If you've been waiting for a new era in Mac laptops, Apple's November event should deliver just that.
Apple plans to hold its "One more thing" product event via a live stream on Tuesday (Nov. 10), starting at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST. With Apple unveiling the Apple Watch 6 and iPad Air 4 in September and the iPhone 12 family n October, that leaves Apple's Mac lineup for a major overhaul.
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And we already know what that overhaul is going to be, thanks to Apple's announcement at its developer conference earlier this year — we're going to see the first Apple Silicon MacBooks based on Apple's own A14 series chips.
Even if we know the main event, Tuesday's product launch still has some mysteries surrounding the specific details of what we're likely to see. Here's what to expect when you tune into the One More Thing live stream starting at 1 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.
Apple Silicon MacBook Air and MacBook Pro
In case you don't remember Apple's announcement from this summer — really, a lot's been happening lately, so who could blame you — the company announced plans to build laptops around its own CPUs in a crushing blow to Intel. That's the same approach Apple has used to great success with its iPhone and iPad lineups.
The initiative, called Apple Silicon, is set to kick off this fall with the fist Macs powered by ARM processors. Apple plans to roll out ARM-based chips to every one of its Mac products to replace the Intel processors it currently uses. The whole transition figures to take about two years, with the first Macs making the switch to Apple Silicon this year.
The goal: deliver laptops that offer comparable or better performance than Intel laptops along with better power efficiency. And the first Apple Silicon MacBook benchmarks look promising.
Rumors have pointed to laptops being first up on the transition to ARM chips, so that's what we're expecting to see Tuesday. The most recent rumor surrounding Apple's laptop plans points to three new MacBooks built around Apple Silicon.
Bloomberg reports that we're going to get a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro on Tuesday, both of which will come in 13-inch configurations and feature the new processors. Additionally, a 16-inch MacBook Pro could be on tap for Tuesday, too. These machines will reportedly run on the same A14 processor that Apple has recently introduced to both the iPhone 12 and iPad Air 4.
Because Apple still plans to release Intel-based Macs during its transition to Apple Silicon across the Mac product line, it's possible there could be other machines included in Tuesday's announcement. Specifically, a 13-inch MacBook Pro with an Intel processor could be in the works, though we wouldn't imagine that model would get much stage time.
Apple hasn't released a new 12-inch MacBook in a while. The product isn't even listed on Apple's website as an option. But some rumors have suggested that Apple could revive this particular laptop with an ARM-based processor.
There's also reports of an Apple Silicon-based iMac as well a Mac Pro that's much more compact than the current version. Both desktops seem unlikely to debut on Nov. 10,. though, with Apple likely focusing its early efforts on laptops, given that their performance requirements aren't that far off from mobile devices like tablets.
How will Apple Silicon improve Mac performance?
Expect a lot of improvements over the Intel chips currently powering Apple laptops, and not just because Apple is still only up to the 10th Gen Core CPUs on some of its notebooks, while top-of-the-line Windows models are using 11th Gen chips from Intel. The A14 uses a 5 nanometer process, which should make it run more efficiently than the 10nm Tiger Lake chips from Intel.
The switch to Apple Silicon also brings Apple's neural engine to the Mac, which should boost the features that tap into machine learning. (Think of the way the iPhone readily handles photo processing, for example.) Apple has also touted benefits such as advanced power management, a high-powered GPU for running pro apps and games and a secure enclave for better privacy.
Using the same processor found inside iPhones and iPads means that apps built for those mobile devices should also natively run on Macs now. That broadens the software you can use on your Macs and could make developers more willing to develop for the platform.
macOS Big Sur
The latest version of macOS was also announced at Apple's developers conference, and it's been in beta since the summer. Apple promised a fall 2020 release for macOS Big Sur, and that same thing we said earlier about the calendar running out of weeks applies here.
Expect Apple to use a Mac launch event to give us more information about the release date for macOS Big Sur — if it doesn't just drop the final update on us during the event itself.
AirPods Studio, new Apple TV and AirTags
Since Apple rarely sticks to just one thing — even at an event called One More Thing — we'd expect other products to join the Silicon MacBook models on stage. And Apple certainly has its choice of a few rumored products to announce on Tuesday.
We've been waiting to see the AirPods Studio for the last two Apple product events. These are wireless over-ear headphones that would complement the rest of Apple's AirPod lineup. We're expecting the AirPods Studio to offer noise-cancelling features, but it's unclear if they'll be ready in time for this year's holiday season. Some rumors suggest that the same kind of production delays that pushed back the iPhone 12 release might mean that the AirPods Studio won't debut until 2021.
Another possible candidate is an updated version of the Apple TV set-top box. It's been awhile since Apple updated the Apple TV 4K, and a new version could possibly feature Apple's A12X Bionic chip if rumors about the product prove accurate. (Another wilder rumor points to an Apple TV with an A14 chip delivering console-esque performance, all the better to stream Apple Arcade games.)
t's certainly in Apple's interest to remind us that it makes TV set-top boxes, too — the Apple TV Plus streaming service just turned one, and all the people who got free subscriptions in the past year might need a reason to stick with the fledgling service.
There's also the matter of Apple AirTags, the long-rumored key finder device that's supposed to work with the U1 Ultra Wideband chip in recent iPhones. Such a product seemed like a better fit for the iPhone 12 launch event, and the fact that the new iPhones are here and an Apple-made key finder isn't tells us that rumors of this device being pushed back to 2021 are likely accurate.