MacBook Pro 2021 — here's the 5 biggest upgrades to expect

MacBook Pro concept
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The MacBook Pro 2021 is expected to arrive this year, and based on the rumors and leaks thus far there are some pretty big upgrades in store. 

We're already started hearing a lot about what these new MacBooks will have to offer. That includes two new models in the MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 and MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021, a new Apple Silicon M2 chip and the long-awaited return of MagSafe.

You can also expect a new type of display with mini-LED technology, slimmer bezels and (gasp!) more ports. Here are the biggest upgrades we should expect from the MacBook Pro 2021.

14- and 16-inch models

MacBook Pro 16-Inch

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Word is that there are two new MacBook Pros coming this year, with 14- and 16-inch displays. That’s according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, both of whom have a very strong track record when it comes to leaking upcoming Apple products. 

The MacBook Pro 14-inch would be a brand new size for Apple, and we're expecting that Apple will be able to deliver this larger panel within the same size or smaller chassis as the current 13-inch MacBook Pro. 

Kuo expects the new MacBooks to arrive in Q2 or Q3 of this year, while Gurman and a separate report from DigiTimes point towards a mid-2021 launch window. However, a more recent rumor suggests that the 14-inch MacBook Pro may not actually arrive until Q3

Mini LED display 

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

One of the biggest changes we can expect from the 2021 MacBooks is the debut of a brand new screen. Apple is reportedly ditching traditional LCD displays that have been in use for several years in favor of mini-LED.

Mini-LED displays are expected to debut on the 2021 iPad Pro, but according to Ming Chi Kuo, Apple has plans to quickly expand to Macs over the following months. Reports claim Apple is including “brighter, higher-contrast panels,” and rumor is that mini-LED is how Apple plans to accomplish that. 

But there’s a lot to be gained from mini-LED tech. Not only does it mean the 2021 MacBook Pros could have brighter screens and better contrast, they also offer better power efficiency. So by opting for mini-LED, Apple can boost battery performance without having to include a bigger battery.

M2 chip

Apple WWDC 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple made waves with the M1 chip when it launched last year, so we have high hopes for the successor. Whether it’s called the M2 chip, or the M1X chip as previous rumors have suggested. There may even be two chips, one for different kinds of MacBooks, and right now the distinction isn’t clear.

Leaks claim that an upcoming Apple Silicon chip will feature 12 cores, including eight performance cores and four high efficiency cores. That’s significantly more than the original M1 chip, which has eight cores in total, which are evenly split them between efficiency and performance. Another leak claims that Apple has already booked the production of new M2 chips, which are slated to use a 4-nanometer process node that offers better performance without sacrificing power efficiency.

We’ve also heard of a chip with 20 cores, 16 of which are set aside for high performance. Whether that hits a MacBook Pro is unclear, though such a powerful chip may be better suited for the 2021 iMac, or a new Mac Pro.

Whatever M1 follow-up the new MacBooks end up getting, we can be sure that it’ll offer solid performance and strong battery life. Just don’t expect there to be an Intel option this time around. Not only is Apple said to be moving all its Macs onto the Apple Silicon platform, Ming-Chi Kuo has confirmed that there won’t be Intel variants of either 2021 MacBook Pro. 

New flat edge design with smaller bezels

macbook pro ultra thin bezel

(Image credit: USPTO/Apple)

One interesting change we’ve been hearing about is that the 2021 MacBook Pros may ditch the curved design of everything we’ve seen so far. Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Apple will be adopting a flat-edged design, similar to that seen on the iPhone 12

While that’s not a major change, it does mark a departure from the way Apple has done things in the past. It also jibes with Mark Gurman’s report, which claims that the new Macs will look similar to current models, “albeit with minor design changes.”

Patents have also been uncovered that show off a new MacBook with even thinner bezels than we’ve seen before. The patent was revealed last August, and the ultra-thin bezels failed to materialize on the MacBook Pro M1 and MacBook Air M1

It’s still not clear if and when that design might arrive. But a change in the overall screen design of the 2021 MacBooks would make them the perfect candidates for even more display real-estate.

  Return of MagSafe, and even more ports

magsafe macbook charger

(Image credit: Thomas Benkö/Wikimedia)

Apple has made a lot of unpopular design changes to the MacBook Pro over the past several years, and switching all its ports to USB-C did not go down well. Retiring MagSafe charging wasn't very popular either.

So it's a good thing the rumors claim Apple is reversing course this year, and saving us all from the hell that is external dongles while bringing back magnetic charging.

According to Mark Gurman, the new MacBook MagSafe will feature a “pill-shaped” design, meaning it’s more like the old MacBook Pro MagSafe connector than the wireless charging version that’s available on the iPhone 12.

Ming Chi-Kuo claims that the 2021 MacBooks will have a larger range of ports, though it’s not clear which ports are coming. Rumors have suggested that the HDMI port and SD card reader will return, but it’s not clear what else we may get.

However, if Ming-Chi Kuo is right, all these additions may come at the expense of the Touch Bar. According to the analyst Apple plans to scrap the mini touchscreen in favor of a set of physical keys. We don't think most users would miss this feature.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.