Apple has updated its entire line up of MacBook Pro laptops already in 2019, adding 9th-gen Intel Coffee Lake refresh processors (with up to 8 cores) to the 15in models, and giving a slight boost to the (still 8th-gen Coffee Lake) processors in the mid-range 13in models and a decent update to the previously under-powered entry-level pair of MacBook Pro. But apparently it's not finished.
Not only do rumours suggests that Apple had something much bigger in the pipeline - a 16in MacBook Pro with a 4K display - it may be that it will launch before the end of 2019, and when it does Apple may discontinue the 15in MacBook Pro.
In this article we round up all the news and rumours about the 16in MacBook Pro, including all the info we can get our hands on about the giant 16in 4K screen, their specs and features, pricing, and when you'll be able to buy it.
A Bloomberg report on 22 August 2019 indicates that the new 16in MacBook Pro is definately in the pipeline, so it's just a case of waiting to see when Apple reveals it...
MacBook Pro release date
Given that Apple announced new 13in and 15in MacBook Pros just before WWDC 2019 in May 2019 (almost a year after the previous updated to the range), and then updated the entry-level models in July 2019, we weren't really expecting to see the next generation of MacBook Pro until June 2020.
However, first a July report from Economic Daily News claimed that the new 16in MacBook Pro could launch in October 2019, and then, a few days later, a DigiTimes report suggested the new Mac laptop could actually arrive in September. Then, in August, research firm TrendForce said: "We see new products hitting shelves, such as Apple's 16-inch MacBook" while referencing their third quarter outlook, via Macrumours.
TF International analyst Ming Chi Kuo and IHS analyst Jeff Lin have also prediced that the 16in MacBook Pro will arrive this autumn.
One reason why the new laptop could launch soon is if Apple is keen to move to the scissor-switch keyboard in its Mac laptops this year, something TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that Apple plans to do.
Back in February 2019 Kuo suggested that the 16in MacBook Air could arrive in 2019. Kuo is usually quite accurate, hence we take his claims that a 16in MacBook Pro is in the pipeline seriously.
Kuo also has predictions for a 2020 MacBook Pro which he says will use a new micro-LED technology, as per an April 2019 research note. So it might be that the 2019 plans have been moved back to 2020 to allow for the use of this new screen technology. Kuo has said that the other 13in and 15in MacBook Pro models won't be updated until 2020.
Another reason why we could see the another new MacBook Pro during 2019 is out is that Intel has revealed that new processors that are likely to be used in the new MacBook Pro will be available soon. More on the processors below.
Price and availability
If you don't want to wait for the new 16in model, we think the 2019 models are still an excellent buy. They are available from the Apple Store. You might also be able to get a discount on one though if you check out our round up of the best MacBook Pro deals here.
Right now the 13in MacBook Pro starts at £1,299/$1,299 (Apple put prices up in the UK in July 2019). The cheapest 15in MacBook Pro you can get costs £2,399/$2,399.
The 16in MacBook Pro when it arrives could cost a staggering £3,000/$3,000 according to the Economic Daily News report.
In an investor note back in 17 February 2019, Apple expert Ming Chi Kuo predicted that Apple will release a 16in MacBook Pro in 2019. So, how can we expect it to shape up.
Kuo said that the bigger screen size (16.5in, to be exact) could be made possible by reduced bezels. Throughout 2018 Apple was hard at work reducing bezels on its products, including the iPad Pro and MacBook Air, so the suggestion that it might reduce the bezels on the MacBook Pro isn't a surprising one.
You may be thinking that the jump from 15in to 16.5in is a large one but it's worth noting that the MacBook Pro, while described as the 15in MacBook Pro, actually has a screen size of 15.4in diagonally. And Apple sold a 17in MacBook Pro until June 2012.
If you're wondering what the new MacBook Pro might look like, this concept image might entertain you.
The 2020 MacBook Pro models could offer the following specs:
That extra inch or so should mean that the 16in MacBook Pro can offer more pixels than its predecessor. This is something Mac users have been requesting for years.
Apple's main competitors in this space offer 4K displays. The lack of a 4K display on the MacBook Pro is a massive disappointment for many.
There are claims that the new screen will offer a 3,072 x 1,920 pixel resolution. That would be less than 4K, which is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels.
