We are expecting Apple to update the MacBook in 2018. Not only could the price could come down - we may also see a 13in screen option. We will share everything we know 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 patent that suggests that Apple is looking at ways to avoid the problems associated with the keyboard on the current MacBook.
There are also claims that Apple is set to launch a new 13in MacBook at a lower price (although this rumour could point to a new MacBook Air).
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.
13in MacBook plans
There have been rumours that Apple's gearing up to launch a new 13in MacBook soon. The rumours seem to be based on some pretty trustworthy sources, so it seems that this new Mac laptop is definitely in the pipeline. What isn't so clear is whether this is an update to the MacBook Air (which many had expected to be discontinued) or a new MacBook to sit alongside the 12in model.
This new 13in MacBook is said to be an entry-level Mac laptop, with a price to match, so the idea that it would be part of the MacBook lineup seems odd. Having two MacBooks, a 12in and a 13in version - with the 13in version potentially being cheaper than the other smaller version seems very unlikely.
Although, the 13in MacBook could replace the 12in MacBook line up. Then Apple's line up of Mac laptops would include the 13in MacBook, and the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro models. If Apple was to choose this course, we think that it would spell the end of the MacBook Air. This may make more sense than having three iterations of MacBook.
Another possibility is that Apple will introduce a new, cheaper MacBook that will be known as the iBook. That idea was proposed by Low End Mac and we discuss it in our article about the new MacBook Air here.
2018 MacBook: Release date
If Apple plans to relaunch the MacBook as a 13in model, when is this new MacBook likely to launch?
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 a 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 was 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 as we have already said, 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 its MacBook manufacturing to Foxconn because it wants 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 currently find another 'new' Mac that's cheaper (at least not until Apple updates the Mac mini or MacBook Air, neither of which have been updated in recent years).
The new 13in MacBook (possibly Air) is rumoured to be priced at under £1,000/$1,000, though, so Apple could finally bring down the price of it's lightest line of laptops. The MacBook Air currently costs £949/$999 though, so this won't necessarily be a reducton in the entry price of a Mac laptop.
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 range in 2018, but we think the only chance of that happening is if Apple discontinues the MacBook Air. Read more MacBook Air rumours here.
2018 MacBook: Design
While we are unlikely to see huge physical changes to the MacBook in terms of the design it is possible that a 13in model could be in the pipeline - and this could indicate that the design of the MacBook will change.
Perhaps we will see slimmer bezels, allowing Apple to increase the size of the display by an inch diagonally, without having to increase the size of the laptop significantly.
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 this new MacBook with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels at the end of May or early June. This is the same number of pixels as the 13.3in MacBook Pro.
The MacBook currently has a resolution of 2,304 x 1,440 resolution at 226ppi. The MacBook Air resultion is 1,440 x 900 (native).
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 - that's the diagonal measurement of the screen. But if this rumoured 13in model materialises, the dimensions may change in order to accommodate it, although the MacBook may not get a lot larger if Apple is able to reduce the bezels around the edge of the screen rather than make the MacBook bigger.
Adding a larger 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. Although it seems more likely it would discontinue the 12in MacBook and replace it with a 13in model.
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 Coffee Lake processors, which are the successors to Kaby Lake. There is also a Kaby Lake R refresh that could be used. Confusingly Intel is referring to both as 8th generation processors.
Coffee Lake is interesting because it could allow the MacBook to have more cores. Thanks to Coffee Lake processors laptops will be able to have 6 cores and 12 threads, although those kind of specs are more likely for the MacBook Pro models we talk about here.
In terms of the MacBook models, currently the MacBook ships with an m3 chip at the entry-level, and an i5 for the more expensive model.
If Apple uses Coffee Lake i5 chips in the new MacBook we could see quad-core options there (currently, only the 15in MacBook Pro is available with a quad-core processor). A 6-core option is possible, but unlikely we think.
As for the entry-level m3 replacement, this could be taken from the Kaby Lake refresh, since there is no Coffee Lake equivalent, although it would be unlikely that Apple would use two different generations of chip (even if Intel is referring to both as 8th generation).
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-designed 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.
No more Intel....
Reports are even suggesting that Apple may actually be planning to move away from Intel and start producing its own processor chips from 2020. As per this Bloomberg report from April 2018, "People familiar with the plans" said that Apple is planning to use its own chips in Mac computers beginning as early as 2020, replacing processors from Intel.
The initiative, code named Kalamata, could see Apple "able to more tightly integrate new hardware and software, potentially resulting in systems with better battery life," according to the Bloomberg report.
This would be the first major transition since Apple moved from PowerPC chips co-developed with IBM and Motorola to Intel in 2006.
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. The graphics processor shipping alongside the Coffee Lake processor is the Intel UHD 630 graphics.
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 could upgrade the top of the range model to 16GB RAM and keep a 8GB option as a lower-priced model.
2018 MacBook: Touch Bar
Since its introduction in 2016, some models of the MacBook Pro have had 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.
The new MacBook needs a new keyboard design, based on reports that MacBook users are finding that the design of the keyboard means that a spec of dust trapped underneath a key can stop the key from working and cause expensive repairs - read about the class action lawsuit to recall MacBook and MacBook Pro models here.
It looks like the company is investigating solutions to the issue. The company has filed a patent to avoid the problem. Published in March 2018, Ingress Prevention for Keyboards outlines ways to stop spilt fluid, crumbs and dust from blocking key movement and damaging the circuitry.
In one solution, flaps could block the gaps around each key so that dust and liquids can't get in. Another suggestion is that bellows could "blast contaminants" away from keys with pressurised gas.
Alternatively, the crumbs could be crushed by "one or more crushing components, such as knobs, spikes, and the like."
The crushed pieces would then be blasted out with forced gas. Alternatively, fans inside the keyboard could puff out the debris, or vibrations from transducers, haptic actuators, or speakers could be used.
Apple could even use soundwaves to drive out the dust: "Acoustic devices may resonate at frequencies that break up lodged contaminants and/or drive contaminants away from key assemblies," Apple writes.
Another 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 a future 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 3 - which uses 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.