Apple new 2016 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air launch event preview: Apple’s gearing up to launch three new MacBook devices, overhauling its product line-up for the first time in years, and may also unveil a 4K Apple TV. Computing editor Michael Passingham tells us what to expect on October 27.
It’s time for Apple to catch up with the crowd. Windows-powered laptops such as the Dell XPS 13 and 15 have been running away with things for the last year, so Apple’s latest laptop refresh needs to be something special. Fortunately, all the rumours we’ve seen look very positive indeed.
There are lots of ‘gimmes’ for this event, and we're pretty much guaranteed to see two new MacBook Pros in 13-inch and 15-inch guises, as is currently the case. They’ll be thinner, lighter and more powerful than the models that came before them, which won’t be a surprise to many.
How will the new machines achieve this feat? For one, they’ll likely be using Intel’s latest Kaby Lake-based processors, which are more powerful and efficient than ever before. Considering that the current design of the MacBook Pro is based around the efficiency limitations of older Intel chips from 2012, it’d be frankly astonishing if Apple didn’t find space and weight savings in the MacBook Pro.
We can also expect significantly better battery life, higher capacity storage options, and improved screen performance.
The firm will likely use custom variants of Intel’s Core i5 and i7 chips. The 13-inch model will get lower-power chips with the ‘U’ suffix while the 15-incher will get chips with the more powerful ‘HQ’ suffix. For more on Intel’s naming conventions, check out our Intel Core i explainer and watch the video below.
As is currently the case, the more expensive 15-inch models will get a dedicated graphics chip. There have been rumours that AMD will supply the graphics kit, but there are others that suggest Nvidia will be on-board instead. Frankly, it doesn’t matter a huge amount: you’ll either get an ultra-efficient Nvidia Pascal-based GPU or an ultra-efficient AMD Polaris-based GPU.
Graphics tech has come a long way in 2016, so I’d be very surprised if the chip that Apple picks isn’t a capable card for Full HD gaming. Expect copious references to Overwatch during the presentation if Apple chooses to show off its gaming credentials.
Leaked images of the MacBook Pro chassis show four USB-C connectors and a 3.5mm audio jack, and that’s it. USB-C is compatible with Thunderbolt, so these will probably be USB 3.1, Thunderbolt 3 combination ports capable of powering high-end devices such as storage arrays and monitors, as well as more standard kit such as external keyboards and mice.
If this is true, I think we’ll all mourn the loss of the ingenious MagSafe connector, which has saved countless innocent MacBooks from being dragged to the floor.
It’s looking increasingly likely Apple’s going to revolutionise the ‘F’ row of keys at the top of your keyboard, and by revolutionise, I of course mean ‘get rid of entirely and replace with a second screen’. Obviously.
But in all seriousness, these rumours have been credible and we’ve seen several leaked hardware shots that leave space for this 'Touch Bar'.
If it is indeed real, the Touch Bar will have really interesting consequences for macOS Sierra and future Apple software, as instead of buttons with pre-defined actions, the OLED bar will offer contextual commands.
For instance, when you’re in your browser, you’ll get navigation controls, but if you’re editing in Adobe Premier ,you’ll get your favourite video editing shortcuts. We’ve no idea how customisable the bar will be or what developers will need to do to make it work, but it’ll certainly wake up a laptop market that’s been crying out for a bit of innovation.
We know a lot less about the MacBook Air, other than to expect a thinner and lighter design on the 13-inch model, and that the 11-inch model to be dropped entirely, as it clashes with the high-end 12-inch MacBook.
Alternatively, the MacBook Air might be renamed 13-inch MacBook to put it in line with the rest of the MacBook range.
This last one is more a wish than anything else, but the MacBook Air desperately needs a good screen. The Air's screen has fallen a long way behind its rivals in terms of resolution and quality. Please, Apple, give us a Retina display option.
With the likes of Roku, Amazon and Google starting to ship 4K-ready boxes and sticks, it would make complete sense for Apple to launch a new edition of its TV hardware that supports 4K. In fact, it was a little surprising this didn't happen with last year’s model, so if Apple has some non-laptop kit to announce, this would be a fair bet.
According to a number of analysis, Apple won’t be refreshing its iMac line at Thursday’s event. The iMac has been refreshed more recently than the MacBook line, so this isn’t a huge surprise.
Apple has often used October events to update its iPad range. But with the tablet market as stagnant as a swamp, any updates to the iPad will surely be minor, perhaps with an upgraded processor similar to the A10 Fusion found in the new iPhone 7.
Will the new MacBook Pro come with a 'Touch Bar'? Are we likely to see a 4K Apple TV? Let us know in the comments below.