We hope the new 16in MacBook Pro will offer a 4K display - if it doesn't, there may be a riot.
Picture shows the 2018 MacBook Air with its slimmer bezels around the screen
This isn't expected until late 2020 or maybe not until 2021. TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Apple will eventually be using a mini-LED display for the MacBook Pro.
There are lots of benefits to using mini-LED panels including a wide color gamut, high contrast ratios, high dynamic range, localized dimming, and no burn-in. Panels are also more power efficient.
In 2019 Apple added new 9th generation Coffee Lake processors to the 15in MacBook Pro and upgraded the 8th generation processors in the 13in models. These new 9th gen processors have the benefit of offering more cores, so there is now an 8-core option for the 15in models.
These 9th generation mobile processors are part of the Coffee Lake Refresh, Aka Coffee Lake-R, as seen in the top of the range 2019 iMac.
Looking towards the next update to the MacBook Pro, if the new machine is to arrive in September or October 2019 it is likely to feature these 9th gen processors, albeit at a higher clock speed. IHS Markit analyst Jeff Lin has predicted that the new 16in MacBook Pro will offer a 2.4GHz 8-core Core i9 processor with a Turbo Boost of 5.0GHz, via Macrumors.
The current top-of-the-range 15in MacBook Pro can be configured with the same 2.4GHz 8-core Core i9 processor with a Turbo Boost of 5.0GHz.
This begs the question: Will the new 16in MacBook Pro replace the 15in MacBook Pro? Lin thinks it will, he wrote: " I am pretty sure that MacBook 15.4in will be EOL [end of life]. We think 15.4in MacBook volumes will shift to 16in." We refer to the 15in MacBook Pro as 15-inch, but it's actually 15.4in.
Alternatively, Apple will wait for the next generation of Intel processors, the 10th-generation Ice Lake processors, although there have been rumours that Apple will make its own processors at some point, moving away from Intel, more on that below.
The next new processor generation is Sunny Cove and Ice Lake (it's a bit confusing if you are used to Intel referring to the chip with a *Lake because this time round the Lake bit signifies the chip and the Cove bit the core, or you could think of the chip as Sunny Cove, based on Ice Lake).
You might also have thought that Cannon Lake was going to be next, but it seems that after many delays, Intel is pretty much skipping that generation.
Whatever you call it the new architecture will be the first big change since Skylake arrived in 2015 and it should offer an increase in single-thread performance, bigger caches, wider execution units, and a set of new instructions meant to speed up cryptography, AI, and machine learning, according to this Macworld US report.
The 13in MacBook Pro is likely to maintain its integrated graphics while the 16in model ships with a discrete graphics card.
Unlike the 2019 update, which saw no change to the graphics cards inside compared to the previous generation, we expect that the 2020 models will use new graphics cards.
The good news from the perspective of the 13in model is that the Ice Lake graphics will be much better than what we have today. The current Iris Plus 655 GPU has 48 execution units but the new Ice Lake option will offer 64 execution units (50% more) plus it will also offer efficiency improvements.
As for the 16in models, the 15in models currently offer the Radeon Pro 555X or Radeon Pro 560X, both with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. There is, however, a build-to-order option that allows you to update the MacBook Pro to a Radeon Pro Vega 16 or 20. Perhaps in the new models we will see Vega GPUs as standard.
All the 13in models currently offer 8GB RAM as standard with a build-to-order option for 16GB RAM. As of 2018 the 15in models have added a 32GB RAM build-to-order option.
The RAM in the 13in models is less powerful than that in the 15in MacBook Pro which is 2400MHz DDR4, compared to the slower 2133MHz LPDDR3.
Analyst Ming Chi Kuo said in his February 2019 research note that the 13in MacBook Pro will gain a 32GB RAM option, but this hasn't happened yet - perhaps it's something we could see with the next version of the 13in MacBook Pro though. Hopefully these models will eventually get the faster 2400MHz DDR4 RAM as well.
We could also see the new standard Wi-Fi 6 aka 802.11ax arrive with the next generation of MacBook Pro.
802.11ax should reduce the effects of interference and increase throughput in congested environments. It’s the successor to 802.11ac and is less focused on speed and more on being able to handle multiple devices better.
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 or video editing, 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. 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.
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. As of July 2019, all MacBook Pro models have the Touch Bar.