Today at their annual Worldwide Developer Conference, the company announced a slew of hardware updates for their entire range of laptops. Every last laptop, from the mighty MacBook Pro to the humble MacBook Air is getting some sort of CPU or platform update. As a result, Apple has a full family of refreshed laptops for the summer, all of which improve on their predecessor in one or more ways.

We’ll start with the MacBook Pro and MacBook, Apple’s two modern laptop families. Both of these laptops have received their long-awaited update to Intel’s 7th generation Kaby Lake platform. Kaby Lake, for a quick refresher, uses the same Skylake CPU core as Intel’s 6th gen Skylake platform, but enjoys a modest frequency boost due to Intel's 14nm+ manufacturing process. Meanwhile on the graphics side of matters, all of these CPUs come with a newer media block that offers full hardware encode and decode of 10-bit HEVC. This is an important distinction since Apple will be supporting HEVC on macOS 10.13 High Sierra. There are no other major changes to the underlying Kaby Lake platform, so other than the clockspeed boost and improved media decoder, Kaby Lake is a conceptually simple update from Skylake.

2017 MacBook Lineup
Model 2016 (Base) 2017 (Base)
Dimensions 0.35 - 1.31 cm x 28.05 cm x 19.65 cm
Weight 2.03 lbs (0.92 kg)
CPU Intel Core
m3-6Y30 (Skylake), cTDP Up
Base: 1.1GHz
Boost: 2.2GHz
Intel Core
m3-7Y32 (Kaby Lake), cTDP Up
Base: 1.2GHz
Boost: 3.0GHz
GPU Intel HD Graphics 515 Intel HD Graphics 615
Display 12-inch 2304x1440 IPS LCD
sRGB Gamut
Memory 8GB LPDDR3-1866 8GB LPDDR3-2133
SSD 256GB PCIe SSD 256GB PCIe SSD
(Newer Generation)
I/O 1 x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C
3.5mm combo jack
Battery Capacity 41.4 Wh
Battery Life 10 Hours
Price $1299 $1299

Accordingly, Apple has only made minimal other internal changes to these laptops. The MacBook does get a newer SSD – presumably the latest Apple design to replace its existing Apple SSD – which Apple states is up to 50% faster than the previous SSD. Surprisingly, the company is now also offering a 16GB memory option on the laptop, an interesting development since they were already using a full suite of chips to get to 8GB; so a teardown will be necessary to see how they’re getting to 16GB.

2017 MacBook Pro Lineup
Model 2016 13"
(non-touch)
2017 13"
(non-touch)
2016 15" 2017 15"
Dimensions 1.49 cm x 30.41 cm x 21.24 cm 1.55 cm x 34.93 cm x 24.07 cm
Weight 3.02 lbs (1.37 kg) 4.02 lbs (1.83 kg)
CPU 2.0GHz Core i5-6360U (Skylake) 2.3GHz i5-7360U (Kaby Lake) 2.6GHz Core i7-6700HQ (Skylake) 2.8GHz Core i7-7700HQ (Kaby Lake)
GPU Intel Iris Graphics 540 Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 Intel HD Graphics 530 + AMD Radeon Pro 450 (2GB) Intel HD Graphics 630 + AMD Radeon Pro 555 (2GB)
Display 13" 2560 x 1600 IPS LCD
DCI-P3 Gamut
15" 2880 x 1800 IPS LCD
DCI-P3 Gamut
Memory 8GB LPDDR3-1866 8GB LPDDR3-2133 16GB LPDDR3-2133
SSD 256GB PCIe SSD 128GB PCIe SSD 256GB PCIe SSD
Touch Bar No Yes
I/O 2x Thunderbolt 3 (supports DP1.2 & USB 3.1 Gen 2 modes),
3.5mm Audio
4x Thunderbolt 3 (supports DP1.2 & USB 3.1 Gen 2 modes),
3.5mm Audio
Battery Capacity 54.5 Wh 76 Wh
Battery Life 10 Hours 10 Hours
Price $1499 $1299 $2399 $2399

Meanwhile the 15” MacBook Pro is receiving a dGPU update. Apple has replaced the AMD Radeon Pro 400 series options with the Radeon Pro 500 series, which is comprised of the Radeon Pro 555 and Radeon Pro 560, Like the previous 400 series, both 500 series parts are based on AMD’s Polaris 11 GPU.

Otherwise, Apple hasn’t made any internal or external changes to these laptops. They all have the same screens, same ports, same finishes, etc, as the 2016. And the Touch Bar is still present on all of the 15” SKUs and the higher-end 13” SKUs. So if you want a Touch Bar, you need to buy a more expensive SKU (or alternatively, a lower-end 13” if you don’t want the Touch Bar).  Finally, Apple has added a second low-end MBP 13” SKU with a smaller 128GB SSD, which has pushed the price of the cheapest model down from $1499 to $1299 as of the refreshed laptops.

All of these updated laptops should be available from Apple on June 7th.

MacBook Air

Meanwhile in a surprising turn of events, Apple has given the 13” MacBook Air a minor speed boost. The laptop has languished without a real update for a couple of years now, still using Intel’s 5th generation Broadwell CPUs and a now dated low-DPI TN screen. Nonetheless, it’s still one of Apple’s more popular laptops due to its sub-$1000 starting price, which seems to be disrupting any plans to actually discontinue the laptop. As a result, Apple has given it a minor, late-lifetime speed boost.

