(Pocket-lint) - Last year saw the arrival of Apple Silicon on the MacBook Pro range, but there was always more expected from the company and its Macs for 2021.
The 2020 M1 MacBook Pro models focused on upgraded, in-house internals, so it's perhaps no surprise that the 2021 models offer a design refresh - and it's a design that, while jumping into the future, owes much to MacBook Pros of the past.
With both 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models to pick between in 2021, this is everything you need to know about the 2021 MacBook Pros.
Release date and price
- Pre-order from 18 October 2021
- Available from 26 October 2021
- 14-inch: from $1,999 / £1,899
- 16-inch: from $2,499 / £2,399
The 14-inch MacBook Pro will be available from $1,999 or £1,899 in the UK; the 16-inch model will be from $2,499 or £2,399. The older 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro will also remain available.
- 14-inch: 312.6 x 221.2 x 15.5mm, 1.6kg
- 16-inch: 355.7 x 248.1 x 1.68mm, 2.1kg
The 2021 MacBook Pros offer a complete redesign with much slimmer bezels within the same footprint, allowing for the move up to the 14-inch and 16-inch size options, but without making the footprint larger.
There's a notch at the top of the display, though no Face ID is supported like the iPhone 13 models. Instead, you get Touch ID on the latest MacBook Pros, as we have seen for a number of years, though Apple has chosen to ditch the Touch Bar this time around and bring back the traditional function keys.
An aluminium unibody remains, although the bezels have been shunk to just 3.5mm, which is why Apple has had to introduce a notch - so the new 1080 FaceTime HD camera can sit at the top of the display.
The new design isn't a huge departure from previous MacBook Pro models, coming in Silver or Space Gray, but there's the reintroduction of MagSafe for charging, while there's also a return of the HDMI and SD card reader - alongside three Thunderbolt 4 ports (USB Type-C). That means that this new MacBook is closer in design to some of the older models, from the outside at least.
There's a three-mic array and a six speaker audio system, comprised of two tweeters and four woofers, which boosts the sound, supporting deeper tones and increased volume while also offering Spatial Audio.
The backlit Magic Keyboard remains, as does the Force Touch trackpad, so the actual use of the new MacBook Pro should feel much like the last.
- 14-inch: 14.2in, 3024 x 1964 pixels (253ppi), 120Hz, Mini LED
- 16-inch: 16.2in, 3456 x 2234 pixels (205ppi), 120Hz, Mini LED
There's a big update to the displays, moving across to Mini LED technology - as found in the iPad Pro - and bumping up the resolution.
The 14-inch model will have a 3024 x 1964 pixel resolution, while the 16-inch model is 3456 x 2234 pixels. Both these displays support ProMotion, that's Apple's name for 120Hz refresh, so they move into line with the iPhone and iPad and should make for super smooth graphics. You'll be able to lock down the refresh rate to something else if you prefer.
There's now a peak brightness of 1600 nits, while they can sustain 1000 nits, which is really bright. There's True Tone to adapt the display to ambient light conditions, while maintaining full support for HDR content and offering a wide colour gamut.
The notch at the top is literally just there for the camera, but as the Menu Bar runs across the top, that notch won't interfere with your content.
Hardware and specs
- Apple Silicon M1 Pro and M1 Max chips
- Boosted battery life
- MagSafe with fast charging
But the biggest redesign is saved for the internals of the Mac. There's a whole other story here about Apple's new M1 Pro and M1 Max hardware, which builds on the work started by the M1 in 2020 and takes things up a notch. Build on 5nm architechture, Apple has engineering its hardware to cater for the Pro user and make sure that no one is left missing Intel.
There's performance and graphical boosts across the board, with Apple promising performance that will outstrip just about anything else out there, with both models getting access to the new M1 Pro, or the even more power M1 Max. That will mean you can have up to 10 CPU cores, 32 GPU cores, up to 64GB RAM, 8TB storage - although the prices for those top specs go through the roof, so you might want to show a little restraint when you spec up your machine.
Battery life is boosted, with 17 hours of video playback promised from the 14-inch model and 21 hours from the 16-inch model - although you're unlikely to be watching video for that length of time. But, the new silicon is more efficent, so long life is promised, without a drop in performance when you step away from the power supply.
