Apple’s Next Entry-Level MacBook Pro Will Adopt the New Design, But Not Much Else

New MacBook Pros Credit: @ld_vova / Twitter
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Over the last few months, we’ve seen quite a shakeup in Apple’s MacBook lineup, with the new 14-inch MacBook Pro calling into question the future of the lower-end 13-inch model.

Even though Apple has only offered the MacBook Pro in two distinct sizes, there have actually been three tiers of MacBook Pro for years. While the larger 15/16-inch MacBook Pro was undoubtedly the powerhouse of Apple’s MacBook family, the 13-inch model has always been pretty cleanly divided into two other tiers, with an affordable entry-level model that lacks the more powerful features of the mainstream MacBook Pro lineup.

The introduction of Apple Silicon to the mix has made this more blatantly obvious than ever before, with the 13-inch MacBook Pro getting the same M1 chip as the MacBook Air lineup, while the more powerful MacBook Pro got a major redesign that bumped it to a 14-inch model to house the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

However, the lowest-end MacBook Pro has been an outlier for years. When Apple debuted the Touch Bar in 2016, it only came to the more expensive models. Further, while the use of Intel chips made for confusing specs at the best of times, the most affordable 13-inch MacBook Pro never made it into the 2GHz performance zone of its more premium siblings.

In fact, it’s probably fairer to think of the 13-inch MacBook Pro as a “MacBook Air Pro.” Lately, it’s been refreshed on the same schedule, and thanks to Apple’s M1 chips, it offers nearly identical specs. Only the design differs.

However, the redesign of the 14-inch MacBook Pro has led to speculation on the future of this strange little MacBook. Some theories suggest that Apple may retire it entirely, to focus on the MacBook Air instead, while others acknowledge the need for an entry-level “Pro” MacBook — if for no other reason than to cater to customer’s perceptions.

We think it’s a pretty safe bet that this tier of MacBook Pro will continue, but it’s harder to say in what form. Apple could continue to distinguish it by keeping the old 13-inch form factor, but that probably won’t happen. Even the MacBook Air is in for a big redesign, which should appear later this year, so we likely won’t see the old MacBook Pro design stick around for much longer.

The prevailing wisdom is that Apple is going to release the next generation of the entry-level MacBook Pro in the same 14-inch design as the M1 Pro/Max versions, while otherwise keeping the specs closer to the MacBook Air level. That sounds logical, if for no other reason than manufacturing and supply chain efficiency. It’s one less design to deal with.

What to Expect from the Next MacBook Pro

This presents some interesting possibilities, but we’d caution you not to get your hopes up too high. Reliable sources predict that the new low-end MacBook Pro is going to continue to be set apart from the rest of the family in some pretty significant ways.

Right off, it’s a safe bet that it’s only going to get Apple’s next-generation M2 chip, but if you were thinking that the new 14-inch design will mean a better display, you’ll probably be disappointed. It appears that Apple is reserving its ProMotion and mini-LED technology for the truly “Pro” MacBooks.

According to Mark Gurman, the new entry-level MacBook Pro will match the high-end MacBook Pros in overall design, but will have “lesser displays.”

I’d expect the new entry-level MacBook Pro to match the high-end MacBook Pros by losing the Touch Bar, but key differentiators will be lesser displays, processors, and storage, and no ProMotion nor miniLED. Mark Gurman

Gurman expects that it will include the M2 chip, and our guess is we’ll see a repeat of the original M1 Mac lineup arrive later this year — a new low-end MacBook Pro accompanied by the redesigned M2 MacBook Air and possibly even a new Mac mini with the M2 chip. A new model of the 24-inch iMac will likely follow a few months later.

A new Mac mini is a bit of a question mark at this point, since Apple has yet to replace the higher-end Intel Mac mini with an Apple Silicon version. Although that could happen well before a fall event, it would seem odd for the Mac mini to move to the M1 Pro only a few months before the lower-end model gets an M2 chip.

One positive note in all this is that even if the new M2 MacBook Pro doesn’t gain much in the way of performance, there’s a good chance it will inherit some other design improvements, including the additional ports and the row of hardware function keys. It’s actually a somewhat ironic twist that the lower-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, which was originally left out of the Touch Bar, is now the only current MacBook that still includes it.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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