New MacBook Pro 2021 rumors — 5 biggest upgrades we expect

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It's been nearly a year since Apple wowed us with the performance and efficiency of the MacBook Pro with M1, and we're eager to see what Cupertino can do with the next generation of MacBook Pros packing Apple silicon. 

We've heard plenty of credible rumors that give us good reason to be excited, too —
from the return of MagSafe charging to the addition of brilliant mini-LED displays, the MacBook Pro 2021 is shaping up to be one of the best laptops on the market. Plus, we might be getting two different size options: Bloomberg's Mark Gurman expects new MacBook Pros to arrive no later than November this year, available in both 14- and 16-inch options.

Now that we've spent so much time with our ears to the ground, read on for our list of the 5 most exciting rumored MacBook Pro 2021 upgrades, culled from the laundry list of credible rumors we've heard this year. 

5. Slimmer bezels and a new design

As much as we love the 2020 MacBook Pro with M1 and the MacBook Air with M1, we can't help being a bit disappointed by how thick the bezels are on each laptop. It might seem like a small detail, but thick bezels can distract you from what's happening on-screen and hamper your efforts to get absorbed in the latest game, movie, or Disney Plus show.

MacBook Pro 2021 rumors: MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 render

This render gives us a glimpse of what a slimmer 2021 MacBook Pro might look like. (Image credit: Antonio de Rosa)

That's why we're thrilled by persistent rumors that the MacBook Pro 2021 will be redesigned to flatten the edges of the chassis and slim the bezels around the screen. We've now seen fan renders of what such a redesigned Pro could look like, and it looks good.

4. More ports

As much as we love the 2020 M1 MacBook Pro, we didn't love the fact that it sports just 2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports on the left side and a headphone jack on the right side. That's barely enough ports for the average users, and it's borderline rude to photographers, video editors and anyone else who needs to be able to plug in external monitors or SD cards.

MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 render

(Image credit: Antonio de Rosa)

That's why we're so excited by the rumors that the 2021 MacBook Pros could ship with an expanded port selection, including an HDMI port, a high-speed UHS-II SD Card reader and an Ethernet port. With a port array like that, the 2021 MacBook Pro would be a nigh-unstoppable productivity machine.

3. MagSafe's triumphant return

If you, like many of us, pine for the days before Apple switched to USB-C for MacBook charging, there's reason for renewed hope: rumors suggest that MagSafe charging is coming back in the 2021 MacBook Pros

This is exciting because (back in the good old days) having a magnetic connection for the power cord helped minimize accidental drops and port damage when someone (or someone's beloved pet) tripped over the MacBook Pro's power cable while it was plugged in, yanking things around. If MagSafe charging returns in the 2021 MacBook Pros, either as part of a dedicated charging port or a magnetic USB-C port, imagine how much wear and tear we'll avoid.

2. Mini-LED display

Now we're getting into the really exciting upgrade possibilities, as we've seen multiple credible rumors claiming that a MacBook Pro 2021 with mini-LED display could be released this fall. 

MacBook Pro 2021 rumors

The mini-LED display on the iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) wowed us with its remarkable brightness and contrast. (Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

This would likely be the same mini-LED display technology found in the new iPad Pro 12.9-inch, which sports a Liquid Retina XDR panel that can achieve 1,000 nits of brightness and a 1 million to 1 contrast ratio — which, in layman's terms, means it delivers incredibly bright picture quality with remarkably deep blacks.

Of course, if our experience reviewing the iPad Pro's mini-LED display is any indicator, you'll need to be watching high-quality HDR content in order to enjoy the full breadth of the display's power — but something tells me that won't prove too burdensome a chore.

1. M1X chip

The addition of the Apple M1 chip to the 2020 MacBook Pro delivered improvements to its processing power and battery efficiency that were, quite frankly, incredible. That's why we're so excited about the multiple reports which claim Apple is going to produce an M1X chip for the MacBook Pro 2021 this fall, and it should be even more powerful than the M1. 

Tom's Guide Awards 2021: Computing

Apple's M1 chip proved so powerful that we awarded it the Breakthrough Award in our Tom's Guide Awards for 2021 (Image credit: Apple)

Based on rumors and leaked M1X benchmarks, we currently expect the M1X to pack up to 10 CPU cores (up from the M1's 8 cores) and as many as 16 to 32 cores for the GPU (up from the M1's 7-8). If that all pans out, we can look forward to 2021 MacBook Pros with unbeatable performance and outstanding battery life.

After all, last year's MacBook Pro M1 lasted an astonishing 16 hours and 25 minutes in our battery test, which tests a laptop's staying power by tasking it with endlessly browsing the web over Wi-Fi at a set brightness of 150 nits. If we do end up seeing new 2021 MacBook Pros with M1X chips, it's reasonable to expect they'll last even longer.

MacBook Pro 2021 outlook: Lots to be excited about

When you line up all the rumored improvements together like this, the MacBook Pro 2021 is starting to look like it could be the biggest upgrade we've seen the MacBook Pro line get in a long time.

Whether we end up seeing a 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro in 2021 (why not both?) it's clear that there's lots of room for Apple to improve on the already impressive specs of the current M1 MacBook Pro. 

Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.