Apple's MacBook Pro has become a staple among professional users who need power, efficiency, and portability in one computer. The transition to Apple Silicon has led to a revolution for the Mac lineup, with more power available in the high-end laptops than most desktops. These pro laptops are the go-to machines for developers seeking to make apps for Apple's ecosystem.
● Aluminum Unibody Design
● 13-inch, 14-inch, and 16-inch displays
● M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max processors
● Magic Keyboard
● Starts at $1,299
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Apple has announced the updated 16-inch MacBook Pro, new 14-inch MacBook Pro, and their powerful upgraded chipsets. We're gathering all the of the new information and will be updating this page throughout the week, but in the meantime, check out the front page of AppleInsider to keep up with the latest news on these new laptops.
Everything below this point was written before Apple's "Unleashed" event. An updated page with new information is on its way.
The MacBook Pro debuted on the cusp of Apple's transition to Intel-based processors in 2006 and has been the flagship laptop for the company since. It has flourished as the laptop-of-choice for Apple developers and continues to be one of Apple's most important products even as it transitions to custom Apple Silicon.
The introduction of the M1 processor to the 13-inch MacBook Pro revitalized the product after it languished under Intel's slow product updates and poor optimization. Apple chose not to change the external appearance of its MacBook lineup when it debuted the M1, but later, the 24-inch iMac was exemplary of what Apple can achieve when using its custom processors. Expectations are that Apple will debut a similar design change in its upcoming Mac updates with the next-generation "M1X."
MacBook Pro Features
Apple introduced the aluminum unibody design in the second-generation MacBook Pro and that overall design has stuck around since. Of course, the design has gotten much thinner with the removal of all legacy ports in favor of USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3.
All modern versions of the laptop have a large glass trackpad, updated Magic Keyboard with scissor switches, and the Touch Bar. Although, rumors suggest that Apple could ditch the Touch Bar in future models due to lack of popularity and utility of the feature.
Processors and Configurations
Since Apple is still in the midst of its transition to Apple Silicon in its Mac lineup, there are options to purchase both. As Apple unveils more M-series processor options, less Intel variations will be available. For the MacBook Pro, only the baseline model has an M1 processor.
13-inch MacBook Pro
The M1 processor in the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the same one used across Apple's other products. The exception being that there is a fan providing active cooling in this pro-model, so it has less thermal limitations and will operate longer at full load.
There are some limiatations to choosing an M1-based Macbook over an Intel model. For example, M1 model only has two available Thunderbolt ports no matter the configuration, and it can only connect to one external display at a time.
Apple is expected to release a high-end "M1X" processor for its more expensive MacBook Pro models. Some expect this processor will debut in a 14-inch MacBook Pro that will have four Thunderbolt ports and higher RAM options.
Customers can get the base model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for $1,299. This can be configured for up to 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage for $2,299.
The Intel Core i5 model with four Thunderbolt ports is still available with a default 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage for $1,799. This can be configured with the Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and 4TB of storage for $3,599.
16-inch MacBook Pro
Apple is poised to release an updated 16-inch MacBook Pro with "M1X" processor, but until then, the Intel-based options exist for developers who still need the top-end graphics options. This model hasn't been updated since 2019.
Top features for this model included the introduction of the redesigned keyboard, ninth-generation Intel processors, and AMD 5000M series graphics. It replaced the 15-inch MacBook Pro and offered a bigger, more dynamic display in a better thermal footprint.
Customers interested in this model can still purchase one starting at $2,399 with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics card. The high-end model can be configured up to $6,699 with an Intel Core i9 processor, 64GB of RAM, 8TB of storage, and an AMD Radeon Pro 5600M graphics card.
The only reason anyone talks about the MacBook keyboard is thanks to Apple's attempt to prioritize thinness above all else. Apple moved away from the scissor switch mechanism in favor of a thinner "butterfly" mechanism in 2015.
The first version of the butterfly keyboard launched with the tiny 12-inch MacBook. That now-retired laptop sacrificed processing power for an ultra-thin and lightweight design, including a keyboard mechanism that prioritized thinness over travel distance and reliability. The controversial butterfly switch led to numerous issues, including stuck or unresponsive keys. The company eventually started a warranty program to service MacBooks with noticeable keyboard problems.
