It looks like Apple could be planning a major redesign for the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021), with the latest word on the grapevine suggesting that Apple could be killing off the Touch Bar, and bring back the MagSafe charger.
The Touch Bar is a thin touchscreen that runs along the top of the MacBook Pro’s keyboard, offering context-sensitive touch buttons and shortcuts, that change depending on what app you’re using.
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Since the Touch Bar’s debut with the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2016), opinion has been firmly split over the benefits of the feature. While some people find it a useful addition, other users have complained that it’s not as good as the physical buttons it replaced, and that it adds extra cost to the MacBook while just being a gimmick.
According to a report by Bloomberg, Apple is testing versions of new MacBook Pros that drop the Touch Bar. While this doesn’t mean the Touch Bar’s days are numbered, it does at least hint that Apple is considering releasing a Touch Bar-free version. This will be welcome news for people who dislike the feature, as it could give them an option of buying a new MacBook without it.
This may mean we get MacBook Pro models with the Touch Bar and without. However, the Touch Bar is only as useful as the third party apps that make use of it. Rightly or wrongly, by ensuring that every MacBook Pro comes with the Touch Bar, Apple was at least able to convince third party app makers to integrate the tool into their applications.
However, if the Touch Bar once again becomes optional, and an increasing number of people opt for the non-Touch Bar option, Apple may struggle to convince app makers to add Touch Bar support, which could in turn make the Touch Bar less useful.
It’s certainly a fine line that Apple has to tread here.
Another big change to the 2021 lineup of MacBook Pros, according to Bloomberg, relates to how they are charged. It appears that Apple is considering reintroducing the MagSafe charger.
This was a proprietary connection that quickly and easily connected, and disconnected, to a MacBook via a magnet. If the cable was accidentally pulled, the MagSafe connector would safely come away from the MacBook without damaging it.
Recent MacBooks ditched MagSafe for charging via USB-C port. While this allowed you to charge a MacBook via other USB-C chargers if you had forgot your own, some people missed the MagSafe charger – not just because of the magnetic connection, but also because it charged the MacBooks more quickly.
While it’s possible Apple is looking to reintroduce the MagSafe charger, we hope it still allows charging via USB-C as well.
The Bloomberg report also seemingly confirms that Apple will be releasing redesigned MacBook Pros in two sizes in 2021 with a 16-inch model and a new 14-inch model as well.
According to Bloomberg’s source, these new MacBook Pros will come with upgraded versions of Apple’s M1 chip, which debuted to great acclaim last year with the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) and Mac mini (M1, 2020).
If true, it means Apple will no longer use chips from Intel for its most powerful MacBook Pros as well.
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.