Apple's MacBook refresh buys time for bigger changes

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2017
Overshadowed by new hardware "sneak peeks" and software news, Apple on Monday updated its MacBook and MacBook Pro lineups with Intel Kaby Lake processors, while giving the MacBook Air a minor speed boost.




With today's refresh, all MacBook models, from the 13-inch MacBook Air to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, receive processor upgrades to keep their performance in line with the competition.

Starting at the top, Apple is giving the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar the Intel Kaby Lake treatment. The high-end laptop is now available with seventh-generation Core i7 processors that range from 2.8GHz quad-core to 3.1GHz quad-core variants.

Kaby Lake operates on the same core as sixth-gen Skylake processors, but is built on a 14 nanometer process and is able to achieve higher clock rates. The CPU family also features onboard support for HEVC encoding and decoding, an important consideration with Apple moving from H.264 to H.265 in macOS 10.13 High Sierra.

Apple is also making a change to its flagship notebook's graphics capabilities, and is offering AMD's Radeon Pro 555 discrete GPU with 2GB of memory as a standard option. The more powerful Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB of RAM is available as an add-on.

Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar also gets Kaby Lake chips with dual core i5 options clocked at 3.1GHz and 3.3GHz. The series maxes out with a 3.5GHz dual core i7 chip with Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz. Graphics duties are handled by an integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 chip.

Sitting below the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar are two function key configurations that come kitted with 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processors and Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 components. A 2.5GHz dual-core Core i7 CPU is available as an option.

To help boost adoption, Apple is offering a low-end configuration of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys for $1,299. This particular model swaps out the usual 256GB SSD for a 128GB module, shaving $200 off the asking price.

The 12-inch MacBook also sees processor upgrades starting with a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 CPU, while a higher tier version is configurable up to a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor. In addition to the speed boosts, Apple said the ultraportable now benefits from speedy SSDs that are 50 percent faster than predecessor models.

Finally, the long-in-the-tooth 13-inch MacBook Air receives a faster 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, which can be upgraded to a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 chip.

All in all, Apple's MacBook updates are minor at best, keeping the laptop family within striking distance of comparable Windows notebooks. For now, it seems Apple is content to maintain the status quo as it readies a major revamp speculated to arrive in 2018.

Over the weekend, an alleged "Foxconn insider" dumped a mountain of information regarding supposed future Apple products, MacBook among them. The anonymous source claims future MacBooks, presumably Pro models, will feature keys with built-in e-ink displays, extending the idea of a configurable Touch Bar down into the keyboard. Apple is also purportedly working to increase the amount of onboard RAM to 32GB, double what is currently offered on the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

As previously noted by AppleInsider, the e-ink keyboard reportedly up for inclusion in future MacBooks is actually technology developed by a firm tied to Foxconn's accelerator program. That company, Sonder, confirmed the e-ink device is a standalone product that, as of October, was not being considered for inclusion in an Apple product.

That being said, Apple does hold a number of patents relating to configurable laptop and desktop keyboards. A future MacBook could incorporate e-ink, or more likely LCD, technology to achieve results demonstrated with other devices like Art Lebedev's Optimus keyboard, but a 2018 release seems overly optimistic.

In the near term, Apple is more likely to launch a minor design revamp and concentrate on internal component improvements. For example, reports in February claimed the company is developing an ARM chip that can handle low-power functions offloaded from the main CPU, facilitating energy-efficient features like Power Nap.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    viclauyycviclauyyc Posts: 352member
    The i7 chip for 3.1 gHz call i7-7920HQ, which supports 64GB Ram.

    Still this MBP only supports 16G RAM.

    Maybe I just wait a little longer.
    edited June 2017 williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 40
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,336member
    viclauyyc said:
    Still 16G RAM.

    Maybe I just wait a little longer.
    As been discussed ad naseum, this is due to a limitation in the Intel chipset, not Apple... unless they wanted to go back on the new form factor and thermal threshold (doubtful)
    pscooter63Rayz2016Soliwatto_cobrachiawilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 40
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,366member
    These e-ink keyboard thingies: they are still mechanical keys that move, right? Not like an iPad/iPhone keyboard?
  • Reply 4 of 40
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,631member
    eightzero said:
    These e-ink keyboard thingies: they are still mechanical keys that move, right? Not like an iPad/iPhone keyboard?
    Yes they're real keyboards with a small display on top of each key. Though there is no telling what Apple will release when they're ready. 
    watto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 40
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 593member
    Mac laptops are the only thing I felt disappointed in yesterday's WWDC.  Hopefully next year we will get something like hex-core Xeon with ECC capabilities.

    Although Coffee Lake still won't support LPDDR4 and that sucks...
    edited June 2017 williamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 40
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,631member
    DuhSesame said:
    Mac laptops are the only thing I felt disappointed in yesterday's WWDC.  Hopefully next year we will get something like hex-core Xeon with ECC capabilities.

