New MacBook Pro 2024 laptops might come with a surprise upgrade other than the M4 chip – faster Thunderbolt ports (or maybe more of them)

MacBook Pro 14 M3 Max (2023)
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Apple’s next MacBook Pro models, expected to debut later this year with the new M4 chip, could have more ports – or more likely, the same number of ports, but with a major boost in bandwidth.

This speculation – and it is just that at this stage – was aired in an exchange on X spotted by Wccftech, in which a die shot of the M4 chip is compared to one of the M3.

The seemingly clear enough takeaway here is that the M4 appears to have twice as many Thunderbolt controllers, meaning four of them, instead of two controllers which is the loadout with the M3.

So, the question is – if this does turn out to be the case with the M4 silicon – what might Apple be planning to achieve by ramping up that controller count?

Analysis: Beefier ports, not more of them – most likely

With four Thunderbolt controllers, that raises the possibility that Apple could equip the MacBook Pro with more Thunderbolt ports, upping the number from three to four possibly.

However, we think that’s less likely than the other scenario we mentioned at the outset. Namely that the port count would remain the same, but the additional controllers could allow Apple to double up on the available bandwidth (to 160Gbps in total).

What would that mean in practice for the next-gen MacBook Pro M4? Well, with more bandwidth to tap with those Thunderbolt connectors, it’d facilitate hooking up high-res monitors running at faster refresh rates. That’s important for creative professionals using these Apple laptops, as they may work with some pretty beefy displays.

From what we’ve heard so far, the next MacBook Pros might stick with much the same formula as the current iterations, and the main upgrade would be the switch to the M4 silicon – but at least this is another seemingly likely benefit for these laptops that professional users will certainly appreciate.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).