MacBook Pro 16-inch: 4 rumors swirling around Apple's jumbo laptop

We may even see a major redesign sometime before Black Friday.

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Justin Jaffe is the Managing Editor for CNET Money. He has more than 20 years of experience publishing books, articles and research on finance and technology for Wired, IDC and others. He is the coauthor of Uninvested (Random House, 2015), which reveals how financial services companies take advantage of customers -- and how to protect yourself. He graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in English Literature, spent 10 years in San Francisco and now lives in Portland, Maine.
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Update, Nov. 13, 2019: Apple has introduced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro with a larger screen and improved keyboard. It completely replaces the previous 15-inch model. 

It was back in February that we first heard rumors about a bigger-than-usual MacBook Pro in Apple's pipeline. Analyst Ming Chi-Kuo, who has been out in front of many of the company's announcements over the past decade, reported that we could expect a new high-end laptop with a large display sometime in 2019. 

A 16-inch MacBook Pro? It sounded odd -- and yet Kuo is credible. He also predicted, accurately, that we'd see a 31-inch 6K monitor, a new iPad and iPad Mini and three incrementally upgraded iPhones this year. (And those new iPad Pros? Well, that remains to be seen.)

Watch this: iPad Pro and MacBook Pro could get better than OLED displays

Certainly, the MacBook Pro is due for a shakeup of some sort. Apart from a series of minor spec bumps over the past few years, including the slightest refresh at WWDC in July, Apple hasn't really updated its premium tier of laptops since 2016. And that last major overhaul -- extending the Touch Bar across Pro line and shifting to the controversial butterfly keyboard -- has not been roundly embraced. 

A 16-inch display would make this rumored laptop the largest in the company's lineup. The company currently sells two versions of the MacBook Pro -- the 13- and 15-inch models -- in addition to the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Air. (The 17-inch MacBook Pro was discontinued in 2012.)

But it would be so quintessentially Apple to unveil a 16-inch laptop in 2019. (The company did not respond to our request for comment.) Most vendors cling tightly to the conventional sizes -- 13, 15 and 17 inches -- though the 14-inch display has recently carved out a niche, and you can sometimes find an 11- or 12-inch model. 

Still, the landscape is ripe for change. The MacBook Pro could use a fresh start. And the timing could be perfect. We've collected the most interesting and credible rumors about the 16-inch MacBook Pro below. Have a look.

Read more: The unexpected joys of a 16-inch laptop

Rumor: A new MacBook Pro coming soon

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For months, we've heard rumors from multiple sources about a redesign for the MacBook Pro. But there's been no consensus on exactly when this laptop would launch. Kuo's initial report from February was broad, giving "2019" as the timeframe. In May, we heard that the project had been delayed until 2020 or 2021, or maybe even shelved. But, it turned out that was due to an inaccurate translation of a subsequent Kuo report.

August brought a fresh slate of rumors indicating that not only was the new model coming, it was coming soon -- and perhaps even by the end of October. And the latest intel, from DigiTimes and Forbes, suggests that we could see a new MacBook Pro debut sometime next week. If true, Apple will most likely announce the new machine in a press release, as we've not heard anything about an imminent event. 

Rumor: It will have a 16-inch display and narrow bezels 

Sarah Tew/CNET

We've heard that Apple has figured out how to embed a larger display in a chassis that's about the same size as the current 15-inch Pro model -- a move that would necessitate a narrower margin around the screen. And earlier this month, MacRumors reported that the MacGeneration blog had discovered a new icon -- a laptop with slim bezels and a "16" in the file name -- in Apple's own MacOS Catalina beta code. Though there's OLED buzz around every upcoming Apple device, we haven't seen any authoritative sourcing of this rumor for the next MacBook Pro.

Rumor: Apple will give the new MacBook Pro a scissor-style keyboard

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple is expected to move on from its controversial butterfly keyboard with the next iteration of the MacBook Pro. This welcome tidbit, which came first from Kuo, acknowledges what many of us concluded years ago: that Apple's butterfly-switch keyboard design, introduced in 2015 to make its laptops lighter and thinner, is a failure. Legions of users have complained about sticky keys, letters typing in duplicate -- or not at all.

Note that Kuo had originally predicted that the new scissor keyboard would also come to the MacBook Air by the end of 2019. Given that Apple just updated the MacBook Air in July, that's extremely unlikely. 

Rumor: The new MacBook Pro will have Intel inside, again


From Apple's event in October 2016. 

James Martin/CNET

Apple's July update to the MacBook Pro lineup, announced at this year's WWDC, featured a step up to Intel's faster eighth- and ninth-generation Core processors, including an eight-core version. According to Forbes, the forthcoming 16-inch MacBook Pro will run on Intel's Coffee Lake H Refresh processor.

If that's true, the next MacBook Pro could be one of the last Apple computers to feature Intel processors. The company long been rumored to be shifting its computers over to custom Arm-based processors. The move is part of Apple's strategic decision to help developers more easily create a single version of their apps that'll work across Apple's various operating systems -- on the iPhone, iPad and Mac. And the processor change could take place as soon as next year, according to Bloomberg and Axios.

Originally published Oct. 28.