    Although Coffee Lake still won't support LPDDR4 and that sucks...
    I'm buying myself a new 15-inch MacBook Pro … because I'm worth it :-)
    Soliwatto_cobrachiawilliamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 40
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,631member

    eightzero said:
    These e-ink keyboard thingies: they are still mechanical keys that move, right? Not like an iPad/iPhone keyboard?
    I suspect (no evidence) that Apple is aiming for a completely flat surface that can change depending on the context and the task. I think they'll use haptic feedback to come up with a pretty good impersonation of a key being pressed. 
    watto_cobracali
  • Reply 8 of 40
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,970member
    viclauyyc said:
    The i7 chip for 3.1 gHz call i7-7920HQ, which supports 64GB Ram.

    Still this MBP only supports 16G RAM.

    Maybe I just wait a little longer.
    You're claiming that the i7-7920HQ supports up to 64 GiB LPDDR4 RAM?

    Do you have proof of this?
  • Reply 9 of 40
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    Apple should replace the old USB 3.0 or 3.1 generation 1 by the new USB 3.1 Generation 2 (10 Gbps) in all models.
  • Reply 10 of 40
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 593member
    Rayz2016 said:
    DuhSesame said:
    Mac laptops are the only thing I felt disappointed in yesterday's WWDC.  Hopefully next year we will get something like hex-core Xeon with ECC capabilities.

    Although Coffee Lake still won't support LPDDR4 and that sucks...
    I'm buying myself a new 15-inch MacBook Pro … because I'm worth it :-)
    it will works just fine.  I just want to see more improvements.
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 11 of 40
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 593member

    Soli said:
    viclauyyc said:
    The i7 chip for 3.1 gHz call i7-7920HQ, which supports 64GB Ram.

    Still this MBP only supports 16G RAM.

    Maybe I just wait a little longer.
    You're claiming that the i7-7920HQ supports up to 64 GiB LPDDR4 RAM?

    Do you have proof of this?
    Not the LPDDR4, but the maximum capacity that the Kaby Lake can support is 64GB.
  • Reply 12 of 40
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 593member
    I wonder if they can put another groups of LPDDR3 on and make it 32G.  The current "16G" was actually two groups of 8GB combined together, and the processor can support up to four groups of them.

    the question is whether the power consumption will still hold up, as well whether a good choice or not (Four groups of LPDDR3 might use more power than any other 32G system.)
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 13 of 40
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,970member
    DuhSesame said:

    Soli said:
    viclauyyc said:
    The i7 chip for 3.1 gHz call i7-7920HQ, which supports 64GB Ram.

    Still this MBP only supports 16G RAM.

    Maybe I just wait a little longer.
    You're claiming that the i7-7920HQ supports up to 64 GiB LPDDR4 RAM?

    Do you have proof of this?
    Not the LPDDR4, but the maximum capacity that the Kaby Lake can support is 64GB.
    Right, but that's not low power RAM so you're not going to see it in an Apple laptop.
  • Reply 14 of 40
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,295member
    Although it's not my main Mac by any means, just got to give a shout out to my 2010 i7 15" MBP that is now running High Sierra developer beta like a champ.  The only upgrade it has is the removal of the optical player and a 500 GB internal SSD.  It is very fast with 10.13 indeed.  So far no issues.

    Kudos to Apple for making CNN's web site useable again!  No more self starting videos... yay!
    williamlondonGeorgeBMacjasenj1pscooter63caliviclauyyc
  • Reply 15 of 40
    I think the title is misleading, I wouldn't say Apple buys time but instead Apple upgraded a little late for the time. This update should have been done months before through its website. Apple should have unveiled only the iMac Pro yesterday. 
  • Reply 16 of 40
    Nameo_Nameo_ Posts: 34member
    disappointed they didn't add TB to the 12" Macbook. Also it didn't get a JB finish as another color option. Hopefully next year.
  • Reply 17 of 40
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,968member
    Macbook Pro 13" starting at sweet spot base price of $1299 is welcome news. Hoped, Apple added one extra USB-C port on other side and kept 256gb storage in base price. That would have been no-brainer an excellent choice of Macbook Pro for millions of highschool/College students as well for casual notebook users.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 18 of 40
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,103member
    Is there a reason the MacBook is still $1299? You'd think they could get the price down on that and finally kill the Air once and for all. I hate when products hang around just to meet a price point.
  • Reply 19 of 40
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 916member
    I am surprised that the MBA got a CPU speed boost. I was expecting it to be discontinued at any moment. This almost certainly means another six months of life.
    cali
  • Reply 20 of 40
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,751member
    I bet they sell multiple MBAs for very MacBook 
    waverboybigpics
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