Traditionally, new MacBook Pros have arrived around October or November, but with the disruption caused by coronavirus, plus Apple’s desire to move all of its computers onto the M1 platform as soon as possible, it could be that the new model appears sooner than that.
There was plenty of speculation on Twitter that Apple would reveal the new MacBook Pro range at the WWDC 2021, fuelled mainly by 'hidden messages' in Apple's event invitation. Jane Manchun Wong mirrored the image supplied by Apple and translated the unicode snippets found in the memoji reflection, with one translating to the MacBook emoji.
Of course, that never happened, although the inclusion of the tags "M1X MacBook Pro" and "M1X" suggests Apple could've been planning to launch the hardware until a last-minute change. That, or it could've simply wanted to cash in on the interest in the hardware despite no intention of actually releasing it. We'll likely never know for sure.
So, when should we expect to see the new high-end laptops?
Macrumors reported that one of the most reliable analysts of Apple products, Ming-Chi Kuo, told investors not to expect the 16in MacBook Pro M1 before the third quarter of 2021. He then reiterated the point in a later report, again suggesting that the new model wouldn't be out until the second half of the year.
An early July 2021 DigiTimes report suggests Apple is currently ramping up Mini-LED production for the 14in and 16in models of MacBook Pro for release at the end of Q3 sometime in September 2021.
That's in line with the most recent prediction from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who suggests the new MacBook range could be announced anytime between September and November 2021. Interestingly, also he claims that the MacBooks were due to appear sooner but "complications around the new miniLED display have held up production".
Whenever it appears, it may only be available in limited quantities according to a DigiTimes report. It's allegedly due to constraints in manufacturing the Mini-LED displays featured in the new range caused by ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19, affecting both Foxconn and Wistron factories in India.
The report suggests that Apple is expected to go ahead with its planned announcement with its limited stock and aims to ramp up to full mass production by Q1 2022 at the latest.
How much will the redesigned MacBook Pro cost?
Apple isn't keen on unnecessarily hiking the prices of its products between generations, as with the M1-equipped MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in late 2020, both of which came at the same price as their predecessors.
With that logic in mind, we expect the 14in MacBook Pro to cost a similar amount to the current 13in model, while the new 16in MacBook Pro should mirror that of the current 16in model.
For reference, the M1-powered 13in MacBook Pro comes in at:
- 13in MacBook Pro with 8‑Core CPU and 8‑Core GPU Apple M1 Chip (256GB) - £1299/$1299/AUD$1999
- 13in MacBook Pro with 8‑Core CPU and 8‑Core GPU Apple M1 Chip (512GB) - £1499/$1499/AUD$2299
While the first-gen 16in MacBook Pro will cost you:
- 16in MacBook Pro 2.6GHz 6-Core 9th-generation Intel Core i7 - £2,399/US$2,399/AU$3,799
- 16in MacBook Pro 2.3GHz 8-Core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 - £2,799/US$2,799/AU$4,399
What features should we expect from the new MacBook Pro range?
There's been much speculation about what might be included in the updated MacBook Pro range. Here’s what has been suggested so far.
A redesigned 14in model
One of the most interesting rumours right now suggests that Apple is about to expand the display of the current 13.3in MacBook Pro, bumping it up to 14in without expanding its footprint - much like it did when the MacBook Pro 15 transitioned to the 16in. It managed this by shrinking the bezels of the panel.
As well as a possible resizing of the smaller model, both models of MacBook Pro should get the Mini-LED treatment alongside much thinner bezels - something the MacBook range has needed for quite some time.
It was first suggested by the ever-reliable Ming-Chi Kuo, and was reiterated by DigiTimes soon after.
DigiTimes also claims that TSMT, the exclusive provider of Apple's mini-LED backlights used for the new iPad Pro, has overcome manufacturing issues and increased production yield to over 95% "for the two upcoming mini-LED-backlit MacBook models", all but confirming the display upgrade.
Keeping in line with the more angular designs of recent iPhones and iPads, it's expected that the new MacBook Pro range will feature a similarly industrial approach with squarer edges replacing the current curves. Apple could also sound the death knell for the Touch Bar, as it returns to keys rather than the animated strip that has divided users since first introduced several years ago.
Other returning features that will be welcomed by many long-term Mac users are the MagSafe charging connector and SD card reader (photographers of the world rejoice!). Both were reported by The Verge, who sourced the details from Ming-Chi Kuo once more.
There are some who think Apple could unveil a new 12-core M1 processor in 2021. This would be a step up from the 6-core and 9-core options currently available on the 16in MacBook Pro. But there are further rumours at the 12-core chip could be for the 14in MacBook Pro, while its bigger brother gets a 16-core variant.
This has already been dubbed the M1X in some quarters, but of course, nothing has been confirmed at the time of writing. Twitter leaker Dylan suggests the M1X branding is correct, describing the chipset as an "extension of the M1" with more CPU and GPU cores. The Twitter leaker was accurate with predictions about the M1-based iMac, so there may be something to the claim.
Apple also added the tags "M1X MacBook Pro" and "M1X" to its WWDC 2021 live stream despite not making an appearance, suggesting the 'X' branding could be correct.
A May 2021 Bloomberg report disagrees with the earlier 12- and 16-core predictions, suggesting instead that the chipset in the new MacBook Pro range will offer an upgraded eight performance cores and two energy-efficient cores with either 16 or 32 graphics core variations.
That's a huge step up from the current M1 in the 13in MacBook Pro if true, featuring four high-performance cores, four energy-efficient cores and eight graphics cores.
There have already been reports of code in macOS Big Sur mentioning True Depth cameras, so it seems likely that we could see the addition of Face ID to Macs in the near future.
Whether the feature will make it into the new MacBook Pro remains uncertain, but at the very least we would hope but Apple upgrades the rather disappointing webcams in its laptops, especially as we've been forced to use them more and more during the global pandemic.
One thing that seems almost certain is that the new MacBook Pro range will come with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities. We've already seen this introduced on the 13in MacBook Pro M1, so it's sensible to assume that the entire 2021 range will follow suit.