There’s a long list of head-scratching decisions surrounding the otherwise-excellent new MacBook Pro. One of the strangest is the processor decision. After waiting five years to give us a new Pro, why couldn’t Apple wait a couple more months to get the newest and best processor that Intel has to offer?
We won’t ever have a full answer to that, but very shortly, we will know what we’re missing out on. Reports have suggested that Intel’s much-awaited Kaby Lake laptop processors are set to land at the Consumer Electronics Show this year.
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A report from Digitimes, an outlet that tends to be reliable with supply-chain rumors, has the high-performance laptop Kaby Lake chips arriving in computers at CES. Manufacturers like Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and Lenovo are reportedly planning on using the chips in higher-performance ultrabooks and gaming laptops to be unveiled at the show.
Kaby Lake processors promise marginally better performance for all-around use and slightly better battery life, but much better efficiency and power at specialized applications. Intel tends to make significant improvements in its processors year-on-year, so any laptop running a Kaby Lake chip will have an advantage right out of the blocks over a Skylake-powered computer (cough, MacBook Pro).
Even worse for Apple, Nvidia’s laptop-sized 1050 GPU is expected to debut in laptops alongside the new Kaby Lake processors. A good discrete GPU will make a laptop much faster at graphics-intensive processes like games, but also image processing or modelling. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is stuck with a Skylake chip and no discrete GPU, which competitively-priced (if slightly heavier) Windows laptops will be packing a brand-new processor and graphics card.
That’s going to make life difficult for Apple and the new 13-inch Pro, which is already being branded as a “Pro” laptop that doesn’t live up to the name. Unfortunately, given how long it took Apple to add a small touchscreen and remove a bunch of ports, I wouldn’t expect it to incorporate a GPU into the 13-inch Pro for quite a while.