Apple’s MacBook Pro range hasn’t been updated for some time: the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina was refreshed in March 2015 and the 15-inch in May. New MacBook Pros are clearly imminent, especially considering Apple’s market share in the computing space fell 4.9% in Q2 2016 compared to the year prior.
The biggest change is likely to be in the Pros’ processors, and while there are rumors of detachable touchscreens we’d take them with a hefty pinch of salt.
Appearing more and more likely, though, is that a small, OLED display will take the place of the MacBook Pro’s function keys in its 2016 revision. And, like the iPhone 7 before it, some are even suggesting the death of the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Let’s sift through the river of rumors to find nuggets of knowledge: what can we really expect from the 2016 MacBook Pro refresh?
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next generation of Apple’s professional notebook
- When is it out? Rumors point to late October 2016
- What will it cost? Likely starting at £899 ($1,099, about AUS$1,670), Likely, *laughing in exchange rate*
MacBook Pro 2016 release date
We expected to see the new MacBook Pro 2016 at Apple’s annual developer event, WWDC, this June. However, as reports had previously suggested, this year’s conference focused primarily on introducing new software updates rather than hardware. So, even if there is a new MacBook Pro in the works, it took a backseat in June to iOS and macOS amendments.
More recently, Apple’s iPhone 7 event took place on September 7, the next candidate for a pair of new MacBooks to be announced. While there were no computers in sight at the iPhone event, shortly thereafter Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested customers “stay tuned” for Mac developments.
Since then, following the launch of macOS Sierra, we’ve caught word that Apple is working on an update to its operating system specifically tailored to the new MacBook Pro hardware. That’s right, in macOS Sierra 10.12.1 – which is slated for the latter half of October – we’ll see integration with the new OLED touch bar, if reports from MacRumors are to be believed.
Reports up to this point suggest the new hardware will feature hinges produced using a mechanism called ‘metal injection molding’. Said to be inspired by Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of devices, the hinges are allegedly being manufactured by Jarllytec, a major Taiwanese manufacturer who also crafts hinges for Microsoft’s convertible tablet.
These hinges purportedly began shipment back in June for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Meanwhile, the 15-inch model’s hinges are set to arrive in the third quarter of the year, making the late October release window argument even more convincing. Reports suggest that the new slim MacBooks will boast a quadruplet of USB-C ports, two on each side, perhaps complemented by additional color variations akin to the 12-inch MacBook.
MacBook Pro 2016 price
The current MacBook Pro range starts at £899 ($1,099) for the 13-inch non-Retina model, rising to £999 ($1,119) for the entry-level 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and topping out at £1,999 ($2,099) for the 2.5GHz 15-inch Retina.
The 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro, tucked away apologetically at the foot of Apple’s product page, surely can’t be long for this world; come the updates we’d expect it to vanish in favour of a Retina 13-inch model instead.
Apple tends to keep its pricing similar between generations, so an £899 entry-level Pro with Retina display is likely to be the baby of the range.
MacBook Pro 2016: What’s so special about Skylake?
The MacBook Pro is trailing PC rivals in the processor stakes: Dell and HP are moving on to the seventh-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors this fall, while Apple is still clinging to the fifth-generation Broadwell chips.
This year’s MacBook Pro, however, is believed to meet in the middle, purportedly sporting sixth-generation Skylake chips. The move to Skylake is likely to warrant massive speed improvements across the board in addition to more impressive battery life.
Skylake has some tricks up its silicon sleeve that Broadwell lacks, including support for WiGig and WiDi short-range, high speed data transfer as well as wireless charging. We may not see that flip of the switch in this year’s notebooks, but it’s possible nonetheless for Apple to tap into this functionality later on.
However, one thing Skylake can’t do is output 5K resolutions over a single cable stream. That’s why, in June, sources told Buzzfeed reporter John Paczkowski that Apple is working on a 5K external display complete with its own integrated graphics chip to handle the stream.This would theoretically replace the now-defunct Thunderbolt Display of yesteryear. The graphics, according to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman should be based on AMD’s new Polaris architecture.
MacBook Pro 2016: Hello USB-C, goodbye headphone jack
Faster is a given, better battery is almost certain. What about design changes? The current MacBook Pro is fairly porky compared to Apple’s other notebooks, especially the minimalist USB-C MacBook.
That’s partly because it’s an older design and partly because the current MacBook Pro boasts lots of ports: twin Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3, an HDMI socket and an SDXC card slot.
Apple isn’t sentimental about removing supposedly must-have features it deems redundant – the MacBook Pro lost its SuperDrive years ago – so could those ports be for the bullet too in favor of one or two USB-C ports? Reports seem to point to that.
Not only is the MacBook Pro 2016 expected to feature USB Type-C ports, but on top of that, they’ll be USB 3.1 Gen 2, making them even faster than the first-gen port of the 12-inch MacBook. However, like with the iPhone 7 before it, the headphone jack might get the bullet on the MacBook Pro as well.
With Intel’s integration of Thunderbolt 3 in USB-C connections, USB, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, PCI Express and power can be delivered over a single cable. If the Lenovo Moto Z is anything to go by, so too can digital audio.
What’s more, USB-C has the bandwidth for daisy-chaining even the most demanding devices, and of course Apple is always happy to sell reassuringly expensive adapters when it bins a previously popular port. If the 2016 MacBook Pro doesn’t have at least one USB-C port we’ll eat an iPad – although it’ll be interesting to see how much Apple prizes thinness over existing connectivity.
MacBook Pro 2016: Touch ID and next-gen SSDs?
The Pros are all about performance, so will they get next-generation SSDs? It’s a nice thought, but while Intel’s blazingly quick Optane SSDs are destined for Macs, they aren’t likely to appear in any this side of 2017.
Another persistent rumour is TouchID fingerprint recognition, but that particular pundit also predicted TouchID in the recent Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad updates, which of course didn’t happen. A recent leak suggests, however, that a fall MacBook rollout will incorporate a power button featuring TouchID tech.
MacBook Pro 2016: A stylus without a touchscreen
In a July patent approval, Apple suggested it was interested in extending Apple Pencil support beyond the limits of the iPad Pro’s touchscreen display and onto its Magic Trackpad. The speculation doesn’t stop there, of course, as this idea could easily translate to the onboard MacBook trackpads as well.
Don’t be surprised if, come Autumn, we see a revamped Apple Pencil revealed alongside a new set of MacBook Pros.
MacBook Pro 2016: Detachable keyboard and screen?
One of the most interesting MacBook Pro rumors is that it’s getting a touchscreen, and perhaps a detachable keyboard, too. We think that’s spectacularly unlikely, for several reasons. More likely to come true is the theory that Apple will implement, in some capacity, a touchscreen keyboard in its next MacBook Pro. Lenovo Yoga Book, anyone?
While a patent filed by Apple suggests an iPad-like interface in favor of a the physical keyboards we’ve all grown accustomed to, photographs recently acquired by Cult of Mac show something a little different; that is, a more conventional Magic Keyboard-esque qwerty layout featuring a touchscreen OLED display to replace the function keys.
And, although this rumor seems awfully farfetched for an annual MacBook Pro revision, there is evidently some truth behind it, according to French website MacGeneration via 9to5Mac who discovered code indirectly alluding to the OLED bar’s virtualized buttons.
A touchscreen, even a tiny one ousting a single row of keys, could make for an enticing compromise for those in pursuit of the classic MacBook Pro experience as well as for fans of the ever-flourishing 2-in-1.