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Apple event recap: MacBook Pro 2021, AirPods 3, M1 Pro, M1X and all the big news

The Apple Unleashed event brings new MacBook Pros with serious power and new AirPods 3

Tim Cook standing in front of a virtual backdrop of a field, to illustrate Tom's Guide's Apple Event October Unleashed live blog
(Image: © Apple)

Apple announced a bunch of new products at the Apple Event, including two new MacBook Pro 2021 models and two new chips in the M1 Pro and M1 Max. The goal is to provide a quantum leap in performance for those on the fence about ditching Intel, and Apple is making a pretty strong case to do just that. 

If you want to see how the new MacBook Pros stack up, see our updated MacBook Pro vs Air guide with all the specs and info. 

Apple also announced the AirPods 3, which deliver a new design, longer battery life and enhanced sound quality for $179. And the company unveiled a new Apple Music Voice plan for $4.99 a month along with new HomePod mini colors. 

Here's everything announced at the Apple event:

MacBook Pro 2021 (14 inch) (from $1,999): While pricey, the new 14-inch MacBook promises serious power with your choice of a M1 Pro chip and M1 Max chip. The M1 Pro offers a major speed boost over the M1, especially in terms of graphics performance, while delivering long battery life.

Other highlights include a mini-LED display, MagSafe charging, HDMI and SD Card slot and a 1080p camera. Alas, there is a notch. 

MacBook Pro 2021 16-inch (from $2,499): The new 16-inch MacBook Pro has a 16.2-inch display so you get more room than the previous model. Like the MacBook Pro 14-inch, there's a 6-speaker sound system. You get up to 64GB of unified memory, which is a first for the Mac and up to 21 hours of battery life. 

AirPods 3 ($179): The regular AirPods haven't seen an update in two years, so we're glad to see Apple offer a new design with shorter stems and improved touch controls with a new sensor. You also get Spatial Audio support for music and longer battery life that's 6 hours with the earbuds and up to 30 hours with the case. 

Apple M1 Pro chip: The new M1 Pro chip has a 10-core CPU with 8 high-performance cores and 2 efficiency cores along with up to 32GB of unified memory. You get 70% faster CPU performance versus the M1. There's also a 16-core GPU (up from 8 cores before), which delivers up to 2x graphics performance. 

Apple M1 Max chip: The M1 Max is the super chip with up to 400 GB/s of memory bandwidth (vs 200 GB/s for M1 Pro). And you get up to 64GB of unified memory, double the M1Pro. There's a 10-core CPU but even more powerful graphics with a 32-core GPU. See our M1 Pro vs M1 Max comparison to learn more. 

HomePod mini ($99): Now comes in three bolder colors in yellow, orange and blue and release date is November. You still get 360-degree audio in a compact design. You just bring your iPhone to the HomePod mini to hand off the audio. 

Apple Music Voice Plan ($4.99 per month): The new Apple Music Voice Plan is designed exclusively for Siri and gives you access to 90 million songs, tens of thousands of playlists and hundreds of new mood and activity playlists for a reasonable price.

See all the highlights from the Apple event below. 

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MacBook Pro 2021

(Image credit: Intel)

Well this is interesting. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, the new MacBook Pro chips will be called 'M1 Pro' and 'M1 Max.' This could be instead of M1X. If we had to guess, the M1 Pro could be the base chip for the 14-inch MacBook Pro, and the M1 Max could be the chip for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. 

According to Gurman: "Both chip versions will have 10 CPU cores comprised of eight high-performance cores and two energy-efficient cores. The difference will be in graphics: One chip will have 16 graphics cores, and the other will have 32." 

According to an investor note from Wedbush's Dan Ives (via MacRumors), third-generation AirPods will likely be announced at the Apple Event. The third-generation AirPods have reportedly been manufactured and are ready to launch, according to Wedbush's supply chain checks.

