When will Apple release the new MacBook Pro for 2017? And what UK prices, tech specs and new features should we expect from the new MacBook Pro 2017?
New MacBook Pro models were released in October 2016, but we’re already looking ahead to the next update of the MacBook Pro for 2017, which may arrive in June. In this article we round up and analyse all the rumours related to the new MacBook Pro 2017: its release date, specs, design, likely pricing and new features.
So far we’ve heard calls for the new MacBook Pro models to have an option for 32GB RAM and reports that the new MacBook Pro will feature Kaby Lake processors and an Apple-designed chip that will manage and improve the computer’s low-power performance mode.
Sources close to the matter predict that Apple will announce an updated Pro model at WWDC in June – a claim backed up by reduced availability of the MacBook Pro in Apple’s online store. Read on for more rumours and expectations.
If you’re interested in the latest MacBook Pro update you can read more here: New MacBook Pro 2016 review. And if you want to buy one, read our Mac buying guide and where to buy a Mac.
MacBook Pro 2017 UK: Release date
The current lineup of MacBook Pro models was introduced in October 2016, and Apple doesn’t tend to update its Macs more often than once a year, so we wouldn’t ordinarily expect Apple to update the range before October 2017. But sources claim something is coming sooner than this: new Apple laptops will be unveiled at WWDC 2017, according to Bloomberg.
The site based its predictions on anonymous sources referred to only as “people familiar with the matter”, who said the MacBook Pro, as well as the 12-inch MacBook and even the long-neglected MacBook Air could see a refresh at June’s keynote event.
Further evidence that a MacBook Pro update could be in the pipeline greets you if you attempt to buy a model from Apple’s online store. The availability of the MacBook Pro has slipped to 6-8 June for the entry-level non-Touch Bar model and the top-of-the-range 13in model, and 8-10 June for both 15in Touch Bar models.
The WWDC keynote will take place on Monday 5 June, and availability of the MacBook Pro has slipped to after this date.
Veteran Apple analyst Gene Munster (infamous for his predictions about the Apple TV) believes with a 50% certainty that Apple will introduce new MacBook Pros with Kaby Lake processors at WWDC, noting that when the MacBook Pro models with the Touch Bar were introduced in October 2016 they didn’t feature the latest Intel Processors.
The MacBook Pro which was updated relatively recently, will reportedly be refreshed less radically then the other MacBook models, with a processor bump to the Kaby Lake chipset.
Updating the Pro with Kaby Lake chips this summer might be a good idea though. Competing professional laptops coming from Dell and HP will offer newer Kaby Lake Intel processors, including the Dell Precision 5520, which is available now. For business people looking for a stylish laptop this may not matter, but for creatives looking for a new Mac a move away from Apple may start to look attractive if Apple makes them wait too long.
For business people looking for a stylish laptop this may not matter, but for creatives looking for a new Mac a move away from Apple may start to look attractive if Apple makes them wait too long.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had previously predicted an update to the entire range in 2017. In October 2016 he told clients that he expected Apple to launch updated MacBooks Pro models in the second half of 2017 including support for 32GB of RAM, with the proviso that Intel would launch the required processors in time.
However, at that time he referenced Cannonlake processors, in February 2017 he published a new note claiming that the new MacBook Pro models will feature Kaby Lake processors and that the 13in and 15in versions of the MacBook Pro will see an update towards the end of 2017, with mass production of these models beginning in the third quarter of 2017.
However, those hoping for a 32GB RAM update to the 15in MacBook Pro model in 2017 may be disappointed. The high-end MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM will apparently not enter mass production until the fourth quarter of 2017 so its launch isn’t expected until 2018. (Incidentally the Dell Precision 5520 does have a 32GB RAM configuration.)
2017 MacBook Pro: Price
Shortly after Apple announced the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar in October 2016, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo published a note to clients indicating that he expects Apple to drop prices in subsequent updates to the range. He observed that Apple tends to overprice new generations of Mac before gradually lowering prices in the following year.
Content continues below
The pricing for the 2016 13in and 15in new MacBook Pro models begins at £1,749/$1,799 for a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, and starts at $2,399/£2,349 for the 15in model. The most expensive MacBook Pro now costs £2,699/$2,799.
The version of the MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar costs from $1,499/£1,449. This is the model most likely to see a price drop, potentially coinciding with an update to the 12in MacBook and the discontinuation of the MacBook Air.
There is a 2015 model of the 15-inch MacBook Pro still available and there are expectations that this model will be upgraded so that Apple can offer a non-Touch Bar version of the MacBook Pro with updated specs. Reports claim that the Touch Bar hasn’t been as popular with creatives as Apple hoped, and that by offering a lower-priced non-Touch Bar model Apple will see increased sales.
2017 MacBook Pro: Processor
When they launched in October 2016 the new range of MacBook Pro models ran on Intel’s Skylake processors, the processor microarchitecture that first launched in August 2015 as a successor to Broadwell.
