Apple has big plans for the MacBook Pro in 2021 with a redesign expected to turn the 13in model into a 14in MacBook Pro and the company expected to launch a new version of the 16in MacBook Pro. There are many more new features coming to the range, including a more powerful version of Apple's M1 chip - the M1X - and new screen technology.
It also seems that Apple will also correct old mistakes with the new MacBook Pro models with the return of MagSafe and the disappearance of the Touch Bar. These changes have been rumoured for some time, and following the leak of 15 images from one of Apple's suppliers after a ransomware attack, it seems even more certain. More on that below.
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 covering rumours about the new 16in MacBook Pro, which is likely to use an even more powerful version of the chip inside the new 14in model.
14in MacBook Pro release date
The 14in MacBook Pro has been rumoured for some time. In 2020 TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo even suggested that the 14in MacBook Pro would be here by the end of 2020, but he later changed his forecast - indicating 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.
Then a May 2021 Bloomberg report indicated that a redesigned 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro could debut in the summer of 2021, so we were hopeful that the new MacBook Pro models would appear at WWDC 2021 on 7 June. However, the event came and went with no hardware announcements at all.
It's now looking like we won't see the new MacBook Pro until the autumn, with most Apple watchers predicting that the launch of these new MacBooks won't happen until the October or November - which would be a similar time frame to last year's first M1 Macs.
A June 2021 report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman claimed the new MacBook Pro will not appear until the autumn. He said that at Apple "all attention is on the fall". Read more here: Bloomberg: New MacBook Pro will launch this autumn.
In a newsletter in July (subscription required) Gurman further emphasized that Apple will launch new MacBook Pro models between September and November this year.
Twitter account Dylandkt, who had previously published information about tech launches that later proved to be correct, has also indicated that the new MacBook Pro, in both 14in and 16in sizes, will launch during the fourth quarter of the year, probably in late October or early November.
Macbook Pro 14 and 16 are definitely coming Q4 of 2021. Either late October or early November.— Dylan (@dylandkt) June 17, 2021
In a follow-up tweet Dylan claims a new Mac mini is also a definite for release at that time. Read more here: MacBook Pro with M1X 'will launch later this year'.
Is the new MacBook Pro delayed?
Asian newspaper Nikkei has indicated that Apple is one of many manufacturers being affected by global component shortages and as a result, the new MacBook Pro is facing delays.
Similarly, in March a Nikkei report indicated that the MacBook launch had been pushed back to autumn 2021 due to global chip and component shortage, and then a further report in April made a similar claim that the shortage of chips has led to difficulties getting the circuits mounted on the motherboard on the MacBook model.
According to a June 2021 report from the supply-chain news site DigiTimes, production of the new MacBook Pro models had been postponed until the third quarter of this year. Read more here: New MacBook Pro 'delayed until autumn'.
However, that third quarter - which is between July and September 2021 - is now here and in a July 2021 report to investors Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that mass production of the new MacBook Pro models is about to start up. If he is correct that could point to a MacBook Pro launch as early as September, although as we said above, October is more likely.
Both analyst Ming Chi Kuo and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman have indicated that we can expect an extensive redesign for the 13in MacBook Pro.
As per a January 2021 report, we can expect significant design changes including: a flat-edged iPhone 12-like design; no Touch Bar; the return of MagSafe charging; and more ports - including a SD slot.
Kuo adds that the 14in laptop will use a similar heat pipe system to the 16in MacBook Pro, which should increase the thermal headroom and enable better performance.
An Apple leaker on Twitter (the less well known, but surprisingly accurate @dylandkt) has told 9to5Mac that Apple will drop the MacBook Pro logo from the below the screen. That site reports that he said: "Focusing on the Macbook Pro 14 inch and 16 inch models, the design will be similar to the iPad Pro with flat edges. The bezels will be reduced and the bottom 'Macbook Pro' logo will be removed".
And if an Apple patent is to be believed, a future MacBook Pro could go retro with a titanium case.
In May 2021 Apple leaker Jon Prosser tweeted a claim that a new MacBook will come in a selection of colours, just like the 24in iMac. We think it's unlikely that this new model will be the new 14in MacBook Pro, however, Prosser's source also told him that the new iMac would come with a choice of colours, so there is certain to be something colourful in the pipeline at Apple. Read more here: Jon Prosser source: 'Apple planning colourful MacBook launch'.
Prosser claims these new colourful MacBooks could arrive soon:
see you in an hour 😘 pic.twitter.com/3eaVIh8ycy— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) May 10, 2021
When the 16in MacBook Pro launched in November 2019 (16in MacBook Pro review) 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 - it has already added one to the 12.9in iPad Pro).
