Since Apple updated the MacBook Pro with the superior M1 chip in 2020, it has gotten a fresh lease on life. It appears to have a bright future ahead of it, and there is a lot of speculation about what the next edition of Apple’s Pro laptops may include, thanks to a slew of intriguing speculations.
There’s been a recent burst of information, with respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and prominent reporter Mark Gurman both revealing details on a new 14-inch MacBook Pro as well as improvements to the current MacBook Pro 16. We’ve summed together their ideas, as well as other industry speculations, to give you an idea of what to expect from the 2021 MacBook Pro models. From the price and design to battery life and more, here’s everything you need to know.
Release date and price
When Apple revamped its professional laptop lineup with the MacBook Pro 16 in 2019, it kept the pricing the same as the previous MacBook Pro 15, despite adding a slew of new capabilities and a fresh look. Despite the substantial performance boost afforded by the upgrade, Apple did the same thing when it equipped the MacBook Pro 13 with the brand-new M1 chip.
The upcoming 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models going out this year are expected to be the same. Apple appears to be content with its existing MacBook Pro pricing structure, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. In the end, you might get more bang for your buck.
When do you think you’ll be able to get your hands on one of these new models? Apple was expected to reveal redesigned MacBook Pro models (both 14-inch and 16-inch) on June 7 at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Apple was expected to unveil the new MacBook Pro models at WWDC, according to reports from leaker Jon Prosser and industry analysts Wedbush in late May and early June. However, such predictions were erroneous, as there were no MacBook Pros available at WWDC.
But it doesn’t imply we’ll be stuck waiting for a long time. The devices are expected to be released in the third quarter of 2021, according to Ming-Chi Kuo (July 1 to September 30). Mark Gurman has proposed a timeline that is comparable to this, albeit it is a little hazy. He earlier stated that the MacBook Pros will be released “about the middle of the year,” but in a June newsletter, he stated that there would be minimal Apple product news for the following several weeks, but that the MacBook Pros would be released later in 2021. That might indicate that they are still on track for a summer release – summer officially ends on September 21 — or that they have been postponed till the fall.
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But, if you think that’s a long time, we’ve got some bad news for you: the wait might be even longer. That theory is based on a March 2021 Nikkei Asia article claiming that Apple has postponed the manufacturing of two MacBook Pro models from May or June until later in the year. If true, the release date would be pushed back to the more regular October or November launch timeframe for key MacBook releases.
A new, squared-off design
Apple has begun to return several of its devices to the square-edge form last seen in the iPhone SE in 2016 — first the iPad Pro, then the iPhone 12 series — in recent years. The MacBook Pro, according to rumors, will shortly join them.
Instead of the slightly curved back present on current MacBook Pro models, Kuo expects the MacBook Pro 2021 will have squared-off sides on both the top and bottom regions. Although the bottom half of the current MacBook Pro may be considered “squared-off,” Mark Gurman feels that there will be some obvious alterations compared to the present models.
Aside from that, you might be wondering if the thermal architecture of the MacBook Pro 16 will be carried over to the MacBook Pro 14. You would assume this is superfluous, given the M1 chip’s excellent thermal efficiency in the current MacBook Pro 13 and MacBook Air – after all, the new MacBook Air doesn’t even need a fan, thanks to its chip’s ability to keep cool under pressure. The latest MacBook Pro 16 does, however, come with discrete, powerful graphics cards that require more aggressive cooling. If Apple wants to match that power with its own system-on-a-chip with a powerful built-in GPU, it’ll probably require a similarly robust cooling system to keep everything in check. In light of this, we don’t rule out the possibility of the cooling system being preserved in the MacBook Pro 16.
The Magic Keyboard is almost certain to stay — no return to the ill-fated butterfly keyboard — but one long-serving MacBook feature, the Touch Bar, may be phased out. This touch-sensitive strip has been divisive since its debut in 2016, and it appears Apple has now lost patience with it rather than attempting to fix it. The next MacBook Pro, according to Kuo, will absolutely be without the Touch Bar; Gurman first stated that Apple was testing Touch Bar-free versions, but has since emphasized that the Touch Bar is definitely on its way out. Apple’s OLED bar does not appear to have much of a future, according to both analysts. That may not be a terrible thing, given how little it lived up to its potential.
More port variety and the return of MagSafe
Apple has steadfastly used USB-C in its laptops since the 2016 redesign, which introduced the Touch Bar and the butterfly keyboard, to the exclusion of all other connector options. That could change in the near future.
According to multiple sources, Apple will ease its grip on USB-C in the 2021 MacBook Pro, allowing for a bit more port variety. Kuo is praising the increase in various “types of I/O” and teases that “most customers may not need to acquire extra dongles.” In particular, he expects the HDMI connector will make a comeback. The SD card slot, according to Gurman, is making a comeback for the first time since it was removed in 2016, which will no doubt thrill photographers and videographers who would otherwise have to rely on an adapter or the cloud to get their work onto their Mac.
