We Now Know What the New MacBook Pros Will Be Like - Apple Just Told Us

| John Martellaro's Blog

When Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, talked about the new MacBook upgrade, introduced on April 19th, he also gave us a pretty clear indication of what the next generation of MacBook Pros will be like.

2015 MacBook Pro. Image credit: Apple

In Apple's press release for the 2016 MacBook, Mr. Schiller said:

MacBook is the thinnest and lightest Mac we have ever made and it’s our vision for the future of the notebook.

Let's look at what that statement means, with a broad brush. Recall that Apple's last MacBook Pro 15-inch update was in May of 2015 with "Haswell" CPUs.

1. Skylake processors. With a 14 nanometer fabrication process, these CPUs will be about 10 percent faster and consume less power. As for the GPU, HD 530 graphics will be about 20 to 40 percent faster. Lower power translates to, likely, 12 hour battery life when combined with "terraced" (conformal) batteries.

2. Terraced batteries and MacBook look and feel. The 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros will be, I propose, indistinguishable from the current MacBook design. With traditional ports gone (see below), they'll have that MacBook thinness somewhere around a half-inch (12 mm). The MacBook technology of terraced batteries will allow that. You won't be able to tell the new Pros apart from a 2016 MacBook without some some sense of scale. And maybe the fact that the Pro version will have two USB-C ports.

This is a guess, but I suspect we'll see a weight just under 4 pounds (1.8 kg) for the 15-inch and well under 3 pounds (1.36 kg) for the 13-inch.

3. Two x USB-C Ports and Thunderbolt 3. Why Thunderbolt 3? Intel's integration of Thunderbolt 3 co-resident with USB 3 on the motherboard and connected via the USB-C plug solves the problem of wide acceptance of USB 3 and declining viability of Thunderbolt as stand-alone technology. Thunderbolt 3, at 40 Gbps, is backwards compatible with all TB 2 and TB 1 devices and gives legacy Thunderbolt-centric customers a sensible path forward without feeling like they have to chose one or the other technology.

Why two USB-C ports? First, redundancy. If one fails, the professional doesn't skip a beat in mission critical work. Secondly, it allows the easy connection of an external display while simultaneously charging without a dock. This is a guess, but my instincts kick in here. (And I presume that if power is connected to both, only one port will charge the battery.)

4. Finish. The traditional aluminum look will give way to MacBook colors of Silver, Space Gray, Gold, and ... Black! I can't see Rose Gold MacBook Pro unless it's for foreign markets. Some might favor Rose Gold for an entry level MacBook, but I'll go out on a limb and suggest that it won't go over well with American business people and technical professionals.

MacBook's butterfly keyboard: loved and despised equally.  Image credit: Apple

5. Virtual Keyboard. If all the above were all we got, it would be a pleasant speed bump for MacBook Pro users. However, questions have come up about the staleness of the classic MacBook/Air/Pro design.

One way to take a giant leap forward would be to introduce a touch sensitive keyboard surface with feedback. Apple has a patent on this. If Apple elects not to use the new butterfly mechanism (used in the MacBooks) in the Pro line, such a keyboard, described in this International Business Times article, could get us drooling again about the high-end MacBook models. However. it may be a long shot for 2016.

These new, faster MacBook Pros, thin and mostly free of thickness-consuming ports, and perhaps in cool colors will leverage off the emerging maturity of the USB-C port (and new peripherals) and all the new technologies spearheaded by the 2015 and 2016 Retina 12-inch MacBooks. I suspect these new Pros will fly off the shelves.

I want one already.

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1. Yes.  For example http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/review/minix-neo-c-usb-c-multiport-adapter-dock-includes-vga-or-hdmi

or http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/review/satechi-usb-c-hub-is-small-has-pass-through-power

2. My understanding is that with Thunderbolt 3 using the USB-C port, you’ll be able to attach your old TB peripherals with an adapter. See the link in Section #3 above in the article or go direct to;


Very mixed feelings
Skylake: It is what I’ve been waiting for.

Terraced Batteries/MacBook form: That’s fine. As long as I have a 15 inch screen, half a TB SSD, and 16GB RAM the form is not that important. A drop in weight from The Beast, my current MBP, would be nice.

