Apple has big plans for the MacBook Pro in 2021 with a redesign expected that could see the 13in MacBook Pro become the 14in MacBook Pro. There are many more new features coming to the range, including Apple's M1 chip (which has already made an appearance in the entry-level models) and new screen technology.
In this article we will look at the rumoured 14in MacBook Pro said to be in the works at Apple, discussing when the new MacBook Pro is coming out, and all the rumours about the specs and features of Apple's 2021 MacBook Pro.
We have a separate article about the rumours about the new 16in MacBook Pro.
14in MacBook Pro release date
The rumoured 14in MacBook Pro has been rumoured for some time, at one point TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had suggested that the 14in MacBook Pro would be here by the end of 2020, but he later changed his forecast - suggesting that Apple's plans had been pushed back to 2021 because it wanted to use mini-LED displays in the new models and there were problems with supply due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Twitter user L0vetodream and Jon Prosser both agree that the 14in MacBook Pro will come in 2021:
100%— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) May 11, 2020
As for when in 2021, in December 2020 Kuo advised his clients that the 14in MacBook Pro will arrive in autumn 2021.
We're hopeful that it will appear sooner than that, perhaps around the time of Apple's WWDC in June.
When the 16in MacBook Pro launched in November 2019 (16in MacBook Pro reviewed here) it benefited from a bigger screen made possible by reduced bezels (you can see the difference in the image above: the old model is on the left). Following the arrival of that model there have been rumours that Apple might replace the current 13in MacBook Pro with a model with a bigger screen.
This doesn't mean that the dimensions of the current 13in model will change - the thinking is that Apple could produce a 14in MacBook Pro by reducing the bezels around the display. It's worth noting that the 13in MacBook Pro actually measures 13.3in.
However, it's possible the 14in MacBook Pro may never transpire. Apple's Phil Schiller, when asked about the likelihood of a larger display for the 13in MacBook Pro back in November 2019, told YouTube personality Jonathan Morrison: "I wouldn't draw any extrapolation from [the 16in MacBook Pro] to anything else."
Despite what Schiller said, we do think it's possible that the 13in MacBook Pro will gain a bigger display like the 16in MacBook did, but there could be even more in store for the new display. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that Apple will add a Mini-LED display to the MacBook Pro (and various other products it makes, including the iPad Pro).
Kuo suggested back in March 2020 that Apple will replace its 13in MacBook Pro with a 14.1in model with mini-LCD display.
However, that new display technology has been delayed and is not expected to be available until 2021. Kuo had previously suggested that a 16in model with mini LED could launch in the fourth quarter of 2020, but he later noted that Coronavirus related delays might mean that the change to mini-LCD displays might slip back to 2021.
Another thing we'd love to see on the MacBook Pro is a touch screen. We discuss why it is time for Apple to change its mind and start offering Macs with touch screens here: Why Apple needs a touch screen Mac. One key reason why we need touch on the Mac: the fact that the Apple Silicon transition should make it possible to use iOS apps on the Mac and iOS means touch...
New Features & Spec
Whether there is a design overhaul or not it is likely that there will be changes on the inside in terms of processor and potentially storage options. Below we will look at the specs we expect to see inside the new MacBook Pro models.
There were some design changes in the inside of the 16in MacBook Pro that could translate to the new 13in models. There were changes to the internal thermal management - larger heat sink and changes to the fan design, rearranged logic board for better heat dispersal. Probably necessary in part to accommodate the larger 100W battery and the extra 12W power.
To recap, right now you'll find the following:
13in MacBook Pro
- Apple M1 Chip with 8‑Core CPU and 8‑Core GPU. 256GB - £1,299/$1,299, 512GB - £1,499,$1,499
- 2.0GHz Quad-Core i5 10th-generation (TB 3.8GHz), Intel Iris Plus Graphics, 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X RAM, four Thunderbolt ports. 512GB - £1,799/$1,799, 1TB Storage - £1,999/$1,999
16in MacBook Pro
- 2.6GHz Six-core i7 9th-generation (TB 4.8GHz), AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, 16GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, four Thunderbolt ports: 512GB, £2,399
- 2.3GHz Eight-core i9 9th-generation (TB 4.5GHz), AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, 16GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, four Thunderbolt ports: 1TB, £2,799
In November 2020 Apple updated the two entry level 13in MacBook Pro models, making them some of the first Macs to adopt Apple's M1 chips.
The other two 13in MacBook Pro models in the range remained untouched since their update in May 2020 when they gained 10th generation Intel processors and more RAM.
It's a safe bet to assume that the two remaining 13in MacBook Pro models (and the 16in MacBook Pro) will be adopting the M1 - or a newer, more powerful version of the M1 - in 2021. Read more about Apple's processor plans here. You may also like to read: How good is Apple's M1 chip really?
We have also examined what Apple Silicon could bring and how it will compare to Intel here: Apple Silicon vs Intel.
The M1 MacBook Pro models that launched in November 2020 offer 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU. Apple claims that the GPU in this model is "up to 5x faster" than its predecessor.
The current 2.0GHz MacBook Pro offers Intel Iris Plus Graphics, which are integrated with the Intel processor. Tests are showing that the Intel-powered MacBook Pro with its internal Iris graphics card had little chance against the M1 MacBook Pro.
In a developer document Apple said: "The integrated GPU in Apple processors is optimized for high performance graphics tasks".
The 2.0GHz 13in MacBook Pro on sale now offers 16GB RAM as standard. The M1 MacBook Pro offers 8GB RAM.
Apple claims that its Unified Memory Architecture (UMA) means that it's not necessary to have as much RAM because all the RAM can be accessed quickly as it is all in the same location as the GPU and CPU, and can be attributed where it is needed. This may mean that the new 14in MacBook Pro ships with 8GB RAM as standard.
Speakers & Microphone
The 16in MacBook Pro has improved speakers with deeper bass and a noise-cancelling microphone. Will the 14in models gain the same update at some point?
Possibly we may see an improvement, although not on the same level. The improvements in the 16in may not be possible in the limited space of the smaller model: there are three speakers on each side of the 16in MacBook Pro (two of which are woofers). The smaller model may simply be unable to accommodate this: even if the screen is 14in the size of the Mac is unlikely to change significantly.
As for the microphone, the 13in model probably doesn't need the three-mic 'studio' array required by professional creative users.
The 16in MacBook Pro has a 100W battery (which is the biggest battery allowed in laptops before they would be banned from planes). This bigger battery means the 16in model now offers 11 hours of use.
The 13in MacBook models with Intel processors currently offer 10 hours use.
It's possible that Apple Silicon will make it possible for Apple to achieve more battery life from the smaller models: The 2020 M1 MacBook Pro offers 20 hours battery life - so it looks promising.
Face ID, Webcam and more
We'd love to see a better FaceTime camera on the MacBook. The MacBook Pro still offers a 720p camera. As a comparison the FaceTime camera (aka Selfie camera) on the iPhone 11 range offers 1080p HD video recording and a 12MP camera. Apple really needs to up its game with this camera, something that has become very apparent in this age of video conferencing.
The iPhone 11 camera is TrueDepth, so it also offers Face ID - something we'd like to see appear on the MacBook range. It looks like we might indeed get Face ID on the Mac - the Big Sur beta contains code that hints that the TrueDepth camera is coming to the Mac.
The new model could include an updated Touch Bar. Read: Apple Patents Force Touch for MacBook Pro Touch Bar.
Another thing that the M1 MacBook Pro offers 802.11ax WiFi 6 so it's a good bet that the same technology will appear in the new model.
For more information about what Apple will launch in 2021 read: New Apple products guide to what's coming out in 2021