The MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) may not have made its long-anticipated debut at WWDC 2021. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t see Apple’s biggest MacBook make an appearance this year. On the contrary, rumors, leaks and speculations about the next-generation portable are stacking up.
The MacBook Pro 16-inch 2019 had made a splash with its bigger display, which provided more screen real-estate without increasing the actual size of the MacBook Pro 15-inch. However, the overall design hasn't changed all that much, and its 13-inch brother got a nifty upgrade in Apple-made internals last year. So, fans of the larger MacBook Pro are anxious for an upgrade.
From the looks of it, Apple might just deliver. The MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) is rumored to arrive with an even more impressive 10-core Apple Silicon CPU with eight high-performance cores and two energy-efficiency cores as well as up to 64GB RAM – although a more recent leak is saying that memory will be capped at 32GB. Design-wise, it’s anticipated to feature a mini-LED display, MagSafe charging, and a flat-edged design, as well as an SD card slot with UHS-II support and a backlit Touch ID button.
If the rumors are to be trusted, the new MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) could therefore be the upgrade we’ve all been waiting for. Ahead of its alleged release, here’s everything you need to know about it, from the rumors to any official word or tease Apple itself has released.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The successor to the original MacBook Pro 16-inch
- When is it out? Q3 of 2021 most likely
- What will it cost? Unknown, but likely similar to current pricing ($2,399 or £2,399, AU$3,799)
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) release date and price
Apple’s revamped MacBook Pro 16-inch is likely to debut in Q3 of 2021, going by the most recent buzz on the laptop grapevine.
One of the most reliable sources of leaks and tips on Apple, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, previously said that he believes that the incoming 16-inch model could debut in Q2 or Q3 of 2021.
A recent DigiTimes report then pointed to a Q2 debut, but that isn’t the most reliable source in our experience, and Kuo has further predicted that fully redesigned MacBooks using Apple’s own custom ARM-based processors will be turning up in the second half of 2021. Most recently, Kuo reasserted the Q3 date for the launch of the MacBook Pro 16-inch refresh.
Furthermore, respected tipster Mark Gurman has indicated a launch around mid-2021, which fits with Q3. In theory, then, the new MacBook Pro could have pitched up as soon as July, but without an announcement at WWDC, its more likely that we'll see it toward the end of Q3.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that even if Q3 is Apple’s plan, the launch window could change, particularly given the unusual level of disruption the tech industry has been subject to in recent times due to coronavirus interfering with supply chains and logistics.
Regarding the cost, we haven’t yet heard anything on the grapevine as to what the asking price of the incoming MacBook Pro will be. The current MacBook Pro 16-inch starts at $2,399 (£2,399, AU$3,799), for reference, so that’s obviously a good ballpark figure in terms of where to set your expectations.
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) design
As mentioned, a lot of the chatter coming from the rumor mill indicates that Apple is planning a proper redesign for this model, which is obviously exciting. A report from Bloomberg (by Mark Gurman) observes that the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) will be ‘similar’ to its current incarnation, but will have changes to the design.
According to a research note from Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple’s revamped laptop will drop the ‘curvy’ looks of the current MacBook Pro 16-inch, instead utilizing a ‘flat-edged form factor design’ similar to the iPhone 12.
One of the biggest rumored changes, though, as claimed by both the above sources, is the possibility that Apple is set to drop the Touch Bar; at least on some 16-inch models, anyway. The context-sensitive touch strip at the top of the keyboard is not favored by some – and adds to the cost of the MacBook Pro – so could therefore be dropped, Kuo believes, to be replaced by traditional function keys. Gurman reports that Apple is testing versions of the MacBook Pro 16-inch which don’t have the Touch Bar, as some users don’t find it convenient or particularly useful.
In short, there may at least be versions of the MacBook Pro 16-inch that do not have the Touch Bar on board (although such a scenario may affect the amount of devs supporting the feature in their apps – if it isn’t guaranteed that everyone will be using it).
On the other hand, other speculation theorizes that rather than ditching it, Apple might go the other way and actually improve it. If Apple does indeed keep the Touch Bar – at least on some models of the MacBook Pro 16-inch – it could be Force Touch-enabled. In fact, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) could be the first Apple laptop to feature a Force Touch-enabled Touch Bar.
