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An updated MacBook Pro is coming soon. Here’s everything we want from it

Not long ago, a rumored Apple event was scheduled for March 31, promising a slew of new products including an updated MacBook Pro. Since then, nearly every event where groups of people would come into contact with each other has been canceled in the wake of the coronavirus.

A new MacBook Pro is still coming, though — and recent reports indicate it could come as early as this week. The update comes on the heels of the successful 16-inch MacBook Pro, leaving us optimistic for the future of the MacBook Pro. Here’s everything we hope to see in this spring’s update.

Will it have a 14-inch screen?

If you believe the rumors, a 14-inch MacBook Pro is on its way. This redesign would follow in the footsteps of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, bringing thinner bezels into the mix. Don’t expect them to be as tiny as some of its rival laptops, but they would be an improvement over the current design.

The thinner bezels also leave room for a slightly larger screen without growing the overall size of the laptop by too much. So yes, the possibility that the 13-inch MacBook Pro will morph into the 14-inch MacBook Pro is fairly high. This 14-inch MacBook Pro is also rumored to come with a new mini-LED screen, a display technology that rivals the OLED screens that other laptops have moved to.

However, there’s still a chance that Apple could be waiting a bit longer for this bigger update to the smaller MacBook Pro. Reports have indicated that the 14-inch could be launched later this year at a fall event, which would be mean this spring update would keep the same 13-inch size as previous years.

A superior keyboard

It’s no secret that Apple’s butterfly keyboard has been unpopular, with numerous reports of its high failure rate dogging it over the years. Since 2016, the company has been trying to fix its issues with each new MacBook Pro, but in the end it was forced to replace it with a newly developed “Magic Keyboard” in the MacBook Pro 16. This keyboard has a more conventional feel, with 1mm of travel, more space between each key, an inverted T-shaped set of arrow keys, and even a physical Escape key.

We’re almost certain this keyboard will come to the MacBook Pro 13. The reception to the new set of keys was almost universally positive, with our review lauding it as “the best Mac keyboard ever released” and a step above even the excellent keyboard on the 2015 MacBook Pro.

Given that upbeat reception from all corners, it seems like a dead certainty that Apple will ditch the butterfly keyboard in its smaller MacBook Pro and replace it with the new Magic Keyboard. For some people, that alone may be enough to convince them to pull the trigger and buy one.

Processor possibilities: Could Apple switch to AMD?

AMD Ryzen 4000 Series

Apple usually bumps up the processor with every MacBook Pro iteration, but there are hints that this year’s 13-inch model could have a more meaningful upgrade than most years. That would help it make a real statement of intent to users and rivals alike.

There are three main schools of thought here: The first is that Apple will stick with Intel, offering a small processor upgrade to the 10th-gen Ice Lake chips. This is still the most likely outcome. It’s entirely possible that Apple is looking to switch to either AMD or ARM chips in the MacBook Pro, but that it’s not yet ready to give the green light on this project.

The second option is more dramatic: A switch to Intel’s archrival, AMD. In early February 2020, MacOS beta code was unearthed that made references to AMD’s “Renoir” processors. This is the code name for the company’s Ryzen 4000 generation of chips, which offer up to eight cores and 16 threads, all at a tiny 15-watt power draw. We’ve previously argued that putting these AMD chips in a MacBook Pro would be amazing due to the favorable power-to-performance ratio.

Lastly, it’s been rumored that Apple is in the middle of a transition to using its own ARM-based chips in future MacBooks. This will happen at some point in the future, and it could be as soon as later this year. The company is reportedly fed up with Intel missing deadlines, resulting in MacBooks shipping with outdated chips, and is apparently ready to take matters into its own hands.

However, we think it’s more likely Apple will launch its own ARM chips in a MacBook Air rather than a Pro, and that it’ll first see the light of day at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Apple will move the MacBook Pro over to ARM in the future, but probably not in this spring update.

An all-new cooling system

Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro 16 was slightly thicker than its 15-inch predecessor — a mere 0.03 inches chubbier, to be precise — but that size increase allowed for a hugely important change: An all-new thermal architecture.

In our review, we found the results to be staggering. Using the same processor as the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro, the 16-inch version managed to render a 4K clip in Premiere Pro in half the time of its predecessor. That’s a dramatic example of what the new thermal system is capable of, and suggests the throttling issues of the past could be far behind the MacBook Pro.

Bringing this cooling system to the MacBook Pro 13 would have obvious benefits. Aside from enabling better processor performance by keeping the device’s chip cool under pressure, it would also help reduce the impact on battery life. Anything that can give a few more hours of use in a portable laptop is encouraging in our book.

Better battery life

Speaking of battery life, this is another area where we’d like to see some serious improvements, as the MacBook Pro 13 has been struggling to keep up with its rivals in this department. The 2016 model dropped the battery capacity from 74.9 watt-hours to 49.2 watt-hours; although that was bumped up to 58 watt-hours in 2018, it’s still some way behind alternatives like the 13-inch Surface Book 2, which lasted a whopping 17 hours in our video playback test.

Luckily, Apple nixed this worrying trend with the MacBook Pro 16. We alluded to the slightly thicker chassis of this device earlier in relation to its thermal architecture, but the increased dimensions also allow for a much larger battery — the largest ever in a MacBook, in fact, hitting the 100 watt-hour maximum set by the Federal Aviation Administration for being able to take laptops on airplanes.

Instead of keeping performance improvements modest in order to eke out the maximum battery life in the MacBook Pro 16, Apple opted to use the larger battery as permission to increase the raw power inside its laptop. We’d expect similar things in the MacBook Pro 13 – while we don’t expect world-beating battery life, we’re hopeful a larger battery will result in a noticeable power surge over previous models.

What else do we want to see?

Laptops aren’t usually known for their speakers, but the MacBook Pro 16 is a remarkable exception, with our review declaring it to have “by far the best speakers you can find on a laptop.” We’d love for Apple to make it a double whammy by outfitting the MacBook Pro 13 with the same incredible audio setup.

Elsewhere, we’re disappointed that, years after its demise, Apple still hasn’t brought out a USB-C version of MagSafe. The clever charging tech saved untold numbers of laptops from being thrown to the floor when plugged in, and its absence is sorely missed. We know it’s possible — Griffin Technology has had a USB-C equivalent called BreakSafe since 2016, and Apple has patented a similar idea. We’d love to see Apple adapt MagSafe for the USB-C MacBook Pro 13.

On the subject of USB-C, we would also love to see more ports. Right now, the two cheapest MacBook Pro 13 models only have two Thunderbolt 3 ports apiece, and you must spend upward of $1,800 if you want four. Given the purpose of a laptop is to be a mobile workstation that can connect to whatever devices you need wherever you happen to be working, two ports just aren’t enough these days. If Apple outfitted the entry-level MacBook Pro 13 with four USB-C ports, it’d be a step in the right direction.

Other additions to our wish list include Face ID, an improved Touch Bar, and some more color options.

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