The next MacBook Pro: It’s looking like a long wait
With the continuation of the Apple silicon rollout, the MacBook Pro is in line for some major changes. The company will likely take the opportunity of the new models based on Apple silicon to introduce new designs, features, and refinements. This article keeps track of the most creditable reports of the upcoming MacBook Pro, so stay tuned for all of the latest.
A report by DigiTimes seemingly confirms that the MacBook Pro won’t be launching until the fall, saying, “Apple is expected to roll out two new MacBook Pro models later in 2021, with shipments slated to kick off in the third quarter.”
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Apple will release a “redesigned” MacBook Pro this summer. It will be available in 14- and 16-inch models; Gurman did not state if the current 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro will undergo any design changes, though iOS developer Dylandkt tweeted in January that the “upcoming MacBook Pro models may not feature a logo on the bottom bezel.”
Analyst Ming Chi-Kuo said in a research note (via MacRumors) that the laptop will see a redesign in 2021. In an earlier note from May 2020 (via MacRumors), Kuo said that Apple is working on a 14-inch MacBook Pro—essentially, a transformation of the higher-end 13-inch models, similar to what happened when Apple released the 16-inch MacBook Pro to replace the 15-inch models. It’s unclear if the lower-end 13-inch MacBook Pro would remain in the lineup if a 14-inch version is revealed.
Jon Prosser of Front Page Tech reports that Apple will release a MacBook Air or a reintroduction of the MacBook in color offerings and a white bezel similar to those of the new 24-inch iMac. If Apple is using colors in its consumer-level products, it’s possible that Apple sticks with the space gray and silver options for the higher-end, which includes the MacBook Pro. And according to a tweet by previously accurate Dylandkt, the MacBook Pro branding might be removed.
2021 MacBook Pro: Mini LED displays
In March 2020, analyst Ming Chi-Kuo released a note reporting on Apple’s use of mini LEDs in new products, including the 2021 versions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Apple already launched its first mini LED screen in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, so it’s clear Apple is already working on the tech.
However, a recent report from DigiTimes claims that “volume production of the 14-inch MacBook Pro is likely to begin in the fourth quarter of 2021, and the 16-inch model will start in the first quarter of 2022,” so it’s possible that Apple releases a mini LED option later in the year. It seems unlikely that Apple would launch a MacBook Pro that doesn’t ship for six months or more, so the first models might have the same retina LCD displays as the current MacBooks.
Mini-LED is a backlighting technology for displays, but several more LEDs are used than what is currently implemented. This results in better control of the backlight, better image contrast, and greater dynamic range. If Apple’s description of the iPad Pro is any indication, the new display will deliver “true-to-life detail with a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio … (and) breathtaking 1000 nits of full‑screen brightness and 1600 nits of peak brightness.”
2021 MacBook Pro: MagSafe and ports
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that the MacBook Pro that will be released this summer will have a MagSafe charger, an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and “more Thunderbolt ports” (the current 13-inch MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports; the current Intel-based 16-inch MacBook Pro has four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports.)
Analyst Ming Chi-Kuo (via MacRumors) said in a research note that MagSafe will be on the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Introduced in Mac laptops in 2006, MagSafe was a magnetic power adapter connector that could easily disconnect from the laptop using non-axial force—tugs from angles other than straight away. Its implementation meant that if the laptop was plugged in and for whatever reason, the cable was tripped over or pulled, the connection would break and the laptop would be spared from flying off the work surface. MagSafe was a separate, dedicated plug for power, however, and disappeared when Apple switched to USB-C connectors in 2016. The USB-C connectors support battery charging but do not have a breakaway connector.
Apple has transitioned to Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports in its M1 Macs, and Apple will continue with this in upcoming models.
2021 MacBook Pro: End of the Touch Bar
The Touch Bar is a polarizing feature of the higher-end MacBook Pro models—those who dislike it are quite expressive about it, while people who like it don’t really say much (at least it seems that way). In a January 2021 note, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that the OLED Touch Bar will be replaced by function keys. Apple introduced the Touch Bar in 2016 to replace the function keys with “a brilliant, Retina-quality Multi-Touch display,” but it has been a decisive feature.
2021 MacBook Pro: M-series processor and other specs
A Twitter rumor have seemingly leaked small but significant details about the next MacBook Pro. iOS developer Dylandkt—who previously predicted the M1 in the iMac—claims the MacBook’s chip will be branded as the M1X and bring “more thunderbolt channels, more cpu cores, more gpu cores, and greater power draw.”
The speculation for Apple silicon in the higher-end MacBook Pro models is that Apple will use this opportunity to reveal the next in line in the M-series. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Apple’s “redesigned” 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro will have Apple’s system on a chip that features a 10-core CPU (eight performance cores and two efficiency cores), 16 or 32 graphics core options, a maximum of 64GB of memory, and an “improved Neural Engine.”
Mark Gurman of Bloomberg reported that it’s possible that at the end of 2021, the 13-inch MacBook Pro will have a new System on a Chip that replaces the M1. The new SoC will be faster but have eight CPU cores (four performance cores, four efficiency cores) like the M1. The graphics cores will increase from eight to ten. The chip will reportedly be called the M1X, as evidenced by several rumors and Apple’s own tags on the YouTube video for its WWDC keynote.
Apple has been rumored to be including 5G and Face ID support in its laptops, but Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that those features do not appear “to be coming soon.”
2021 MacBook Pro: Price and release
According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple will release the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro with Apple silicon this summer. We had originally hoped that the new machines would arrive at WWDC, but the event has come and gone without a release. DigiTimes, which has a spotty track record for rumors but is more accurate when it comes to shipping, says that “volume production of the 14-inch MacBook Pro is likely to begin in the fourth quarter of 2021, and the 16-inch model will start in the first quarter of 2022.” However, sources recently told the publication that shipments will kick off in the third quarter, so a fall launch is likely, possibly around the time the 13-inch MacBook Pro launched last year. More recently, Twitter leaker Dylan said to new MacBooks will arrive in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Prices have not been leaked but based on prior Apple silicon launches, the 16-inch model will likely still start at $2,399, with the 14-inch MacBook Pro possibly taking the place of the $1,799 13-inch MacBook Pro. It is not clear if the current 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro will remain in the lineup.