Perhaps more excitingly, the new models see the return of MagSafe, while this now also supports fast charging - so you can get 50 per cent charge in 30 minutes, which sounds ideal.
MacBook Pro 2021: All the leaks and rumours before they launched
Here is everything we heard about the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros before they were made official.
18 October 2021: Apple AirPods 3, MacBook Pros and Mac mini expected to launch at 'Unleashed' event
According to industry leaker, Dylandkt (via 9to5Mac), the MacBook Pros will come with miniLED displays, smaller bezels with no bottom logo, a 1080p webcam and both the 14-inch and 16-inch models will offer a base M1X confirguration.
12 October 2021: Apple sends invites to 'Unleashed' media event for 18 October
Apple officially confirmed 18 October is the date the company will be hosting its next media event, where the Cupertino giant is expected to unveil a series of new 14-inch and 16-inch redesigned MacBook Pros.
4 October 2021: Supercharged M1X 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros finally launching this month
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman claimed the M1X 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros will be announced by the end of October.
24 September 2021: These are the screen resolutions for the upcoming 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro
iOS developer Steve Mosser discovered references in the macOS Monterey beta to two new Apple device display resolutions that seem to perfectly fit the bill for the upcoming 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro series.
16 August 2021: Apple Watch Series 7 to bring Time to Run feature, M1X MacBook Pro coming soon
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman published his Power On newsletter detailing a couple of extra details about upcoming Apple devices, mentioning the M1X MacBook Pro and claiming it would arrive before the two-year anniversary of the previous 16-inch MacBook Pro.
23 July 2021: A MacBook Air with Mini LED screen is on the way
A new version of the MacBook Air is apparently on the way in 2022 with similar Mini LED technology to the newest 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This means that it's even more likely we'll see Mini LED come to the MacBook Pro during 2021.
8 July 2021: MacBook Pro models to ditch Touch Bar, according to analysts
We had already heard rumours that Apple was considering dropping the Touch Bar from the 2021 MacBook Pro range, and insight from industry analysts and their sources back up the claims made in January.
As detailed in a report from DSCC, the firm notes how the Touch Bar is currently the third-largest user of OLED displays, with its sources indicating that Apple will "cancel the Touch Bar" in an upcoming MacBook Pro.
4 June 2021: MacBook Pro 14-inch battery details from Apple supplier found in filing database
As uncovered by MacRumors, filings made by Apple supplier Sunwoda Electronic perhaps give us our best hint yet that Apple is planning to release a model in the 14-inch range.
While one filing alludes to a bigger model, the other is slightly larger than the current 13-inch MacBook Pro. If the filings are to be believed, this indicates that something with a slightly bigger battery profile could be on the horizon.
19 March 2021: Could the MacBook Pro come with a 16 core Apple M1X or M2 processor?
AppleLeaksPro states the 16-inch MacBook Pro will have a 16 core processor. That seems extreme to us, but we have been really surprised at what Apple managed to do with the M1, so it's possible. Alternatively, 16 cores could also refer to the graphics processor.
It's also suggested the MacBook Air will simply have its core count doubled from four cores in the current M1 to eight cores in the M1X or M2, whatever it ends up being called. We've heard before that it would get thinner and lighter.
10 March 2021: Two new Apple Silicon MacBooks coming second half of the year, claims report
Nikkei Asia says production on two new MacBooks is set to start in June. Note that's the beginning of production, so they may not be announced by that date. June is usually a key month for Apple though, because that's when it holds its WWDC developer conference.
23 February 2021: The MacBook Pro is getting an SD card slot once more
Serial Apple rumour specialist and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has been at it again, this time suggesting that the upcoming MacBook Pro series will have an SD card reader and HDMI port, too.
15 January 2021: No more Touch Bar?
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the new MacBooks will be "similar to the iPhone 12 with no curved edges but there is a slight curve to the lid, so that may go. To be honest, the current-gen Pro is similar to this anyway, so we're taking that with a pinch of salt. But what is more interesting is that these models will signify the end of the Touch Bar era, too, it seems with physical keys returning.