In late 2019, Apple debuted an updated 16-inch MacBook Pro with a return to the scissor-switch mechanism. Apple called it the Magic Keyboard, with scissor switches resembling those on Apple's desktop keyboard of the same name.
Apple never quite solved the butterfly issue, no matter the design revisions and fixes it provided. The butterfly keyboard was replaced with the new Magic Keyboard across the MacBook lineup. The last one to receive the new keyboard was the 13-inch MacBook Pro released in early 2020.
In 2008, Apple debuted a new trackpad that users could click anywhere on the surface. Prior to that, trackpads had included left-click and right-click buttons underneath the touch-cursor portion.
The third-generation MacBook Pro included an updated trackpad with a larger surface and pressure-sensitive haptics. Called the Force Touch trackpad, it replaced the mechanical clicking hinge with a haptic motor that approximates a click through vibration. The trackpad doesn't click or operate without power since it has no moving parts.
3D Touch was an iPhone feature that popped up extra software options when applying pressure with a click. While Apple removed this from the iPhone, the MacBook trackpad still uses the Mac's equivalent Force Touch system. Apple still ships trackpads that have Force Touch built-in, but it isn't emphasized in macOS.
The controversial fourth-generation MacBook Pro did more to change the keyboard than the butterfly switch; it also introduced the Touch Bar. The new OLED strip replaced the function key row entirely, leading to many user complaints. The Touch Bar brought Touch ID with it, as well as the T1/T2 coprocessor.
The Touch Bar shows shortcut buttons based on the Mac's open and active application. Text suggestions, emoji, photo tools, and video timelines pop up depending on what a user is doing. A still-active trick also allows users to skip over YouTube ads using the video slider on the Touch Bar.
In addition to the controversial keyboard and Touch Bar, Apple changed the notebook's ports in the 2016 refresh. They moved to USB-C, with which some vocal customers were none too pleased. With USB-C ports replaced all of the existing ports on the previous models, any legacy peripheral without a USB-C cable required an adapter.
All USB-C connections on Apple's pro notebook are Thunderbolt 3 ports. A separate chipset runs this connection standard, driving things like 100W power delivery and 40GB/s data transfer speeds. Apple offers 13-inch models with two or four ports, depending on the processor speed selected. All 15-inch and 16-inch models have four ports.
A standard used across all modern Apple devices, "Retina display" refers to a screen that you can view without noticeable pixels at typical distances. This rating changes depending on the screen size and use case. The iPhone 4, released in 2010, was the first Apple Device with a Retina display. The iPad and MacBook Pro followed in 2012, with other devices catching up in the following years.
Display technology has advanced since then, now allowing high-resolution displays to render at 500 nits within the P3 color gamut. True Tone adjusts the screen's white balance to match the room's color temperature, and Apple also includes anti-reflective coatings to minimize glare. All of these technologies are present in the latest MacBook Pro models.
macOS is the standard operating system for all Mac computers. The latest version, announced in 2021, is MacOS Monterey. This operating system update brings new social features, Universal Control, and new cross-app functionality.
Safari has been redesigned with a new tab system and changes to the address bar.
MacBook Pro History
Apple's professional laptop has seen many changes over the years, and one of the biggest arrived in late 2020. The fifth-generation MacBook Pro launched in November 2020 with custom Apple Silicon inside. The machine abandoned Intel processors in favor of the M1.
With Apple controlling the entire hardware and software stack in the Mac line for the first time, it means big performance gains and improved battery life. Apple says the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 chip is up to 2.8x faster with up to 5x faster graphics compared to its early 2020 Intel predecessor.
Security is also much-improved due to the nature of having new custom system architecture on the market – no malware or adware will have yet been spotted for the product.
There will likely be a redesigned 14-inch MacBook Pro model with a Magic Keyboard and Touch Bar coming in 2021 or later.
