Apple MacBook Pro 2021: 14-inch & 16-inch Mini LED displays, M1X chip, and everything else we expect
The Apple MacBook Pro is already a worthy contender in the list of the best laptops and it is about to get even better with the upcoming Apple Silicon upgrade. The anticipated 14-inch MacBook Pro has been in the news since last year and is finally expected to arrive later in 2021 alongside a new 16-inch model. The MacBook Pro 2021 is suggested to feature a new design and colors similar to the 21-inch iMac 2021, mini LED displays, a much more powerful ARM-based M1X chipset with up to 64GB of RAM, faster charging, and the return of an HDMI port, an SD card reader, and a MagSafe connector for the charger.
Apple is rumored to be launching the new MacBook Pro in 14-inch and 16-inch models later this year. In this article, we’ve listed everything we expect and know based on various rumors and reports about Apple’s upcoming laptops for pros.
MacBook Pro 2021: Leaks and others expected changes
The Apple MacBook Pro 2021 is expected to be the first major facelift since the redesign in 2016. We’ve heard multiple rumors about the upcoming MacBook Pro models, expected to arrive as a 14-inch model — instead of the prevailing 13-inch model — besides an updated 16-inch variant.
At the beginning of 2021, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo disclosed that Apple would launch the new MacBook Pro models later in 2021, marking key changes over the previous generations. The two new models are likely to come with altered designs, new color options, run on Apple’s custom ARM-based silicon instead of Apple CPUs, and be equipped with better connectivity options, including MagSafe, SD card reader, and more. Apple is also likely to remove the Touchbar and offer a standard set of function keys on the top row of the keyboard.
These are the key changes we expect in the purported MacBook Pro 2021:
New design with more I/O options
In April 2021, Apple announced the iMac in an entirely new attire. The new iMac powered by Apple’s M1 chip relinquishes the old serious office look — characterized by black and shades of gray — and dons a more friendly look with cheery colors. Apple also replaced the black bezels on the iMac with white ones to make their new all-in-one PC easy to blend in any room. Recent rumors suggest that the upcoming MacBook models are due for the same paint job.
As per YouTuber Jon Prosser, the upcoming MacBook Air will be available in the same set of colors as the iMac 2021. Likewise, the future MacBook Air models are also expected to ditch black bezels and embrace white bezels, just like the 2006 polycarbonate MacBook. You should still get the option to buy a silver MacBook, but that will also come with white bezels now instead of black ones. Prosser (via 9to5Mac) claimed to have gotten access to renders of the upcoming MacBook Air but chose not to share the original images to conceal the identity of his source. Instead, he shared concept images based on those renders. Prosser had previously claimed (via 9to5Google) that Apple could also launch MacBooks in “colors for average consumers.”
While Prosser did not mention anything about the upcoming MacBook Pro models, it’s likely Apple robes them in the same consumer-friendly colors.
Other than the potential additions to the color options, the upcoming MacBook Pro is likely to feature various ports that were removed from the previous design. Apple completely overhauled the MacBook Pro in 2016, making it significantly thinner and more attractive to look at. To achieve these dimensions, Apple had to compromise the I/O and remove the USB Type-A, HDMI, Thunderbolt 2 ports, the SD card reader, and the MagSafe connector for the charger. In place of these, Apple included up to four USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support in the successive MacBook Pro models, forcing users to rely on external dongles to connect regular USB-A connectors or other peripherals.
For those who’ve been avoiding upgrading their old MacBook Pro due to this reason, Apple is bringing some of these ports back to the new MacBook Pro 2021 in the 14-inch and 16-inch models.
In January 2021, Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman had reported Apple is likely to return the MagSafe connector to the MacBook lineup. For those unfamiliar with MagSafe, it’s a physical interface that keeps the charger connected to the laptop using a magnetic pull instead of actually docking the charger into a port. Therefore, if you yank the charging cable accidentally, the magnetic connector gets disconnected but does not pull the laptop flying along with it. This type of charging solution was last seen on the older MacBook Air (2015 model, sold until 2018) and could now potentially return to the MacBook Pro models.