AirPods 3 design leak

(Image credit: @LeaksApplePro)

An alleged MacBook Pro 2021 photo leak shows a possible display notch for the display. It's not clear why the new MacBook Pro would have a notch, but one rumor points to a sharper 1080p camera, which could take up more room. We have not seen any Face ID leaks for the new MacBook Pros but anything could happen. 

The rumored MacBook Pro notch

(Image credit: AnyTurtle99 / Weibo)

So what of the Mac mini M1X? Rumors suggest a new model could be shown off at today's Apple event, although it's far from certain. 

iDrop News, for instance, claims insider information from a person involved in Apple's marketing that said the launch has been delayed in order to let the new MacBooks "shine." 

However, the same report claims supply chain insider information, which has production for a new Mac mini ramping up. We'll have to wait and see on this one.

New Mac mini just leaked — what you need to know

(Image credit: Jon Prosser & Ian Zelbo)

Concept art for an Apple TV stick

(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Shutterstock)

We're not expecting any Apple TV-related news at today's Apple event, but one Tom's Guide editor is hoping for a "one more thing" from Apple. Here's Henry Casey on why an Apple TV Stick would make him very happy.

A new rumor has claimed the next MacBook Air could also sport a display notch, However, this one looks rather sketchy, with no images to back up such a claim or any sources referenced. 

The next-gen MacBook Pros are expected to have mini-LED displays, like the larger model iPad Pro 2021. This screen tech falls between LCD and OLED, offering better colors and contrast than the former but avoiding the risk of burn-in the latter can pose. 

Micro-LED vs Mini-LED

(Image credit: TCL)

We're expecting the new Mac machines to make use of the M1X chip, a boosted take on the Apple M1 chip. With more processor and graphics cores, the M1X is expected to deliver a big jump in performance over its predecessor. 

You might think the Apple M2 chip would be the next upgrade to expect, but that's supposedly reserved for the next MacBook Air and is tipped to be more efficient.

A half-opened MacBook Pro 2020 on a dark desk against a dark background. The screen shows a typical Apple desktop background

(Image credit: Apple)

One of the things that's not been cleared up in the various rumors we've seen is how the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro will be different. As it stands, they're tipped to have similar specs. 

The speculation points towards the 16-inch offering a more powerful M1X chip with more graphics cores, but we'd also expect better speakers and perhaps more ports. The 14-inch model, meanwhile, could replace the older 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Naturally, Apple has its own Twitter hashtag for the event: #AppleEvent. And taking a look at the chatter on Twitter, it's clear that excitement is building for today's showcase. It's also a quagmire of speculation and dodgy leaks. 

Check out the one below; it's about as solid as a chocolate teapot sitting on an active volcano, but is amusing to see nevertheless. Those images look like someone has tried to mix high-end Apple industrial design with a cheap Chromebook…

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Let's talk of specs and pricing: we'd expect the new MacBook Pros to come with some seriously high-end options: say up to 2TB of SSD storage space and up to 64GB of RAM. But we'd also expect them to be expensive. 

Our hope is that the entry-level models are well-equipped and reasonably well-priced, as that's an approach Apple has taken before with some MacBook Pro generations. 

As we've heard from previous reports, this Twitter user reckons Apple will kill the divisive Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pros. We reckon they're onto something as the Touch Bar never really became an essential part of the MacBook Pro experience. 

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Apple Store down

(Image credit: Apple)

And right on cue the Apple Store is down as Apple replenishes for the new product launches. With the Apple event set for 1 p.m ET, we would expect it to be back online around 3 p.m. at the latest with new MacBook Pros, AirPods 3 and more. 

MacBook Pro 2021 notch render

(Image credit: MacRumors)

The MacBook Pro 2021 notch rumors are gaining steam ahead of the Apple Event, and MacRumors has a report detailing how Apple could make "the notch appear seamless against a black strip." Based on patents, the site says this area could also potentially allow for additional information to be displayed to users that would "free up menu bar space in the main 16:10 display."

This is not definite, but in the meantime MacRumors also worked up the render image you see above of how the MacBook notch could look.