WWDC in June 2017 saw Apple upgrade the processors in the MacBook Pro to faster Kaby Lake chips. The update comes just eight months after the launch of the Touch Bar MacBook Pro in October 2016.
Despite the WWDC update there are still calls for Apple to further update the MacBook Pro models to have an option for 32GB RAM.
There were also rumours that the new model would feature an Apple-designed chip that would improve the computer's low-power performance mode, but this failed to materialise.
Read on for more rumours and predictions about this still unannounced MacBook Pro model, as well as all the details about the latest updates to the range.
If you're interested in the 2017 MacBook Pro you can read more here: 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro review, 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro review. And if you want to buy one, read our Mac buying guide and where to buy a Mac. We also have a comparison of the two MacBook Pro models here.
2017 MacBook Pro: Price
When Apple updated the MacBook Pro in 2016 the entry-level price for the new model was £1,449/$1,499, while the company continued to sell an older 2015 MacBook Pro (in both the 13-inch and 15-inch configurations) at a lower price of £1,249/$1,299 for the 2015 13-inch and £1,899/$1,999 for the 2015 15-inch.
The older 15-inch model still remains, at the same price, but the great news is that Apple has discontinued the 2015 13-inch and instead dropped the price of entry on the newer Mac models. So you can now get a Kaby Lake 13-inch MacBook Pro for £1,249/$1,299.
The pricing is as follows:
- 2.3GHz Kaby Lake i5 dual-core processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, £1,249/$1,299
- 2.3GHz Kaby Lake i5 dual-core processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, £1,449/$1,499
- 3.1GHz Kaby Lake i5 dual-core processor, Touch Bar, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650, £1,749/$1,799
- 3.1GHz Kaby Lake i5 dual-core processor, Touch Bar, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650, £1,949/$1,999
- 2.2GHz Broadwell i7 quad-core processor, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage, Intel Iris Pro Graphics, £1,899/$1,999
- 2.8GHz Kaby Lake i7 quad-core processor, Touch Bar, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage, Radeon Pro 555, £2,349/$2,399
- 2.9GHz Kaby Lake i7 quad-core processor, Touch Bar, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, Radeon Pro 560, £2,699/$2,799
New MacBook Pro: Release date
The 2017 MacBook Pro models are available from the Apple Store now.
2017 MacBook Spec
The MacBook Pro models introduced in June at WWDC offer the following:
Apple has upgraded the range with seventh-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors, with the exception of the 15-inch non-Touch Bar model which retains its Broadwell processor. That model hasn't changed from the 2015 model offered previously.
The graphics have also received a boost, with the 13in MacBook Pro without Touch Bar now offering Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 (was Intel Iris Graphics 540) while the 13in model with Touch Bar now offers Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 (was Intel Iris Graphics 550).
The 15in models offers the Radeon Pro 555 or 560 (replacing the Radeon Pro 455).
All the 13-inch models offer 8GB RAM (although there is a build-to-order option for 16GB RAM). The 15-inch models ship with 16GB RAM as standard.
There are calls for Apple to offer up to 32GB RAM in the MacBook Pro. Pro customers, such as video editors, were so disillusioned with the 2016 update to the MacBook Pro that in November 2016 Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller spoke out in defence of Apple's decision not to offer more RAM, saying that to offer more RAM would be detrimental to battery life because higher amounts of RAM would require a power-hungry memory controller unsuitable for use in portable machines.
Schiller said: "To support 32GB of memory would require using DDR memory that is not low power and also require a different design of the logic board which might reduce space for batteries. Both factors would reduce battery life."
The problem lies with the CPUs used in Apple's MacBook Pro. These processors support up to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM at 2133MHz. There are processors capable of addressing more than 16GB of memory, but these rely on less efficient DDR4 RAM and are usually deployed in desktops because they can be plugged into mains power. Understandably Apple does not wish to hinder the battery life of its laptops in this way.
Schiller has also indicated that using 32GB of RAM would require a different logic board design that would limit space for other components, including the battery. In an email to MacDaddy's Ben Slaney, Schiller wrote: "To support 32GB of memory would require using DDR memory that is not low power and also require a different design of the logic board which might reduce space for batteries. Both factors would reduce battery life."
The calls for a 32GB RAM version of the MacBook Pro are loud enough for Apple to make a statement regarding it, but this doesn't mean that a RAM update is imminent. Even the Kaby Lake processor upgrade for the MacBook Pro could not increase in the RAM cap of 16GB because the Kaby Lake processor doesn't support LPDDR4 RAM and Apple is not expected to engineer a new RAM controller that does any time soon.
An Intel processor capable of supporting LPDDR4 RAM isn't expected before 2018.
Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo predicts that Apple will start to manufacture a 15in MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM in the fourth quarter of 2017 though. And he thinks that Apple will adopt desktop RAM due in order to do so.
In the meantime, Dell's Precision 5520 laptop is directly comparable to the MacBook Pro and has a 32GB RAM build-to-order configuration.
The Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro was the biggest change to the range when it was updated in 2016. It's a customisable strip-screen that allows for slicker fingertip control in certain software. It supports multi-touch gestures, which is handy when photo editing or using DJ applications, to name a couple of examples.
The Touch Bar is customisable, and you can click and drag preferred commands/functions into the bar, somewhat like the way you drag app icons into the dock on a Mac or iPhone. When the Touch Bar first launched it was limited to Apple applications, however over the months it has gained functionality with many other apps including Spotify and Photoshop, and it now offers additional functionality for Microsoft Office features. You can expect more software to offer Touch Bar support in the future.
