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New M1 Pro and M1 Max Chips Power the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros

Last year, Apple started to transition Macs away from Intel processors to its custom M1 system-on-a-chip. The M1’s performance is stellar, but Apple has used it only in low-end models so far: the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and new 24-inch iMac. For professionals looking for more power, Apple unveiled the future of high-end Macs at its October 18th Unleashed event.

Two new chips—the M1 Pro and M1 Max—increase performance significantly beyond the M1, and Apple built them into new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models along with features that respond to criticisms of previous models. Welcome as these new MacBook Pros are, many people were also hoping to see an Apple silicon refresh of the popular 27-inch iMac. That didn’t happen, but Apple released several other music-related products and services at the event.

AirPods, HomePod mini, Apple Music, and Monterey Announcements

In a quick set of announcements at the start of its event, Apple revealed an update to the popular AirPods, new colors of the HomePod mini, and a budget pricing tier for Apple Music. Plus, press releases revealed the ship date for macOS 12 Monterey.

  • Third-generation AirPods: Building on the success of the classic AirPods and AirPods Pro, Apple redesigned the third-generation AirPods to have shorter mic stalks, force sensor controls, support for spatial audio, Adaptive EQ, longer battery life, wireless case charging, and sweat and water resistance. They cost $179; the second-generation AirPods remain available for $129.
  • New HomePod mini colors: Looking to coordinate your electronics with your decor? In November, the $99 HomePod mini will be available in blue, orange, and yellow, as well as the traditional black and white.
  • Apple Music Voice Plan: A new $4.99-per-month Apple Music Voice Plan reduces the cost of Apple Music for those who interact with the streaming service largely through Siri, but it lacks lyrics, music videos, spatial and lossless audio, and support for non-Apple devices.
  • macOS 12 Monterey release date: Hidden in the fine print in Apple’s press releases was the fact that macOS 12 Monterey—along with iOS 15.1, iPadOS 15.1, watchOS 8.1, and tvOS 15.1—will become available on October 25th. We strongly recommend that you do not upgrade to Monterey until we give the go-ahead. If you’ve already upgraded to the other new operating systems, it should be safe to install those updates a week or two after release.

New 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros Answer Customer Desires

Apple’s professional MacBook Pro has been a workhorse of the Mac lineup for years, offering high-end performance in a portable package. Since 2016, however, customers have expressed irritation at Apple’s removal of ports other than Thunderbolt 3, the loss of MagSafe magnetic charging, and the Touch Bar replacing traditional F-keys. Here’s how the new MacBook Pros respond to those concerns.

  • Ports: Previously, the MacBook Pro had just four Thunderbolt 3 ports, forcing users to carry dongles to connect to legacy devices. The new models still lack USB-A ports but supplement three Thunderbolt 4 ports with an HDMI port for video, an SDXC card slot for camera media, and a headphone jack.
  • MagSafe: Although you can charge using the Thunderbolt 4 ports, most people will rely on the dedicated MagSafe 3 charging port. The MacBook Pros (apart from the low-end 14-inch model) include powerful chargers and a USB-C to MagSafe 3 charging cable capable of fast-charging the devices. They should also provide longer battery life than previous models.
  • F-keys with Touch ID: The Touch Bar hasn’t been a success, never migrating to any other Mac models and eliciting tepid support from developers. With these new MacBook Pros, Apple has reversed course, replacing the Touch Bar with traditional F-keys. A Touch ID sensor remains available for authentication at the top-right corner of the keyboard.

Although Apple did equip the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 chip in November 2020, it wasn’t notably faster than the cheaper but largely comparable M1-based MacBook Air. We suspect no one will be complaining about the performance of the new 14-inch and 16-inch models thanks to the addition of Apple’s just-released M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

  • M1: For reference, last year’s M1 chip—widely acclaimed for providing excellent performance—offers an 8-core CPU with four performance and four efficiency cores, a 7-core or 8-core GPU, and either 8 GB or 16 GB of unified memory.
  • M1 Pro: The M1 Pro offers up to 1.7 times the performance of the M1 thanks to a 10-core CPU that has eight performance and two efficiency cores. Plus, its 16-core GPU is up to twice as fast as the M1. The M1 Pro provides either 16 GB or 32 GB of unified memory, and it increases the memory bandwidth by nearly three times, up to 200 gigabytes per second (GBps). To provide lower price points for 14-inch MacBook Pro configurations, Apple offers versions of the M1 Pro with an 8-core CPU (six performance and two efficiency cores) or a 14-core GPU.
  • M1 Max: The M1 Max has the same 10-core CPU as the M1 Pro but provides a massive 32-core GPU with up to four times the performance of the M1. The largest chip Apple has ever made, the M1 Max offers either 32 GB or 64 GB of memory, and it doubles the M1 Pro’s memory bandwidth to 400 GBps, nearly six times faster than the M1. A lower-cost M1 Max configuration has a 24-core GPU.

