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MacBook Pro 2021 tipped for 120Hz mini-LED display — what it means for you

macbook pro 2021
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We've been waiting ages for the rumored 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 and 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 to be unveiled, and now it looks like there's light at the end of the tunnel. 

That light comes from an Apple event happening Monday, Oct. 18 with the theme of "Unleashed", giving us good reason to expect Apple will unleash the next generation of MacBook Pro powered by its M1 successor, the M1X chip.

If that happens, display expert Ross Young believes that not only will these new MacBook Pros have the same eye-catching mini-LED display as the remarkable iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) — they'll also have the same 120 Hz refresh rate.

If that proves true, it's a big deal because MacBook displays have historically been limited to 60 Hz refresh rates. That means the display can't update faster than 60 times a second, meaning it can't achieve framerates of higher than 60 frames per second (a sore spot for serious game players) and won't scroll as smoothly as a modern smartphone display.

iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) review: Display — Spider-Verse

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021's 120 Hz mini-LED display looks amazing in person — especially when watching XDR content (Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

A 60 Hz refresh rate is pretty common for laptops, but we're starting to see more laptops ship with 120 Hz (or faster) displays, in part because the technology has become cheaper and more common in smartphones and tablets. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 shipped with its own 120 Hz mini-LED display, for example, and our reviewer found it to be remarkably bright and beautiful — though it only really shines when you view XDR content, which is lacking on iPadOS.

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We may soon have a chance to take the same display for a spin in a new MacBook Pro. Ross Young, CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants, took to Twitter today to claim that the same companies who supplied the display panels for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro — LG Display and Samsung — are supplying panels for the new MacBook Pros, so he expects them to offer similar amenities. That they'll be mini-LED displays is guaranteed, says Young — whether they'll be 120 Hz remains to be seen.

Known Apple leaker @Dylandkt seconded (via Twitter) the claim that Apple's 2021 MacBook Pros will ship with mini-LED displays, and further prognosticated they'll arrive with 1080p webcams, slimmer bezels, and a base model packing 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB of storage.

Apple's upcoming MacBook Pro 2021 models are also expected to debut with more ports, and SD card slot, the return of MagSafe charging, and the M1X, a more powerful version of Apple's beefy M1 chip. One thing that's probably not going to make an appearance is the Touch Bar, which Apple is reportedly likely to remove from the MacBook Pro in favor of a return to physical keys.

Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.