Back in November 2019, the largest MacBook Pro gained a new design with a larger screen, but other than the outward redesign the 16in MacBook Pro kept the components of the 15in model from June 2019. It's high time for the 16in MacBook Pro to get an update, but what can we expect, and when?
In this article we'll look at the rumours about the 2021 16in MacBook's Apple-made processor and graphics options, talk of a redesign - maybe even a titanium case - and reports that the MagSafe charger will be making a comeback, while the Touch Bar makes a departure.
Wondering whether to buy a MacBook Pro now? Read: 16in MacBook Pro: buy now or wait for the new model?
16in MacBook Pro: Release date
It seems that Apple will be updating the 16in MacBook Pro and its smaller sibling (discussed here: New 14in MacBook Pro launch) this autumn.
Twitter account Dylandkt has claimed that the new MacBook Pro, in both 14in and 16in sizes, will "definitely" be launched 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
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also claimed in an investor report that production of the new 14in and 16in MacBook Pro is on track to commence in the third quarter of the year - between July and September 2021. As a result we could feasibly see the new laptops sooner than the anticipated October 2021 date - perhaps they could launch alongside the iPhone 13 in September.
This is a bit of a revision on Gurman's May 2021 predictions: back then in a report for Bloomberg Gurman said that, according to his sources, an updated MacBook Pro would launch this summer. Read more in: Apple to overhaul entire Mac line up - Bloomberg.
Even earlier in the year, Gurman had tweeted:
New story: For new high-end 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, Apple indeed plans return of MagSafe, the end of the Touch Bar (finally), brighter screens, minor design changes, next-gen M-series chips and more. Launch around mid-2021. https://t.co/eL3r06oexW— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) January 15, 2021
There was other evidence that the MacBook Pro revision was coming sooner rather than later: A new MacBook Pro was spotted in a Chinese regulatory database. The listing had been published back in April, suggesting that Apple was gearing up to release the new Mac.
Is the new MacBook Pro delayed?
Apple may have intended to launch the new MacBook Pro at WWDC in June - which would have been the perfect setting for such a launch. But clearly Apple wasn't ready to launch a new MacBook Pro in the summer of 2021, so now the predictions have been pushed back to the autumn.
The delay is actually not a huge surprise. Component shortages have been plaguing the whole industry, and the new MacBook Pro models are likely affected. Indeed reports have suggested that the MacBook Pro launches might not happen until later in 2021 because of these component supply problems.
The usually accurate analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has been saying since last year that the MacBook Pro is being held up by coronavirus-related delays affecting a new screen technology Apple is using (more on mini-LED below). Kuo reiterated this in January 2021, and again in February 2021, in notes to investors where he said that the new MacBook Pro models won't launch until the third quarter of 2021.
Kuo suggests that shortages in the mini-LED panels that Apple wants to use for the new MacBooks are one reason for the delay, but it's not only mini-LED panels that are facing delays. According to Asian newspaper the Nikkei, global component shortages mean Apple's MacBook Pro is delayed. Some components that should have been available before the summer are now not expected to be delivered until the autumn.
This shortage of chips is said to have led to difficulties getting the circuits mounted on the motherboard on the MacBook model, according to Nikkei.
Nikkei, in March 2021, also suggested the MacBook launch could be pushed back to autumn.
What seems certain is that there will be new MacBooks in 2021. Apple apparently has an "aggressive production schedule" for its MacBook Pro 2021, so the company certainly has something big planned. Read: New MacBook Pro in 2021. Also read our review of the 2019 16in MacBook Pro.
16in MacBook Pro: New features and specs
What can we expect from the 16in MacBook Pro update when it does arrive? The most obvious improvement will be the inclusion of Apple Silicon - either the M1X Chip, or perhaps an M2 Chip. We can expect a few more new features and changes as well.
New Apple processor
The two entry-level 13in MacBook Pro models ditched Intel for Apple's own processor line in November 2020 along with the MacBook Air and Mac mini. The same processor has since made its way into the iMac - a new 24in model that Apple launched in April 2021.
The benchmarks for these M1 processors are impressive, but those who use more processor-intensive apps will no doubt be anticipating that something amazing is in the pipeline, and of that we are certain.
The 16in MacBook Pro has always been targeted at high-end use, with creative pros being the group most likely to be impatiently awaiting the launch of a new, Apple powered machine. What can we expect from the successor to the M1 that will almost definitely feature in this new MacBook Pro?
There are rumours indicating that Apple could be working on an M1X Chip or an M2 chip. What exactly will these chips offer?
LeaksApplePro tweeted in November 2020 about a 12-core chip for the 16in MacBook Pro.
Apple M1X:— LeaksApplePro🎄 (@LeaksApplePro) November 22, 2020
- 8 performance cores.
- 4 high efficiency cores.
- Coming first on a MacBook Pro
16” unveiling as a press release.
- According to a source who used a prototype, “if you think M1 is fast, you haven't seen M1X”.
-Name isn't final though. pic.twitter.com/tpBhXpDCad
While a Bloomberg report in December 2020 indicated that: "For its next-generation chip targeting MacBook Pro and iMac models, Apple is working on designs with as many as 16 power cores and four efficiency cores."
And another Bloomberg report in May 2021 suggested that the new MacBook Pro will offer "processors designed in-house that will greatly outpace the performance and capabilities of the current M1 chips."
That latter report indicates that these more powerful iterations of the M-series chips will have "more graphics and computing cores".
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman's sources claim that there will be two different chips for the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro models. These are codenamed Jade C-Chop and Jade C-Die.
