MacBook Pro could get first major upgrade in years

The 2016 MacBook Pro will likely debut later this year. So, what’s under the hood? And has that had an impact on the delays so far?

5Yep, the MacBook Pro is getting old: on that pretty much everyone can agree. The design seems almost frozen in time at this point (Dell XPS instead, anyone?). A comment under one of my recent posts expresses the sentiment of more than a few MacBook Pro enthusiasts: “Apple needs to release updated MBP, and SOON!!…Really tired of waiting, about to do the move to a win 10 laptop.”

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1.jpgWe know about the 2016 MacBook Pro Externals: This isn’t news. It’s been widely reported that the new high-performance MacBook will be thinner, lighter, and have a touch panel that replaces the physical function keys (that run along the top of the keyboard). A Touch ID button is also expected (possibly where the power button is now on the 12-inch MacBook), according to Matte. And combination USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports too. “And obviously they can bring some combination of the improvements they brought for the 12-inch MacBook like the new butterfly keyboard switches,” Matte said.

But what about the internals? AMD? More than any other MacBook, the MBP’s silicon is the defining feature. “It seems clear that [Apple] was waiting for AMD’s new Polaris 11-based GPU,” Matte said. “In combination with other new components, that would allow them to make significantly thinner MacBook Pros.” AMD’s Polaris 11 graphics silicon is just arriving on the market. And it’s the first 14-nanometer Polaris parts, making it more suitable for a thinner high-performance MacBook, as Matte points out.  The key takeaway is that Apple can be true to its design ethos of thinner-is-better but still deliver a high-performance MacBook.


And Intel? Which Intel processor would the 2016 MBP use? “Kaby Lake seems like a fair possibility for the CPU,” according to Matte. I had to revise my earlier prediction (made in an earlier post) based on this comment. The bottom line is that Kaby Lake (a so-called “shrink” of Skylake) isn’t radically different than Skylake and therefore Intel should ramp up production on schedule. “So we said we already started shipping Kaby Lake to our customers and OEMs,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in July during the second quarter earnings conference call.


And note that Asus has been showing off a laptop-tablet hybrid with the processor.  Hewlett-Packard too has listed the Kaby Lake Core i3-7100U processor in an upcoming laptop “convertible.” Remember that Intel was originally slated to ship a 10-nanometer Canonlake after Skylake but pushed Canonlake back and introduced Kaby Lake as an interim product.

“Keep in mind that while the [Kaby Lake] CPU architecture should only be mildly improved, the graphics and entire surrounding chipset should be improved significantly,” said Matte. That of course would suit Apple to a tee. We will undoubtedly know a lot more about Kaby Lake when Intel’s developer forum gets under way this coming week.

Display: While not an internal component per se. “The displays can be updated to the                             latest IGZO panels with a wider P3 color gamut, and perhaps bringing higher                             resolutions,” Matte said.

Why the MacBook Pro redesign delays?

One theory is that Apple has been holding back on the MBP overhaul because of the dedicated graphics (traditionally used in the larger 15.4-inch model). Until recently, smartphones have been getting priority on 14 nanometer silicon, forcing the graphics guys to wait. Essentially Apple and Qualcomm were taking up much of the 14 nanometer foundry capacity for smartphones. “The iPhone is delaying the Macs in other words,” Matte said.  But that’s changed. AMD is now getting ready to go. “Nvidia and AMD are finally launching their new GPUs …it’s been a very extended cycle. It’s been painful for gamers and video editors,” Matte said.

The bad news is, the iPhone and iPad will continue to get priority in the future. “The iPhone is the priority. It’s the money maker. Anything bleeding edge on the component side is going to be mobile [iPhone] first.”

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Picture Credits : Martin Hajek


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