The MacBook Pro lineup was updated on 7 June 2017 at WWDC 2017. At the time, Apple's Pro laptops gained faster Kaby Lake processors, but not everyone was happy with the update. Read on to find out why people were disappointed, and how Apple could be addressing the complaints with new features in the 2018 update to the MacBook Pro range.
One thing we know for sure is that Apple is aware of the complaints: In November 2017 Apple's head of design Jony Ive admitted to being aware of the disappointment and criticism regarding the MacBook models.
Speaking at Smithsonian Magazine's Future of Design event in Washington DC in December, (listen to the recording here), Ive said: "Absolutely, all of your feelings and feedback around the MacBook you use, we couldn't want to listen to more... And we hear - boy, do we hear."
So, with that revelation in mind, it seems likely that Apple will be focused on fixing the criticisms of the MacBook Pro range in 2018.
You can read more about the current MacBook Pros here - 2017 13in MacBook Pro review and 2017 15in MacBook Pro review. We also have a comparison of the two models and a comprehensive Mac buying guide. In this article, which will be regularly updated, we examine some of the rumours about the 2018 MacBook Pro.
2018 MacBook Pro: Release date
We think it's likely that Apple will update the MacBook Pro in June 2018, to coincide with WWDC. We may see new MacBook Pro models during the WWDC keynote on 4 June. Read all about the next Apple event here.
However, we may not see a major update in 2018 - despite Apple head of design Jony Ive stating that he was aware of complaints about the models (as referenced above).
The suggestion that Apple has no exciting plans for the MacBook in 2018 came from Digitimes sources in January 2018, who claimed that: "Since 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."
Following this report though, there have been further reports in Digitimes suggesting that a new 13in MacBook model is going to launch this year. So, we think that something is definitely in the works.
2018 MacBook Pro: Price
It's likely that the 2018 range of MacBook Pro laptops will have a similar price to what they retail at currently. There are four 13in models ranging from £1,249/$1,299 to £1,949/$1,999 and two 15in models from £2,349/$2,399 to £2,699/$2,799 (there is also an additional older 15in model still sold at £1,899 which is likely to be discontinued soon).
With regard to the rumour that Apple is going to launch a cheaper 13in MacBook (read about Apple's new 13in MacBook plans here), it’s not clear whether this 13in MacBook will be an update to the MacBook or MacBook Air range, but as a result of its introduction the price of the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro could increase.
The cheapest 13in model is currently the non-touch pad, 2.3GHz Processor, 128GB Storage model that costs £1,249. The new 13in MacBook is likely to cost less than £1,000.
2018 MacBook Pro: Design
Looks-wise we'd be very surprised if Apple made any significant departures from the new look unveiled in 2016. However, it's possible Apple may tinker with the colour options.
The MacBook Pro series currently comes in two colour finishes: silver and Space Grey, while the MacBook series is available in Gold and Rose Gold as well. Is the MacBook Pro ever likely to adopt the gold colour?
It's a possibility. But our prediction is that Apple will continue to offer gold (there's actually a new shade that mutes the pink tints of Rose Gold down subtly to a shade referred to as Gold - as seen on the new iPad and iPhone 8) as an option on its consumer-focused laptops, while keeping the more business-like silver and space-grey for the professional machines.
2018 MacBook Pro: 4K Screen
The current MacBook Pro models have impressive screens: 2880 x 1800 on the 15.4in model, and 2560x1600 on the 13.3in one.
However, there are calls for Apple to increase the pixel count on the 15in MacBook Pro and offer a 4K display - something that Dell, HP, and Asus are already offering. Apple is lagging in this area.
In addition, while the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro can output the full DCI P3 colour space used for films for digital cinema output, as our colleague on Digital Arts notes in his review: "It's the Adobe RGB colour space that really matters as this is what's used internally by tools from Photoshop to Illustrator to Premiere Pro - and again here the MBP is lacking. In our tests with a DataColor Spyder5Elite colourimeter, we found that the MacBook Pro's screen can output 91 percent of the colours in the Adobe RGB."
In their tests, Dell's Precision 5510 and the Wacom MobileStudio Pro could output 91 percent of the colours in the Adobe RGB. In the next version of the MacBook Pro we'd like to see an improvement here.
Another desirable addition to the screen would be touchscreen capabilities, something much of the competition also shares. While Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs said that he felt that touch screens were a bad idea (because they would make your arm ache) there is some value in being able to touch a screen rather than use a mouse or track pad when you are in cramped conditions, such as those in which our colleague on Digital Arts wrote his review.
Apple may have a solution to the touch screen wishes in mind. Apparently the company is looking at hooking an iPad Pro up to a Mac to use it as a Cintiq-like device, according to OSnews.
It seems likely that the next generation of MacBook Pro will run on Intel's Coffee Lake processor - unveiled by Intel on 3 April 2018 - which means that the 13in MacBook Pro could finally move from dual-core to quad-core - and that the 15-inch model could gain a 6-core processor.
Currently, only the 15in MacBook Pro is available with a quad-core processor.
