Apple currently has two different MacBook Pro models, a more compact 13-inch version and a larger 16-inch laptop. The latter replaced the old 15-inch model back in November 2019, and the thinking is that when Apple comes to refresh the smaller MacBook Pro in 2021, it’ll similarly step up the size by an inch – so we’ll have the MacBook Pro 14-inch.
While the latest MacBook Pro 13-inch (powered by Apple’s new M1 chip) was only launched a couple of months back – in November 2020 – there’s obviously scope for introducing another new model later this year, which can benefit from the same sizing-up move as the larger MacBook Pro did.
Indeed, the rumor mill seems fairly convinced that this will happen, and we’ve been hearing plenty on the grapevine about how the purported MacBook Pro 14-inch could shape up. That includes some potentially major design changes, so let’s dive straight into the full lowdown on what they might be, and when we could see the arrival of this rumored new 14-inch incarnation of Apple’s notebook.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? An all-new MacBook Pro 14-inch
- When is it out? Q3 of 2021 most likely
- What will it cost? Unknown, but probably similar to the MacBook Pro 13-inch ($1,299 / £1,299 / AU$1,999)
MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) release date and price
There have been a few potential release dates rattling around as rumors, but most recently we’ve come to believe that Q3 of 2021 seems the best bet for a launch timeframe.
This comes from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is widely regarded as one of the most accurate Apple leakers around, and very recently restated that we can expect the MacBook Pro 14-inch to debut in the third quarter. He previously indicated that it could be Q2 or Q3 of 2021.
Another well-respected Apple leaker, Mark Gurman, also very recently chimed in on Twitter stating that we can anticipate a mid-2021 launch, which fits in with Q3. So we could see the new MacBook Pro 14-inch potentially as early as July, with it likely appearing alongside the refreshed 16-inch model.
When it comes to the price tag Apple might pin on this new model, there have been no whispers indicating what to expect. We can only guess that Apple may keep asking prices broadly in line with what’s charged for the current MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1 models), with pricing for that starting at $1,299 (£1,299 / AU$1,999).
Apple didn’t hike prices for the MacBook Pro 16-inch when the larger model was introduced, maintaining them at the same level as the predecessor 15-inch laptop. So hopefully it will be a similar story when it comes to the upscaled 14-inch notebook compared to the existing 13-inch incarnation it’ll theoretically replace (or indeed perhaps we can even hope for the price to come down slightly – but that feels overly optimistic).
MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) design
The most obvious change when it comes to the fundamental nature of this purportedly incoming MacBook Pro is the switch from a 13-inch to a 14-inch screen (technically, it would be a move from a 13.3-inch screen, possibly to a 14.1-inch display – or at least the latter is what Ming-Chi Kuo has previously talked about).
There’s no reason why this move should mean that the MacBook Pro 14-inch gets any bigger or less portable than its predecessor, because Apple managed to size up the 15-inch model to a 16-inch screen by making the bezels much slimmer, keeping the overall chassis size much the same. The same should be true of the increase from 13-inch to 14-inch, we’d hope; slimmer bezels, with roughly the same form-factor.
The bigger screen was the main change for the original MacBook Pro 16-inch, but with this new 14-inch model, we can expect more alterations to the design, at least going by the speculation we’ve heard.
Ming-Chi Kuo has said that the new MacBook Pro 14-inch will move away from the ‘curvy design’ Apple currently uses, to a ‘flat-edged’ form-factor design, one which is reminiscent of the iPhone 12.
Kuo also believes that the cooling system will be improved, with the new 14-inch model adopting the same heatpipe design as seen in the existing MacBook Pro 16-inch. That cooling configuration is apparently far superior to the current MacBook Pro 13-inch, and should allow for an impressive bump in performance in itself, which is good to hear. Remember that with better cooling, the CPU can run faster.
There’s also some potentially bad news about the Touch Bar – or indeed good news if you’re not keen on the latter feature, as apparently Apple is mulling over the possibility of getting rid of the context-sensitive touch strip that sits atop the keyboard.
