WWDC 2014: The pre-show Mac lineup report card

Find out when each Mac computer was most recently updated, and which ones are most likely to get new versions at Apple's developers conference.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

With Apple's WWDC keynote in less than one week, everyone seems to have a list of what products they'd like to see updated or introduced. While new iOS hardware (iPhones and iPads) is unlikely, the annual developer's conference is nearly always used to announce new Mac hardware.

That can include laptops, such as the Retina MacBook Pro (launched at WWDC 2012) or the powerful tube-shaped Mac Pro desktop (revealed at WWDC 2013, and launching several months later). While Apple's most popular products usually receive an annual component upgrade, if not a physical redesign, there's always a chance something like the cult-favorite Mac Mini could get a much-needed update, or we could see something entirely new, such as (according to the Apple rumor vortex) a 12-inch MacBook with a higher-res Retina display.

If you're curious about when a particular Mac computer was last updated, we've put a list together here, to assist in your WWDC keynote handicapping. This list covers important design or component changes, or in the case of the early 2014 MacBook Air bump, a very minor change that resulted in a price cut.

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MacBook Air (11-inch and 13-inch models)

Last updated: April 2014 (minor CPU upgrade, price cut); June 2013 (last major update)
The most mainstream of Mac products, the 13-inch Air remains in my estimation the single most universally useful laptop you can buy right now, despite not having had a major physical overhaul in several years. Current-gen Intel processors and new Wi-Fi and SSF technology was included at last year's WWDC, while a very minor CPU/price tweak barely registered a press release in April 2014.

MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch and 15-inch models)

Last updated: October 2013
Apple kicked off a trend toward higher-resolution screens, and now many high-end Windows laptops have 3,200x1,800 displays, or in the case of the Toshiba Satellite P50t, a full 4K resolution display. The basic design of the Retina Pro laptops is less than two years old, and still looks current, but newer features such as touch screens are becoming harder to ignore.

MacBook Pro (13-inch)

Last updated: June 2012
Somehow this single non-Retina Pro model (we unofficially call it the "Classic") is still for sale, even after its 15- and 17-inch siblings have been discontinued. This is the only current MacBook you can buy with an optical drive, and it looks fairly dated, especially because of its low resolution screen. The most-recent refresh was only for internal components, making the 13-inch Pro feel even older.

Mac Mini

Last updated: October 2012
The small-form-factor Mac Mini can best be described as a cult favorite, used as a powerful streaming/multimedia hub in home theater setups, or by desktop minimalists. The current unibody construction dates back to 2010, and the internal 2012 update was for new Intel CPUs, which remain a generation behind the rest of the Mac lineup (with the exception of the similarly dated 13-inch MacBook Pro "classic").

iMac (21.5-inch and 27-inch)

Last updated: September 2013
The slim all-in-one iMac, with its edge-to-edge glass display and convex body that tapers to a fine point, moved the needle for desktop PC design when it was introduced in late 2012. A fall 2013 update brought current-gen Intel CPUs, newer Nvidia GPUs (but even newer ones are available now); and faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Another new chassis overhaul seems unlikely for this go-around.

Apple's Mac Pro is no longer persona non grata in Europe.
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Mac Pro

Last updated: December 2013
Less of an update than a complete reboot, the current Mac Pro desktop is the most radical design departure for Apple since the original MacBook Air (and perhaps even more so). Introduced at 2013's WWDC, but not available until the final few weeks of the year, this foreboding black cylinder is almost a small-form-factor system, albeit one built for 4K video use, with dual graphics cards and Intel Xeon processors.

Of Apple's half-dozen computer lines, the Mac Pro is the freshest physical design by a long shot, while the pre-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro has hung on, to the surprise of many. The biggest question for many Apple-watchers is whether the MacBook Air, forward-looking when first released but since challenged by a few generations of high-end ultrabooks, will get a major makeover.

 

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