Gurman also said that the SD card reader would return to the MacBook Pro, and the same was corroborated (via MacRumors) by Ming-Chi Kuo. Meanwhile, the infamous Touch bar will be evicted (via 9to5Mac) and replaced with a typical row of function keys.
In addition, the upcoming MacBook Pro 2021 models are also expected to feature at least three USB-C ports with Thunderbolt support, instead of the current option between two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the existing MacBook Pro 13-inch with Apple’s M1 or Intel 8th-Gen Core i5’s chipset or four ports on the MacBook Pro 13-inch with 10th-Gen Intel Core i5 and the 16-inch MacBook Pro 2020. According to Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors), the upcoming MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch models could also feature an HDMI port.
The new MacBook Pro 2021 models will be thinner than the existing ones in terms of the actual design. This is primarily because Apple’s own ARM-based SoC saves space on the motherboard by integrating the CPU, GPU, and RAM into one tiny chip. Ming-Chi Kuo also projected (via 9to5Mac) that Apple will renounce the curved edges on the bottom panel, benefiting from the new chipset. The MacBook Pro 2021 is likely to feature a flat bottom panel with squared-off edges. This means a closed MacBook Pro could look like an iPad or the new M1 iMac from the side. Apple is also likely to remove the “MacBook Pro” logo from the display’s bottom bezel to make it thinner.
Mini LED displays proposed
The existing Retina displays on the MacBook Pro models are among the best-rated displays we can find on laptops. Apple uses LED-backlit IPS panels for the MacBook Pro, and these displays offer high color accuracy and contrast besides a claimed peak brightness of 500nits. Many sources unanimously suggest the smaller of the two MacBook 2021 models will now feature a 14-inch display instead of the previously standard 13-inch display. Meanwhile, Apple upgraded the 15-inch model, launching the bigger, 16-inch model only in November 2019. So there won’t be a larger model this time.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro has been expected for over a year. In March 2020, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo indicated (via 9to5Mac) that Apple could launch a 14-inch MacBook Pro instead of the 13-inch variant. The widespread COVID-19 pandemic largely razed those plans. In 2020, Apple released two sequential upgrades to the smaller MacBook Pro — the first one with Intel chips and Apple’s Magic Keyboard instead of the dreaded Butterfly keyboard, and the second with its custom ARM-based M1 chipsets. However, neither of the two models featured any major cosmetic changes except the upgraded keyboard.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro is set to launch later in 2021 alongside the new 16-inch model. Besides increasing the size of the screen, Apple is expected to offer brighter displays. A couple of independent reports from Taiwanese industry-centric publications Digitimes (via MacRumors) and TrendForce indicate that Apple might opt for Mini LED displays on the MacBook Pro 2021. The same display technology was deployed on M1 iPad Pro launched by Apple in April 2021. As per Digitimes, Radiant Opto-Electronics is believed to be the exclusive supplier of the Mini LED panels for the MacBook Pro.
A Mini LED display uses miniature LEDs to backlight the LCD panel. The “XDR” display on the iPad Pro 2021 uses Mini LEDs that are 120x smaller than the LEDs typically used on LED-backlit LCDs. Because of their smaller size, a display can feature many times more Mini LEDs than regular LEDs. This allows for the display to be brighter, have richer contrast, and offer better local dimming. Apple claims the new Mini LED “XDR” display on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 (review) has a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, making this display technology the best intermediary option between LCDs and OLED panels.
So if Apple launches the MacBook Pro in 2021 with Mini LED panels, the displays will likely feature better brightness and contrast than the existing models. Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman also contributed to this probability, suggesting the MacBook Pro models could come with “updated displays” but without sharing much insight. Meanwhile, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had previously mentioned (via 9to5Mac) Apple will use Mini LED displays on the 2022 MacBook Air without referring much to the MacBook Pro models.
However, it is also worth noting that Mini LED displays are still in their nascent stage, leading to a slower supply than expected. While Apple’s indulgence is expected to propel the utilization of the technology, the Cupertino giant is grappling with shortages itself. This has led to a delay in the availability of the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
Should Apple choose to use Mini LED displays on the upcoming 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, the same shortages are bound to restrict the production of these models, and that might even push the availability later into the year.
