We are expecting Apple to update the MacBook for 2018. Read on to find out why we think the price could come down and why we might get an option with a bigger screen. Find out about the 2018 MacBook below...
Back in 2017 Apple updated the MacBook with faster Kaby Lake chips, and improved integrated graphics. For the first time the MacBook was a powerful enough machine for us to recommend - despite the lack of ports and the high price. But that doesn't stop us wanting more from Apple's super-slim Mac laptop and hopefully in 2018 our wishes will be granted.
Here, we will look through the latest rumours relating to the MacBook to see what might be in store in 2018, including a new patent that could mean a MacBook might one day have a second screen for a keyboard and claims that Apple is set to launch a new 13in MacBook at a lower price.
To find out just what we thought of the 2017 MacBook take a look at our 12in MacBook review. And for buying advice related to the current MacBook crop, read our Best MacBook buying guide and Best cheap MacBook deals UK articles.
2018 MacBook: Release date
Apple introduced the 2017 MacBook at WWDC in June 2017 so we could see a similar launch date for the MacBook in 2018 - although that all depends on whether the relevant Intel processor is ready to ship in the summer. Alternatively we may see the MacBook launch later in 2018, perhaps in September alongside the new iPhone.
A report from Digitimes in January 2018 suggested that the MacBook update could come as early as the second half of 2018. This theory is based on claims that General Interface Solution (GIS), who currently supplies the modules for the current MacBooks, is expecting to see more LCD display orders from Apple.
A perhaps contradictory report in DigiTimes on 12 March suggested that LG is set to begin production of screens for a new 13in MacBook with a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels at the end of May or early June.
The original DigiTimes report mentioned that these LCD display orders were for a 13in display - suggesting that a 13in MacBook could be in the works at Apple and this later report seems to confirm that, although there is some confusion as to whether this is a new MacBook or a new MacBook Air.
Yet another, even earlier, Digitimes report suggested that there was nothing exciting in store for the MacBook in 2018, though. The Digitimes sources claimed that Apple was moving more of their MacBook manufacturing to Foxconn because they want that company to take on mass production of the current models. And this was because "Apple has not had a major upgrade to its MacBook product line since the releases of its new MacBook Pro devices at the end of 2016 and has no plan for one in 2018, the US-based vendor is planning to shift orders for models that are already in mass production to Foxconn to save costs and reduce risks,” claims the report.
2018 MacBook: Price
Apple rarely changes the price of its Macs from generation to generation, unless it's a fairly hefty upgrade.
The price of the MacBook didn't change in 2017. It remained at £1,249 - the same price as the entry-level iMac and the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro.You won't find another 'new' Mac that's cheaper (at least not until Apple update the Mac mini or MacBook Air, both of which are currently older models).
The top-of-the-range MacBook costs £300 more at £1,549.
The prices for the 2017 MacBook are as follows:
- 1.2GHz Intel Core m3 Kaby Lake dual-core Processor, 256GB Storage, 8GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 615, £1,249.
- 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 Kaby Lake dual-core Processor, 512GB Storage, 8GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 615, £1,549.
Build-to-order options include:
- 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7+ £135
- 16GB RAM + £180
We'd love it if Apple reduced the price of the MacBook in 2018, but we think the only chance of that happening is if Apple discontinues the MacBook Air and introduces a new entry-level MacBook model under £1,000. Read more MacBook Air rumours here.
Currently the cheapest Mac laptop is the MacBook Air at £949, however, until October 2016 the cheapest MacBook was the 11in MacBook Air (since discontinued) which cost £749. We'd like to see Apple introduce a new MacBook at the same price point as the 13in MacBook Air and, should the MacBook Air remain we'd like to see it priced around the £749 mark again.
The rumour that Apple will be adding a 13in MacBook to the range could well see Apple discontinue the MacBook Air, in which case, we could see a reduction in the price of the 12in MacBook alongside the introduction of the bigger 13in model.
Alternatively the new 13in MacBook coming to the line up could be a refreshed MAcBook Air, which Digitimes sources suggest will be sold at a reduced price.
2018 MacBook: Design
While we are unlikely to see huge physical changes to the MacBook in terms of the designwe are hearing reports that a 13in model could be in the pipeline.
In addition to that we could see a change in colour options, as was the case with the iPhone 8 which saw the Rose Gold and Gold versions merge into one new gold shade. We expect the new gold version to join the current Silver and Space Grey options.
The MacBook is already incredibly thin at 13.1mm, and it weighs just 0.9kg, making it 24 percent thinner than the MacBook Air, so we don't expect that to change dramatically in future.
2018 MacBook: Screen
As per the report mentioned above, Apple is said to have ordered 13in LCD displays from General Interface Solution (GIS), who currently supply the modules for the current MacBooks.