Mini-LED was delayed by production difficulties as well as pandemic-related problems, but in May 2021 it was reported that supplier TSMT has overcome the technical hurdles and is now all set to supply mini-LED panels for the MacBook Pro in 2021.
According to a DigiTimes report at the end of May 2021, Global Lighting Technologies is set to begin production of mini-LED components for Apple's next generation of MacBooks during the third quarter of 2021, which indicates that they could feature in the next updates. Read more about that here: MacBook with mini-LED screen coming this year - report.
Another DigiTimes report in July 2021 also claims that this year's models of MacBook Pro will have screens featuring mini-LED backlights that wil be manufactured by Taiwan Surface Mounting Technology (TSMT), the same company that produces the mini-LED screen panels for the 2021 12.9in iPad Pro. A smaller number of screens will also be manufactured by Luxshare Precision Industry.
However, we advise some caution with DigiTimes reports. The site also suggested, in March 2021, that Apple will use an OLED display for the MacBook Pro later this year. The Digitimes' report indicates that Apple is looking at mini-LED, micro-LED and OLED technologies to be used for the MacBook and iPad lineups.
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...
(Wondering whether to buy a MacBook Pro now? Read: 16in MacBook Pro: buy now or wait for the new model?)
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 a newer, more powerful version of the M1 - in 2021.
According to a Bloomberg report in May 2021 (see Apple to overhaul entire Mac line up) the new Macs will feature "processors designed in-house that will greatly outpace the performance and capabilities of the current M1 chips," according to sources. The report indicates that these more powerful iterations of the M-series chips will have "more graphics and computing cores".
There is some debate over whether the new processor in the MacBook Pro will be the M1X or M2. Twitter leaker Dylan suggested in April 2021 that the M1X will be the chip that Apple will use:
M1X is an extension of the M1 that will contain more thunderbolt channels, more cpu cores, more gpu cores, and greater power draw. The M1X will be featured in the Higher end Mac Mini, the Macbook Pro 14 and 16, and a higher end iMac.— Dylan (@dylandkt) April 30, 2021
Then when questioned about that tweet in May 2021 he said:
Pretty much. When it comes to how often the processor is refreshed though, whether on a yearly basis or based on another timetable, that remains to be seen.— Dylan (@dylandkt) May 22, 2021
The latter tweet suggested that Apple will upgrade the chip generation each year, but within that chip - in this case the M1 - there will be multiple configurations, with extra cores for extra power.
He has also tweeted that:
The M1X is slated for a Q4 2021 release— Dylan (@dylandkt) April 25, 2021
The M2 is slated for a Q1 2022 release alongside the 2022 MacBook Air
He then went on to say in July 2021 that the M1X is reserved for the Pro Macs:
Just wanted to share some details on when to expect the next generation M2 (not the M1X which is reserved for the Pro Mac devices). This processor is on track to release in the first half of 2022 alongside the upcoming colorful Macbook (Air).— Dylan (@dylandkt) July 5, 2021
Dylan correctly predicted that the 24in iMac would use a M1 chip when many were anticipating an M1X chip for that machine, so there may be some truth in his claims.
We have more information about the M1X and M2 processor here: Should I wait for the M1X or M2 Mac?
The next big question is: Will the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro offer the same M1X chip? That seems like an unlikely scenario to us and according to the Bloomberg report the chips will be different with Apple said to be planning two different chips for the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro models. These chips are codenamed Jade C-Chop and Jade C-Die, according to the Bloomberg report. Both chips will offer eight high-performance cores and two energy-efficient cores - bringing a total of 10. In contrast the current M1 chips offer four high performance and four efficiency cores.
We discuss the various iterations of the M chip family Apple is expected to launch in the coming months in the following video:
The M1 MacBook Pro models that launched in November 2020 offer 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU.
Those hoping for better graphics performance will be pleased to learn that there will be either 16 or 32 graphics core variations for the new models.
Incidentally, the current 2.0GHz MacBook Pro offers Intel Iris Plus Graphics, which are integrated with the Intel processor. Tests show 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.
However the good news is that, if you were hoping for more RAM that two will be addressed by the new models. "The chips also include up to 64 gigabytes of memory versus a maximum of 16 on the M1," states the May Bloomberg report.
There will also be an improved Neural Engine, which will enable the addition of more Thunderbolt ports, according to Bloomberg.
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.
No Touch Bar
As we mentioned above, according to a January 2021 investor note from Ming Chi Kuo the OLED touch bar will be removed from the new MacBook Pro and the physical function buttons will be restored.
We've never been huge fans for the Touch Bar which we think is more of a gimic than a useful feature so we don't think that it will be a great loss.