If Apple uses the new Core i9 processor from Intel it could bring 6-core (in 12-thread configurations) to the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
This six-core i9 chip has a base clock speed of 2.9GHz, and Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.8GHz, according to Intel.
There are also two new six-core i7 chips clocked at 2.2GHz and 2.6Ghz, and a quad-core i7 chip rated at 2.7GHz, according to Intel.
Coffee Lake will apparently deliver more than a 30 percent performance boost over the current Kaby Lake processors.
Coffee Lake should also offer performance improvements and a reduction in power consumption (so the new models should offer better battery life).
Unfortunately, these new processors don't include support for LPDDR4 memory (we had expected that they would). This may scupper plans to make 32GB RAM possible in a MacBook Pro (read more about the calls for 32GB RAM below).
It seems that Apple may have had to settle for Coffee Lake chips because the Intel processor capable of supporting LPDDR4 RAM - Cannon Lake - has been delayed. Cannon Lake was originally supposed to launch in 2017, then in early 2018, but now it's looking like it might be delayed until the end of 2018. Cannon Lake is Intel's first chip to be built using the 10-nanometer manufacturing process (apparently this new process is what's causing the hold up).
In the future, Apple could move away from Intel chips and look at what's on offer from other companies - or start making processors itself. This wouldn't be the first time that Apple has switched chip supplier. The company made the switch to Intel in 2006, despite having to rewrite its operating system to prepare for the new processors.
Read on to find out about Apple's plans to design its own chips...
An Apple-designed processor
Apple has long been rumoured to be building its own processor chips. A number of these chips have already appeared in iPhones, iPads and Macs.
In the case of the MacBook Pro a T1 chip powers the Touch Bar, while in the iMac Pro a T2 chip includes a Secure Enclave coprocessor that brings encrypted storage and secure boot capabilities to the iMac Pro, along with other components such as the image signal processor, audio controller, and SSD controller.
There were hopes in 2017 that a new Apple-designed chip would replace the T1 chip which arrived with the 2016 MacBook Pro models and offer an improved low-power performance mode. However, the T1 chip remained.
This was despite a report from Bloomberg, which predicted in February 2017 that the new MacBook Pro would feature an Apple-designed chip to handle simple tasks such as email and updates while the laptop is asleep, citing "people familiar with the matter".
"The chip, which went into development [in 2016], is similar to one already used in the latest MacBook Pro to power the keyboard's Touch Bar feature," Bloomberg wrote. "The updated part, internally codenamed T310, would handle some of the computer's low-power mode functionality."
By building a dedicated low-power processor, Apple may be able to reduce battery consumption. Another reason why Apple might want to make its own chips is to be in control of the silicon - and not fall foul of issues like Meltdown and Spectre - vulnerabilities that were related to the Intel chips being used.
According to a Bloomberg report in January 2018, Apple is indeed developing more of its own coprocessors - like the T2 chip in the iMac Pro and the T1 chip in the MacBook Pro. That 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 laptop.
It seems likely that a new MacBook Pro scheduled to be introduced at WWDC 2018 could feature a new, Apple-designed chip.
Eventually ditching Intel...
But there may be even more exciting things in store from Apple's chip development labs. Another report from Bloomberg, this time in April 2018, claimed that Apple is "planning to use its own chips in Mac computers beginning as early as 2020, replacing processors from Intel Corp", according to Bloomberg's sources.
"The initiative, code-named Kalamata, is still in the early developmental stages, but comes as part of a larger strategy to make all of Apple’s devices -- including Macs, iPhones, and iPads -- work more similarly and seamlessly together, said the people," according to Bloomberg.
"By using its own chips, Apple would be able to more tightly integrate new hardware and software, potentially resulting in systems with better battery life," suggests Bloomberg.
As we said above, there was some hope that the next generation of MacBook Pro would offer 32GB RAM at the high-end. However, it looks like the new generation of processors from Intel won't include support for LPDDR4 memory. This is likely to scupper plans to make 32GB RAM possible in a MacBook Pro.
Currently, all the 13in models offer 8GB RAM (although there is a build-to-order option for 16GB RAM). The 15in models ship with 16GB RAM as standard.
There have been calls for Apple to offer up to 32GB RAM in the MacBook Pro for some time. Pro customers, such as video editors, were so disillusioned with the 2016 update to the MacBook Pro that in November 2016 Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller spoke out in defence of Apple's decision not to offer more RAM, saying that this would be detrimental to battery life and require a power-hungry memory controller unsuitable for use in portable machines.
In an email to MacDaddy's Benedict Slaney, Schiller said: "To support 32GB of memory would require using DDR memory that is not low power and also require a different design of the logic board, which might reduce space for batteries. Both factors would reduce battery life."
The problem lies with the CPUs. These processors support up to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM at 2133MHz. There are processors capable of addressing more than 16GB of memory, but these rely on less efficient DDR4 RAM and are usually deployed in desktops because they can be plugged into mains power. Understandably Apple does not wish to hinder the battery life of its laptops in this way.
