Apple last updated the MacBook Pro line on 7 June at WWDC 2017 that its Pro laptops have been upgraded to faster Kaby Lake processors - the refresh came just eight months after the launch of the Touch Bar MacBook Pro in October 2016. But not everyone was happy with the update.
Many fans had been hoping that the RAM cap would be lifted to 32GB, and there were also rumours of an Apple-designed chip to improve low-power performance mode, which did not materialise. In this article, which will be regularly updated, we examine some of the rumours about the 2018 MacBook Pro.
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."
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.
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 as an option on its consumer-focused laptops, while keeping the more business-like silver and 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 15-inch 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 colorimeter, 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.
2018 MacBook Pro: RAM
As we said above, there is expectation that the next generation of MacBook Pro will offer 32GB RAM at the high-end.
Currently, all the 13-inch models offer 8GB RAM (although there is a build-to-order option for 16GB RAM). The 15-inch 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 isn't expected before 2018.
However, 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 will adopt desktop RAM in order to do so. So perhaps a new MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM could be announced in early 2018.
In the meantime, Dell's Precision 5520 laptop is directly comparable to the MacBook Pro and has a 32GB RAM build-to-order configuration.
2018 MacBook Pro: Processor
It seems likely that the next geneartion of MacBook Pro will run on the Cannon Lake processor. However, this processor was delayed, perhaps the reason why Apple was unable to launch a 32GB RAM MacBook in 2017.
Cannon Lake will be the first generation of Intel chips to use a 10-nanometer process. It should also offer performance improvements and a reduction in power consumption (so the new models should offer better battery life).
Cannon Lake processors also include support for LPDDR4 memory, a factor that could make a 32GB RAM possible in a MacBook Pro.
In the future, Apple could move away from Intel chips and look at what's on offer from other companies. We think such a transition is unlikely however, given the fact that Apple had to rewrite the operating system to prepare for the Intel switch in 2006. Perhaps more likely is the idea that Apple will design its own chips (although we think all rumours about this pointed to the processor that powers the Touch Bar in the 2016 MacBook Pro.)
An Apple-designed processor?
The chip that powers the Touch Bar in the MacBook Pro may not be the only low power chip coming from Apple. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman predicted in February 2017 that the new MacBook Pro will 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," Gurman writes. "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 could reduce battery consumption.
There are rumours that the new MacBook Pro scheduled to be introduced at WWDC in June will feature this new, Apple-designed chip to manage and improve the computer's low-power performance mode.
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.
2018 MacBook Pro: Graphics
The MacBook Pro graphics differ depending on whether you have a 13- or 15-inch 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.
We feel that the Touch Bar is a bit of a gimmic, 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: Keyboard
There have been reports of the keyboard on the MacBooks being easily broken. 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. Hopefully Apple will address this issue in the next MacBook Pro.
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 and iPad. 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.