2 USB-C ports: ONLY? I have a bunch of USB 2 and 3 peripherals. I have Jump drives. I regularly plug in my cameras SD card. I have headphones that plug in. I want a system with more than two bloody ports for which I have nothing to connect. Yes there are USB-C docking stations but that’s not the point. I shouldn’t need to carry a third party connector to use a PRO system. The Beast has 8 ports. 2 is not a pro system.

Finish: Black would be nice. Otherwise it’ll be silver/grey.  Mostly a wash.

Virtual Keyboard: No, just no. Not on a pro machine. Not on a machine I write on every day. I have no trouble with virtual keyboard on my iPad. That’s a different environment. But on a pro machine used for work I want a keyboard. A real keyboard. I’m ambivalent about the one on the MacBook even. A minute of playing with it in the store is not really enough to get used to it. But a virtual keyboard. Nope. I’m not going to write a novel, a play, or a blog on a virtual keyboard. And I don’t want a laptop that I have to carry a separate keyboard to use effectively.

The system you described would be a good top end for the MacBook line. But I’d be hard pressed to see it as a pro machine. If the new MBP matches this model I’d have some serious thinking to do. Over the last few years Apple has shown less and less interest in the Pro user. Maybe it’s time for a tectonic shift in my computing world. I could get a Acer/HP/Dell laptop with better specs and a real keyboard, nuke it and repave with Linux at a fraction of the cost.

It’s not a path I want to contemplate.


@geoduck - +1.  As I have a Hengedocks setup both at work and home with 2 monitors each, I’d really hate to think of only 2 ports.

I could understand having the new ports in addition to the ones I now have on my 2014 MBP, but not only the 2 USB-C.

Not impressed if that’s the route they take.

For a heavy-duty production machines I see zero advantage for being thinner/lighter/fewer ports…leave the “skinny” stuff for the standard Macbook line for those not connecting to other peripherals.

Paul Goodwin

There’s nothing “Pro” about a laptop with the cited I/O configuration here. If you want super portability, get the MacBook. If you want “Pro”, it’s gotta have the I/O for Pro setups. I hope they don’t go the cheap route on the flexibility.

Matt Bauman

There is no way the new Pros go as thin as the current MacBook—it’ll need more space than that allots. No way it drops down to a couple USB C ports. I see a new design that is thinner that blends some of the current MacBook and the current Pro.

Robert Grimm

On the virtual keyboard:

If they want to add a touch screen and extend the physical keyboard with an on-screen keyboard, great. if they want to replace the key surfaces with tiny screens so that the keyboard can change as needed, great. If they replace the physical keys with a touch screen, I can use a PC. I use Mac because I prefer the user experience. Replace the physical keys with a touch screen and that damages the user experience so much that I would prefer Windows. Windows 10 has really improved the Windows UX and Bash coming soon makes it much more usable for me. Besides being more difficult to use, I hate the iOS keyboard. I dislike Swype too, but it seems to be the best replacement for it, so that’s what I use on my iPad. The only virtual keyboard that I like is Google’s stock Android keyboard, and I’m pretty sure they’re not going to release that for an Apple product.

Iain Henderson

Apple might revive the FingerWorks TouchStream?  One of the most amazing keyboards EVER made?  One that still goes for thousands of dollars when one can be found?  http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=fingerworks touchstream&ssPageName=GSTL

While it would destroy the resale market for TouchStreams, it would BE PHENOMENAL for ergonomics and be the most advanced Laptop keyboard available.  I refuse to believe that this will ever happen.  You sir, are cruel to even hint at such a possibility.

Eric Marsilio

Misleading article title designed to generate hits

Kenneth Rhem

I think everyone griping here (don’t get me wrong I hate this too) is missing a vital point. Apple has already nerfed the 15in pro (tb+usb3 over the same bus) and they will continue to. Ideally for a 15in pro was see 4 usb c ports over 2 buses. But hey. That’s what pcs are for I guess…


Great. Apple should bring standards like Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Type-C Generation 2 to all devices, including Mac and iOS. And SDXC supporting read/write maximum speed (300 Mb/s).

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