Apple updated the Touch Bar versions of the MacBook Pro laptop line in May 2019, adding 9th-gen Intel Coffee Lake refresh processors (with up to 8 cores) to the 15in models, and giving a slight boost to the (still 8th-gen Coffee Lake) processors in the 13in models. The non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro models remain untouched – now getting on for two years old. The updates, while impressive, at least for the 15in MacBook Pro, aren’t what we were hoping for. Rumours had suggested that Apple had something much bigger in mind. But it looks like we will have to wait until 2020 for that.
Wondering what the rumours were suggesting was on the way? A 16in MacBook Pro with 4K screen!
In this article we round up all the news and rumours about the 16in MacBook Pro (and the next refresh to the 13in models), including all the info we can get our hands on about the giant 16in screen, their specs and features, pricing, and when you’ll be able to buy them.
Plus, we’ll examine when and how (and whether) Apple will update the non-Touch Bar version of the 13in MacBook Pro models – the two entry-level 13in Pros that were left untouched in the 2018 updates and still feature older Kaby Lake processors.
MacBook Pro release date
Given that Apple announced new MacBook Pros just before WWDC 2019 in May 2018 (almost a year after the previous updated to the range) we don’t really expect to see the next generation of MacBook Pro until June 2020.
However, while the 15in MacBook Pro did see a decent processor update the 13in model only saw a slight boost. Could Apple revisit these models later in the year with yet another update? We hope so.
There’s some chance this could happen: in February 2019 TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that he believed that there would be a new 16in MacBook Pro arriving in 2019, alongside an improved 13in version. Kuo is usually quite accurate, hence us taking his claims that a 16in MacBook Pro is in the pipeline seriously.
Kuo also has predictions for a 2020 MacBook Pro which he says will use a new micro-LED technology, as per a April 2019 research note. So it might be that the 2019 plans have been moved back to 2020 to allow for the use of this new screen technology.
Another reason why we could see the another new MacBook Pro before 2019 is out is that Intel has revealed that new processors that are likely to be used in the new MacBook Pro will be available soon. More on the processors below.
Price and availability
If you don’t want to wait for the new 16in model, we think the 2019 models will. still be an excellent buy. They are available from the Apple Store. Just avoid the non-Touch Bar models, which at almost two years old are a bit long in the tooth (we’d recommend the MacBook Air as an alternative to them).
Right now the price of the 13in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar starts at £1,749/$1,799. The cheapest 15in MacBook Pro you can get costs £2,349/$2,399. Those prices haven’t changed in a few years and we don’t expect them to change for the 2020 models. You might be able to get a discount on one though if you check out our round up of the best MacBook Pro deals here.
What might change is whether Apple continues to sell the non-Touch Bar 13in MacBook Pro, currently available for £1,249/$1,299. Apple’s range of Mac laptops is a little complicated right now because there are so many similarly priced, similarly sized models, aimed at similar types of users. We could eventually see Apple prune its range by removing the non-Touch Bar models in favour of the 2018 MacBook Air, for example.
Or we could see Apple update these entry-level MacBook Pro models so that Mac users who require a more powerful Mac laptop for less than £1,749 have something to meet their needs. Hopefully the latter.
In an investor note on 17 February 2019, Apple expert Ming Chi Kuo predicted that Apple will release a 16in MacBook Pro in 2019.
Kuo said that the bigger screen size (16.5in, to be exact) could be made possible by reduced bezels. Throughout 2018 Apple was hard at work reducing bezels on its products, including the iPad Pro and MacBook Air, so the suggestion that it might reduce the bezels on the MacBook Pro isn’t a surprising one.
You may be thinking that the jump from 15in to 16.5in is a large one but it’s worth noting that the MacBook Pro, while described as the 15in MacBook Pro, actually has a screen size of 15.4in diagonally. And Apple sold a 17in MacBook Pro until June 2012.
If you’re wondering what the new MacBook Pro might look like, this concept image might entertain you.
MacBook Pro 2020 specs
The 2020 MacBook Pro models could offer the following specs:
That extra inch or so should mean that the 16in MacBook Pro can offer more pixels than its predecessor. This is something Mac users have been requesting for years.
Apple’s main competitors in this space offer 4K displays. The lack of a 4K display on the MacBook Pro is a massive disappointment for many.
It seems likely that the new 16in MacBook Pro will indeed offer a 4K display – if it doesn’t, there may be a riot.