Another report (also in Digitimes) suggests that LG is set to begin production of screens for a new MacBook with a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels at the end of May or early June.
Apple is also said to be looking into the possibility of using an OLED display for the MacBook, this is according to sources at Korean ETNews back in 2016. We doubt that this will materialise in 2018 though.
2018 MacBook: Size
One possible change that we might see concerns the screen size. At present the MacBook is available in one size: 12in, but a larger 13in model could be unveiled.
Adding a bigger model to the range could make sense if Apple is planning to phase out the MacBook Air. Then Apple would offer 13in and 15in MacBook Pro models as well as 12in and 13in MacBook models.
In March Digitimes reported that a new 13.3in MacBook could launch - although this could be an update to the MacBook Air range.
2018 MacBook: Specs
Here's what we expect to see in terms of specs in the 2018 MacBook...
2018 MacBook: Processor
The 2017 MacBook features a 1.2GHz m3 Kaby Lake processor (up from 1.1Ghz) in the entry-level model.
There are also options for a 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 for the MacBook.
In 2018 MacBook we expect to see Cannon Lake or Coffee Lake processors, which are the successors to Kaby Lake. There is also a Kaby Lake R refresh coming that could be used.
Apple designed chips...
For some time now Apple has been designing it's own system-on-chips - first processor designed in-house was the A4 which found its way into the iPhone 4 back in 2010 (and subsequently the iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV).
There are also Motion Co-Processors, which since the introduction of the M7 in 2013 with the iPhone 5s, have been used to track steps (and later on elevation). Then in 2013 Apple's chips also gained a Secure Element where payment and biometric data is stored.
In 2016 the first Mac gained one of these Apple desidned chips - the T1 chip in the MacBook Pro manages the Touch Bar and Touch ID, as well as the Secure Enclave.
Then in 2017 Apple launched the iMac Pro with the T2 chip, which secures the Core OS with Secure Boot and acts as the disk controller for the SSDs, as well as the image signal processor for the FaceTime camera.
Also in 2017 Apple introduced the A11 Bionic chip. This can be found in the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. It looks after the Face ID data in the iPhone X. Significantly this is the first chip to include an Apple-designed GPU (previous GPUs were designed by Imagination Technologies). It also included the first AI chip with a Neural Engine for improved AI and machine learning.
It will come as no surprise then that the MacBook in 2018 is likely to get its own Apple-designed chip. Like the one in the MacBook Pro, this could power a Touch Bar, or it could be used for Face ID should this technology find its way into the MacBook.
Indeed, a Bloomberg report from 29 January 2018 claims that Apple is developing more of its own coprocessors - like the T2 chip in the iMac Pro and the T1 chip in the MacBook Pro.
The report claims the new chips will be used in a desktop Mac as well as an updated Mac laptop, although it doesn’t specify which.
The Mac Pro and MacBook seem to be the most likely contenders, although the iMac, and the Mac mini should that device be updated, could also gain Apple chips in 2018.
The rumours about an Apple branded chip have been circling for some time. A Bloomberg report from February 2017 claimed that Apple is working on a chip, codenamed T310, that will handle the "Power Nap" functionality and improve the battery life of MacBooks.
Whether this chip will end up in the MacBook remains to be seen. We think it's unlikely to make its debut on the next model as Apple is likely to save it for the next model of MacBook Pro.
2018 MacBook: Graphics
The integrated graphics in the 2017 model were the Intel Graphics 615, up from the Intel Graphics 515 in the previous generation.
We expect a similar bump in the 2018 model.
2018 MacBook: RAM
Currently the MacBook ships with 8GB RAM as standard. There is no option to increase RAM at point of sale, and the Mac is not user upgradable.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that the new MacBooks will offer a 16GB of RAM option, up from 8GB of RAM in the 2016 models. Apple could upgrade the two current models to 16GB RAM and keep a 8GB option as a lower-priced model.
2018 MacBook: Touch Bar
The MacBook Pro has a touch bar along the top of the keyboard for shortcuts for everything from menus to emoji. It would make sense for Apple to introduce this Touch Bar to the MacBook - keeping it to the MacBook Pro has made it such a novelty feature that there aren't that many functions being developed by third parties, but if it was found on more of Apple's Macs it might become more relevant.
2018 MacBook: Keyboard & Trackpad
A new Apple patent awarded in February 2018 could hint that the company will use a second screen as a MacBook (and iPad) keyboard in the future, via Patently Apple.
The patent titled "dual display equipment with enhanced visibility and suppressed reflections,” seems to describe a device that would use a second display as a dynamic keyboard.