This was a disappointment to some as the Skylake chips can only support up to 16GB of RAM (to offer a 32GB option Apple would need to use battery-hungry desktop-class RAM). Given that the MacBook Pro is pitched as a professional machine there have been calls for the next model to offer the option of 32GB RAM and naturally attention has turned to Intel’s roadmap for clues as to what processor might make this update feasible.
Back in October 2016 Apple analyst Kuo had suggested that the MacBook Pro could adopt Intel’s Cannonlake processors, or should that not appear in time, Intel’s Coffee Lake processors (although that would limit the models to 16GB RAM).
However, it appears that the usually accurate analyst had his chips somewhat muddled, as there are apparently no plans to design MacBook Pro-class Cannonlake chips, and Coffee Lake is not scheduled until 2018. In a note published in January 2017 Kuo predicted that the new MacBook Pro line-up would feature Kaby Lake chips.
Kaby Lake is the successor to Skylake. That line of processors debuted in the spring of 2016, but the processors suitable for future MacBook Pros (as suggested by beta code in macOS Sierra 10.12.4) weren’t announced until the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show.
This beta code discovered in Sierra by Pike’s Universum references the following Kaby Lake processors:
- The 13in MacBook Pro could gain the i7-7660U 2.5 GHz Kaby Lake chip;
- The 13in MacBook Pro with Touch bar could gain the Kaby Lake 3.1 GHz i5-7267U, 3.3 GHz i5-7287U, and 3.5 GHz i7-7567U processors;
- The 15in MacBook Pro could gain i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz, i7-7820HQ 2.9 GHz, and i7-7920 3.1 GHz Kaby Lake processors.
These new Kaby Lake processors offer better power efficiency and more advanced on-board GPU capabilities, but the processor power doesn’t see a marked increase.
Dell’s Precision 5520 laptop includes Kaby Lake chips and is directly comparable to the MacBook Pro.
There’s another possibility, Apple could move away from Intel chips and look at what’s on offer from AMD. According to an Archtosh report, AMD has launched RYZEN 7 CPUs that “promise more computing muscle per watt than Intel” and, according to a report the new AMD RYZEN 7 1800X just set a new world record score for Cinebench, a respected CPU performance benchmark.
That report states that the new RYZEN 7 chip lineup roughly competes with Intel’s i7 line including the i7-6900K, i7-6800K, and i7-7700K.
We think such a transition is unlikely however, given the fact that Apple had to rewrite the operating system to prepare for the Intel switch. Perhaps more likely is the idea that Apple will design its own chips (although we think all rumours about this pointed to the processor that powers the Touch Bar in the 2016 MacBook Pro.)
An Apple designed processor for the MacBook Pro
The chip that powers the Touch Bar in the MacBook Pro may not be the only low power chip coming from Apple. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicted in February 2017 that the new MacBook Pro will feature an Apple-designed chip to handle simple tasks such as email and updates while the laptop is asleep, citing “people familiar with the matter”.
“The chip, which went into development [in 2016], is similar to one already used in the latest MacBook Pro to power the keyboard’s Touch Bar feature,” Gurman writes. “The updated part, internally codenamed T310, would handle some of the computer’s low-power mode functionality.”
By building a dedicated low-power processor, Apple could reduce battery consumption for the 2017 MacBook Pro.
There are rumours that the new MacBook Pro scheduled to be introduced at WWDC in June will feature this new, Apple-designed chip to manage and improve the computer’s low-power performance mode.
2017 MacBook Pro: RAM
As we mention above, a big disappointment with the 2016 MacBook Pro line up was the RAM limitations, with the models maxing out at 16GB RAM. Pro customers, such as video editors, were so disillusioned with the 2016 update that in November 2016 Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller spoke out in defence of Apple’s decision not to offer more RAM, saying that to offer more RAM would be detrimental to battery life because higher amounts of RAM would require a power-hungry memory controller unsuitable for use in portable machines.
Schiller said: “To support 32GB of memory would require using DDR memory that is not low power and also require a different design of the logic board which might reduce space for batteries. Both factors would reduce battery life.”
The problem lies with the Intel Skylake CPUs used in Apple’s MacBook Pro. These processors support up to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM at 2133MHz. There are processors capable of addressing more than 16GB of memory, but these rely on less efficient DDR4 RAM and are usually deployed in desktops because they can be plugged into mains power. Understandably Apple does not wish to hinder the battery life of its laptops in this way.
Schiller has also indicated that using 32GB of RAM would require a different logic board design that would limit space for other components, including the battery. In an email to MacDaddy’s Ben Slaney, Schiller wrote: “To support 32GB of memory would require using DDR memory that is not low power and also require a different design of the logic board which might reduce space for batteries. Both factors would reduce battery life.”
So, as you can see, the calls for a 32GB RAM version of the MacBook Pro are loud enough for Apple to make a statement regarding it, but this doesn’t mean that a RAM update is imminent. A Kaby Lake processor upgrade for the MacBook Pro will not increase in the RAM cap of 16GB because the Kaby Lake processor doesn’t support LPDDR4 RAM and Apple is not expected to engineer a new RAM controller that does any time soon.
An Intel processor capable of supporting LPDDR4 RAM isn’t expected before 2018.
