Apple’s ‘hello again’ tagline for its special event this Thursday suggests an evolution of the Mac line, not just an iterative update. That’s because the world was introduced to the Macintosh in 1984 with a ‘hello’, then to the iMac in 1998 with a ‘hello (again)’, both key points in the Mac’s history. Now in 2016 it appears to be the MacBook Pro’s turn.
This will hardly be the first MacBook Pro, but we expect a slimmer design with beefed up internals and a new input method: an OLED touch panel above the keyboard that dynamically changes based on context. Apple will likely want to frame the ‘Magic Toolbar‘ (or whatever it calls it) as an important evolution in input methods like the iPod’s Click Wheel, the iPhone’s Multi-Touch, and the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown.
If you ignore the historical importance of ‘hello again’ and just see it as a clever way to say ‘hey, we just had an event last month and we’re back’, one thing is still clear based on what we expect to see at Apple’s event: this is the year to pay attention to new MacBook Pros.
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That’s partly because major redesigns of the MacBook Pro don’t come very often. The MacBook Pro in 2008 brought us the unibody aluminum design, then Retina displays came with a slimmer casing in 2012. Four years later (again), we’re expecting an even slimmer design with a new input method.
Apple fills in the gaps between major redesigns with faster Pro models and slimmer non-Pro models like the MacBook Air and Retina MacBook. Some of the lessons learned from that hardware inform new MacBook Pro designs. Think keyboard style, trackpad size, internal layout, and possibly even color. (Tricks from iPhone and iPad like Apple Pay and Touch ID are also expected.)
So if it’s not just faster internals but a new design that you’ve been waiting for, this will be the one to pay attention to. What Apple introduces on Thursday will likely be the MacBook Pro appearance until around 2020.
It’s possible we could see new MacBook Pros in a couple of years that have additional changes like the rumored e-ink dynamic keyboard in 2018, but Apple could probably squeeze that change into the upcoming design. We saw a similar change last year when MacBook Pros adopted the Force Touch trackpad without modifying the external appearance. I personally wouldn’t wait to see what may come in a couple of years; this will be the MacBook Pro that we’ve been awaiting.
If you’re in the market for a new MacBook Pro, there are really only two reasons I would recommend waiting to buy: if you’re concerned about first-gen bugs or price is an issue.
The first-generation 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro seems most plagued by the kind of issues people who aren’t early adopters try to avoid. Customers who waited for the second iteration were rewarded. But if you have a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro from 2012, this is probably the update you’ve been holding out for after four years.
A balanced approach that takes more effort is buying the new MacBook Pro announced later this week, then selling it and upgrading to version two when it comes out. Ideally, new MacBooks won’t have the kind of issues that sometimes accompany new versions.
Price could also be a reason not to upgrade just yet. New MacBooks probably won’t be any cheaper than current MacBooks. If you wait a year, you can find refurbished or used models at a discount and potentially get a little more bang for your buck.
But prices typically don’t drop just because something is old unless there’s something new to replace it. Just take the Thunderbolt Display for example. It was $999 the day it was introduced, then it was sorely outdated by the time it was discontinued … for $999.
The Mac Pro and the legacy MacBook Pro are also good examples of this. For that reason, I recommend buying Apple hardware when it’s new: you get the most amount of use out of it for the same price as you pay when waiting six months.
The meme that Apple doesn’t update Macs has lingered around for the last year and it’s almost time to put that generalization to bed (at least for MacBook Pros). If you’ve been on the fence lately about buying a MacBook Pro or not, stay tuned to 9to5Mac‘s coverage on Thursday as we detail everything Apple unveils. This is the year to pay attention.