This tech allows for the registering of different strengths of presses on the bar, which could be useful for activating additional functions – or perhaps avoiding accidental presses of the Touch Bar, which can be aggravating. Although the only evidence for this is an Apple patent thus far, and as we know, patents can often remain avenues of research that never reach a final product. We wouldn’t hold our breath waiting for this one, in other words.
All that said, an older leak – dating back to August 2020 – chewed over the prospect of an entirely new 2nd-generation Touch Bar, which could be considerably bigger than the existing strip. This does, however, fly very much in the face of what the more recent rumors we’ve already covered – from more reliable Apple sources – seem to be saying. It doesn’t seem likely that Apple would put more focus on the Touch Bar, in all honesty, although you never know...
There’s a design feature apparently set to return – the MagSafe charger. This was a popular charging setup in the past, which as the name suggests uses a magnetic connection, so if the cable is unexpectedly yanked – say, it’s tripped over by someone – then it easily and harmlessly comes out (as opposed to pulling the plugged-in MacBook off a table, for example).
MagSafe also offers faster charging, another potential boon with this switch – although hopefully Apple will maintain the possibility of USB-C charging as an option, too, if this is the route which the MacBook Pro 16-inch is taking. Again, both Kuo and Gurman believe this design change is coming.
The Mini-LED screen is the other major notable rumor which keeps popping up around the MacBook Pro 16-inch. Kuo has previously predicted that some MacBook Pro models arriving in 2021 (and 2022) will benefit from Mini-LED technology (as well as the iPad). Theoretically, the savings made from using the M1 processor (or its successor) will help to pay for the additional cost of Mini-LED.
Mini-LED would mean a display with more vivid colors and better dynamic range, plus superior contrast and brightness in general – all with better power-efficiency. So it could be quite a substantial step up in terms of overall display quality.
The potential fly in the ointment is that oddly, in Kuo’s latest research note, there was no mention of Mini-LED at all. And the report from Gurman doesn’t talk about Mini-LED tech either, but does note that Apple intends to improve the screen of the MacBook Pro 16-inch with “brighter, higher-contrast panels”.
Kuo has also indicated that the incoming MacBook Pro 16-inch will have more ports, although he didn’t elaborate on exactly what those connectors might be. Still, that sounds like promising news for those hoping for good things on the connectivity front. (In our review of the current MacBook Pro 16-inch, one of the main downsides of the new model highlighted is that there are just four Thunderbolt ports, and no other connectivity options besides, like an SD card slot for example).
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) leaks and rumors
Aside from the aforementioned design changes, Apple is intending to switch from Intel processors to its own silicon inside the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021).
Ming-Chi Kuo has said that there will be no Intel CPU options for the new MacBook Pro 16-inch, with only Apple chips used, and Gurman reckons that Apple will go for the sequel to its M1 chip which will offer ‘more cores and enhanced graphics’. Exactly how many cores this successor chip – which may be named the M1X – will have has been the subject of some varied speculation, and we’ve seen mention of up to 12-cores, or even 20-cores (with 16-cores plus 4 power-efficient cores).
Take that with a large helping of caution, but any increase in the oomph provided by Apple’s custom silicon is going to cause some serious excitement, given the performance feats Apple has already managed with the M1 itself (there is, of course, still always the possibility that Apple will stick with the M1).
If that’s the case, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) might still come with a bit more power – specifically, an even more impressive 10-core Apple Silicon CPU with eight high-performance cores and two energy-efficiency cores. While this particular rumor maintains that it will offer up to 64GB RAM, a more recent leak is saying that memory will be capped at 32GB.
There are also rumors circulating that the new Apple M1X integrated graphics will be powerful enough to compete with the latest Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 mobile graphics cards, potentially available in either 16-core and 32-core integrated options. Not only would this be an incredible win for folk in demanding creative fields, but this also opens up the possibility of using a new MacBook Pro as a gaming laptop, adding another competitor alongside Nvidia, AMD and Intel.
Another possibility aired on the MacBook Pro grapevine is that the new 16-inch model will carry mobile variants of AMD’s incoming RX 6700 series graphics cards, which are rumored to arrive in March. That certainly seems plausible.
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