With the rise in port diversity, a much-loved MacBook feature that was initially discarded with the 12-inch MacBook in 2015: MagSafe, appears to be making a comeback. The charging cable is magnetically attached to your Mac, so if the wire is jerked, it rapidly snaps loose, keeping your pricey laptop from tumbling to the ground and being shattered. According to industry speculations, Apple will return MagSafe in the 2021 MacBook Pro, with a pill-shaped port similar to its previous iteration. Given how popular MagSafe was — and how much we’ve missed it since it was dropped — Apple’s decision is a nice one.
Surprisingly, a massive leak in April revealed exactly what Apple is intending for the ports – and Kuo and Gurman were correct. According to 9to5Mac, REvil managed to obtain technical specs from Apple supplier Quanta, and among the documents — which are now being used to blackmail Quanta — is a schematic depicting the port configuration on a forthcoming MacBook Pro model. An HDMI port, USB-C port, and SD card reader are all shown on the same side of the device. A list of ports and connectors was also included in the docs, which contained MagSafe alongside HDMI and the SD card slot. The code names J314 and J316 on the MacBooks in these files, according to Gurman, relate to the impending 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro versions.
Battery and processor life
In the most recent generation of Macs, Apple made a big statement by releasing the first version of its own Apple Silicon processors, the M1. They performed admirably in our tests, with the 24-inch iMac delivering the best results of the bunch.
On that front, there’s some good news: the next generation of this CPU is slated to arrive in MacBook Pro models in 2021. (perhaps called the M2 or M1X). Apple is working on CPUs with up to 32 CPU cores, as we already know from earlier reports, but that chip is almost probably earmarked for the Mac Pro. Nonetheless, expect more cores and performance in the 2021 MacBook Pro models – the M1 was just the beginning.
According to a Bloomberg story from December 2020, Apple’s next generation of silicon processors would have 16 high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. If those chips fail to reach the deadline, Gurman suggests that chips with 12 or eight high-performance cores be employed instead. According to a recent report from Gurman published in May 2021, the next-generation Apple Silicon processors coming to the MacBook Pro would contain eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores, for a total of 10. These processors will be available with 16 or 32 graphics cores.
Unlike the current MacBook line-up, which utilizes the same M1 chip across the board, we may see a divide here, with the MacBook Pro 16 receiving the more powerful chip with 32 graphics cores. That would be consistent with its present stance, which includes high-end Intel Core i9 processors and dedicated graphics cards not found in any other MacBook. Apple, on the other hand, might decide that sticking to its present approach of supplying the same processor across all Mac models is the best option, and include this new chip in both the MacBook Pro 14 and the MacBook Pro 16.
The processor also has a positive impact on battery life. We achieved 21 hours of battery life on our film playing test and 16 hours of light web browsing when we reviewed the M1 MacBook Pro. That’s around three times longer than the 2020 Intel MacBook Pro’s battery life. The very efficient ARM-based chip that the 2021 MacBook Pro will use will allow it to do comparable feats. In fact, the MacBook Pro 16 may even outperform it, thanks to its larger chassis, which may allow for a larger battery.
A higher-contrast, brighter display
Among all the MacBook Pro rumors, the ones about the display have been the most intriguing. For a long time, Kuo has said that Apple is working on a mini-LED display for its pro laptop. Thousands of small-scale LEDs are crammed onto the screen, providing excellent contrast and dynamic range without the burn-in difficulties that OLED displays sometimes have.
According to the most recent sources on Apple’s MacBook Pro plans, this mini-LED option is still on the table, though it is unclear whether Apple would employ it. According to Gurman, the MacBook Pro versions in 2021 will have “brighter, higher-contrast displays.” This is consistent with what we expect from mini-LED displays without mentioning them by name, so we’ll have to wait and see what Apple does. Now that Apple has released its first mini-LED display in the iPad Pro, dubbed the Liquid Retina XDR display, we believe it will only be a matter of time until it is implemented in the MacBook range.
What is clear is that Apple will reduce the bezels on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, enabling for a larger 14-inch display to fit inside the same chassis. This is the same strategy Apple used to replace the MacBook Pro 15 with a 16-inch model while keeping the footprint the same. This update will result in a more modern-looking laptop as well as more workable screen space.
Our wish list for the MacBook Pro 2021
Despite the numerous reports about what might be featured in the 2021 MacBook Pro, there are a few additional features that we’d want to see. These are not assured, but if Apple approves them, they will have a significant beneficial impact.
We’d want to see more ports, period, in addition to more port variety. It’s still possible to buy a MacBook Pro with just two ports – in fact, four-port MacBook Pro models are limited to Intel processors, and if you want the far better M1 chips, you’ll have to accept half the amount of USB-C slots. That isn’t good enough when you’re paying $1,299 or more for a laptop. However, the entry-level version of Apple’s new 24-inch iMac only comes with two ports, so don’t get your hopes up.
Face ID is the second feature we’d want to see. This safe technology is already available on the iPhone and iPad, and it would be a nice addition to the Mac. Imagine sitting in front of your laptop and having it automatically unlock without you having to do anything. That’s what Face ID might provide, and we know Apple is at least exploring it.
However, the industry has been particularly quiet on this of late, and neither Kuo nor Gurman mention it in their most recent reports, so we believe it will be sadly improbable in the 2021 MacBook Pro models. We can’t say whether this is due to COVID-19’s delays or Apple’s refusal to include it on the Mac.