2017 MacBook Air Lineup
Model 2016 (Base) 2017 (Base)
Dimensions 0.30 - 1.70 cm x 32.5 cm x 22.7 cm
Weight 2.96 lbs (1.35 kg)
CPU 1.6GHz Core
i5-5250U
1.8GHz Core
i5-5350U
GPU Intel HD Graphics 6000
@ 950MHz
Intel HD Graphics 6000
@ 1000MHz
Display 13-inch 1440x900 TN LCD
Memory 8GB LPDDR3-1600
SSD 128GB PCIe SSD
I/O 2x USB 3.0 Type-A
1x Thunderbolt 2
SDXC Card Reader
3.5mm Audio
Battery Capacity 54 Wh
Battery Life 12 Hours
Price $999 $999

The updated laptop retains the use of Intel’s Broadwell processor, but the base configurations now uses a faster chip, Intel’s Core i5-5350U, instead of the slower i5-5250U. As hinted at by the minor model number change, this is not a massive difference – both the base and the boost clock are 200MHz faster, for 1.8GHz base and 2.9GHz boost – but it is none the less a tangible performance improvement for Apple’s entry-level laptop.

Otherwise, Apple has not made any other changes. It’s still the same size with the same panel and the same I/O, including the now dated Thunderbolt 2 port. Still, it buys the laptop a bit more time, at least until Apple can figure out what the future of their entry-level laptop model should be.

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  • Barilla - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Except entry level crap running Windows costs 400-500 USD, not 999. Heck, the Chuwi LapBook 14 that anandtech reviewed not so long ago features a full HD IPS screen and costs 250$. If it cost ~700 USD then I might see a point in it's existence, but for a full grand you can buy Windows based machines that will exceed it at every single aspect. Except maybe for that magsafe, this is a brilliant thing and I'm glad Microsoft stole the idea for the Surface line. Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Friday, June 09, 2017 - link

    @ Barilla

    Thats tellin 'em.

    And I have to agree, that magsafe connector is wonderful.
    Reply
  • nerd1 - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Yes it is still better than new macbook 'pro' which lacks magsafe, sd slot and proper usb slot. Reply
  • jaydee - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    It has multiple USB ports which makes it more attractive than the Macbook to a lot people (on top of being less expensive, and having a more powerful CPU). Not all MacFans just go out and buy the most expensive stuff Apple puts out, a few look at the cost as well. The screen only looks bad paper, it's not spectacular like the MB or MBP, but it's still a really decent screen. It's not the horrible 1366x768 TN panels that millions of Windows PCs have come with the past 10 years. Reply
  • nerd1 - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    It was not quite bad back in 2012. Not any more. It has absolutely horrible viewing angle.
    And you won't find any >$800 laptop with less-than-FHD TN display nowadays (except 144hz gaming specific ones)
    Reply
  • aliasfox - Thursday, June 08, 2017 - link

    I actually don't mind some of the older ports - USB-A and miniDP/TB2 are easy to find accessories and dongles for, and easy for entry level consumers to understand. MagSafe is actually a _better_ option than USB-C charging, as well - because my fiancee leaves her MacBook Air in the middle of the living room, she trips over the power cable every other day - having a breakaway charging cable (that doesn't actually break) is a godsend in that regard.

    Even the Broadwell and TN display are understandable from an ease and manufacturability perspective.

    However, what's hard to excuse is the $999 price. All of the tooling for this model has long been paid for, the hardware is perfectly serviceable, but isn't anywhere close to cutting edge, and is competing against $500 laptops and $700 ultrabooks. Really, Apple should be offering these at $899 or even $799, and selling them through universities for $699. The only reason I can think to not do this is that Apple doesn't want to set the expectation that "entry level" should be that cheap - they could probably get the MacBook or base MacBook Pro (non Touchbar) down to $999 in the next round or two, but it'll be a long time before they drop below that.
    Reply
  • gsalkin - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Can you guys PLEASE do a review. Would love your opinions on whether staying on LPDDR3 is worth it vs going to DDR4L. Plus, interested if there is any difference between Radeon Pro and regular Radeon. Reply
  • Eug - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Can someone clarify the details about Kaby Lake ENcoding in High Sierra 10.13?

    This page states hardware HEVC encoding will be utilized in the latest iMac and MacBook Pro.

    https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2017/06/macos-high-...

    "Support for industry-standard HEVC (H.265) enables video streaming and playback of 4K video files at incredible quality that are also up to 40 percent smaller than with the current H.264 standard.1 With HEVC, Apple is enabling high-quality video streaming on networks where only HD streaming was previously possible, while hardware acceleration on the new iMac and MacBook Pro deliver incredibly fast and power-efficient HEVC encoding and editing."

    Does that mean that they aren't allowing hardware HEVC encoding on the 12" MacBook? Or is it just marketing to promote the iMac and MBP, and because the MacBook is considerably slower in general?

    And has anyone heard anything about Kaby Lake DRM support in High Sierra? Like for Netflix 4K?
    Reply
  • Eug - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Also, how important is all this for HEIF speed? eg. The Photos application. Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    The new 12" MacBook should handle encoding just fine, just not as fast as the gpu is clocked lower. Reply

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