For more on this, see How to use the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro. And if you'd like to get some Touch Bar action on other Macs, have a read of our Apple keyboard with Touch Bar release date rumours and How to get Touch Bar on any Mac.
When Apple introduced the MacBook Pro in 2016 customers were offered two 13-inch Touch Bar models and two 15-inch Touch Bar models. In addition, at the time, there was also a 13-inch non-touch bar version (aside from the 2015 model).
Some reports have suggested that the Touch Bar is not proving to be particularly popular, although this may be because those MacBook Pro models with the feature have a higher price.
It may be as a result of this that Apple is now, as of 2017, offering two non-Touch Bar models of the MacBook Pro with a lower price of entry.
There are also two non-Touch Bar models in the 13-inch category and one non-Touch Bar 15-inch MacBook Pro model, the latter is an older MacBook Pro dating back to 2015. As such it offers a 2.2GHz Broadwell i7 quad-core processor.
You can add various build-to-order options to the 15-inch model at the point of sale, including a 3.1GHz Core i7 and 2TB storage, all of which will set you back £3,969/$4,199.
Next generation MacBook Pro rumours
The fact that Apple has launched an update to the MacBook Pro won't stop the rumours of a new model with even better specs. Below we will examine some of the rumours.
New MacBook Pro: RAM
As we said above, there is expectation that the next generation of MacBook Pro will offer 32GB RAM at the high-end.
New MacBook Pro: Design
Looks-wise we'd be very surprised if Apple made any significant departures from the new look unveiled in 2016. However, it's possible Apple may tinker with the colour options.
The MacBook Pro series currently comes in two colour finishes: silver and Space Grey, while the MacBook series is available in Gold and Rose Gold as well. Is the MacBook Pro ever likely to adopt the gold colour?
It's a possibility. But our prediction is that Apple will continue to offer gold as an option on its consumer-focused laptops, while keeping the more business-like silver and grey for the professional machines.
New MacBook Pro: Processors
In the future, Apple could move away from Intel chips and look at what's on offer from AMD. According to an Archtosh report, AMD has launched RYZEN 7 CPUs that "promise more computing muscle per watt than Intel" and, according to a report the new AMD RYZEN 7 1800X just set a new world record score for Cinebench, a respected CPU performance benchmark.
That report states that the new RYZEN 7 chip lineup roughly competes with Intel's i7 line including the i7-6900K, i7-6800K, and i7-7700K.
We think such a transition is unlikely however, given the fact that Apple had to rewrite the operating system to prepare for the Intel switch. Perhaps more likely is the idea that Apple will design its own chips (although we think all rumours about this pointed to the processor that powers the Touch Bar in the 2016 MacBook Pro.)
An Apple-designed processor?
The chip that powers the Touch Bar in the MacBook Pro may not be the only low power chip coming from Apple. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman predicted in February 2017 that the new MacBook Pro will feature an Apple-designed chip to handle simple tasks such as email and updates while the laptop is asleep, citing "people familiar with the matter".
"The chip, which went into development [in 2016], is similar to one already used in the latest MacBook Pro to power the keyboard's Touch Bar feature," Gurman writes. "The updated part, internally codenamed T310, would handle some of the computer's low-power mode functionality."
By building a dedicated low-power processor, Apple could reduce battery consumption for the 2017 MacBook Pro.
There are rumours that the new MacBook Pro scheduled to be introduced at WWDC in June will feature this new, Apple-designed chip to manage and improve the computer's low-power performance mode.
New MacBook Pro: Screen
The current model has an impressive 4K screen but this is still few pixels than some of the competition.
The 2016 MacBook Pro can output the full DCI P3 colour space used for films for digital cinema output, however, as our colleague on Digital Arts notes in his review: "It's the Adobe RGB colour space that really matters as this is what's used internally by tools from Photoshop to Illustrator to Premiere Pro – and again here the MBP is lacking. In our tests with a DataColor Spyder5Elite colorimeter, we found that the MacBook Pro's screen can output 91 percent of the colours in the Adobe RGB."
In their tests Dell's Precision 5510 and the Wacom MobileStudio Pro could output 91 percent of the colours in the Adobe RGB.
In the next version of the MacBook Pro we'd like to see an improvement here.
Another desirable addition to the screen would be touchscreen capabilities, something much of the competition also shares. While Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs said that he felt that touch screens were a bad idea (because they would make your arm ache) there is some value in being able to touch a screen rather than use a mouse or track pad when you are in cramped conditions, such as those in which our colleague on Digital Arts wrote his review.
Apple may have a solution to the touch screen wishes in mind. Apparently the company is looking at hooking an iPad Pro up to a Mac to use it as a Cintiq-like device, according to OSnews.
New MacBook Pro: Battery
With Apple pointing to battery life as the reason it won't offer more RAM in the MacBook Pro you might be wondering whether there is room for improvements to battery life in the next model, or if battery life could (or should) suffer if Apple is to offer a truly pro-level machine.
The 2016 machine offers 10-hours of battery life, as did earlier models. There was some question about the accuracy of this claim earlier in 2017 when Consumer Reports tested the battery life and found that is was less. However, Consumer Reports battery life tests had been influenced by a bug in Safari's developer mode that consumers wouldn't be using.
New MacBook Pro: Ports
When Apple launched the new MacBook Pro many of the familiar ports disappeared replaced by USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. The headphone jack remained despite being lost from the iPhone and iPad. Will it remain in the next version of the MacBook Pro? Possibly, although it seems likely that Apple will swap it for Lightning or another Thunderbolt 3 port in the future.