Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Spoiler Alert

Do you want to know what Apple’s 2021 Mac lineup looks like? Well, new reports from Ming-Chi Kuo and Mark Gurman that dropped in rapid succession today — almost like there was a meeting at Apple this week to discuss new products — paint a rosy picture.

Juli Clover, of the very appropriately named MacRumors:

According to Kuo, Apple is developing two models in 14 and 16-inch size options. The new MacBook Pro machines will feature a flat-edged design, which Kuo describes as “similar to the iPhone 12” with no curves like current models. It will be the most significant design update to the MacBook Pro in the last five years.

There will be no OLED Touch Bar included, with Apple instead returning to physical function keys. Kuo says the MagSafe charging connector design will be restored, though it’s not quite clear what that means as Apple has transitioned to USB-C. The refreshed MacBook Pro models will have additional ports, and Kuo says that most people may not need to purchase dongles to supplement the available ports on the new machines. Since 2016, Apple’s MacBook Pro models have been limited to USB-C ports with no other ports available.

All of the new MacBook Pro models will feature Apple silicon chips, and there will be no Intel chip options included.

These leaks were echoed by Mark Gurman, who also added that the displays in the new MacBook Pro models would be brighter and higher-contrast.

If these rumours are accurate, these products seem inspired by the early 2010s golden age of the MacBook Pro: lots of ports, MagSafe, and a great keyboard. All of these things were part of the much-loved models of that time before they were removed in favour of four USB-C and Thunderbolt combo ports which doubled as charging ports, and a poor keyboard. The latter problem was fixed; the former decision still feels like a compromise too much of the time. The excitement for these rumours seems telling. You’ve got to wonder what ports would be added; I can’t see USB-A or Ethernet making a comeback, and even HDMI and Micro SD ports feel like a stretch.

I would still love to read a deeply reported explanation of what happened with the Mac notebook range from 2012 through the present day. I think there must be an interesting story in there about being ready for the short-term backlash of trying new things, only to find that long-term compromises remain.

Gurman published another story at Bloomberg today with even more Mac rumours:

Apple Inc. is planning the first redesign of its iMac all-in-one desktop computer since 2012, part of a shift away from Intel Corp. processors to its own silicon, according to people familiar with the plans.

The new models will slim down the thick black borders around the screen and do away with the sizable metal chin area in favor of a design similar to Apple’s Pro Display XDR monitor. These iMacs will have a flat back, moving away from the curved rear of the current iMac. Apple is planning to launch two versions — codenamed J456 and J457 — to replace the existing 21.5-inch and 27-inch models later this year, the people said, asking not to be identified because the products are not yet announced.

Gurman also says that Apple is working on two new Mac Pro models — one of which he says may continue to use Intel’s processors, but that does not pass my sniff test — and a less-expensive standalone display.

The rumours that were published today represent nearly every Mac in Apple’s lineup that has yet to receive Apple’s own processors, with the exception of the iMac Pro. But, given the M1’s performance and the smaller Mac Pro model, it is possible the iMac Pro may simply be discontinued.

I’m just spitballing but, maybe if Apple’s feeling in a real retro mood, the new iMac could just be called the “Mac”. Just a thought.