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We already have pretty good evidence that seven new MacBook models are in the pipeline for later this year, but there’s been a lot of speculation on exactly what these may be — especially since Apple quietly refreshed its MacBook Pro lineup only a month ago.
While some have suggested they may be little more than similar “spec-bump” refreshes to the MacBook Air, this seems less likely as minor refreshes often don’t result in new model numbers — for example, the entire slate of 2019 MacBook Pros, including the new octo-core behemoth, still have the same model numbers as the 2018 versions they replaced.
On the other hand, certainly Apple’s aging 12-inch MacBook, which hasn’t been updated since 2017, is due to see something happen to it, but with its odd place in the MacBook lineup — it sits between the Air and Pro in price, while offering less power than both, and is ironically now the slimmest and most portable model, taking the Air’s original raison d’être — it’s unclear exactly what Apple would do with it.
So with all of that in mind, it’s seeming more likely that at least some of these seven new model numbers will represent something entirely new and different for the MacBook family, and the most likely candidate seems to be Apple’s rumoured 16-inch MacBook Pro.
The Mystery of the 16-inch MacBook
There’s been a lot of strangely conflicting information about this new 16-inch, or 16.5-inch MacBook Pro. So much, in fact, that we’re starting to suspect that Apple actually has two models that it’s working on in that size range, and that rumours of a 16-inch MacBook Pro and those of a 16.5-inch MacBook Pro could actually refer to two different devices.
We originally heard about a 16-inch MacBook Pro back in February, from the well-connected and often-correct analyst Ming Chi Kuo, who predicted a new MacBook Pro with a 16- to 16.5-inch display and an entirely new design that could be coming this year. However, Kuo later appeared to revise his estimate, suggesting that we actually wouldn’t be seeing the new model until 2021 — quite a shift from later this year.
In the later note, however, Kuo also added that in addition to a major redesign, the new 16.5-inch MacBook Pro would feature microLED backlighting — something Apple has been working on for a couple of years now, and that it partially implemented for its new 6K Pro display.
In fact, it was Kuo who also correctly predicted that Apple’s Pro display would incorporate a “quasi” mini-LED solution, which would represent its first step into more sophisticated microLED displays that would be included on both MacBooks and iPads, starting in late 2020 or early 2021. This would certainly lineup with Kuo’s revised prediction that a microLED-equipped 16.5-inch MacBook Pro won’t actually appear until 2021.
So When Will We See the 16-inch MacBook Pro?
It’s beginning to seem likely that Kuo’s research notes on the 16-inch MacBook Pro may have been conflated, and that he’s actually referring to two different things. Just because Apple won’t have microLED technology ready for the new MacBook Pro until 2021 doesn’t mean that the company couldn’t release one with a traditional LCD panel, and a new report from Jeff Lin of IHS Markit (via Forbes) suggests exactly that, predicting that the first 16-inch MacBook Pro will in fact arrive this September.
According to Lin, the MacBook will feature a 16-inch LCD display, supplied by LG Display, with a resolution of 3072 x 1920. This would represent the largest screen on a MacBook since Apple discontinued its large 17-inch models back in 2012. It’s worth noting, however, that the “15-inch” MacBook Pro actually has a screen size of 15.4 inches (with a resolution of 2880 x 1800) so it’s unclear what the actual size of the 16-inch screen would be, especially as a 0.6-inch bump just doesn’t seem worth Apple going to the effort of releasing an entirely different model. Since Apple rarely uses exact screen sizes, it seems more likely to be closer to 16.5 inches in reality.
There’s little else known about the new MacBook Pro, such as whether it will actually feature the radical redesign that Kuo predicted, or whether that is in fact being saved for the later microLED-equipped version, and what GPU or CPU options it may offer.
That said, if Lin’s predictions are correct, the good news is that we’ll be seeing it soon, although the September timeframe is slightly in question since Apple traditionally waits until October to unveil new MacBooks, saving its September event to headline its iPhone lineup. Lin has also predicted that Apple will be refreshing the MacBook Air lineup this fall, along with the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro; in the latter case he’s most likely referring to the non-Touch Bar model, which was conspicuously left out of last month’s MacBook Pro refresh, and is therefore still sporting a 7th-gen Intel CPU.