The MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 model looks to deliver the notebook line's most significant upgrade in years. Not only is it expected to provide serious speed boosts, but new reports suggest Apple will bring back a few of the perks that made the 2015 model one of the best MacBooks ever.
The features won't be all retro-either. We've just learned that Apple's probably doing the biggest display update to the MacBook Pro since the 2012 Retina display.
Apple is expected to make the new MacBook Pro in two sizes: an upgraded 16-inch MacBook Pro and a new 14-inch design that we'll focus on in this article. If all of these rumors come true, it looks like Apple will have a serious contender for the top of our best laptop list, to dethrone the Dell XPS 13.
MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 release date
Evidence points to a July 2021 (or slightly later) launch for the MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021.
The two major leakers about the 2021 MacBook Pro report two different (but still similar) windows. Venerated analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said to expect the new models in the third quarter of the year, which is the window of July, August and September. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman wrote that the new MacBook Pros will launch "around the middle of the year."
This fits in line with Apple's normal MacBook Pro schedule, as the company typically introduces new MacBook Pro models in two windows. We typically see new versions in both the May to July window and in October to November. Of course, the company could break from norms, as COVID-19 has changed everything in tech supply chains and elsewhere.
MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 M1 chip successor
Since the first ARM-based Apple Silicon processor was named the M1, it's expected Apple will call the next version of this chip the M1X or M2 — or use both names. We could see Apple giving the M1X to the 14-inch MacBook Pro, and the presumably faster M2 to the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
How will these chips differ from the M1? A Dec. 2020 report revealed Apple is planning a 20-core Apple Silicon processor for its 2021 Macs. That's a significant upgrade from its current 8-core (4 high-performance, 4 high-efficiency) chips.
The 20-core model would have up to 16 high performance cores, though Apple is reportedly testing versions with only 8 or 12 high-performance cores enabled. The decision to disable cores would depend on any issues discovered during production.
The 2021 MacBook Pro also appears to be the end of Intel inside the MacBook Pro. While that could have been guessed, as Macs are currently transitioning to Apple Silicon, we can quote Kuo's recent report, where he noted "There is no Intel CPU option for the new models."
MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 display
Yes, this model appears to possibly mark the end of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, as the reports from Kuo and Gurman only mention planning 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros for 2021.
It's unclear if Apple will change the chassis of the smaller MacBook Pro to accommodate this larger display, or trim the bezels down for more screen space. Gurman reports the latter is the plan for the 2021 MacBook Air.
The latest reports show that Apple will be switching from LCD to Mini-LED, which looks to improve brightness among other aspects.
We're also to expect "brighter, higher-contrast panels." Neither report mentions mini LED MacBook Pros by name, but the switch from the current LCD panel to mini LED has been rumored for how Apple would accomplish brightness and contrast gains.
MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 price
This all depends on whether or not the $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 released last year sticks around. If so, the 14-inch MacBook Pro would likely start at around $200 to $300 higher. But if the 13-inch M1 MacBook pro disappears, the we'd expect Apple to keep the $1,299 entry-level price.
Apple's kept the same pricing for its entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro at around $1,299 for a few years now, which was a price drop from the previous $1,799 mark.
Either way, though, a new 14-inch display could give Apple an excuse for a slight uptick in price.
MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 specs
Expect more memory and storage. The Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pro tops off at 4TB of storage and 32GB of RAM, and Apple is likely to match those numbers, as the 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 would fill that spot in the lineup.
The current M1 MacBook Pro and Airs (with up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of memory) didn't have these high spec options because they were replacing the introductory-level models.
Also, expect a slightly higher-res screen, moving up from the 13-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel dimensions of the current entry-level MacBook Pro.
MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 design
So, here's where things get really interesting — with the redesign that the MacBook Pro has needed. We're happy to get more speed and another inch of screen, but Kuo claims the "the new models cancel the curvy design of existing models’ top and bottom parts and adopt a flat-edged form factor design similar to the iPhone 12." That design language originated with the iPhone 4, and it's also seen in the iPad Pro and iPad Air.
Gurman's reporting seems to disagree, as he writes "The new Macs will look similar to the current versions, albeit with minor design changes."
We've also got great news for people who want more ports. Gurman notes that Apple will augment the USB-C ports in the MacBook Pro 2021 with the return of the magnetic MagSafe charging port. This cable, dropped when the 2016 MacBook Pro switched to USB-C for charging, snaps off when a bit of tension is applied, because it connects primarily because of magnets, not because of a port-head being deeply seated in the entry point. This change was echoed in Kuo's recent report as well. Apple will keep USB-C ports in the MacBook Pro, but they may not draw power.
HDMI is reportedly coming back as well. So maybe it's the end of the USB-C adapter era? We shall see.
Gurman and Kuo also reported that OLED Touch Bar display strip will finally get stripped out of the MacBook Pro. It appears Apple's finally admitting this panel isn't as widely adopted as the company would like.
Gurman specified that the SD memory card reader will return in the MacBook Pro. This is a win for pro photographers and USB-C hub haters alike. This is somewhat confirmed by Kuo, who said that the MacBook Pro 2021 will have "more types of I/O, and most users may not need to purchase additional dongles."
MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 leaks
The other possible MacBook Pro 2021 feature leaks we've seen come from Apple's patents. These aren't as likely as the above, as they're seemingly still in development. That doesn't mean we can't ask "What if?"
First up is the rumor of an ultra-wide MacBook Pro touchpad. A patent published in May 2020 for a "Dynamic input surface for electronic devices," shows off a wild possibility of a touchpad that's as wide as the MacBook Pro keyboard itself. In shape, it's reminiscent of the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo 15's secondary screen, which goes above the keyboard and not below it. The big issue with such a touchpad would be avoiding accidental touch input, as this is where your wrists would generally lay.
A more recent rumor, which seems more feasible, envisions a MacBook Pro with a wrist wrest that doubles as a giant wireless charging pad. Samsung already accomplished something similar with the touchpad in the Galaxy Book Flex.
And if the rumors are true and the iPhone 13 has no ports? This would be one way to help users more easily charge their phone.
MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 touch screen
Sorry, but we've seen no rumors of a touch screen in the MacBook Pro 2021. And while some may want one, history shows that Apple isn't interested.
In 2010, then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs called touch-screen laptops "ergonomically terrible," and elaborating by saying "We've done tons of user testing on this, and it turns out it doesn't work."
And in 2020 when macOS Big Sur introduced a slightly redesigned macOS, with larger buttons, Apple stuck to its guns. Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering told an interviewer that "We had designed and evolved the look for macOS in a way that felt most comfortable and natural to us, not remotely considering something about touch."