12-inch MacBook could return with ARM — and a controversial throwback

MacBook 12 ARM
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Rumors have long been flying that Apple is set to ditch Intel for its own ARM-based Mac processors next year, and now we have an idea of which hardware the new CPUs could debut on.

Somewhat notable leaker Fudge (who goes by choco_bit on Twitter) took to Reddit recently to post a lengthy breakdown of his predictions on how and when Apple will roll out its new processors. The user posits that Apple's work around custom Mac CPUs started back in 2015 with the T1 coprocessor in several Mac devices, and notes that fully switching to ARM will allow Apple to be "free from Intel’s release schedule."

Fudge predicts that the first ARM-powered Mac will be a new version of the retired 12-inch MacBook, which could arrive as soon as next year. Interestingly, the user notes that this model will see the return of the Butterfly keyboard that Apple has phased out of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and that Apple is still working internally to "perfect" the oft-derided feature.

The leaker goes on to predict that the 12-inch MacBook could sport an A14x processor (which we also expect to see in a future iPad Pro), which would make it a "very capable, very portable machine." Fudge predicts that a 12-inch ARM-based MacBook will pave the way for future ARM Macs "much like how the iPhone X paved the way for FaceID-enabled iPhones," and thinks that all MacBooks could transition over to in-house processors by the mid 2020s. 

We've made similar predictions in the past, positing that a low-cost 'MacBook SE' could be a strong answer to Chromebooks and cheap Windows laptops that offers a premium Mac experience at a relatively attainable price. Apple's cheapest laptop is currently the $999 MacBook Air, so there's still room for Apple to go after the budget market with a $600 to $800 machine. 

The previous 12-inch MacBook has been discontinued for nearly a year, so a 2021 comeback could be welcomed by those who want a smaller, cheaper Mac. We heard earlier this week that Apple may reveal its ARM-based CPU as soon as WWDC on June 22, meaning we could be just days away from the start of a new era for the Cupertino company.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.