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. Those components date back to June 2019, so it's time for the 16in MacBook Pro to get an update.
Plus, where the 16in MacBook Pro offers 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processors, as of May 2020 the 13in MacBook Pro has offered 10th-generation Intel processors - further emphasizing the fact that the more powerful, (and more expensive) machine is due a processor update.
Another processor-related offering on the horizon is Apple's own silicon processor, said to be coming to the 13in MacBook Pro in 2020. What of the 16in MacBook Pro? Will the more powerful MacBook Pro soon offer the new Apple Silicon processors based on the ARM-architecture?
In this article we'll look at the possible reasons why Apple hasn't yet updated the 16in MacBook Pro - and when it might get around to it!
Apple added a new graphics card option to the 16in MacBook Pro in June 2020, but this build-to-order addition is certainly not the update we are all waiting for.
Will Apple update the 16in MacBook Pro in 2020?
We could see a new 16in MacBook Pro in October, which would mark almost a year since the model's introduction.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman recorded a Periscope in April 2020 in which he suggested that Apple plans to introduce a new 16in MacBook Pro in October or November.
There should be nothing to stop Apple meeting that date if all it intends to do is update the processor to the 10th generation Intel option - which is already available.
However, we could have a longer wait.
Usually-accurate analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks that the 16in MacBook Pro may not arrive until mid 2021, he originally thought that new 16in MacBook Pro models would arrive before the end of 2020 but due to coronavirus-related delays affecting a new screen technology Apple is using (more on that below), he has pushed that back to 2021.
The reason why analyst Ming-Chi Kuo's predicts that the new 16in MBP won't arrive until 2021 is based on his sources' claims that Apple is looking to adopt mini-LED screen panels for its Macs.
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).
In March 2020, he had said this change was on track for 2020 and unaffected by Coronavirus. However, in May 2020 he suggested that these plans were in fact being delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and therefore the 16iun MacBook Pro probably won't arrive until early 2021.
If the next 16in MacBook Pro doesn't arrive until 2021 that will at least give Apple the time to develop its own Silicon ARM-based processors suitable for the 16in MacBook Pro. There will be a number of benefits to the switch from Intel, but creative pros are understandably concerned about whether Apple's chips will meet their demands. We run thorough how Apple Silicon compares to Intel here.
However, it is possible that the next MacBook Pro will run on 10th generation Intel processors, which are already available.
Intel announced the 10th Generation Intel Core-H Series processors (AKA Comet Lake-H) in April 2020. These offer clock speeds over 5GHz (once Turbo Boost kicks in) and Intel is referring to it as the “world's fastest mobile processor”.
However, the 10th generation processors most suitable for the 16in MacBook Pro won't actually give a significant boost over the current processors.
The fastest 10th-generation processor still has a base clock of 2.4GHz, the same as the build-to-order option currently offered with the 16in machine. With Turbo Boost they will top out at 5.3GHz rather than 5.0GHz (a 6 percent increase). The problem here is that you probably won't get to experience those high speeds if you tend to do work that utilises multiple cores because this is the maximum for a single core.
As our colleague at Macworld US said here: "If Apple's next MacBook Pro update only replaces the current 9th generation processors with these Comet Lake-H chips, there's nothing to get excited about".
So what is worth waiting for? Intel's 11th generation processors will be known as Tiger Lake should be arriving in mid-2020 and could theoretically appear in MacBooks this autumn.
Read our review of the 2019 16in MacBook Pro here.
When the 16in MacBook Pro arrived it might have maintained the same processors as the earlier model, but it gained new graphics: the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 or the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 (and the Intel UHD Graphics 630 which provides a dual-graphics setup). The discontinued 15in MacBook Pro had shipped with AMD Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 or AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 (and the Intel UHD Graphics 630 as before.)
In June 2020 Apple added a new build-to-order graphics option: the AMD Radeon Pro 5600M with 8GB of HBM2 memory. If you choose this option, rather than the standard graphic at point of sale it will cost you an additional £800/$700.
So, what graphics might we get in the new 16in MacBook Pro? If Apple uses 11th Generation Tiger Lake CPUs with the 16in MacBook Pro then we can expect to see Xe Graphics as that offering will come with the CPU. This is Intel's attempt at developing discrete graphics processing units like those offered by AMD. It seems unlikely that Apple would forge the AMD graphics usually offered as a discrete graphics option with this Mac though, so we expect to see the next generation offering from AMD ship with the new 16in MacBook Pro.
However, if Apple's next 16in MacBook Pro comes with Apple Silicon chips it will also feature integrated Apple graphics - which will no doubt be a source of concern for creative Mac users who prefer discrete GPUs. Apple has sought to put their minds at rest in a developer document: "Don't assume a discrete GPU means better performance," and "The integrated GPU in Apple processors is optimized for high performance graphics tasks".
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.
The 2019 16in MacBook Pro can already be equipped with 64GB RAM, sure it's a £720/$800 build-to-order option, but it's an option. The standard machine ships with 16GB.
Its 16GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory while the mid-range 13in MacBook Pro ships with 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X. The LPDDR4X being more power efficient. This doesn't necessarily mean it's better though - it also has a reduced bandwidth: LPDDR4 has dual 16-bit channels (or 32-bit total bus) while DDR4 offers 64-bit channels. So pro users are most likely better off with the DDR4 option.
Camera and Face ID
We'd love to see a better FaceTime camera on the MacBook Pro. 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 really needs to up its game with this camera, something that has become very apparent in this age of video conferencing.
We'd also like to see the TrueDepth camera appear on the MacBook range, enabling Face ID. 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.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) as a WiFi standard is still in its infancy, but it is starting to arrive. Unfortunately it hasn't yet appeared on any Mac laptop or desktop though.
The new 10th get processors support Wi-Fi 6 but Apple still lists only 802.11ac Wi‑Fi wireless networking as an option in the tech specs for the 13in model that features the new 10th generation chips.