Both the M1 Pro and M1 Max feature an Apple-designed media engine that accelerates video processing while maximizing battery life. Both also have dedicated acceleration for the ProRes professional video codec for working with 4K and 8K video. The M1 Max doubles the M1 Pro’s performance for video encoding and provides two ProRes accelerators. In other words, if you’re working with video, these new Macs are going to scream, particularly with an M1 Max.

Apple didn’t stop after radically improving performance and bringing back beloved features. The new MacBook Pros feature new Liquid Retina XDR displays based on technology used in the latest iPad Pro models.

Most notably, for those who need more screen space than the 13-inch MacBook Pro can provide, the new MacBook Pro models have higher resolution displays. The 14-inch screen has a 3024-by-1964 native resolution that’s slightly larger than the previous 16-inch MacBook Pro (3072‑by‑1920), and the new 16-inch model offers even more pixels with a 3456-by-2234 resolution. The new displays are more than twice as bright as the previous models, and they support ProMotion, which adjusts the screen refresh rate (and thus power consumption) to match the needs of the onscreen content.

On the downside, Apple brought the new displays so close to the case edges that the new 1080p FaceTime HD camera (better videoconferencing quality but no Center Stage support) lives in an iPhone-like notch that cuts the Mac menu bar in half. Full-screen apps can avoid the notch. Although the notch isn’t ideal, iPhone users seldom notice it after a short while, and we expect the same will be true here.

The only other negative for the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models is weight. They’re both about 0.4 pounds (0.18 kg) heavier than the models they replace, at 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) for the 14-inch model and 4.7 or 4.8 pounds (2.1 or 2.2 kg) for the 16-inch model—the M1 Max configurations are a bit heavier.

Despite the notch and the weight, these are impressive new entries in the Mac lineup, and we anticipate they’ll be well-received by users who are happy to pay more for top-of-the-line machines. The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999 and the 16-inch model at $2499. Numerous options are available, so you can choose an M1 Pro or M1 Max for either size, and pick from 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB unified memory configurations. When it comes to storage (which Apple says is also more than twice as fast as previous SSDs), your choices are 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, and 8 TB. Beware that the 8 TB SSD will cost you $2400.

We can’t make informed recommendations about what options you should choose until users start testing their real-world workflows against the M1 Pro and M1 Max and see how much memory is really necessary. For now, let your budget be your guide, and aim for an M1 Max if you work with video. You can place orders with Apple now, but be warned that global supply chain issues may mean waiting for some configurations.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its October 18th Unleashed event, Apple unveiled the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, powered by the impressive new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Read on for details:

Tips for Setting Up a Comfortable and Effective Home Work Space

Vast numbers of people who previously reported for work at an office every day are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s sensible, and if you’re included in that group, there was probably even a little thrill of “I get to work from home!” at first. But as those who have telecommuted for years know, it’s not as simple as settling down on the couch with your laptop. Here are a few tips.

Make a Dedicated Work Space, If Possible

Particularly if you’re not home alone, you’ll want to create a space that’s dedicated to working. Otherwise, it’s difficult to focus on work instead of what’s happening in your home. A spare bedroom with a door is ideal, of course, because it lets you avoid the fridge, the TV, and your family, who may also be trying to work or do schoolwork at home.

But if you don’t have an extra room, or if you need to share it with your spouse and kids, think about ways you can create individual spaces, perhaps with bookcases or makeshift curtains.

Either way, your goal is to avoid seeing and hearing others. Your partner’s activities can be distracting, and listening to your kids discussing a school project will make focusing on your work all the harder. Sound isolation can be difficult to achieve in an open room, but that’s what earbuds are for. Those with noise-canceling capabilities, like the AirPods Pro, would be best.

Pay attention to lighting as well. Putting your monitor against a window probably won’t work well during the day, and overhead lighting can cause glare.

Set Up an Ergonomic Working Environment

It’s unlikely that your home office furniture is equivalent to what you have at work, but if you’re going to be putting in full workdays at home, you need to pay attention to ergonomics.