The fourth-generation MacBook Pro released in October 2016, updating both the 15-inch and 13-inch models. The MacBook Pro hadn't been updated in years, and some pro users voiced their uneasiness about Apple's attention discrepancy between rapidly advancing mobile devices and the stagnating Mac. However, the machine's significant 2016 updates proved more controversial than widely embraced.
The ultra-thin MacBook Pro needed the smallest ports available, so it came with USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. They were versatile but new to users who would need adapters or all new equipment to use the port. There was no more MagSafe, but all ports could power the laptop without the need for a proprietary cable.
However, all eyes were on the new generation's keyboard, which had carried over from the 12-inch MacBook. Thinner keys with a butterfly mechanism and less space between them, a touch screen panel instead of a function row, and a giant trackpad all made this design futuristic and new. Apple also added its Touch ID technology in a button next to the Touch Bar that acted as the sleep/wake switch.
Through the years, the ports change mattered less as more users got USB accessories to match, but the keyboard didn't live up to Apple's hopes. April of 2018 saw a report that said the butterfly keyboard was failing at up to twice the rate of the previous generations.
Class-action lawsuits were filed, Apple updated the keyboard with membrane material to prevent foreign object ingress, and a final update to the keyboard in May 2019 changed out materials for stronger ones. Apple also announced a keyboard service program for all the affected MacBooks. These changes have seemed to reduce the need for repair of "sticky keys," but they still weren't enough for users expecting their devices to "just work."
The first revision to the fourth-generation MacBook Pro came in November 2019, and along with it a newly dubbed "Magic Keyboard." Apple brought back the scissor mechanisms, and even the physical escape key, to finally and hopefully bring the years of keyboard issues to rest. This 16-inch model also included new spec updates to bring it in line with the iMac Pro and increased the battery to the maximum allowed for plane travel, 100W.
In May 2020, Apple released a 13-inch update with a new Magic Keyboard, faster processors, and more storage.
At WWDC 2012, Apple announced a third-generation "MacBook Pro with Retina display." As its name implies, it was the first Apple notebook with a high-resolution screen. It also added Core i7 processors, USB 3.0, a second Thunderbolt port, and HDMI. To further accommodate the thinning of the laptop, Apple added MagSafe 2, which had a thinner connector and port. FireWire 800 and Ethernet were dropped to allow for the new ports, but users could still connect them via thunderbolt adapters.
This laptop also lost some moving parts. Apple dropped the disk drive and switched the hard drive to a solid-state drive. The design further removed user upgradeability by soldering in the memory and gluing in the battery.
This generation saw more significant user-facing updates than the standard memory or screen changes. In 2013, the laptops gained Thunderbolt 2, Iris graphics, 802.11ac WiFi, and the higher-end 15-inch model got additional Nvidia graphics. 4K support was added via the HDMI as well.
The 2015 update, the last before the current generation, included all of the usual speed updates, along with some hardware changes. That generation marked the Force Touch trackpad's debut, making for quieter and softer clicks and allowing for deep-press-triggered contextual menus.
Apple announced the second-generation MacBook Pro during a press event in October 2008. A new design, dumping the old PowerBook chassis, sported a unibody aluminum enclosure with tapered edges, like the MacBook Air. The optical drive and ports were rearranged for the new body style: ports on the left and optical drive on the right. Apple changed ports and dropped FireWire 400, but the FireWire 800 port remained. The update also changed the DVI port to a Mini DisplayPort.
This generation allowed users to change their battery out, useful for travel or switching in a spare. Given that the battery only lasted about five hours on one charge, buying an extra allowed the device to last closer to a full day.
Along with its new sleek aluminum case, Apple added a glass surface trackpad. Users could click the new trackpad anywhere, an upgrade over designated buttons below on the first-generation trackpad. Later updates to the line added inertial scrolling, similar to what iOS offered.
Among the first Intel Macs, the first-generation MacBook Pro arrived in January 2006 with a 15-inch screen. Apple launched a larger 17-inch variant in April. These were the first MacBooks with webcams. They also introduced the MagSafe connector.
The move from PowerPC to Intel was much faster than anyone, even Apple, had anticipated. The process went without too many hitches, and it proved to be up to three times as fast as the PowerBook G4 it replaced.