MacBook Pro leak reveals radical design with five displays

MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Stephen Lam/Getty Image)

The current MacBook Pro has one main display and a Touch Bar - but it looks like Apple wants to possibly add another three screens to make a laptop with an insane five displays.

According to MyFixGuide, the China National Intellectual Property Office approved the patent today, June 30. It's another patent that suggests what Apple could do with all the empty space on its laptops surrounding the keyboard and trackpad, this time suggesting the use of a "Dynamic Display Interface" that turns these blank areas into several small screens.

Based on the patent's illustrations, these displays then take up roles similar to how Apple tries to use the Touch Bar on its current MacBooks —  moving toolbars off the main display and next to the user's hands for more convenient access.

(Image credit: China National Intellectual Property Office)

The trackpad looks to be embedded beneath the top surface of the laptop, as there’s no obvious sign of it, at least compared to the slightly sunken trackpad on current MacBooks. To make up for this, the patent also details how haptic feedback could be added to the trackpad. This would allow the user to know if they had strayed outside the trackpad’s boundaries, as well as give them a better sense of how they were interacting with on-screen objects.

(Image credit: China National Intellectual Property Office)

The keys themselves can also be backlit according to this patent, since the light-up surface surrounds them too. While backlit keys might make you think of flashy RGB lighting on gamer-oriented peripherals, this could have a more practical use. Think of how lights could help guide your fingers to specific hotkey groups or to the home row of keys (as shown in the patent) to help you type more efficiently.

(Image credit: China National Intellectual Property Office)

We've seen some ideas of how this might work from other laptop makers. Asus' ZenBook Pro Duo has a secondary display above its keyboard, while Microsoft has the upcoming Surface Neo which goes all out and has a virtual keyboard on a second identical display. Users wanting to abandon physical keyboards completely in the next year or two is highly unlikely, so Apple's patent seems like a more sensible intermediate step.

While we wait for Apple to turn this patent into a real product (if it does at all), we have other advancements to look at. As was recently announced at WWDC 2020, MacBooks will be getting the newest version of MacOS, named Big Sur. The new OS offers new menu designs, widgets for commonly-used features and upgrades to first-party apps like Messages and Safari.

Upcoming MacBooks will also be featuring Apple Silicon, Apple's first processors designed from scratch using ARM, rather than the Intel chipsets it's been using for years. And the first ARM-based Mac will be released this year.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.