Kuo believes that Apple is removing the Touch Bar and reverting to simple function keys, which seems a pretty eyebrow-raising admission of defeat. This is just a rumor, of course, but it’s kind of backed up by Mark Gurman, who observes that Apple has tested versions of the MacBook Pro 14-inch (and 16-inch) without the touch strip. Gurman’s report doesn’t say anything about the outcome of that testing, and whether Apple will actually take action to remove the Touch Bar (from some models, and not others, perhaps?). As ever with the rumor mill, only time will tell.
Another interesting design point is the apparent return of the MagSafe charging connector, which is something that Kuo and Gurman both assert is happening with the MacBook Pro 14-inch (and again the refreshed 16-inch too). This will purportedly facilitate faster charging, and if you’re not familiar with MagSafe, it uses a magnetic connection – so if the cable is pulled, it simply detaches (rather than yanking the laptop with it, possibly causing it to fall off a table, say).
If MagSafe does make a return, whether or not Apple will retain the ability to charge via USB-C in a pinch isn’t clear.
Speaking of ports, the MacBook Pro 14-inch will have more of them, according to Kuo. Although he doesn’t elaborate on what to expect beyond “more types of I/O [input/output ports]” and that “most users may not need to purchase additional dongles”, which has to be good news; if it’s true, of course.
It’s worth bearing in mind as we go over the various points from the rumor mill that some of this (or indeed most of this) may not pan out – but as sources go, for Apple, Kuo and Gurman are premier players.
MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) leaks and rumors
So, what about other leaks aside from those possible design moves? As we mentioned at the outset, Apple has already shifted away from Intel CPUs with the latest MacBook Pro 13-inch which uses its own ARM-based M1 chip. Therefore a 14-inch successor would surely stick with Apple’s silicon – and likely a beefier version than the M1.
Gurman contends that the MacBook Pro 14-inch will use “next-generation versions” of Apple’s processors, which will have “more cores and enhanced graphics”, according to his inside source – and we’ve heard this elsewhere.
The next-gen offering, which could be called the M1X, might up the ante to 12-cores, or even 20-cores going by another rumor, but definitely treat this particular bit of speculation with some serious caution. Mind you, those cores wouldn’t all be full-power, with some of them being super-efficient cores instead: the 12-core CPU would theoretically be 8 normal cores plus 4 low-power ones, with the latter able to keep things ticking over in undemanding situations (while using little battery power).
As we heard from @LeaksApplePro on Twitter: “If you think M1 is fast, you haven’t seen M1X”. And we do think the M1 is fast – really fast (we’re not alone in that respect, of course). The prospect of a considerably speedier Apple chip in the MacBook Pro 14-inch is a highly exciting one.
You may also recall speculation that the MacBook Pro 14-inch could do something very different with the screen, namely by employing Mini-LED technology, which would provide more vivid colors along with better contrast and brightness.
In the past, Kuo has pushed the idea that there could be MacBook Pro models destined to arrive in 2021 (and the following year) which will have a Mini-LED screen. However, in his most recent research note detailing the MagSafe and Touch Bar possibilities, there’s no mention of Mini-LED – which seems an odd omission if it’s coming.
Gurman says that his source believes Apple intends “to step up the displays in its new MacBook Pros [14-inch and 16-inch] with brighter, higher-contrast panels”, but again there’s no mention of Mini-LED. That doesn’t rule the tech out – after all, Mini-LED would indeed provide the aforementioned image benefits – but the rumor now seems a shakier prospect given the lack of any direct mention in the latest nuggets from the mill.
A further piece of speculation theorizes that Apple will go the other way with the Touch Bar, and rather than ditching it, a possibility we discussed above, the firm could keep and actually improve it; potentially with Force Touch technology.
Force Touch allows for the amount of pressure used in a touch action to be registered, meaning that different functions can be assigned to the same icon – based on the pressure applied – to pack more functionality into the Touch Bar. This seems one of the less likely prospects, however, as it’s only based on a patent, and these quite often don’t come to fruition (or at least take a long time to arrive, anyway).