By Dan Moren
October 31, 2016 2:14 PM PT
By request: What to expect when you’re expecting new Macs
I think it was Subscriber Neal who once wrote so eloquently, “Tell us all about the new Macs Apple will announce between now and when you publish.”
Well, Subscriber Neal, some bad news for you: as of this writing, Apple still hasn’t announced its new Macs, only the event at which it will announce said new Macs. So while we can’t detail for you all the exciting introductions of the coming week—which, of course, we totally completely know, obviously because we are super well-informed—we can at least speculate about what such announcements might entail for all our favorite Macs.
MacBook: Of all of Apple’s PC lines, the MacBook got the most recent updates, having received a bump back in April to a new Skylake processor. It might be a bit soon for it to get refreshed once again, but a speed increase is certainly not out of the question. If you’re hoping for it to finally get another USB-C port too, well, I’d guess you’re probably out of luck.
MacBook Pro: Voted most likely to receive an update by the assembled Apple press, if only because there have been a ton of supposed leaks. The most recent reports suggest a chassis with 4 USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, a Touch ID sensor, and a “Magic Toolbar”—the much-rumored OLED touch-enabled strip above the keyboard. It seems reasonable to expect some processor upgrades here, since the newest models were introduced in May of last year and feature the fourth-generation Haswell and fifth-generation Broadwell architectures. Open questions include whether they’ll still include any legacy ports—the headphone jack, maybe?—and how exactly Apple will sell the idea of the Magic Toolbar.
MacBook Air: There’s a big question mark next to Apple’s popular consumer-level laptops. The writing’s probably on the wall for them as the 12-inch MacBook gets more competent, but we may not have heard their death rattle quite yet. Might they get some processor bumps and USB-C, living to fight another day? It doesn’t really seem as though the 12-inch MacBook is quite ready to pick up the Air’s slack, from a performance or price standpoint, though perhaps Apple might pull a branding switcheroo and provide an updated entry-level laptop without the Air name. Duh duh DUHHHHHH!
iMac: We’ve seen new iMacs at Apple’s last two October events, so we wouldn’t bet against seeing another revision now. As with Apple’s laptop line, it’s likely such a refresh would include USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, though if any Mac would retain legacy ports, it seems like it would be its flagship desktop. (Space is less of a concern on the desktop, and there are probably more accessories connected to iMacs than MacBooks.) A newer processor and GPU bump for the iMac would seem a good bet as well, and we’d certainly like to see base memory upped from the somewhat paltry 8GB across the board.
Mac mini: If it got stage time, we’d be delighted—the little headless Mac is a perennial survivor that rarely gets time in the spotlight, but we’d take a press release speed bump as well. The mini’s last revision was at the October 2014 event, and Apple does seem to refresh the model roughly every couple years. Better processors, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3…you know the drill by now. These little machines keep ticking along: they clearly fill a niche for Apple, else they wouldn’t keep making them.
Mac Pro: The state of this line is totally untenable. It’s a three-year-old machine that is supposed to be cutting edge and it costs an astounding $3000. Apple badly needs to either refresh the Mac Pro or cut it loose to go live on the farm with the PowerMac G5. New processors, new ports, new GPU—this thing needs the works. It’s hard to believe that anybody’s buying a Mac Pro at the current price/performance point. Either Apple wants to play in this market or it doesn’t—time for the company to decide. I’d bet on a refresh, though one hopes that whatever revisions the company rolls out won’t also have to go three years without an update.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]