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MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021: release date, price, specs and leaks

Best MacBooks - 16 inch MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Future)

It's been a great few months for the MacBook, what with the launch of the M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro ushering in a new era of of Apple computing. While both (quite rightly) got a lot of the spotlight, Apple is always moving forward and we've been hearing more about it follow-up: the new MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021.

And the recent rumors are all quite great. Not only is Apple expected to finally upgrade the MacBook Pro screen, but it is set to bring back some of the most beloved ports of the 2015 MacBook Pro.

As great as the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro has proven to be, nothing quite beats the joy of working on a larger screen. And since Apple's first 16-inch MacBook Pro was very well received, we have exceptionally high hopes for the follow-up.

So far we've heard a few tantalizing details about the new  MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021, including triumphant return of MagSafe, the loss of the TouchBar, and maybe even an upgraded version of the M1 chip, tentatively called the M1X.  Based on all the rumors and leaks we've heard so far, here's everything we know about the next 16-inch MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro 16 inch 2021 release date and price

So far Apple hasn't made any official announcements about future MacBooks, but word is that the Macbook Pro 16-inch 2021will debut sometime in Q2 or Q3 of 2021.

Well known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman both expect a new wave of MacBooks to arrive later this year, available in both 14- and 16-inch options.

Kuo expects the new MacBooks to arrive sometime in Q2 or Q3, while Gurman reported that Apple was planning a release for the middle of the year. A recent DigiTimes report also corroborated the mid-2021 launch window, pointing to a Q2 debut.

Given that information we can expect it to arrive in mid to late summer, though we don't know how COVID-19 may have affected plans as it did with a large number of Apple's 2020 releases.

Rumors haven't divulged how much we can expect to pay for the new machine, though the current 16-inch MacBook model starts at $2,399 (£2,399). Considering the refreshed M1 machines cost the same as their predecessors, barring any major hardware changes we can reasonably assume that Apple will be prepping the 2021 16-inch MacBook pro to have a similar pricetag this time round.

MacBook Pro 16 inch 2021 design

The biggest change set to come to the 2021 MacBook Pro is the loss of the TouchBar. According to Ming-Chi Kuo the ever-changing touchscreen band is being replaced by a set of physical keys -- presumably like the ones found on other laptops and pre-2016 MacBooks .

According to Kuo this model will include a larger range of ports. This decision has been partly made to reduce the need for dongles, and it will also be the first time since late 2015 that a new MacBook has had anything other than USB-C. 

The biggest news is that the MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 is set to see MagSafe return to the MacBook for the first time in several years. We already saw a version of MagSafe launch with the iPhone 12 but that was a specialized wireless charging pad and not the break-away cable MacBook Pro users had been accustomed too. HDMI and SD memory readers are also rumored to return.

However Gurman claims that the revived MagSafe will use a "pill-shaped" design, suggesting that it really is the same MagSafe remembers. He also confirmed that there will be some smaller design changes, including a brighter screen.

Apple's older Butterfly keyboards had terrible reception, and thankfully it's finally gone in favor of the new Magic keyboards. The new keys have had a much better reception, and it's safe to say Apple will be carrying those over onto the 2021 MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro patent

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

And for more outlandish design changes, one newly-discovered patent suggests Apple is considering adding an AirPower charger to a future MacBook Pro. The patent shows off wireless charging coils around the MacBook's outer surface. That includes three in front of the keyboard (including one under the trackpad) and another nine behind the screen.

Patents are purely hypothetical, and there's no guarantee we'll ever see the MacBook turned into an AirPower-style wireless charging pad. Of course it's not the most farfetched idea, and it's not like Apple doesn't have the means to make it happen. Twelve coils seems a bit like overkill, though.

MacBook Pro 16 inch 2021: Mini-LED display?

We've been hearing lots of rumors that the next iPad Pro will come packing a mini-LED display, but according to Ming-Chi Kuo that's only the beginning of Apple's plans.

Apple's plan is reportedly to have multiple gadgets rocking mini-LED screens, including iPads, iMacs and MacBook Pros. There are a lot of advantages to having mini-LEDs, which use clusters of tiny LEDs instead of the single larger one used by LCD displays. This rumor is back in the news again, so we're getting more reason to expect it.

The nature of display means it can offer deeper colors and blacks, better contrast, higher brightness, all while being more power efficient. In other words it's a much better image, but with a fraction of the power consumption.

The iMac is almost guaranteed to have a mini-LED option in the very near future, especially given their benefits for professionals, but the fate of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is less clear. After all, mini-LED is still quite new, and thus expensive tech.

But the MacBook Pro was never intended to be a budget device. If any MacBook is going to get a mini-LED display this year, there's a very good chance that it's this one. And it would give us the brighter screen promised by Gurman.

MacBook Pro 16 inch 2021 specs

There's not as lot that we know about the specs of the MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021, but Ming-Chi Kuo has already predicted that it won't have an Intel CPU. Instead it'll be Apple Silicon all the way, which is no surprise given how much better the M1 chip performed when compared to 2020's Intel-based MacBooks.

Of course it's not clear whether the 16-inch MacBook will come with the same M1 ARM-based chip, or if there will be an upgrade chip currently named "M1X".

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According to LeaksApplePro the M1X will debut on the next MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021, and will pack in 12 cores: comprised of eight performance cores and four high efficiency cores. 

That's a big step up from the eight cores in the original M1 chip, which is made up of four efficiency and high performance cores. In other words, the M1X is shaping up to be one absolute beast of a chip. That's provided Apple can keep power requirements under control.

Then again, it might not be a problem either way. The old 16-inch MacBook Pro offered 11 hours of battery with a 100 watt-hour battery, and the M1 MacBook Pro could reach 20 hours on battery nearly half that size. In other words, even if it does have higher power requirements, the MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 should still have a stellar battery life.

As for battery size, FAA regulations mean 100-watt hours is the largest battery you're allowed to take on a plane. So don't expect Apple to go bigger than that. Of course if the M1X is more efficient than the old Intel models, we could Apple offer a smaller battery while still offering a significant boost to battery life.

MacBook Pro 16 inch 2021 outlook

While there's still a lot we don't know about the MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021, what we've heard so far suggests we're going to be getting one heck of a machine. Even if it doesn't end up with ultra-premium features like the mini-LED display.

The biggest deal is the M1X chip. The original M1 absolutely wowed us with its performance, and the prospect of a newer chip that can do even more is very exciting. M1 was a great introduction into what Apple Silicon could do, but an overachieving second generation would firmly cement Cupertino as one of the top laptop chip makers.

And of course, the fact MagSafe is expected to return is another big win. Switching MacBooks to USB-C ports had a lot of advantages, especially since the rest of the industry followed Apple's example. But people still mourn MagSafe's untimely death to this day. Because, let's face it, the iPhone 12's MagSafe just isn't the same.

Even if the next MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 only has some of these features, we're likely to see one fantastic piece of kit.