Both chips will offer eight high-performance cores and two energy-efficient cores - bringing a total of 10, according to that report. Read more here: Apple to overhaul entire Mac line up - Bloomberg.
The question is will the new processor in the 16in MacBook Pro be an M1X or M2? According to a surprisingly accurate, but not so well known, Apple leaker, it's the M1X we should be expecting.
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
He then went on to confirm 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
Dylan correctly predicted that the 24in iMac would use an M1 chip when many were anticipating an M1X chip for that machine.
The graphics capabilities are another area where these MacBook Pro will need to improve if they are to be considered truly Pro.
The current M1 Macs are beating the Intel integrated graphics in tests, but they are generally being left behind by the discrete graphics used in the 16in MacBook Pro (and the 27in iMac for that matter).
Currently, the 16in MacBook Pro offers the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M or 5500M with 4GB RAM or the AMD Radeon Pro 5600M with 8GB RAM. Many will be concerned that the new Silicon 16in MacBook Pro will lack discrete graphics and will be less appropriate for high-end use as a result of that.
Hopefully, there is no need for concern. Reports suggest that Apple is working on a 16-core graphics solution for the successor to the M1.
In the May Bloomberg report, Gurman indicates that there will be either 16 or 32 graphics core variations for the new MacBook Pro - compared to and seven or eight graphics cores for the M1.
When it announced the plans to move to ARM-based processors, Apple also sought to put minds at rest regarding graphics: in a developer document it said "Don't assume a discrete GPU means better performance," and "The integrated GPU in Apple processors is optimised for high-performance graphics tasks." Read this for more information about Apple's graphics plans: Details of Apple's Silicon graphics.
As we discuss in our Apple vs Intel article, Apple is setting expectations high - claiming that we can expect "higher performance GPUs" inside the new Apple Silicon Macs. It is entirely possible that Apple will be able to achieve its promise: Apple uses Tile Based Deferred Rendering (TBDR) rather than the Immediate Mode Rendering (IMR) as used by Intel, Nvidia and AMD GPUs and there are a number of benefits to this.
You might also like to read: Apple's plans for the Mac Pro.
The current M1 Macs ship with 8GB RAM as standard and can be upgraded to 16GB RAM at point of sale. For many creative pros, 8GB or even 16GB doesn't sound like enough RAM and this has been an area of concern.
There are two reasons why this shouldn't be a worry for the new MacBook Pro models. According to the May Bloomberg report: "The chips also include up to 64GB of memory versus a maximum of 16GB on the M1".
The other reason why it shouldn't be a concern is the 8GB RAM on the M1 isn't the same as 8GB RAM with an Intel Mac. This is because it is integrated into the M1 chip, alongside the processor and the graphics, which means that tasks don't need to be shunted around as much. Read more about Apple's Unified Memory Architecture.
We can probably expect to see 16GB as standard in the new 16in MacBook Pro, but the way that RAM is allocated will be different, so it is less likely that the new MacBook Pro will have separate graphics memory.
As for whether a new Silicon MacBook Pro could support 64GB RAM, like the current model, we don't know.
Back in 2020 analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that a new 16in MBP would not arrive until 2021 because Apple wanted to adopt mini-LED screen panels for its Macs - and these mini-LED screens have been suffering from COVID-related delays.
These new mini-LED panels offer a rich wide colour gamut as well as high contrast ratios, high dynamic range, and more. Mini-LED should also result in thinner, more power-efficient panels that don't suffer from burn-in (which is an issue with OLED).
According to Kuo, the mini LED screens being used for the MacBook Pro will have slightly flatter edges - like the iPad Pro and the iPhone 12 models.
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 may indicate that they could feature in the next updates. Read more about that here: MacBook with mini-LED screen coming this year - report.
Apple really needs to up its game with this camera, something that has become very apparent in this age of video conferencing.
The MacBook Pro still offers a shockingly poor 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 has already addressed the FaceTime camera with the 24in iMac, and now it looks like we could see a similar update in the new MacBook Pro.
Twitter leaker Dylandkt tweeted the following in July 2021:
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
We'd also like to see the TrueDepth camera appear on the MacBook range, enabling Face ID on the Mac. 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.
Another revelation in a Mark Gurma Power On newsletter (discussed here: Apple plans to bring Face ID to every device) Apple's Face ID will come to the Mac within a couple of years. In fact, Gurman believes Apple's long-term goal is to provide Face ID on all Apple products.
No Touch Bar
According to the January 2021 investor note from Ming-Chi Kuo Apple is removing the Touch Bar from the new MacBook Pro. The physical function buttons will be restored. Read: MagSafe in and Touch Bar out for new iPhone-like MacBook Pro.
Kuo went on to reiterate this claim in an investor note in February 2021, so it looks like the Touch Bar's days are numbered.
Alternatively, the new model could include an updated Touch Bar. Read: Apple Patents Force Touch for MacBook Pro Touch Bar.
As you can see from the above link, the return of MagSafe is also predicted for the new MacBook Pro. Both Kuo and a January 2021 Bloomberg report 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?
Kuo also suggests that we could see the return of other ports including the SD card slot and the HDMI port. Read more here: Apple will correct old mistakes with new MacBook Pro models.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) as a Wi-Fi standard is still in its infancy, but it is starting to arrive - and it features on the new 13in MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models.
It seems a safe bet to expect that it will be available on the new 16in MacBook Pro.
For more information about Apple's plans for the coming months, read our guide to the New Apple products coming in 2021.