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

We might soon see the return of the MacBook 12-inch. Apple’s small form-factor laptop has been gone for a few years now but a reimagined ARM processor could see it make a comeback.

While the anticipation for the MacBook Pro 2020 has dominated Apple Mac discourse for some time now, it’s now arrived and we need something new to talk about. A new 12-inch Apple MacBook could fill this speculation hole with a device that could be set to kick off a processor revolution at the company.

Manufacturers have already begun exploring the viability of ARM processors, primarily on Windows devices, as a solution for longer-lasting battery life and lightweight laptops. The big hitters have released Surface Pro X, Lenovo Yoga C630 and Galaxy Book S, with all receiving a mixed reception.

The reception has come from some compatibility issues as well as a high price for performance. Nevertheless, all devices have received praise for their thin and light nature, afforded by the use of a Qualcomm-made ARM processor.

This is where Apple comes in. Apple would be expected to use its own ARM processor, as it does with its iPhones, and this could lead to many of the compatibility issues being addressed ahead of release. There’s been no confirmation from Apple regarding the existence of these new processors of their presence on a new MacBook but numerous sources are pointing to their eventual release.

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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