Cheaper MacBooks with smaller displays might already be in production, and I’ve never wanted a leak to be true more than this

Woman using Apple Macbook Air at table
(Image credit: Africa Studio / Shutterstock)

A new leak coming out of Korea has claimed that Apple is actively developing at least two new MacBook models featuring 12- and 13-inch screens - and that these new laptops will retail for ‘$700 or less’.

If you’re like me and hate the sky-high asking prices for Apple’s hardware (even the popular M2 MacBook Air is overpriced, in my opinion), you’re probably already excited - but we should tread carefully here. The leak originated from a user by the name of yeux1122 on Korean blogging site Naver, who has claimed that supply chain sources are seeing evidence of budget MacBook models with the above display sizes in active production.

As with all leaks and rumors, it’s best to take this news with a hefty side of salt - but I’m really hoping this one is real. While yeux1122 isn’t a source that has been 100% reliable in the past, major Apple leakers like Mark Gurman and Ming-Chi Kuo have already partially corroborated this news; while the original 12-inch MacBook was declared obsolete by Apple earlier this year, rumors have been circulating for a little while that the tech giant might have plans to revive its most compact laptop.

In fact, my colleague Allisa James reported on yeux1122 claiming a 12-inch MacBook was inbound back in February, and a DigiTimes report from last month stated that Apple was working on new low-cost MacBook models. Kuo claimed on X (formerly Twitter) just this week that Apple was considering more affordable MacBooks, although he did add that the company ‘hasn’t decided yet’.

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Cheaper MacBooks could be the solution to Apple’s current problems

Low-cost MacBook models could be the exact right way to go for Apple right now - problems with processor production and a significant decline in global laptop sales (with MacBook sales hit pretty badly) could definitely push Apple towards releasing some more affordable laptops to fill the gap.

MacBook prices haven’t seen a generational drop in quite a while, meaning that buyers on a budget are unlikely to spring for one of Apple’s laptops right now. Kuo and yeux1122 both claim that these budget MacBooks represent a chance for Apple to recoup losses in the laptop market, particularly against cheap laptops in the education sector - like the best Chromebooks. This makes the $700 price target make a lot more sense, given that’s about how much you’d pay for a premium Chromebook.

Apple’s M3 chip is almost here too, with an upcoming event on October 30 promising to reveal some ‘Scary Fast’ new hardware with a gaming angle. I don’t anticipate that we’ll see these cheaper MacBooks there - the focus is more likely to be on high-powered new models, like the rumored M3 MacBook Pro. As for whether these new 12- and 13-inch MacBooks will use M3, that’s anyone’s guess - it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple opts to put unused M2 chips in them instead.

In any case, I really hope these MacBooks make it into mainline production. Apple has long held a reputation for expensive products, and in today’s economy that’s a reputation I would want to ditch, personally.

The only question that remains is… what will these new MacBooks be called? Leakers have notably avoided using the Air and Pro monikers when discussing the low-cost models, so perhaps we’re going to see a return to the simple ‘MacBook 12-inch’ name - or maybe it’ll be something completely different. MacBook mini? MacBook Nano? MacBook Lite? The possibilities are endless.

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Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.