I’m not a patient man, but when Apple revealed the MacBook Air M1 and MacBook Pro M1 I managed to steel myself and not rush out to get one despite the rave reviews. That’s because, as good as the Apple M1 chip is, the design of the MacBook remained the same. In fact, the look of the MacBook lineup has stayed the same for several years.
So I decided to wait and see what Apple did next. And that may have been the right call as rumors have built around the new MacBook Pro 2021, suggesting a big upgrade is coming. That’s why the Apple event on October 18, dubbed Unleashed, is set to be an exciting one for me.
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Last month Apple took the covers off a quartet of new iPhone 13 models in its first event of the fall. Yet as slickly produced as the showcase was, I left it feeling a bit deflated. Where once Apple used to surprise us or show off new tech that looked set to evolve the future of music, phones or computers, September’s event could be summarized as “iterative.”
Sure the iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best phone you can buy now, but it’s hardly packed with innovation, unlike say the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 with its better multitasking and clever under-display camera. The iPad mini 6 looks lovely, but it's just a smaller iPad Air. And the Apple Watch 7, while good, didn’t live up to its rumors.
However, the promise of new MacBook Pros holds a lot more allure, not least of all because of all the upgrades that have been tipped.
Why the MacBook Pro 2021 is a big deal
Now, I’m mostly a Windows laptop user, but when I last used a pre-2016 MacBook Air I was utterly smitten. The keyboard felt great, macOS was slick, and everything worked so nicely. Then the M1 MacBooks caught my eye, offering something that felt quietly revolutionary in the computing world: the potential dethroning of Intel as the one chip maker to rule them all.
With Apple Unleashed next week, I’m expecting to see a fully redesigned 14-inch MackBook Pro to replace the 13-inch model, and a redesigned MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021. Both of these laptops are tipped to feature a flat-edge design with narrower bezels and a brighter and more colorful mini-LED display. We could also see a new version of MagSafe charging for MacBooks, which would be convenient.
In addition, an even more powerful M1X chip is reportedly on tap for the new MacBook Pros. That slice of silicon could boost the processor and GPU core count to deliver a chip that can really hold its own against the best from Intel or AMD.
And that’s properly exciting. If Apple can deliver even better performance from its Apple Silicon initiative, that could shake up the computing world and see other laptop makers start looking at building more computers on ARM-based chips. It could also see more software makers optimize their apps for running on ARM’s RISC architecture, which could also break the stranglehold of x86 architecture on PC software.
The move to mini-LED displays might make the MacBook Pros costly, but it could see other premium laptop brands follow suit, like Dell and its XPS line, and thereby drive down the costs of this panel tech that bridges the gap between LCD and OLED. More laptops with better displays is great news for me, as there’s no shortage of machines with lackluster panels.
Furthermore, a refreshed line of MacBook Pros is simply more exciting than an iPhone with a slightly smaller notch and better cameras. Hints of more ports, slimmer screen bezels, a better keyboard and more power is enough to get me counting up the dollars and cents in my wallet. If Apple were to make a touchscreen MacBook… well, I'd happily hand over my bank details.
Of course, hype is a tricky beast, often promising a lot more than it can deliver on; we’ve still yet to see the much rumored AirPods 3, to the extent that I’d not be surprised if Apple has forgotten about them.
But I really, really, hope Apple delivers on the new MacBook Pro front. Microsoft is pushing the envelope with its Surface Laptop Studio, so I’m really hoping Cupertino remembers its roots and will “Think Different” on Monday, October 18.