Many tables are slightly too high to sit at comfortably with your feet flat, your hips at a 90-degree angle, and your hands floating comfortably above the keyboard, with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Do what you can to achieve that position; if necessary, raise the chair and add a footstool.

Good, inexpensive chairs with height adjustments can be hard to find, though the IKEA Flintan is well-reviewed and only about $80. A small pillow can provide lumbar support if necessary. Try to make sure the arms, if present, are low—you should use them only when not typing.

It’s difficult to achieve good ergonomics while working on a laptop, or, even worse, an iPad because you’re almost always looking down too far. With a MacBook, you can achieve the ideal sightline either by attaching a large monitor that you can position at the right height or by raising the MacBook and using a separate keyboard and mouse or trackpad at the proper typing height.

Potentially Upgrade Your Internet Connection

Even beyond whatever apps you need to do your work, it’s likely that you’ll end up doing a fair amount of videoconferencing. You may need to increase the throughput of your Internet connection, and it’s important to remember that upload and download speeds are separate. You usually have much higher download speeds, so focus on the upload speed when evaluating your plan.

Apps vary in their bandwidth requirements, but you can consider a 1 megabit per second (Mbps) upload speed a safe minimum, with 3 Mbps being sufficient for nearly any video calls you’ll need to make. The download speed should be at least equivalent to the upload speed, but that will almost always be true.

If your current connection isn’t fast enough, contact your Internet service provider. More throughput will usually cost more, but ideally, your ISP can just change some settings to upgrade you. In some cases, a new cable modem or similar network hardware may be necessary, and in the worst case, you may need a new cable from the street. Whatever you do, try to avoid any plan that comes with a bandwidth cap!

Don’t be afraid to compare prices if you have multiple providers, and even if you have sufficient bandwidth now, it may be worth calling to see if plan prices have dropped since you subscribed.

Upgrade Wi-Fi Hardware

Finally, if the only place in your home that you can work isn’t well served by your current Wi-Fi router, it might be time to upgrade. That’s particularly true if you’re working on old AirPort base stations from Apple.

For creating a Wi-Fi network that has the most coverage, look into mesh networking gear like Eero and AmpliFi. The beauty of mesh networking is that you can add another router or beacon to extend the network without complicated setup.

That said, contact us before ripping your network apart, because on-site visits to fix problems may be difficult or impossible for a while.

(Featured image by Gabriel Beaudry on Unsplash)


Social Media: Working from home like the rest of us? Here’s our advice on setting up a comfortable and effective workspace.

Apple’s New AirPods Pro Offer Active Noise Cancellation and Better Fit

Are you a fan of Apple’s AirPods, or have you had trouble with them staying in your ears? Either way, you might like the just-released AirPods Pro, which offer a new design with three sizes of soft, flexible, silicone ear tips and welcome new capabilities. The ear tips should make the AirPods Pro fit better for more people, and an Ear Tip Fit Test will tell you which size is right for your ears. The hot new feature is Active Noise Cancellation mode, which significantly cuts down on the background din of planes, trains, and automobiles. Alternatively, Transparency mode reduces surrounding noise while still letting you hear important announcements and stay aware of the environment around you. And, of course, Apple promises superior sound quality. The AirPods Pro cost $249 and come with a Wireless Charging Case.

(Featured image by Apple)

Use AirPods to Improve Your Hearing

An ever-increasing number of people have hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise and age. If you’re in that group, but don’t yet need hearing aids, try using your AirPods to help you hear better in certain situations. iOS’s Live Listen feature uses your iPhone’s mic to pick up specific sounds and then sends that audio directly to your AirPods, helping you focus on what you want to hear. To enable Live Listen, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and tap the green + button next to Hearing. Then put your AirPods in, open Control Center, tap the Hearing button, and tap to turn on Live Listen. Fine-tune what you’re hearing by moving the iPhone closer to what you want to hear and pointing the mic at the source of the sound—pay attention to the sound level meter dots—and by adjusting the iPhone’s volume controls. To stop listening, tap Live Listen again or just remove your AirPods.

