SD card slot, HDMI port could return to the MacBook Pro this year, says Apple analyst

An end to dongle hell in sight?


This year's crop of MacBook Pro laptops are expected to include dedicated HDMI ports and an integrated SD card reader, says an analyst with the inside track on the twists and turns in Apple's roadmap.

"We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have several significant design and specification changes," wrote Ming Chi-Kuo in an investor's note obtained by MacRumours. "Some of the practical changes for users are equipping with the SD card reader and HDMI port."

Ming, who works for TF International Securities, seemingly has a good handle on the moves Apple is about to make, with 78.2 per cent of his "predictions" holding true, according to AppleTrack.org.

Apple stripped the HDMI port and SD slot (as well as the MagSafe adaptor and USB-A ports) from the MacBook Pro line in 2016 in favour of USB-C. This came at a time when Apple was primarily concerned with thinness, rather than day-to-day practicality, as demonstrated by the simultaneous decision to replace the tried-and-tested Magic Keyboard with the fault-prone (and miserable) Butterfly Keyboard.

In recent months, we've heard talk from well-placed sources that Apple intends to make the new generation of Apple Silicon laptops function like those released before 2016. MagSafe is expected to make a return later this year, along with standard USB-A ports. Separately, Apple is reportedly planning to ditch the TouchBar, which replaced the function and escape keys with a single OLED strip. This feature failed to catch on with all users, and was regarded by some an inconvenience.

While this would certainly be welcome with some users eager for a departure from dongle purgatory, it may have a greater impact on Apple's product line. A major criticism of the M1 MacBook Pro is that it's almost identical to the M1 MacBook Air, save for the processor's cooling fan, which allows the machine to run high-intensity tasks for longer without encountering thermal throttling, as well as a single extra GPU core.

Besides that, they're effectively the same machine. By bringing back proper ports to the MacBook Pro, Apple is able to distinguish between the two devices. The Air would be a thin and light ultraportable, while the Pro would be a slightly more performant, practical machine.

Many would probably be happy to pay the premium to never use a USB-C dongle again. It's strange that a company which made a killing from the tagline "it just works" would make customers jump through so many hoops to use an external keyboard, or a second display. ®

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