2016 MacBook Pro event preview!

Please join us for a special invitation-only event at the Apple campus in Cupertino on Thursday, October 27.

The invitations are out! After skipping October last year and saying goodbye to Town Hall back in March, Apple is opening up their Infinite Loop venue one last time, for one more event. Widely anticipated is the new MacBook Pro, but hope are also high for updated iMacs, Macs Mini, Macs Pro, 5K displays, and more.

iMore will be there to bring it all to you live, but for now, here are my best guesses!

When is it?

Thursday, October 27, 2016 starting at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET.

Will Apple stream it?

They've streamed every event for the last few years, so it's close to a lock you'll be able to watch on Apple.com or through the Events app on Apple TV.

Where is the event?

Town Hall, part of Apple's Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino, California.

So, new MacBook Pro, right? RIGHT?!


Apple last updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro back in March of 2015 with then-current generation Intel Broadwell processors. There were no chips appropriate for the 15-inch MacBook Pro at the time, so in May of 2016 Apple updated it with previous-generation Haswell processors. A month later, Intel shipped those chips. That's a stark reminder of how dependent Macs remain on Intel processor roadmaps — and sometimes the roadmaps of graphics processor vendors like AMD as well.

Intel has since introduced the next-generation Skylake, which Apple adopted it for the 12-inch MacBook in March of 2015, but hasn't updated either the 13-inch or 15-inch MacBooks Pro with it.

Microsoft did choose to go with Skylake for its SurfaceBook convertible, but it was plagued with issues, including a failure for the machines to sleep, which caused them to get incredibly hot in bags.

Like with the MacBooks Air, Apple's design for the Pro has been largely emulated by the industry at large, and merely bumping the specs to current generation chips isn't that interesting anymore. That's why rumors have included DCI-P3 displays, OLED function rows, Touch ID fingerprint identity sensors, and beam-forming mics capable of handling "Hey, Siri!"

Some of that would require incredibly tight integration with Intel, especially if Touch ID is really in the cards. You need to protect that data from the sensor to the secure element, and that token from the secure element to the Keychain. On iPhone, Apple controls all the silicon and can do it themselves. On Mac, no such luck. At least not yet.

Either way, new MacBooks Pro are the closest we have to a sure thing going into the October event.

What about MacBooks Air? Retina?

Yosemite 1Password on MacBook Pro

Yosemite 1Password on MacBook Pro (Image credit: iMore)

If you have your breath, I wouldn't hold it. When Steve Jobs pulled the original MacBook Air from a manila envelope at Macworld 2008, it reset all expectations. The current 2011 design has been unabashedly adopted by almost every other manufacturer on the planet. It's become iconic. But it's also an icon that's reaching the end of the line.

The new MacBook has replaced the old MacBook Air as lightest laptop in Apple's lineup, just like the Air replaced the old MacBook. The Air exists now to fill Apple's "starting at $899" price point, much as the old MacBook did before it was retired.

Once the a second revision of the MacBook — and it's Retina display — comes down in price, it'll likely do to the MacBook Air what the MacBook Air did to the old MacBook — replace it.

Never say never, but I think we've seen the last of major new Air revisions.

And the new MacBook?

Apple already bumped the 12-inch MacBook this year, taking it up to a current-generation Intel Skylake Core-M processor. Intel crippled the m3 enough that you can feel it struggle at times, but the m5, and especially the m7, are fast enough for any mainstream computing needs. The current MacBook is still aspirational, the way the original MacBook Air was, but it'll become everyday soon enough, just like the 2011 MacBook Air redesign did.

It'd be great if Apple introduced a 14-inch MacBook as well, setting it up as a full-on Air replacement. If that happens, it'll be when everything is in place to properly drive the bigger screen experience, even if the mainstream price points are still to come.

So, likely not this month, but hopefully next go around.

What about the iMac?

For the last couple of years, the iMac has been updated in October. In 2014 that included the introduction of the 27-inch Retina 5K iMac. In 2015, the introduction of the 21.5-inch Retina 4K iMac and the update of both sizes to DCI-P3 wide-gamut color space.

The 27-inch model has current-generation Intel Skylake processors, though the 21.5-inch was introduced with previous-generation Broadwell processors. That's thanks to Intel not producing Skylake processors with the integrated Iris graphics appropriate for the 21.5 inch. How Apple addresses that this year will be interesting to see.

If Apple keeps to pattern, we'll get a bumped 27-inch iMac this month... and we'll see what Apple can do with the 21.5-inch.

And the Mac mini?

Apple's bring-your-own-mouse-and-keyboard Mac, the mini, hasn't been updated since 2014's unibody model. It's currently on Intel's two-generations-back Haswell architecture as well. There was no Broadwell update and, so far, there's been no Haswell update, much less Skylake.

Mac mini hasn't been on a yearly update cycle since 2012. It skipped 2013 and skipped 2015. It's never skipped two years, though, far as I can recall.

While beloved by Apple-centric home theater enthusiasts and those who want Mac servers at home, it's primarily positioned as the least expensive point of entry for Mac desktops. It's easy to think that probably makes it low on the attention list, but there could be more at play here, as well.

Either way, I'm hoping we get an updated Mac mini this month as well. It's a great little machine but needs to be kept modern.

Dare I ask — the Mac Pro?!

The New Mac Pro was first shown off with "no longer innovating my ass" fanfare back at WWDC 2013 and it first started shipping at the end of the year. Since then, nothing.

Xeon chips are used in the Mac Pro, but Apple chose not to update when the Haswell versions were introduced. Apple has also chosen not to upgrade the graphics cards for the last few years either, which could, on a machine designed for OpenCL, have improved performance despite no GPU update.

It's possible Apple's been waiting on Xeon Broadwell or even Skylake to update. That'd be a long, long time between updates, though, especially for the high-end customers who want or need bleeding edge performance — the very customers Mac Pro is designed for.

One more thing: iPads Pro?

Last fall Apple introduced the 12-inch iPad Pro with USB-3 speed Lightning connector. This past spring Apple introduced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro without USB-3 speed but with DCI-P3 display, 12 megapixel camera, rose gold option, and True Tone color matching.

I'd love, love, love for Apple to give both iPads — and the iPad mini — all the same stats, so it goes back to simply choosing the right size for you. I'd also love, love, love to see what an Apple A10X Fusion chipset could do in the already impressive Pro line. (Aside from giving Intel another round of fits, that is.)

Alas, that might be more of a spring 2017 thing.

How much longer do I have to wait?!

Not much! Everything kicks off next week Thursday! So, keep it locked to iMore!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.