The next MacBook lineup could be getting a big shake-up — here’s why

MacBook Pro 2021
(Image credit: Intel)

We’re expecting refreshed MacBook Pros to be revealed this fall, potentially with a new MacBook Air 2021. And from the rumors thus far, we have been expecting both laptops will come with the Apple M2 chip or the M1X chipset. 

But iOS developer dylandkt on Twitter claims to have information that the M2 chip will actually be held for 2022 and will debut in the next MacBook Air, whereas the M1X chip will feature in “Pro Mac” devices, set to arrive this year. 

Now, we have no way to verify this information, but if it’s legitimate, it would indicate that the division between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will get a lot larger over the next several months. 

At the moment, the gap between the MacBook Air M1 and MacBook Pro M1 isn’t significant as they basically use the same chip; the Pro has one extra GPU core and more space for chipset cooling. 

Where once we’d thought the M2 and M1X were the same chip but with different rumored monikers, they now appear to be separate slices of silicon.

Apple Silicon split

Apple M2 chip

(Image credit: Apple)

According to dylandkt, the M1X will be an extension of the Apple M1 chip and will sport more CPU and GPU cores and more Thunderbolt channels, as well as suck down more power. It’s tipped to feature in a higher end Mac mini, MacBook Pro 2021 14-inch and a redesigned MacBook Pro 2021 16-inch.

Other leaks have suggested the M1X will have 10 CPU cores, made up of eight high-performance cores and two power-efficient ones. A previous rumor has the M2 slated to come with 12 CPU cores and some 16 GPU cores, but we’d not place a lot of stock in this as the information as it's somewhat sketchy.

Meanwhile, the latest M2 leaks have the second-generation slice of Apple Silicon tipped to have eight processor cores, like the M1, but likely pushed to a higher clock speed. And a big graphics upgrade is also on the cards with the GPU jumping from eight cores to ten or more. 

So it would appear that the M1X will be a chipset designed for power users. That would suggest the M2 chip will be more of a second-generation take on the M1 improving performance and efficiency, but not aimed at handling the demanding workload of creative professionals. 

Of course, these are all unconfirmed leaks and rumors, as well as some healthy speculation. But they could indicate a potential fork in the road for the Mac and MacBook lineup. 

MacBook Pro and MacBook Air could tread different paths

MacBook Air 2021 concept

(Image credit: Devam Jangra/YouTube)

As it stands, the performance of the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac 2021 — all with the M1 chip — is largely the same across the board. The M1 has impressed us so far, but it arguably makes it tricky to justify getting a MacBook Pro over the Air or going full desktop with the new iMac. 

However, if the next MacBook Air does indeed get the M2 chip and offers a boost in performance over its predecessor, as well as a new design — we’re hoping for slimmer display bezels at least — it could stand apart from the rumored next-gen MacBook Pros. 

The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are currently expected to debut in the fall, though when isn’t exactly clear right now. The rumors so far have the launch in late October/early November or possibly a late September reveal is in the cards. 

But new MacBook Pro models are tipped to offer a new design with rumors claiming an HDMI port and SD card slot are on the way, as well as potential mini-LED displays. Combine this with a significant jump in performance, and the next MacBook Pros could be serious Apple Silicon devices targeted at professionals that need the power and flexibility to carry out demanding tasks like CAD work or 4K video rendering.  

That would leave the MacBook Air as more of an every-person macOS laptop, which is what it was always meant to be. And by not needing to appeal to pro users, Apple could potentially price the next MacBook Air more aggressively to keep Windows ultraportable laptops at bay; the latter could get more appealing to a wider range of users thanks to Windows 11 and its new user interface, which isn’t a huge leap away from macOS. 

As ever, time will tell which of these rumors and leaks come to fruition. But it looks like a shake-up is coming to the MacBook lineup, which could be very good news. 

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.