According to MacRumors, "leaked images of the new MacBook Pro floating around on Twitter also confirm that the device will not feature a Touch Bar."
Analysts at Display Supply Chain Consultants also predict that Apple will "cancel the Touch Bar in the future", citing anonymous sources in a July 2021 report. Read: Touch Bar 'dropped from next MacBook Pro'.
Alternatively, the new model could include an updated Touch Bar. Read: Apple Patents Force Touch for MacBook Pro Touch Bar.
For more ways in which Apple is learning from its mistakes read: Four times Apple learned from its mistakes.
The return of MagSafe
The return of MagSafe is also predicted for the new MacBook Pro. Both Kuo and the Bloomberg report in January 2021 (mentioned earlier) state that Apple will be restoring the MagSafe charging connector, which was popular with people who didn't want their Mac to crash to the ground when they tripped over the power cable. Find out more about MagSafe here: What is MagSafe.
Another January 2021 Bloomberg report included a snippet that indicates that the new MacBook Pro will offer an SD slot.
In April the leak of 15 images after a ransomware attack on Apple manufacturing partner Quanta indicates that the rumours are true. Read: 'Hacked' drawings reveal new MacBook Pro.
REvil, who threatened Quanta in the $50 million ransomware attack published the 15 images. We won't be showing the images here, but can confirm, via Macrumors, that they show an HDMI port, a USB-C/Thunderbolt port and an SD Card reader on one side and two additional USB-C/Thunderbolt ports and a MagSafe charging slot on the other side.
Further evidence that MagSafe will make a return on the Mac: Apple has revised a document on Magsafe in its support area. Apple replaced the MagSafe charger on the MacBook Pro back in 2016, and hasn't sold a Mac with MagSafe since it stopped selling the old-style MacBook Air in 2018. By updating the support documents Apple seems to be indicating that MagSafe has a renewed importance for the company. We'd surmise that this means it will be making a return. Read more: Apple updates MagSafe support doc hinting at return to the Mac.
Face ID and Webcam
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. The 24in iMac also offers a 1080p HD camera along with the addition of image processing technology inside the M1 chip.
Apple really needs to up its game with the video camera in the MacBook Pro, something that has become very apparent in this age of video conferencing.
The good news is that Twitter leaker Dylandkt is indicating that the new MacBook Pro will feature a much better 1080p camera.
I know a lot people are referencing Linus’s video (which is a great video by the way) but it’s good to note that the upcoming MacBook Pro will actually be getting an updated improved 1080p webcam for the next model and so will the entire Mac lineup.— Dylan (@dylandkt) July 10, 2021
The higher-quality 1080p webcam isn't just coming to the MacBook Pro; Dylandkt says it will appear throughout the Mac range. Read more here: New MacBook Pro 'to get 1080p webcam'.
The iPhone 11 camera is TrueDepth, so it also offers Face ID - something we'd like to see appear on the MacBook range.
At one time it looked like we might indeed get Face ID on the Mac - the Big Sur beta contained code that hinted that the TrueDepth camera is coming to the Mac, but as yet we have seen nothing like that.
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.
What the patents tell us
From time to time Apple files or is granted patents for new technolgies that may appear in a future Mac. We've noted a few of these below that could eventually make their way onto the MacBook Pro, although we don't expect that they will this time around.
No Track Pad
This is a bit less likely than the above, but it is something that Apple has been investigating - and has filed a patent relating to.
US patent 10,942,571 describes a "laptop computing device with discrete haptic regions". It's assumed that if this patent was applied the trackpad below the keyboard would be omitted, and the entire area below the keyboard would become a touch surface. A Taptic Engine provides haptic feedback, such as the click feeling during an action. Read more here: Apple patents MacBook with no trackpad.
Yes really... Apple has been granted a keyboard free MacBook patent that would allow a user to configure the area where the keyboard is usually situated to meet their specific requirements.
This could make it easy to switch between different language keyboards, and those who require a numerical keyboard could switch to that. If you are assuming that this would be uncomfortable to use and strange to type on we are with you, but it seems that haptic outputs could give you the impression that you are typing on a physical keyboard.
The patent, titled: "Configurable force-sensitive input structure for electronic devices", seems to be designed to avoid the problem with mechanical keyboards, such as Apple experienced with the problematic butterfly mechanism keyboards that suffered costly faults when dust and debris became trapped under the keys.
It does sound a bit like a plan to replace the keyboard with a Touch Bar and given rumours that Apple is set on removing the Touch Bar from future MacBook Pro models it really does sound unlikely that Apple would apply this patent in the real world, but who knows!
For more information about what Apple will launch in 2021 read: New Apple products guide to what's coming out in 2021