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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  • Meteor2 - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    You know I heard that "30% increase in IPC" quote from Intel about Coffee Lake, but the spokesperson was referring to one of these new 4-core U parts compared to today's 2-core. So it's not really surprising... or significance. Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    How do they even buy Broadwell chips en masse anymore?

    Since the 12" Macbook doesn't look to be about to fill in the 1000 dollar spot, an IPS panel and SKL/KL would have gone a long way in the Air. But I guess they want to push people to the higher ASPs understandably.
    Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Intel will take Apple's money to make a chip on a more profitable old process any day of the week, I'd think.

    It'd be different if were a low-volume customer like Clevo or something, but I think Apple is still moving enough MBAs to make it worth their while.
    Reply
  • Morawka - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Process is the same, 14nm.. Broadwell and kabylake use the same process.. if you mean masks, then yeah, same mask, but those foundry machines could be used for kabylake parts just as easy Reply
  • Meteor2 - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Still lots of Broadwell Xeons being made. I don't think Skylake SP has general availability yet (it was very late even for government stuff which gets v. early access; my shop took discounted Broadwell instead). Reply
  • speculatrix - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Only 8G of ram for these prices? Is it still 2015 in Cupertino? Reply
  • stux - Tuesday, June 06, 2017 - link

    Here's hoping coffeelake brings LPDDR4 support and Apple finally makes a 32GB Pro laptop.

    My next laptop will have 32GB or it will be a desktop :(

    And I don't like the idea of being chained to the desk again after 10 years of freedom
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, June 07, 2017 - link

    "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."

    Apple was only using 2 LPDDR3 packages in the previous generations, but the Y processors actually support 2 per channel (4 total). I would reckon, based on the maximum SSD capacity still being 512GB and given the indicated performance, that they switched to Samsung PM971-NVMe single package BGA SSDs. The space savings over their in-house, 3-package solution would provide them enough additional real-estate to add a couple more LPDDR3 modules.
    Reply
  • Eug - Wednesday, June 07, 2017 - link

    It turns out they didn't upgrade the m3 from the 6Y30 to the 7Y30. Instead, they upgraded the m3 from the 6Y30 to the 7Y32.

    The previous 2016 m3 clock speeds were 1.1 GHz and 2.2 GHz Turbo.
    The current 2017 m3 clock speeds are 1.2 GHz (+9%) and 3.0 GHz Turbo (+36%).

    This also makes the 2017 m3 almost as fast as the 2016 m7, which were 1.3 GHz and 3.1 GHz Turbo.

    This, along with the new 2nd gen Butterfly keyboard and 16 GB RAM option is making the new MacBook very enticing.
    Reply
  • Nexing - Wednesday, June 07, 2017 - link

    Last couple of years musicians, audio pro techs, small studios, producers, touring and a large Audio Pro user base have benefited from the decisive upgrade of the main piece of gear that connects desktops and laptops with their musical instruments, microphones, mixers, controllers and the rest of the analog Audio gear: the DACs (Digital to Analog Convertor).
    It has been a crucial upgrade because by substituting the now legay USB (and firewire), with Thunderbolt ports, immediately takes away latency, random clicks, glitches and sudden disconnections, all risks saved from their performances, recordings (and all really), plus it has greatly increased their bandwidth, working Hz and channel count.
    Hordes of technicians have been upgrading also because the DAC chips themselves have steeply evolved (from 95 dB Signal to noise ratios to now silent 120 dB SNR), solving most historic DAC problems and greatly expanding their features. A change that had the main Audio Pro manufacturers Apogee, Orion, Motu, Universal Audio Apollo line, Focusrite and RME all releasing and most migrating, their DAC lines into Thunderbolt.
    //But here it comes the catch ALL the released gear so far comes with Thunderbolt 2 while all Thunderbolt enables laptops since late 2016 have TB3 !!!
    And the various TB3 to TB2 adapters out there have been plagued by true incompatibility with the Audio wolrd (crackles, sudden disconnections and mostly the return of the terrible high DPC counts). Here is one example of the ongoing disaster:
    https://www.forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.php?id=23...

    ///Nevertheless there is a simple solution, - now even cheaper since days ago Intel opened the Thundelbolt standard, so TB connectors will stop paying royalties-, the solution is that 2017, 2018 and possibly 2019 laptops are released including BOTH Thunderbolt 3 and a Thunderbolt 2 connectors side to side.
    What if these shinning (4 TB3) Mac Book Pros came with 3 TB3 connectors+ 1 TB2 instead??
    And let DELL XPS and Precision, HP and Lenovo workstations and the rest of Audio relevant mobile computers include both - TB3 and TB2 -, as well.
    The Pro Audio world will be grateful, and thunderbolt confidence will be restored again.
    After all customers from this market buy a new DAC (US$1.000 to $3.500) once in 5 to 10 years lapses, if not more, let alone already long and sparse the product release cycles.
    Reply

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