Though rumors of a new entry-level MacBook laptop have circulated for quite some time, few concrete details have actually been confirmed. Today, a supply chain report from Taiwan’s hit-and-miss DigiTimes purports to shed light on the computer’s internals, claiming that Intel’s delay of a small new CPU led Apple to redesign the machine around a larger, more available part.
According to the report, the new MacBook will contain a 13-inch screen and was originally planned to launch late last year, but was delayed due to problems with Intel’s 10-nanometer chip manufacturing problems. When Intel rescheduled 10nm CPU production for the second half of 2019, Apple changed the MacBook’s design to use a larger 14nm Kaby Lake processor, so it could be released this year.
Switching CPUs isn’t necessarily an easy process for Apple. The company famously designs small, tightly integrated logic boards, batteries, and cooling systems for its laptops, so increasing the size of a main chip would have a ripple effect across other internal components. Unless Apple made the chassis thicker to accommodate larger components, the laptop’s overall battery and processor performance would likely have dropped as a consequence of switching to a larger CPU.
Interestingly, DigiTimes says that the new machine will carry a $1,200 price tag, despite rumors that have placed the “entry-priced” machine as low as $999. Even at that higher price, Apple reportedly expects the machine to sell eight million units in 2018 and to undermine demand for similar laptops from top rivals.
The lower end of Apple’s current laptop lineup currently includes two different machines: a 12-inch “MacBook” starting at $1,299, and a 13-inch “MacBook Air” starting at $999. Customers have faced the confusing choice between a less expensive “Air” with a larger, lower-resolution screen, faster processor, and legacy USB ports, or the more expensive “MacBook” with a smaller, Retina-quality display, a seriously limited processor, and only one USB-C port.
Assuming the new entry-level machine replaces both models, Apple could resolve most of those issues. In addition to the improved Intel Kaby Lake CPU — possibly the so-called Kaby Lake Refresh — the laptop is expected to have the MacBook Air’s 13-inch screen size with the MacBook’s Retina display quality. Additionally, a January DigiTimes report claimed that Apple was ordering touch panels for this model, though their purpose has remained unclear.
DigiTimes predicts a September rollout alongside other Apple devices, including iPads, iPhones, and the AirPower charging pad, which it expects will be priced at or above $160. But it’s also possible Apple could hold a separate Mac-focused event in the fall.
The report also reiterates claims that Apple will introduce redesigned iPads during its September event, namely “narrow-bezel ultra-thin 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pros” with USB-C internal interfaces for faster charging. A “newly designed 18W power adapter,” rumored and seemingly shown in leaked images, is expected to come with the Pro tablets, while the company will continue to sell — but not update — the iPad mini 4, for which it’s said to have “no further plan.”