The calls for a 32GB RAM version of the MacBook Pro have grown loud enough for Apple to make a statement regarding it, but this doesn't mean that a RAM update is imminent. Even the Kaby Lake processor upgrade for the MacBook Pro could not break the RAM cap of 16GB because the Kaby Lake processor doesn't support LPDDR4 RAM and Apple is not expected to engineer a new RAM controller that does any time soon.
An Intel processor capable of supporting LPDDR4 RAM - Cannon Lake - isn't expected until the end of 2018 (having been delayed due to difficulties with the manufacturing process). Cannon Lake is Intel's first chip to be built using the 10-nanometer manufacturing process.
Beyond LPDDR4 RAM is LPDDR5 RAM. This newer standard will double the speed of DDR4 RAM while offering greater power efficiency.
It is likely to be some time before DDR5 RAM goes mainstream.
Despite this, Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo predicted that Apple will start to manufacture a 15in MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM in the fourth quarter of 2017, and he thinks Apple would adopt desktop RAM in order to do so. So perhaps a new MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM could be announced at WWDC after all.
In the meantime, Dell's Precision 5520 laptop is directly comparable to the MacBook Pro and has a 32GB RAM build-to-order configuration.
When Apple introduced the redesigned butterfly mechanism keyboard with the MacBook Pro in 2016, it seems that a number of people had problems with keys repeating characters and other keys not working. Others claimed the keys on the keyboard made a high pitched sound.
The issue with the keys on MacBook Pro intermittently stopping working seems to be caused by dust getting in between the keys. The problem with the keyboard design currently is that dust and small particles can get stuck under keys and the spacebar making them unresponsive.
One report explained how a tiny spec of dust could render a keyboard useless so that the whole front of the MacBook needed to be replaced.
If you eat at your desk then there is a strong likelihood that crumbs are going to end up falling onto your keyboard, and maybe getting stuck under the keys causing problems, so this could be a big issue.
There's even a parody song about the problem
It used to be the case that you could take keys out and clean the keyboard, but this isn’t possible with the new keyboards. The only solution right now is to turn the MacBook upside down and puff a can of compressed air over it. And if that doesn’t work a trip to the Apple Store is necessary.
It seems likely that there have been a number of Macs turning up at the Genius Bar with just this issue, because Apple has been looking into ways to avoid the problem.
Apple has filed a patent to avoid this 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.
One of Apple’s suggestions is that flaps could block the gaps around keys so that dust and liquids couldn’t get in. It also suggests that there could be bellows that "blast contaminants" away from keys with pressurised gas.
A protective membrane made from a waterproof material like silicone could be used.
Another solution is for the crumbs to be crushed. Apple’s solution: "key assembly movement mechanism may include one or more crushing components, such as knobs, spikes, and the like."
Once crumbs are crushed, then the pieces would be blasted out with forced gas. Alternatively, fans inside the keyboard could provide the means to puff out the debris, or vibrations from transducers, haptic actuators, or speakers could be used for the same purpose. In fact, "Acoustic devices may resonate at frequencies that break up lodged contaminants and/or drive contaminants away from key assemblies," Apple writes.
2018 MacBook Pro: Battery
With Apple pointing to battery life as the reason it won't offer more RAM in the MacBook Pro you might be wondering whether there is room for improvements to battery life in the next model, or if battery life could (or should) suffer if Apple is to offer a truly pro-level machine.
The new Cannon Lake chips mentioned above could account for some reduction in power consumption.
Apple claims a reasonably impressive 10-hour battery life for the MacBook Pro - but given that the MacBook Air, at three years old, has a 12-hour battery life, it does look like there is room for improvement here.
2018 MacBook Pro: Graphics
The MacBook Pro graphics differ depending on whether you have a 13- or 15in MacBook Pro. The 15in models currently offer the Radeon Pro 555 or 560 (replacing the Radeon Pro 455). We expect a similar bump from the 2018 generation of MacBook Pro.
2018 MacBook Pro: Touch Bar
Will all the MacBook Pro models offer a Touch Bar in 2018? If Apple fails to roll out the touch-sensitive bar across the top of the keyboard to any other Macs, we feel it will be an indicator that the Touch Bar isn't a popular feature.
In fact, we're quite confident when we say that if Apple doesn't add the Touch Bar to other Macs, or at least the complete line up of MacBook Pros, then its days are limited.
Even those who have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar probably feel it is a pointless feature.
We feel that the Touch Bar is a gimmick, and the fact that Apple hasn't rolled it out to any other Macs to date means that developers aren't updating their apps to support it.
2018 MacBook Pro: Ports
When Apple launched the new MacBook Pro many of the familiar ports disappeared replaced by USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. The headphone jack remained despite being lost from the iPhone. Will it remain in the next version of the MacBook Pro? Possibly, although Apple could choose to swap it for Lightning or another USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 port in the future.
Another possibility is that if Apple is able to reduce the size of the circuit board inside the MacBook Pro it could add more ports. Apple may be looking to integrate faster and more versatile circuit boards into the MacBook design - according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, this could save a lot of internal space, making it possible for Apple to add USB 3.2 and other I/O connections to its MacBooks.