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MacBook 12-inch: Apple’s first ARM-based Mac expected in 2021

Is the MacBook 12-inch coming back? The now-defunct form-factor could be set to make a return as part as Apple’s adventure into a new kind of processor for its Macs.

Apple laptops fans have been razor-focused on a new MacBook Pro 2020 for some time now but, now, that laptop is out, and we await what’s next. A big rumour is that Apple plans on bringing ARM processors to its desktop and laptop offerings, starting with a revival of the 12-inch MacBook.

Over on the Windows (and, even, Chrome OS) side, ARM chips have already made their way onto some machines. Surface Pro X, Lenovo Yoga C630 and Galaxy Book S have come out to mixed reviews. However, while compatibility remains an issue, all devices received praised for their battery life and design – key benefits of the ARM architecture.

The issues that remain seem perfect fodder for Apple to sweep in and clean up. Apple is known for being late to the party of certain things but refining it, popularising it and, ultimately, making the tech more widespread across the industry.

Apple is also unique in that it is expected to use its own ARM processors for the desktop and laptop devices, as it does with iPhone, unlike Windows machines that are currently using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips. There are definitely negatives to Apple controlling its whole hardware and software ecosystem but, when it comes to the iPhone, it certainly bores fruit for the company.

Related: Do we need an ARM MacBook in an iPad Pro world?

MacBook 12-inch price – How much will the ARM MacBook cost?

Few reports have hinted towards a price for a new ARM-based MacBook just yet, especially ahead of a device confirmation.

If a new ARM-based MacBook 12 does make it to market soon, then we expect it to undercut the £999 starting price of the MacBook Air 2020

Related: MacBook Air 2020 vs MacBook Pro 2019

MacBook 12-inch release date – When will the ARM MacBook be released?

Reports from Bloomberg and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo point towards a 2021 release for a new ARM MacBook. Kuo is more specific, pointing to a Q4 2020/Q1 2021 release date.

It’s been some time since Apple discontinued the old 2017 MacBook, and the device had seemed dead in the water. However, this reimagining of Apple processor plans looks set to breath new life into the old MacBook 12-inch.

Related: MacBook Air 2020 vs MacBook Air 2019

MacBook 12-inch specs – What is the ARM MacBook?

The new ARM MacBook 12 is expected to sport a 12-core processor – a combination of eight high-performance cores (codenamed Firestorm) and four energy-efficient core (codenamed Icestorm).

In future, Apple is expected to turbocharge the number of cores its chips will have as it looks to surpass Intel’s count by two or three times.

Related: Best MacBook

MacBook 12-inch design – What will the ARM MacBook look like?

Reports are few and far between regarding a new 12-inch MacBook design. However, ARM enables thin and light chassis – making a return to a smaller MacBook design seem likely.

Apple is reported as having made an ARM MacBook prototype back in 2018 – based on the A12X processor from that year’s iPad Pro. The success of this prototype is said to have spurred on Apple’s hopes of replacing Intel in future Macs. 

With this prototype in Apple’s rearview mirror, the company would be expected to have a pretty good idea of the design to come for its first ARM-based Mac laptop.

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