There are two implementations of the second screen described in the patent. It could either be attached via a permanent hinge, or it could be possible to remove it and use it separately. The former would be best for the MacBook, while the second option might be better suited to the iPad.
The second screen would be an OLED. So far the closest Apple has got to this concept is the OLED Touch Bar in the MacBook Pro.
This isn't the first touch sensitive keyboard related rumour to be attached to the MacBook. According to a 9to5Mac report in October 2016, Apple has been in talks with the Foxconn startup, Sonder - a company that uses E Ink technology to display its keys (see a video here). This allows a way of customising keys and even adding symbols which would not be possible on a regular keyboard. It's rumoured that Apple will use this technology in their next MacBook.
Back in autumn 2015, it emerged that Apple had filed a patent that appeared to show its design for a Force Touch capable keyboard. Along with the 2015 MacBook Pro, the 2015 MacBook has a Force Touch trackpad, which gave electric pulses that feel like clicks, but is a glass plate that doesn't actually move. Like on the iPhone 6s, you can press harder for a deeper click to access menus and options within certain apps. The new MacBook also has keys unlike any other Mac, which have very little travel in order to make the chassis ultra-thin.
The patent shows what seems to be a whole keyboard and trackpad area fit to house this technology.
As this shows, the whole keyboard and trackpad, plus areas to the left and right of the pad, could theoretically be customised to the user's tastes and, for the first time, not have a physical keyboard. However, we have seen Apple file patents in the past that are to bookmark ideas for the future.
It'd be amazing if this technology were included in the new MacBook, but we feel this is one for the coming years. It would potentially allow you to have several language keyboards saved and switch between them on the adaptable display.
Imagine typing on a surface that felt like a keyboard, but was actually electric feedback telling your brain you're pressing keys? If this is Force Touch's future, we are excited.
Apple Pencil-compatible trackpad...
It's not the only new addition to the MacBook either, if another patent approval is anything to go by. According to a patent filed by Apple which was approved in May 2016, an upcoming Mac could boast compatibility with the Apple Pencil - although the Apple Pencil depicted in the patent is far more advanced than the one on sale at the moment. The Pencil in question features a number of sensors that could detect movement, orientation and depth and, according to the patent, could be used with a Mac as an 'air mouse' or possibly even a joystick for gaming.
The patent reads: "Inertial sensor input may be gathered when operating the stylus in one or more inertial sensor input modes such as an air mouse mode, a rotational controller mode, a joystick mode, and/or other inertial sensor input modes."
It doesn't end there, either - apparently an upcoming Mac trackpad will feature Apple Pencil support, allowing users to use and draw directly onto the trackpad with the precision of the iPad Pro. While the patent doesn't mention whether the trackpad will be built into a MacBook or offered as a standalone Mac trackpad.
2018 MacBook: Ports
When the MacBook launched in 2015 it featured USB Type-C and little else. While USB Type-C now supports Thunderbolt type 3 (which as exactly the same port), this early port didn't.
Described by many as the one port to rule them all, the USB Type-C port and the Thunderbolt 3 port is identical, so any device using either standard can be plugged into it. Rather than suggesting that USB-C means death to Thunderbolt, it rather suggests that the standard has been given new life, indeed, now in addition to the MacBook Pro, many PCs support Thunderbolt too.
There's good reason to support Thunderbolt 3. The standard allows for connection speeds up to 40Gbps, double the speed of Thunderbolt 2 (and it's backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 2). Whether a MacBook user really needs Thunderbolt is another question though, with it being a standard utilised in video production and other high power applications.
Nevertheless, we expect that the next MacBook will feature the new USB Type-C port and therefore it will support Thunderbolt 3. Given Apple's efforts to convince the industry to adopt it since Thunderbolt's introduction in 2011 it is unlikely to fall out of favour with the company. However, Apple also promoted FireWire to the industry and eventually removed that from its Macs.
2018 MacBook: LTE connectivity
It seems that sharing your iPhone's cellular connection with your MacBook wasn't enough for Apple, if this patent approval is anything to go by. The patent, as described by the US Patent and Trademark Office, will allow the company to embed LTE hardware in the 2017 MacBook, making it the first cellular-enabled Mac in Apple's range, past or present.
As well as LTE connectivity, the patent describes the use of Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth and satellite connectivity, and mentions ways to boost the signal without interference from the metal body of the MacBook. It's worth mentioning that this idea isn't new, though - it was originally filed on June 8 2015, and there was also talk of a 3G-enabled MacBook Pro back in 2008, but the idea was eventually rejected by Steve Jobs as he felt it would tie the user down to a particular carrier.
Thinking of buying a Mac? Read our Which Mac? Best Mac buyers guide. Wondering whether to buy a MacBook or a Mac desktop? Find out if you should buy a Mac laptop or Mac desktop here.