Apple’s M1X processor
In 2020, Apple made the long-awaited migration to its custom ARM-based eight-core M1 silicon. Unlike the x86-64 Intel chips used by Apple to power its laptops, the ARM-based silicon comes in a system-on-a-chip (SoC) format — just like on an iPhone or iPad.
Even though the MacBook Pro models launched in 2016 through 2020 have featured RAM and storage chips soldered onto the motherboard, the new SoC allows Apple to save much more space by integrating the CPU, GPU, NPU, and other components into a single chip. Further, the memory is also integrated on the same board as the SoC. Apple calls this a “Unified Memory Architecture” and it allows all components of the SoC to access RAM seamlessly.
Being based on ARM, the M1 chips can also run iOS apps natively and use an emulation environment called Rosetta 2 to run apps traditionally designed for x86-64 systems.
As for the performance of last year’s Apple M1 chip, it already waters down Intel’s most powerful chips. Not only does the M1 offer more performance for power but also generates much less heat, and that has allowed Apple to stick to a fan-less design for the 2020 MacBook Air. For the newer MacBook Pro models, however, Apple is preparing for a much more powerful chipset. Allegedly called “M1X,” the chipset will be an extension of the previous M1 chip. According to Bloomberg, the Apple M1X chip is expected to feature a 10-core CPU with two efficiency cores — for basic tasks such as web browsing at low battery consumption — and eight high-performance cores for more demanding tasks. This differs from the M1 chip that features four cores for power efficiency and four for high performance.
In addition to the 10-core CPU, the Apple M1X chip will offer the choice between GPUs with 16 and 32 cores. The chip is also slated to come with better neural processing capabilities and feature support for up to a whopping 64GB of RAM — and hopefully, that would be enough RAM for Chrome.
As we noted above, Apple is expected to return the MagSafe charging port on the MacBook Pro 2021 models. With this, the charging rate could also be increased further.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro ships with a fast-charging brick, rated at 96W, while the smaller, 13-inch model comes with a 61W charger and is also compatible with the faster charger. The MacBook Pro 2021 could come with support for even faster-charging speeds. The charger’s specifications haven’t been leaked or predicted until now, but we’ll update the article when we learn more.
Full HD Camera
Despite the advancements in hardware, MacBook Pro models have featured a 720p webcam with mediocre quality. As work from home becomes the way forward for many organizations across the globe, a good quality webcam becomes imperative. The new iMac 2021 features an upgraded Full HD camera with much better quality than the previous 720p one. We can expect the webcam on the MacBook Pro to also be upgraded to a similar quality.
Meanwhile, the iPad Pro uses a front-facing camera with an ultrawide field of view. This enables a feature called “Center Stage” which is used to pan the camera to keep the primary subject(s) in the center of the frame. While we don’t have high hopes about this feature being added to the MacBook Pro, it would be exciting for Apple to actually take the webcam more seriously.
MacBook Pro 2021: Expected release date
The new MacBook Pro was earlier tipped to arrive in the second half of 2021. However, different sources seem to have different expectations regarding the release date of the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. Early on in 2021, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested the new models could arrive in the third quarter of 2021, whereas Mark Gurman of Bloomberg reported an earlier launch date around the middle of 2021.
Meanwhile, two other reports offer more contradicting information. YouTuber Jon Prosser recently suggested that Apple could announce the new MacBook Pro at the WWDC 2021 conference along with the M1X-powered Mac Mini. In contrast, Taiwanese news website Digitimes revealed (via Tom’s Guide) that the production of the upcoming MacBook Pro models may have been delayed until late 2021 or early 2022 due to the “sudden surge” of COVID-19 in Taiwan, besides the strapped supply of mini LED displays.
We expect to hear more about the MacBook Pro 2021 in the coming days. This article is constantly updated with the most recent information, so come back to learn more about the MacBook Pro 2021.
What do you expect from the upcoming MacBook Pro models? Let us know in the comments below!