On Oct. 27, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) introduced three new MacBook Pro computers: a premium 15-inch model with an OLED Touch Bar, a premium 13-inch model with an OLED Touch Bar, and a 13-inch model without the OLED Touch Bar.
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Image source: Apple.
The systems offer several nice improvements over the prior-generation 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros, ranging from improved displays and faster processors to sleeker industrial design.
Apple has built a great set of machines here, and I suspect that the new models will do very well in the marketplace. Nevertheless, there is one fly in the proverbial ointment with these new machines that needs to be discussed.
Soon-to-be last-generation processors
Both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models use high-end Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) sixth-generation Core processors. The 13-inch MacBook Pro systems utilize dual-core Core i5 and Core i7 processors with Intel’s premium Iris graphics, while the 15-inch models use quad-core Core i7 processors with lower-end vanilla Intel HD Graphics (though for graphics-intensive tasks, Apple has included more powerful stand-alone graphics chips in these systems).
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As of this writing, Apple’s new MacBook Pros have some of the fastest notebook processors available on the planet.
Unfortunately, though, these chips have been available for about a year now, and Intel will have more powerful notebook processors available in early 2017.
Why did Apple choose older processors?
The reality of the situation is that Apple launches its Mac systems — particularly the MacBooks — on its own schedule, rather than based on Intel’s schedule. Apple likely wasn’t ready to launch these new MacBook Pro systems when Intel’s sixth-generation Core processors came out, so it simply had to wait until the system hardware and software were ready.
Now, Apple could conceivably have waited until Intel released its new seventh-generation Core processors in January (pushing out the MacBook Pro launch by a couple of months), but the company probably didn’t want to hold off on releasing these long-overdue updates to its MacBook Pro line any longer than it had to.
Furthermore, the differences between the sixth-generation and seventh-generation Core processors don’t amount to that much; the seventh-generation Core chips can run at higher speeds for a given power envelope, and they have slightly enhanced media playback capabilities.
Nevertheless, since Apple’s MacBook Pro systems are marketed as premium products, it’s probably going to come as a disappointment to some that soon they will be using one-generation-old processor technologies.
Can Apple’s Mac get back up to speed?
Apple could conceivably update the processors inside of the new MacBook Pro models to incorporate Intel’s newer seventh-generation Core processors early next year. The new processors should be pin-compatible with the current sixth-generation Core processors (meaning that the chips can be placed into the same systems without hardware modification), so upgrading the systems from sixth-generation Core to seventh-generation Core wouldn’t be too difficult.
Even if Apple doesn’t do this, there’s a pretty simple way for Apple to get back on track — skip the seventh-generation Core processors altogether.
Intel’s eighth-generation Core processors — which should bring significant performance/feature gains over the seventh-generation Core chips — should be available for notebooks during the second quarter of 2018, per a recent leak that’s been circulating on the Web.
Apple could just keep selling the recently released MacBook Pro systems until around May of 2018, at which point the company could release updated versions with Intel’s new eighth-generation Core processors: problem solved.
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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Intel.
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