8 January 2021: More Mini LED rumours
Late last year the Mini LED rumours were centred around new MacBook Pro models for 2021, and things have now moved on to focus on some of Apple's other big sellers, namely both the iPad Pro and Macbook Air.
6 January 2021: Apple envisions a future MacBook that can wirelessly charge an iPhone
The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple two new patents for two-way wireless charging. The patents, first noticed by Patently Apple, include drawings that show Apple envisioned a MacBook capable of charging an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
6 December 2020: Apple working on Mac CPUs that could outperform Intel in 2021
Arm-based Apple Silicon chipsets running 16 power cores and four efficiecy cores are claimed to be in development. They could make their way into new Mac models by the end of next year.
3 December 2020: Apple to release two mini LED MacBook Pros in 2021
Renowned industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo states that the Cupertino firm will introduce two Apple Silicon MacBook Pro models with mini LED displays next year, each coming with "new form factor" designs.
10 November 2020: Apple introduces the M1-based MacBook Pro
During a "One More Thing" virtual event, Apple announced a new 13-inch MacBook Pro featuring its M1 Apple Silicon chip. In June, Apple revealed plans to begin using its own custom processors in Macs, and now, it's announcing those Macs and promising industry-leading performance per watt. Apple said the M1 chip is the first in a family of Apple Silicon chips.
The 5-nanometer chip supports Thunderbolt and USB 4, has an eight-core CPU, and boasts the "world's fastest integrated graphics" with a 16-core Neural Engine that can process 11 trillion operations per second.
3 November 2020 - Apple might launch Arm-based MacBook Air and Pro laptops at next event
Apple will reportedly unveil new Arm Macs soon and is also making several more, according to a new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
1 September 2020: A 12-inch Apple MacBook seems set to be the first Apple Silicon Mac
The first Apple Silicon Mac could be a 12-inch MacBook, a replacement for the super lightweight MacBook that existed between 2015-2019. We've thought that the first Apple Silicon Mac would be a thin-and-light laptop ever since Apple first announced that Macs would gradually transition away from Intel.
27 July 2020: It looks like Face ID will come to the Mac this year
After its 2017 debut on the iPhone X. Face ID was long-rumoured to come to the iPad which it did in 2018 but still hasn't made it to the Mac. However, according to discoveries by 9to5 Mac in the macOS Big Sur beta code, the new operating system is capable of Face ID unlock.
9 July 2020: Apple Silicon Macs will continue to use Thunderbolt, so there will be an Intel element after all
Apple has committed to using Thunderbolt on its Apple Silicon Macs, even though it is pulling away from Intel technologies elsewhere.
22 June 2020: macOS Big Sur is here
Apple has revealed the newest macOS, taking the wraps off a new visual redesign for version 11.0 of the operating system. There's also a variety of new features that are coming to its laptops and desktops plus the new OS can run on Intel or ARM platforms.
20 June 2020: Could the first ARM-based Macs really be MacBook Pros?
Apple is moving some of its Mac lineup to ARM-based Apple Silicon processors beginning this year. Some rumours are pointing to the new MacBook Pro being first among these, but we're not so sure - we think it'll be far more likely to be in the MacBook Air class.
4 May 2020: New MacBook Pro 13-inch official
Apple has announced a refresh of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the latest-generation scissor keyboard and 10th generation Intel Core processors. Other enhancements include up to 16GB of faster 3,733MHz RAM as standard and double the storage. Standard storage ranges from 256GB to 1TB, but models can now have up to 4TB of storage.
11 March 2020: 13-inch MacBook Pro refresh set for the second quarter of 2020
Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities says that a new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air with the new/old scissor-design keyboard will debut in late March with a launch set for the second quarter of 2020.
11 March 2020: Six new devices with Apple Mini-LED displays in 2020 and 2021
According to the latest rumours Apple will debut six new products featuring Mini-LED display technology over the coming months. Among these will be the 14.1-inch MacBook Pro and an upgrade to the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
13 January 2020: New MacBook Pro spotted in regulatory filings
Shortly before Christmas, Apple submitted some filings to the EC, and one of them is for an unreleased product with the model number A2289.
The company described it as a “portable personal computer” running macOS 10.15. Add it all up, and it's likely a new MacBook.
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