It’s widely rumored that Apple has two new MacBook Pros in the works for 2021 — but what can Mac fans look forward to with this year’s upgrade? While the MacBook is one of the most popular laptops on the planet, it’s safe to say that the Pro variant has had a rocky few years. Apple made sweeping changes to the MacBook Pro in 2016. It removed legacy ports, converted the laptop to USB-C, added the Touch Bar, and swapped out classic scissor switches in the keyboard for the now-infamous butterfly setup. Simply put, the reception to this new design wasn’t very welcome.
Lucky for Apple, it’s gradually been getting the MacBook Pro on the right track. In November 2019, Apple replaced the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a larger 16-inch model. Not only was the upgraded display a nice treat, but Apple also abandoned its butterfly keyboard for traditional scissor switches. Then in November 2020, the 13-inch MacBook was refreshed with an improved keyboard and Apple’s M1 chip. These last two MacBook Pro releases have been some of the best from Apple in years. For 2021, the series is set to take an even greater leap forward.
Where the past couple of years have seen just one MacBook Pro releasing at a time, Apple’s expected to launch two this time around. The current 16-inch MacBook Pro will be replaced by another 16-inch model, while the 13-inch version is being upgraded to a 14-inch size. The dimensions of the 14-inch MacBook Pro should be pretty similar to the 13-inch model available today, but Apple will be slimming the display bezels considerably. It’s always possible it’ll be slightly larger and heavier, but it shouldn’t be anything too noticeable. Those smaller bezels should also carry over to the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, resulting in two much more modern-looking machines. If that wasn’t a big enough display upgrade, it’s also rumored that both of the new MacBooks will feature mini-LED screen technology. If true, this would give the MacBook Pros more vibrant colors, deeper blacks, and substantially improved brightness. Considering mini-LED was introduced earlier this year on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it makes sense for Apple to bring the upgraded display hardware to its pro-grade laptops.
Other 2021 MacBook Pro Rumors
Moving away from the display, the 2021 MacBook Pro may also see a huge shift in its port offerings. As it currently stands, Apple givers users just two or four USB-C ports depending on which version of the MacBook Pro they choose. It’s almost guaranteed that this year’s MacBooks will retain USB-C ports, but a few legacy offerings will also join them. According to reports from Apple analysts Mark Gurman and Ming-Chi Kuo, the 2021 MacBook Pros will also feature a full-size SD card reader, an HDMI port, and a MagSafe connector for charging. Unlike the circular MagSafe design on the iPhone 12 series, MagSafe on the 2021 MacBook Pro should look very similar to its implementation on previous generations.
There’s one other design change that’s been rumored, and it’s the removal of the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar has been a divisive feature since it was introduced almost five years ago. It’s a unique differentiator from other laptops and has some interesting use cases, but it’s arguably more cumbersome than a standard row of function keys. If all goes according to plan, 2021 may be the year Apple officially gives up on the Touch Bar and returns to physical function keys. Tying all of those hardware upgrades together will be a brand new Apple-designed chipset. The name still remains unclear (likely M1X or M2), but the specs are rumored to be as follows: 10 or 12-core CPU, 16 or 32-core GPU, up to 64GB of RAM, and support for more Thunderbolt ports. That should result in substantial speed improvements over the current M1 MacBook Pro, which has effectively the same performance as the M1 MacBook Air.
The best part to all this? There’s not much longer to wait before the new laptops are announced. It’s extremely likely Apple unveils the 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros during its fall hardware event this year, which is rumored to happen on or around September 14. As for how much the new MacBooks will cost, it seems likely Apple will stick to the starting prices of the existing models. That means at least $1,299 for the 14-inch MacBook Pro and $2,399 for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. A price increase is possible given the rumored switch to mini-LED, but fingers crossed Apple can deliver these upgrades without charging more.