(Featured image by kyle smith on Unsplash)

A Quick Way to Check Battery Levels on Your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods

Apple’s Batteries widget is a little known but highly useful tool for quickly assessing which of your small Apple devices is lowest on power—something you may wish to do when traveling with only one charging cable. To access it, switch to Today view on the iPhone, accessible by swiping right on the Home screen or Lock screen. If the Batteries widget isn’t already there, scroll to the bottom, tap Edit, and tap the green + button to the left of Batteries in the list. Of course, if you just want to check the battery status on one device, that’s possible too. It’s easy to figure out how much power remains in your iPhone’s battery because of the indicator at the top right of the screen (swipe down on it to invoke Control Center and see the percentage on the iPhone X and later). On the Apple Watch, swipe up on the screen to see its battery percentage in Control Center. For AirPods, open the case and wait for the pop-up to appear on your iPhone’s screen.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Apple’s New AirPods Add “Hey Siri,” More Talk Time, and Optional Wireless Charging

If you use Apple’s AirPods, you’re probably a fan. But if you haven’t tried them, you may not realize what you’re missing. They pair quickly and reliably with all your Apple devices, provide excellent audio quality, and sit comfortably in most people’s ears (more so than the wired EarPods). The AirPods are Apple’s most popular accessory—the company sold 35 million in 2018.

Apple has now unveiled the second-generation AirPods, the first hardware update since their initial release in December 2016. A new Apple-designed H1 chip designed for headphones provides faster connections, more talk time (up to 3 hours), and the convenience invoking Siri with “Hey Siri.” (With the first-generation AirPods, you can configure a double-tap to bring up Siri—when the AirPods are active, look in Settings > Bluetooth > AirPods.)

The new AirPods still cost $159 with a standard Lightning-based charging case, but Apple has also introduced the Wireless Charging Case, which is bundled with the new AirPods for $199 or available separately for both the first- and second-generation AirPods for $79. The Wireless Charging Case works with any Qi-compatible charging mat. It features a tiny LED indicator light on the front of the case to show the case’s charge status, and if you buy from Apple online, you can now get 19 characters of personalized engraving on the front of the case.


Social Media: Apple just released the second-generation AirPods with faster connections, more talk time, “Hey Siri,” and an optional Wireless Charging Case. The AirPods were great before, and now they’re better than ever. Details at:

What OS Version Are You Running? Here’s How to Find Out.

In Troubleshooting 101, one of the first questions is always, “What version of the operating system are you running?” There’s a big difference between Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and the solution to any particular problem will likely revolve around knowing what operating system is in play.

The same is true of Apple’s other operating systems: iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. And, although they aren’t quite in the same category, Apple’s AirPods and HomePod both have system software that can be updated as well.

For the next time you’re experiencing a problem, here’s how to find the version of each of Apple’s operating systems.

macOS

On the Mac, click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of the screen and choose About This Mac. A window opens, displaying the name (macOS High Sierra shown here) and version (10.13.4) of the running version of macOS.

Every now and then, it can be important to learn the build number too—it’s one step more specific than the version number. A new Mac may have a different build number of the same version of macOS, for instance, or Apple may push out a silent security update that changes the build number. To find the build number, simply click the version number—the six-character build number (17E202) appears in parentheses, as above.

iOS

On an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you find the version number in Settings > General > About. Scan down the screen until you see the Version line, which tells you both the version of iOS and the build number.

watchOS

There are two ways to find the version of watchOS running on an Apple Watch:

  • On the watch, open the Settings app, scroll down to and tap General, tap About, and then scroll down until you see Version.
  • On your iPhone, open the Watch app and make sure My Watch is selected in the bottom button bar. Then go to General > About to see a screen that displays much the same information as the Settings app on the watch, including the version number.

tvOS

By now, you can probably guess that on an Apple TV you go to Settings > General > About to find the tvOS version. Apple is nicely consistent in this regard. That said, only the fourth-generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K run tvOS. The obsolete second- and third-generation Apple TVs are instead based on a stripped-down version of iOS, and the first-generation Apple TV is an entirely different beast yet, with its large white case and internal hard drive.

AirPods

You’re unlikely to need to check the version of your AirPods, but if it ever comes up, make sure the AirPods are either connected to their host iOS device or in their case with the top open. Then, on the host iOS device, go to Settings > General > About > AirPods and look for the Firmware Version line.

HomePod

Although the HomePod shipped only recently, Apple has promised software updates that will allow two HomePods in a room to provide true stereo sound and support multi-room audio if you’ve sprinkled HomePods around your house. To check the version of the HomePod software, open Apple’s Home app, make sure Home is selected in the bottom toolbar, and then press and hold on the HomePod’s tile until it opens. Then tap the Details button in the lower right and scroll down until you see the Version line.


Social Media: Quick! Can you find the current operating system version for all your Apple devices? Learn how to carry out this essential troubleshooting task—it’s easy!