Picture shows the 2018 MacBook Air with its slimmer bezels around the screen
This isn’t expected until late 2020 or maybe not until 2021. TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Apple will eventually be using a mini-LED display for the MacBook Pro.
There are lots of benefits to using mini-LED panels including a wide color gamut, high contrast ratios, high dynamic range, localized dimming, and no burn-in. Panels are also more power efficient.
In 2019 Apple added new 9th generation Coffee Lake processors to the 15in MacBook Pro and upgraded the 8th generation processors in the 13in models (with the exception of those two 13in models we mentioned above). These new 9th gen processors have the benefit of offering more cores, so there is now an 8-core option for the 15in models.
These 9th generation mobile processors are part of the Coffee Lake Refresh, Aka Coffee Lake-R, as seen in the top of the range 2019 iMac.
Looking towards the next update to the MacBook Pro it’s likely that Apple will wait for the next generation of Intel processors (although there have been rumours that Apple will make its own processors at some point, moving away from Intel, more on that below).
The next new processor generation is Sunny Cove and Ice Lake (it’s a bit confusing if you are used to Intel referring to the chip with a *Lake because this time round the Lake bit signifies the chip and the Cove bit the core, or you could think of the chip as Sunny Cove, based on Ice Lake).
You might also have thought that Cannon Lake was going to be next, but it seems that after many delays, Intel is pretty much skipping that generation.
Whatever you call it the new architecture will be the first big change since Skylake arrived in 2015 and it should offer an increase in single-thread performance, bigger caches, wider execution units, and a set of new instructions meant to speed up cryptography, AI, and machine learning, according to this Macworld US report.
The 13in MacBook Pro is likely to maintain its integrated graphics while the 16in model ships with a discrete graphics card.
Unlike the 2019 update, which saw no change to the graphics cards inside compared to the previous generation, we expect that the 2020 models will use new graphics cards.
The good news from the perspective of the 13in model is that the Ice Lake graphics will be much better than what we have today. The current Iris Plus 655 GPU has 48 execution units but the new Ice Lake option will offer 64 execution units (50% more) plus it will also offer efficiency improvements.
As for the 16in models, the 15in models currently offer the Radeon Pro 555X or Radeon Pro 560X, both with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. There is, however, a build-to-order option that allows you to update the MacBook Pro to a Radeon Pro Vega 16 or 20. Perhaps in the new models we will see Vega GPUs as standard.
All the 13in models currently offer 8GB RAM as standard with a build-to-order option for 16GB RAM. As of 2018 the 15in models have added a 32GB RAM build-to-order option.
The RAM in the 13in models is less powerful than that in the 15in MacBook Pro which is 2400MHz DDR4, compared to the slower 2133MHz LPDDR3.
Analyst Ming Chi Kuo said in his February 2019 research note that the 13in MacBook Pro will gain a 32GB RAM option,but this hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully these models will eventually get the faster 2400MHz DDR4 RAM though.
We could also see the new standard Wi-Fi 6 aka 802.11ax arrive with the next generation of MacBook Pro.
802.11ax should reduce the effects of interference and increase throughput in congested environments. It’s the successor to 802.11ac and is less focused on speed and more on being able to handle multiple devices better.
The Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro was the biggest change to the range when it was updated in 2016. It’s a customisable strip-screen that allows for slicker fingertip control in certain software. It supports multi-touch gestures, which is handy when photo or video editing, to name a couple of examples.
The Touch Bar is customisable, and you can click and drag preferred commands/functions into the bar, somewhat like the way you drag app icons into the dock on a Mac or iPhone. When the Touch Bar first launched it was limited to Apple applications, however over the months it has gained functionality with many other apps including Spotify and Photoshop, and it now offers additional functionality for Microsoft Office features. You can expect more software to offer Touch Bar support in the future.
For more on this, see How to use the Touch Bar. And if you’d like to get some Touch Bar action on other Macs, have a read of our Apple keyboard with Touch Bar release date rumours and How to get Touch Bar on any Mac.
Some reports have suggested that the Touch Bar is not proving to be particularly popular, although this may be because those MacBook Pro models with the feature have a higher price.
It may be as a result of this that, as of 2017, Apple has offered two non-Touch Bar models of the MacBook Pro with a lower entry price, although as we said above – the non Touch Bar models have not been updated since 2017.