What do Apple's 2021 M1X MacBook Pros need to be counted a success?

How to download and install macOS Big Sur beta to your Mac
How to download and install macOS Big Sur beta to your Mac (Image credit: iMore)

As time ticks away and we trundle through October day-by-day, it's surely only a matter of time before Apple invites us all, virtually, to a MacBook Pro event. A MacBook Pro event that's been rumored for a long time. And one that has the potential to delight and disappoint in equal measure.

If all of the rumors are true, Apple is going to announce new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros with a special new mini-LED display apiece. Inside, we're expecting a fancy, blazing-fast M1X chipset, too. And yes, they'll support more RAM if those same rumors are true. Whatever Apple calls the new chip, expect it to be based on iPhone 13 A15.

In terms of design, a flatter, angular shape is expected similar to that of current iPhone models, while the return of HDMI and an SD card slot are also being spoken of. The same goes for the return of MagSafe or, at least, some version of it.

All of this sounds pretty sweet, right? But whether we get all of this remains to be seen. My question is this — how much of this needs to come to pass in order for the new MacBook Pro to be considered a winner? Or more accurately, what would you live without while not being too disappointed?

For me, well, I'm not too sure. I'm not too fussed about the arrival of mini-LED if I'm being absolutely honest. I like the idea of smaller bezels though, so maybe that isn't the one to go.

Faster chips? I'm a sucker for a fast CPU and being able to configure globs of RAM is something that truly makes a Pro Mac something that's a cut above the others, like the M1 MacBook Air in this case.

Macbook Air M1

Macbook Air M1 (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

What about ports? I don't need any sort of SD card slot, so that could go. And the days of plugging into a monitor via HDMI are long gone for me, too. But I think I'm the odd one out there and I know photographers and videographers would be very upset if that didn't materialize. So we better keep that around.

The design? Nobody really says the old one was bad, apart from the Touch Bar of course. And that's said to be going the way of the dodo anyway.

So where does that leave us? Nowhere, really. It turns out that everything that's rumored for a new M1X MacBook Pro is pretty great and everyone, in some way or another, will benefit from the changes we've been promised by the leakers. If we get what we've been hearing about for so long it'll surely be the best Mac — or portable Mac — we've ever seen.

This brings us to the elephant in the room — Apple Watch Series 7. If everyone got the MacBook Pro rumors as wrong as they got the Apple Watch rumors, we could be in for a rough time.

Fingers crossed the watch was the one-off, not the new rule.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • If Apple relaunches the current MacBook Pro with an M1X (or whatever they call it) with performance matching the rumors - especially the GPU - I’d be happy. Anything more than that would be a bonus,
  • Yeah,
    • faster CPU performance
    • Multiple monitor support. GPU Perf, don't care that much, as long as it adequately drives 2 32 inch 4K monitors with Displayport from a T-bolt port.
    • lotsa RAM,
    • bigger battery so it gets close to the M1 13" MBP battery life. Weight is relatively unimportant. Battery life and adequate cooling are incredibly important. That's it. Everything change that is visual, that you can see without turning it on (color, shape of case, shrinking bezels, etc.) is yawn, yawn, ywan. This should be a 'Pro' refresh cycle, which means form *follows* function, PLEASE.
  • I'm greedy. M1x SoC, 32 core GPU, mini-LED display, SD Cards slot, at least a 1080p webcam, at least 32 GB RAM, and at least 2 TB SSD. Decent cooling for the SoC and GPUs is a must. I'd love at *least* one USB-A slot and USB-C charging. Don't care (much) about Magsafe or HDMI - if the battery life's good enough I won't be carrying a charger with me (which is where I'd care about Magsafe). I'd *love* to have Avalanch and Blizzard cores, thought I suppose for this (now very late) M1x we'll probably have to settle for Firestorm and Icestorm cores. I *assume* we'll have a M1x CPU chip with separate 16 core GPU chipsets (to improve yield), all connected with memory on a high speed fabric on a new package-on-package configuration.
  • Personally I’m torn with Apple generally at the moment. I run a 2019 MBP with Egpu daily. I’ve owned a couple of Mac Pros and 4 MBP laptops over the last decade. I miss Steve Jobs and his push towards engineering innovation. Bringing back things they have taken away doesn’t really excite me. The led screens are currently pretty long in the tooth. I’ve started to investigate other platforms and using either Window or Linux for my work. I want expandability and the Mac Pro is currently far too expensive where I live in Australia. Starting entry of $10k for essentially a $2k PC. Unless Apple adds eGPU support back in the next 2 years I’m probably out. OLED screen would be icing on the cake. Not really sold on MiniLED. It’s a stop gap so why bother.
  • The "Steve Jobs" thing is a tired mantra for those who just don't like Apple, fyi. Putting aside that "innovation" for a long existing product, a laptop, will come in unapparent or smaller forms, yea how lacking in innovation when a laptop switches to ARM architecture to frequently provide higher benchmarks at a fraction of the wattage. For example of a lack of innovation I give you the M1 MacBook Air. No moving parts, no vents, no fans, small form factor that consistently beats X86 competition in benchmarks (certainly same in class) while, again, using a fraction of the power that enables incredible battery life in that small form factor.
    I'd say your repeatedly constant buying of MacBooks post Steve Jobs were not a good choice, most especially now that Apple is doing nothing with their MacBooks You should go get an X86 machine where innovation is unbridled and that whole architecture is just teeming with growth. It's just better place for some users.
  • Like many I don’t see the point of returning to legacy ports (apart from SD card slot for serious photographers out there), I get the feeling it’s to entice Windows laptop users over; Apple spent the last few years training us to take the appropriate cables and dongles with us so we probably won’t use the legacy ports. I personally like and use Touch-bar a lot so will miss it, I don’t understand those who complain about the lack of function keys (never used them cause I couldn’t remember what they did) but the Touch Bar can be set to function that way anyway. Seems I am in a minority and so I will miss it. I’m not convinced by the mini LED display. Although they would look great, I find that my 2021 iPad Pro 12.9” battery drains much faster than my 2018 version and think it’s the minLED display that’s the culprit. I don’t want another MacBook that chugs juice worse than my 2019 MacBook - only had 4 hours normal use out of that from day one and Apple can’t find any problem with it on both occasions I’ve taken it back. Battery life using real day to day apps will be the decider for me.