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New MacBooks may finally be inbound, with faster GPUs, USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3

Apple has taken some heat over the last few months for the relative age of some of its hardware, and the company may finally be preparing to respond. The new machines reportedly feature some significant new technologies, but at least one product — the 11-inch MacBook Air — is reportedly going away, its niche filled by the 12-inch, single-port MacBook.

The rumors from Japanese site Mac Otakara suggest a pair of new MacBook Pros at 13-inch and 15-inch, and a new, 13-inch MacBook Air. All of these machines will reportedly be based on USB-C and offer Thunderbolt 3 connectivity — if the rumors are accurate, Apple may be dumping conventional USB altogether, in favor of USB-C for everything. Apple has always had a reputation for getting rid of ports more quickly than other companies, but if the company is ditching standard USB ports across all of its products, it’s going to be extremely annoying for Mac users stuck shuffling dongles (and never mind the fact that if the USB-C ports aren’t themselves spaced properly, some dongles and converters may not fit next to each other). Hanging one dongle off the MacBook Air is annoying; the idea of shuffling multiple dongles on both sides of a laptop sounds even worse.

A cynical person might wonder if Apple has made some of these changes purely to boost the revenue it earns off selling accessories. Apple’s various plugs, dongles, and converters have a reputation for being well-made, but the company still makes a killing on the peripherals it sells. Shipping a few thousand more dongles and components isn’t going to make up for falling iPhone sales in and of itself, no, but it’s not a bad side business.

Other speculation about this new hardware includes a likely CPU generation bump to Skylake (Kaby Lake is possible, but Apple would be fairly early to that market), OLED screens for the function keys and the ability for applications to map new functions to the key row, and a rumored upgrade to Polaris for at least one of the models. Apple doesn’t historically make much effort to push discrete GPUs into its hardware, but a Polaris-based GPU would be a substantial upgrade for the high-end MacBook Pro. Currently, the MBP is using a GPU based on AMD’s GCN 1.0, and while that solution was reasonably powerful when it debuted it’s gotten awfully long in the tooth (not to mention the power consumption department).

If Apple does intend to launch in October, it doesn’t have much time left to do it — and there’s still no word of a Mac Pro refresh, though I’ve argued before that this is scarcely needed, given the relative lack of advancement in Intel processors. That’s not to say there’d be no benefit from newer Macs, but most of the improvement would come from faster GPUs, larger storage pools, or better overall pricing — not raw horsepower. We don’t know yet if Apple is ditching the earplug jack on its upcoming hardware or not — presumably not, since this hasn’t been mentioned. But it wouldn’t surprise us if the company opened up a full court press on removing that particular component. After all, now it has a pair of $160 wireless earrings to sell you.

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