Kuo still has some hope however, he predicts that Apple will start to manufacture a 15in MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM in the fourth quarter. And he thinks that Apple will adopt desktop RAM due in order to do so.
Dell’s Precision 5520 laptop is directly comparable to the MacBook Pro and has a 32GB RAM build-to-order configuration.
Amid calls for Apple to update the MacBook Pro, which some feel is hampered by its standard 8GB RAM (upgradable to just 16GB), Apple CEO Tim Cook has confirmed that Apple still considers the professional creative market to be important. Comments from Tim Cook indicate that Apple isn’t about to give up on the professional market. Speaking at the Shareholders meeting on 28 February 2017, Cook indicated that Apple is still focused on its professional customers and has plans to “do more” in that area.
Cook said: “You will see us do more in the pro area. The pro area is very important to us. The creative area is very important to us in particular.
“Don’t think something we’ve done or something that we’re doing that isn’t visible yet is a signal that our priorities are elsewhere,” Cook added.
However, the separation between ‘creative’ and ‘professional’ in Cook’s comments could be telling, and a way out of giving a clear answer. Regarding Cook’s comments, our colleague on Digital Arts suggested that the “people who are creative-but-not-professional and professional-but-not-creative would probably look to the MacBook Pro (which is fine for photo-editing and Office)”.
He considers that the MacBook Pro is more suited to people who see themselves as creatives, rather than creative professionals.
2017 MacBook Pro: Graphics
The 13in MacBook Pro without Touch Bar currently offers Intel Iris Graphics 540 while the 13in model with Touch Bar offers Intel Iris Graphics 550.
The 15in model offers a duel graphics card set up, with the Radeon Pro 450, or a Radeon Pro 455, alongside the Intel HD Graphics 530. The Radeon Pro 400 series launched in October, so they were new graphics processors at the time the Macs launched. The Radeon RX 500 series is expected to launch this year and could be destined for the new MacBook Pro models.
2017 MacBook Pro: Screen
The current model has an impressive 4K screen but this is still few pixels than some of the competition.
The 2016 MacBook Pro can output the full DCI P3 colour space used for films for digital cinema output, however, as our colleague on Digital Arts notes in his review: “It’s the Adobe RGB colour space that really matters as this is what’s used internally by tools from Photoshop to Illustrator to Premiere Pro – and again here the MBP is lacking. In our tests with a DataColor Spyder5Elite colorimeter, we found that the MacBook Pro’s screen can output 91 percent of the colours in the Adobe RGB.”
In their tests Dell’s Precision 5510 and the Wacom MobileStudio Pro could output 91 percent of the colours in the Adobe RGB.
In the next version of the MacBook Pro we’d like to see an improvement here.
Another desirable addition to the screen would be touchscreen capabilities, something much of the competition also shares. While Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs said that he felt that touch screens were a bad idea (because they would make your arm ache) there is some value in being able to touch a screen rather than use a mouse or track pad when you are in cramped conditions, such as those in which our colleague on Digital Arts wrote his review.
Apple may have a solution to the touch screen wishes in mind. Apparently the company is looking at hooking an iPad Pro up to a Mac to use it as a Cintiq-like device, according to OSnews.
2017 MacBook Pro: Battery
With Apple pointing to battery life as the reason it won’t offer more RAM in the MacBook Pro you might be wondering whether there is room for improvements to battery life in the next model, or if battery life could (or should) suffer if Apple is to offer a truly pro-level machine.
The 2016 machine offers 10-hours of battery life, as did earlier models. There was some question about the accuracy of this claim earlier in 2017 when Consumer Reports tested the battery life and found that is was less. However, Consumer Reports battery life tests had been influenced by a bug in Safari’s developer mode that consumers wouldn’t be using.
2017 MacBook Pro: Ports
When Apple launched the new MacBook Pro many of the familiar ports disappeared replaced by USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. The headphone jack remained despite being lost from the iPhone and iPad. Will it remain in the next version of the MacBook Pro? Possibly, although it seems likely that Apple will swap it for Lightning or another Thunderbolt 3 port in the future.
2017 MacBook Pro: Touch Bar
The Touch Bar on the high-end 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 editing or using DJ applications, 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 our guide to the Touch Bar: How to use the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro | Touch Bar tips. 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.
Apple is actually said to be exploring additional Retina MacBook Pro models without the Touch Bar, according to OSnews sources. Currently there is one 13in model that ships without the Touch Bar. This is because following the launch of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, orders for refurbished MacBook Pros went through the roof, and this took Apple completely by surprise.
There may be some security issues with the Touch Bar. A report on BGN outlines that Hackers at the Pwn2Own competition have exploited a security hole in Safari and take over the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar gaining root control of the MacOS on a MacBook Pro.
The hackers have sent details of the attack to Apple so the company is likely to have patched it already.
2017 MacBook Pro: Colour
The MacBook Pro series currently comes in two colour finishes: silver and Space Grey, while the MacBook series is available in Gold and Rose Gold as well. It the MacBook Pro ever likely to adopt the gold colour? We think that Apple will continue to offer gold as an option on it’s consumer-focused laptops, but it will keep the more business-like silver and grey for the professional machines.