benchmarks and reviews before we get a sense of what this means in real-life use, but on paper at least you are getting a significant bump in performance if you opt for one of the higher-spec options. It’s also worth remembering that GPU chips these days don’t just handle graphics processing – they are also used for some of the more intensive computing work that used to be done by the CPU.

It’s making me feel a little better about my own choice – watch this space for my take on the new machines. Which option have you ordered or are planning to order? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear