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Apple Previews M2-Based MacBook Air and Updated 13-Inch MacBook Pro

During its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 6th, Apple took a brief break from showing off new features in upcoming operating systems to throw back the curtains on its new M2 chip and a pair of laptops that use it: an all-new MacBook Air and an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple said that both laptops will be available in July.

Next Generation M2 Chip Boosts Performance, Offers More Memory

Although we’re still wrapping our heads around the insane performance offered by a Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra chip, Apple is already introducing the next generation of chips to power the Mac line, beginning with the M2. It includes an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, and builds on the capabilities of the M1, increasing CPU performance by 18%, GPU performance by 35%, and Neural Engine performance by 40%. It also offers up to 24 GB of unified memory (16 GB max in the M1) and expands memory bandwidth by 50%. Impressive numbers, but still well under the capabilities of the M1 Pro. We expect Apple to release an M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra within the next year or so.

New MacBook Air Brings Complete Redesign

Apple claims the MacBook Air is the world’s best-selling laptop, which isn’t surprising, given the model’s svelte size, zippy performance, and reasonable price point. For this revision, Apple changed the previous wedge-shaped design to a squared-off look that echoes recent Apple products like the 24-inch iMac and iPhone 13. It’s otherwise similar in size to the previous model, though just a touch thinner and lighter. It’s the same width and a bit deeper, likely because it boasts a 13.6-inch screen and a full-height function key row with Touch ID. Happily, it now charges using Apple’s MagSafe 3 technology. You can get the new MacBook Air in four finishes: silver, space gray, starlight, and midnight.

The new MacBook Air’s screen isn’t just bigger, it’s also better. It has a slightly higher resolution of 2560×1664, it’s brighter, and it supports up to 1 billion colors. In other words, it’s gorgeous, and you can supplement it with an external display up to 6K in resolution. Embedded at the top of the screen is a better webcam with a 1080p resolution instead of the previous 720p resolution. Apple also enhanced its audio capabilities with a four-speaker sound system and a three-mic array with directional beamforming.

The price of the M2-based MacBook Air starts at $1199, but additional processing power, memory, and storage are available:

  • Chip: Choose from either an M2 with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU or one with an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU ($100).
  • Memory: 8 GB of unified memory is standard, but you can opt for 16 GB ($200) or 24 GB ($400).
  • Storage: The base level of SSD storage is 256 GB, with upgrades to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800).

Like the previous M1-based MacBook Air, the new model sports two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports on the left side (next to the MagSafe port) and a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the right side. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking and Bluetooth 5.0.

It comes with a 30-watt USB-C power adapter, or you can pay $20 more for either a 35-watt power adapter with two USB-C ports or a 67-watt USB-C power adapter that supports the M2-based MacBook Air’s fast charging capabilities. If you opt for the higher-end M2 chip and at least 512 GB of storage, you get one of the more-capable power adapters for free.

Although the new MacBook Air is a little more expensive than a comparably configured M1-based MacBook Air, it sports better performance, more memory, a bigger and better screen, a better webcam, a larger function key row, better speakers, and MagSafe 3. Nevertheless, if you’re working on a tight budget, the least expensive M1-based MacBook Air remains available for $999, and it’s still a fine machine.

In the end, it’s hard to go wrong with the new M2-based MacBook Air when upgrading from an Intel-based Mac laptop or supplementing your desktop Mac with a laptop. It’s small, light, powerful, and cost-effective, if not a significant enough jump to warrant upgrading from an M1-based MacBook Air.

Updated 13-inch MacBook Pro Gains M2 Chip

While the new MacBook Air is a complete redesign, the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro is unchanged from its M1-based predecessor, apart from the move to the M2 chip. Since that’s the same chip that’s in the MacBook Air and the price is identical for comparable configurations, the question becomes why you’d buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro instead of the new MacBook Air.

On the plus side, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has cooling fans that enable it to maintain peak performance for sustained loads—the fanless MacBook Air will throttle itself to avoid overheating if you push it for too long. The MacBook Pro’s battery life is likely a little longer, given that it has a large battery. Finally, it has a Touch Bar instead of a function key row, which some may like.

However, the new MacBook Air’s slightly larger screen supports more colors (1 billion versus millions), and the MacBook Air has a better webcam and potentially better speakers. It’s also a little thinner and lighter.

In balance, we recommend the MacBook Air unless you love the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, which seems to be on the way out. The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299 for an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU M2-based model with 8 GB of unified memory and 256 GB of SSD storage. The build-to-order options are the same as for the MacBook Air.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its WWDC22 keynote, Apple unveiled a completely redesigned MacBook Air and an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro, both powered by the next-generation M2 chip. Read on for details:

Shrink Apps to Prevent the MacBook Pro Notch from Obscuring App Controls

The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models feature a camera housing built into the screen, resulting in a notch like that on the iPhone. Most developers are updating their apps to ensure that no controls or menu bar items appear blocked or hidden by the notch, but if you use an older app that doesn’t play nicely with the notch, there’s a fix. Quit the app if it’s running, select it in the Finder’s Applications folder, and choose File > Get Info. In the Info window that opens, select “Scale to fit below built-in camera.” The active area of the display resizes so everything appears below the notch, slightly reducing the overall screen space. This checkbox won’t appear once the app has been updated to avoid the notch.

(Featured image by Apple)

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:

Picking the Best Mac for a College-Bound Student

Do you have a child heading off to college soon? As you’re undoubtedly aware from high school, a computer is essential for a college student. If you haven’t been paying close attention to Apple’s Mac lineup, you might wonder which model makes the most sense.

First, don’t buy anything without first checking with the college. Many college departments have specific requirements based on the software that students have to use in their classes. Generally, these revolve around processor type, amount of RAM, and storage space. Luckily, current Macs should meet the requirements.

Colleges often specify—and students usually prefer—laptops instead of desktop machines. Although the iMac is an excellent machine with a gorgeous screen, it’s too big and unwieldy for the transient lifestyle of the typical college student. The same is true of a Mac mini and external display. A laptop is much easier to pack during moves, and it can travel to class every day. A student who’s accustomed to taking notes on an iPad with a Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil might be able to use that along with a desktop Mac, but most people should focus on Apple’s laptops.

In the past, it was harder to decide which model was best for a given student, but with Apple’s move to the M1 chip, which significantly outperforms the Intel processors used in previous models, the decision is easier. We see three primary scenarios:

  • Most students: Buy Apple’s M1-based MacBook Air. It’s Apple’s smallest, lightest, and least expensive laptop, but thanks to its M1 processor, it has nearly identical performance to the heavier and more costly M1-based MacBook Pro. It also has the same lovely 13.3-inch Retina display. It starts at $999, and an education discount may be available.
  • Slightly better specs: If cost is of little concern, the M1-based MacBook Pro offers just a bit more performance due to fans that keep its M1 chip cool. It also has a Touch Bar (which some people like, but others don’t), somewhat longer battery life, and nominally better speakers and microphones. It starts at $1299, and again, education pricing may be available.
  • Windows compatibility: The only reason to buy an older Intel-based MacBook Pro— available in either 13.3-inch ($1799) and 16-inch ($2399) models—is if Windows compatibility is essential. All Intel-based Macs can run Windows with no problems, either by restarting in Apple’s Boot Camp or using virtualization software like VMware Fusion (free for students) or Parallels Desktop. (On M1-based Macs, it’s possible to run Parallels Desktop and Windows for ARM Insider Preview, but we can’t recommend that anyone rely on that combination yet.)

Regardless of which laptop you decide on, you’ll have to pick a processor, an amount of RAM, and storage capacity:

  • Processor: With the M1-based MacBook Air, you have a choice between two CPUs that are identical apart from one having a 7-core GPU and the other an 8-core GPU. No one is likely to notice the difference for everyday software, but the price difference is only $50 if you’re also getting at least 512 GB of storage. (The M1-based MacBook Pro offers only the 8-core GPU chip.) For Intel-based Mac laptops, there are various options based on clock speed and number of cores. They’re all fine, but you pay for performance, so buy what fits your budget and needs.
  • RAM: With the M1-based Macs, you can choose between 8 GB and 16 GB of RAM. 8 GB may be acceptable, but we recommend 16 GB. Intel-based Mac laptops start at 16 GB, which is a decent base level, and you can go up to 32 GB or 64 GB (16-inch only). Generally speaking, go beyond 16 GB only if you know you need it.
  • Storage: For the M1-based Macs, 256 GB is the lowest storage level, whereas the Intel-based Macs usually start higher. Either way, you can upgrade to a maximum of 2 TB. Choose the amount of storage based on budget and anticipated usage—video takes a lot of space, as can large numbers of photos, but most other uses don’t.

To our thinking, the most obvious choice for a Mac that’s likely to last for four years of college would be the M1-based MacBook Air with the 8-core GPU, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage. Be sure to budget for AppleCare+, too; it’s almost guaranteed that some mishap will befall a student laptop, and AppleCare+ covers up to two incidents of accidental damage every year.

You’ll need to have some conversations with your child to find out what they think they’ll need—and be sure to double-check that against the college’s recommendations—but if you have any questions after that, don’t hesitate to contact us.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Which Mac is the best for a new college student? Short answer: the M1 MacBook Air. Read on for the longer explanation and how we recommend configuring it.

So, Are Apple’s New M1-Based Macs Any Good?

In November, Apple unveiled its new M1 chip and three new Macs that use it: the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. The M1-based MacBook Air replaces the previous Intel-based MacBook Air, but with the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac mini, Apple continues to sell some Intel-based models with beefier specs—most notably a higher memory ceiling.

Even though Apple makes impressive performance claims for the new Macs, the community was still somewhat skeptical. Were these new Macs as fast as Apple said? Would they be limited in some other way? And the biggest question of all, should we be buying untested M1-based Macs or tried-and-true Intel-based models? Now that these new Macs are shipping and people have had a chance to try them, let’s address these and other questions so you can plan your future Mac purchases appropriately.

Are these new Macs fast?

It’s hard to overstate just how astonishing the performance benchmarks for these new Macs are. In single-core GeekBench 5 tests, the M1-based Macs beat every existing Mac by a lot: the most recent 27-inch iMac clocked in at a benchmark score of 1250, whereas the M1 Macs hovered around 1700. (The Mac Pro and iMac Pro are tweaked for faster multi-core performance instead, so they fare even worse on the GeekBench 5 single-core benchmarks.) For many everyday apps, single-core performance is what you’ll notice.

Of course, the top-of-the-line 28-core Mac Pro and its siblings outperform the 8-core M1-based Macs in the GeekBench 5 multi-core benchmarks, but if you focus on the new M1 Macs in the multi-core rankings below, you can see that they’re just behind the fastest 27-inch iMacs and low-end Pro models. That’s doubly impressive when you remember that the Mac Pro in the screenshot below costs $6000, compared to $700 for the Mac mini.

Benchmarks don’t lie, but they also don’t tell the whole story. These new Macs feel fast. Apps launch with only a bounce or two of the icon on the Dock. The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro wake from sleep and unlock with an Apple Watch so quickly that they’re ready to use by the time you’ve finished opening the screen. We can’t promise you’ll never see the spinning beachball wait cursor, but we haven’t so far. In some ways, using these new Macs feels more like using a fast iPad or iPhone, where everything happens nearly instantly.

Finally, note that only apps that have been rewritten to support the M1 chip receive the full speed boost. Older apps must be “translated” by Apple’s Rosetta 2, which converts apps from Intel instructions to the Arm instructions needed by the M1. That happens at launch, after which macOS launches the translated app. The first launch might be slow, but subsequent launches are faster. Although emulation environments are generally quite slow, early tests show apps translated by Rosetta 2 as running at about 80% of native speed. The upshot of that is that even translated apps might run faster than the equivalent app running on an Intel-based Mac.

What’s the deal with the new M1-based Macs having only 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM?

With the new M1-based Macs, you can choose between 8 GB and 16 GB of RAM, and that’s it. In contrast, the current Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pro lets you go up to 32 GB, and the Intel-based Mac mini can take up to 64 GB.

Although 16 GB of RAM sounds limiting, that doesn’t seem to be nearly as concerning as one might think. The reason is that the M1 chips use what Apple calls “unified memory,” which is built onto the M1 chip itself and shared by the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine. A significant performance bottleneck in modern computers is moving data around in memory. Benchmarks suggest that the memory bandwidth on the M1 chip is about 3x faster than on a 16-inch MacBook Pro. The faster that data can be moved around in memory and shared between the processing cores, the less memory is needed.

The speed of their SSDs also lets the M1-based Macs get away with less memory. When macOS uses all its physical RAM, it falls back on virtual memory, which effectively involves moving data on and off the SSD as needed. When Macs used hard drives, swapping memory to and from disk was very slow, but modern SSDs are fast enough to hide swapping delays.

To be fair, there are still memory-intensive tasks that will run better on Macs with lots of physical RAM. That’s a big reason Apple kept the Intel versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini for sale. On the very high end, you can put a whopping 1.5 TB of RAM in a Mac Pro, and if you need that kind of RAM for your work, you’ll need to stick with Intel-based Macs for now.

How will the M1-based Macs fit into a workflow?

Here’s where things get tricky. If you have an office full of Macs, there are some good reasons why you might want to stick with Intel-based Macs for a while.

  • Big Sur: The M1-based Macs require macOS 11 Big Sur. In general, we recommend that people hold off on upgrading to Big Sur until Apple has released maintenance updates to solidify stability and compatibility. Plus, mixing versions of operating systems and apps can lead to interoperability problems.
  • Apps: Although Rosetta 2 appears to do a good job translating older apps, there may still be quirks or performance hits, particularly for complex apps.
  • Memory: As mentioned above, there are some tasks where lots of physical RAM is essential, and there’s currently no way to go above 16 GB on an M1-based Mac.

But here’s the thing. Apple very intentionally focused its initial M1-based Mac models on the low end of the Mac product line. These Macs are ideal for students and individuals, or as auxiliary or traveling Macs for office workers, particularly given the startlingly good battery life in the laptops. They won’t be replacing a Mac Pro or even a 27-inch iMac right now, but no one would have replaced such a machine with a MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, or Mac mini before either.

In the end, we’re bullish on these new M1-based Macs. They’ve redefined what the most inexpensive Macs can do, making them compelling for those who don’t require more than 16 GB of physical RAM or need to slot them into highly specific workflows.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple’s new M1-based Macs are getting rave reviews for their stunning performance and battery life. Should you buy one for your next Mac or stick with a tried-and-true Intel-based Mac? We look into that question in this piece.

Apple Unveils New M1-Powered MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini

Continuing its pandemic-driven approach of short, focused announcements, Apple once again took to the Internet to stream its “One More Thing” event. On center stage this time was the Mac, or specifically, three Macs, all of which replace the longstanding Intel chip with Apple’s new M1 chip. All three Macs can be ordered now and will be available within a week or so.

What Is the M1 and Why Should You Care?

Before we talk about the Macs that are now based on Apple’s custom-designed M1 chip, let’s explain what it is and why it’s important.

First, the M1 is what’s called a “System on a Chip” or “SoC.” Instead of having a separate CPU (main processor), GPU (graphics processor), and RAM (memory, which both the CPU and GPU need), the M1 combines those components onto a single chip. The M1 also has a special 16-core processor, called the Neural Engine, that helps with machine-learning tasks, along with a custom storage controller, image signal processor, and Secure Enclave.

Within the 8-core CPU, Apple has four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. When you need maximum processing power to edit a video, for instance, macOS dynamically brings the high-performance cores into play. However, if you’re just reading email, macOS switches to the high-efficiency cores to avoid wasting power and draining laptop batteries. Another way the M1 achieves its performance gains is through “unified memory.” By putting the RAM on the chip and sharing it among the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine, those processors can access it more quickly than when it’s elsewhere on the motherboard. The downside is that the M1 chip comes with only 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM; there’s no option for more.

Second, since 2006, Macs have been powered by CPUs from Intel. Switching to its own M1 chip benefits Apple in three ways:

  • Performance: When Apple moved the Mac to Intel chips, it did so because IBM’s PowerPC chips couldn’t compete in performance per watt. That measurement is key for battery-powered laptops and has come home to roost again. With the M1, Apple has customized the design in many ways to provide up to three times the performance per watt.
  • Control: By designing its own chip, Apple can optimize performance in all sorts of small ways that integrate perfectly with macOS. Previously, Apple had to work with whatever Intel shipped, forcing Apple to make trade-offs in macOS. Plus, Intel’s roadmap and production schedule often conflicted with Apple’s.
  • Profit: Apple won’t say this, but Intel processors have high profit margins, and Apple would far prefer to keep that money rather than giving it to Intel.

In essence, the M1 will enable Apple to make Macs that are faster and cheaper, and that have better battery life. It will also allow Macs to run all iPhone and iPad apps, since the M1 is similar to the A-series chips that power those devices.

The first three Macs to take advantage of the M1 are the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. Apart from a few small exceptions, the main thing that has changed about these Macs is the M1 chip. They look the same, feel the same, and work the same, although they do all come with—and require—macOS 11 Big Sur.

MacBook Air

The new M1-based MacBook Air confidently replaces the previous Intel-based model that Apple released in March 2020. It does so thanks to massive M1-powered performance improvements: up to 3.5x faster processing, up to 5x faster graphics, and up to 9x faster machine-learning workloads. The M1’s integrated storage controller and the latest solid-state storage technology also combine for up to 2x speedier SSD performance.

Because the M1 is so much more efficient than Intel chips, the MacBook Air no longer needs a fan to keep its cool. It’s now silent. Apple significantly improved battery life as well, promising up to 15 hours of “wireless web” and up to 18 hours of video playback, up from 11 and 12 hours for the previous model. More relevant is that videoconferencing should last twice as long on a single charge.

There are a few other small improvements:

  • Support for P3 wide color on the 13-inch Retina display
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports that support the new USB 4
  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 networking, up from 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5
  • Better image quality on the (unchanged) 720p FaceTime HD camera, thanks to the M1’s dedicated image signal processor
  • Instant wake from sleep

Note that the MacBook Air lacks the Touch Bar of the MacBook Pro—which may be a pro or a con—but its Magic Keyboard does include traditional F-keys and a Touch ID sensor for login and authentication.

The MacBook Air comes in two configurations: a low-end model whose M1 chip has an 8-core CPU and a 7-core GPU, plus 8 GB of unified memory and 256 GB of storage for $999. The high-end model switches to an 8-core GPU and 512 GB of storage for $1249—that’s $50 cheaper than the previous high-end model. You can bump the RAM to 16 GB for $200, and the storage levels include 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB.

Frankly, it’s a great machine.

13-inch MacBook Pro

Things get a little more confusing with the M1-based 13-inch MacBook Pro. Previously, there were four configurations, priced at $1299, $1499, $1799, and $1999. Apple replaced the bottom two with M1 configurations but left the top two with Intel chips. Why? Probably because the higher-end Intel models can take up to 32 GB of RAM. They also have four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a 4 TB storage option.

Apple doesn’t say if or by how much the new M1 MacBook Pro is faster than the Intel models, but it does say that it’s up to 2.8x faster overall than what it replaces, has up to 5x faster graphics, and is up to 11x quicker for machine-learning tasks. It should outperform the M1 MacBook Air, even though they share the same chip, because the 13-inch MacBook Pro has a fan that lets the M1 chip run faster and thus hotter than in the MacBook Air. Nonetheless, battery life is excellent, with up to 17 hours of “wireless web” and up to 20 hours of video playback—the longest battery life ever for a Mac.

The M1 MacBook Pro shares most of the small improvements in the MacBook Air, including the two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, better image quality from the 720p FaceTime HD camera, and instant wake. New is a “studio-quality three-mic array” that promises better audio for videoconferencing. It already supported P3 wide color, and the Retina display remains gorgeous.

The M1-based 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299 with an M1 chip that has an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 8 GB of memory, and 256 GB of storage. Going to 16 GB of RAM costs $200, and you can upgrade the storage to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800).

It can be hard to choose between the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Our take? Pick the MacBook Air for its lower price, fanless design, and F-keys, or go with the MacBook Pro if you’re willing to pay for more performance and a Touch Bar.

Mac mini

The third Mac model to switch to the M1 chip is the Mac mini. Like the 13-inch MacBook Pro, not all models make the jump, however. Previously, there were two Mac mini models, one starting at $799 and the other at $1099. The M1 Mac mini replaces the low-end model and drops the price to $699.

As with the other two M1-based Macs, the M1 Mac mini boasts impressive performance improvements. Apple says its CPU performance is 3x faster than the model it replaces, it has up to 6x faster graphics, and machine-learning tasks complete up to 15x faster.

Although Apple made no comparisons with the remaining Intel-based Mac mini, we suspect the M1 model will be faster, and it has the new 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6. So why is that Intel Mac mini sticking around?

  • The M1 Mac mini offers only 8 GB or 16 GB ($200) of RAM, whereas the Intel Mac mini is configurable to 32 GB ($600) or 64 GB ($1000) as well.
  • The Intel Mac mini can drive up to three displays, whereas the M1 Mac mini supports only two. On the plus side, the M1 Mac mini can drive Apple’s 6K Pro Display XDR at full resolution, which the Intel Mac mini can’t.
  • The M1 Mac mini has only two Thunderbolt ports, whereas the Intel Mac mini has four.
  • The Intel Mac mini has a $100 option for 10 Gigabit Ethernet, whereas the M1 Mac mini is limited to Gigabit Ethernet.

Our feeling is that, at $200 cheaper, a comparable M1 Mac mini is a better deal unless you need any of the hardware options that exist solely on the Intel Mac mini.

macOS Big Sur on November 12th

Finally, Apple said that it would release macOS 11 Big Sur on November 12th. The new Macs require it, but put bluntly, we strongly recommend that you do not upgrade any other production Macs to Big Sur yet. Along with a complete user interface overhaul, it has significant under-the-hood changes that could pose compatibility problems for many workflows in the near term. We’ll be evaluating Big Sur with common productivity apps shortly and will update our advice about when it’s safe to upgrade as we learn more.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple’s “One More Thing” turned out to be the company’s new M1 chip, which powers new models of the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini to new heights of performance and battery life. Learn more at:

Are You Making the Most of the Touch Bar on Your MacBook Pro?

In 2016, Apple introduced the Touch Bar with the MacBook Pro. It’s a long, thin display above the number keys on the keyboard that shows a variety of buttons and controls. By default, it changes depending on which app you’re in, and it also displays the Control Strip, a collection of controls that roughly mimics the functions accessible from the F-keys that traditionally live in that position. Finally, it includes the Touch ID sensor that brings fingerprint authentication to the Mac.

Since its launch, however, the Touch Bar hasn’t migrated to any other Macs or keyboards, although the MacBook Air picked up a Touch ID sensor without the rest of the Touch Bar. As a result, developers haven’t been as enthusiastic about supporting the Touch Bar as they might have been. Nevertheless, it provides useful shortcuts in many apps, and you can customize it more to your liking. (Plus, although we’re not going into those details here, Apple is making the Touch Bar even more useful and customizable in macOS 11 Big Sur.)

Choose What the Touch Bar Shows

You may never have noticed the Touch Bar’s settings because Apple has hidden them in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences. Logical, but perhaps not where you might have looked first if you were thinking of the Touch Bar as an extension of the trackpad.

You have two choices here, what appears in the Touch Bar normally, and how it changes if you press the Fn key in the lower-left corner of the keyboard. Your options include:

  • App Controls: The controls that appear when you choose this option vary by app. This option is the most generally useful, though how much so depends on whether the apps you use support the Touch Bar in helpful ways.
  • Expanded Control Strip: The Control Strip, which appears by default on the right side of the Touch Bar, lets you adjust common settings like brightness and volume. The Expanded Control Strip option fills the rest of the Touch Bar with more buttons.
  • F1, F2, etc. Keys: Aimed at keyboard traditionalists, this option mimics the F-keys that occupy the Touch Bar’s position on every other keyboard in the universe. People often use these keys as hot keys with macro programs like Keyboard Maestro.
  • Quick Actions: Want to create your own custom buttons for the Touch Bar? In Apple’s Automator app, you can create workflows as Quick Actions, which then appear on the Touch Bar when you choose this option.
  • Spaces: Those who are big users of Spaces in Mission Control might appreciate this option, which lets you switch between different full-screen apps and Split View spaces.

In the Touch Bar Shows pop-up menu, you should choose the set of Touch Bar buttons that you’ll find the most useful most of the time. That’s probably either App Controls or F-keys for most people, unless you do a lot of your own automation (choose Quick Actions) or regularly use full-screen apps (choose Spaces).

The Press Fn Key To menu basically gives you a second choice—press that key, and you can display whatever set of buttons you’d find next most useful.

Finally, notice that there’s a checkbox for Show Control Strip. If you want to take over its space on the right side of the Touch Bar for other buttons, deselect the checkbox. One useful approach is to disable the Control Strip in general use, but show the expanded Control Strip when you press Fn.

Customize App Controls

App controls are in many ways the most interesting because they change not just when you switch between apps, but also based on what you’re doing in an app. Take Pages, for instance. If you’re working with text, Pages configures the Touch Bar to show buttons that let you switch between paragraph styles, apply character formatting, and tweak horizontal and vertical justification. That button on the far right displays auto-complete options for the word you’re typing. But if you have a text box selected, Pages instead provides buttons for opacity, various colors, and line strokes. Select a table, and Pages immediately offers options for adding and removing columns and rows.

Even better, some apps, like Safari, let you pick which buttons appear in the Touch Bar, just as you can pick the controls that appear in window toolbars. In apps that allow this, choose View > Customize Touch Bar. A selection of available buttons appears at the bottom of the screen. Drag one of the buttons off the bottom of the screen and—really!—onto the Touch Bar, where you can drag it into different spots. When you’re done, click the Done button.

While you’re customizing the Touch Bar for an app, you can also rearrange buttons by dragging them left or right (with either the pointer or your finger) and remove buttons by dragging them (with the pointer) from the Touch Bar to the MacBook Pro’s screen.

Note that the Touch Bar is only so big, and the Mac won’t let you populate it with more buttons than it has room for. If you try, the new button will replace one of the current buttons.

Customize the Control Strip

You’re not limited to choosing which app controls you’d like to see in the Touch Bar. In System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard, click Customize Control Strip to bring up a similar collection of controls that you can add to the Control Strip. Plus, you can rearrange and remove buttons from the Touch Bar’s Control Strip just as with the app controls.

Try Third-Party Utilities

As you might expect, clever Mac programmers have extended the ways you can use the Touch Bar beyond what Apple provides. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • BetterTouchTool: For $8.50, this general-purpose customization utility gives you control over various input devices on your Mac, including the Touch Bar. It lets you completely customize the Touch Bar, add and customize the appearance of buttons for all sorts of built-in actions, create dynamic widgets using AppleScript and other languages, and download ready-to-use presets.
  • Pock: Want to recover the screen real-estate occupied by the Dock? The free Pock puts your Dock items in the Touch Bar for fast app switching. Plus, it provides useful widgets, including a handy Now Playing widget that can show the title of the current song.
  • Haptic Touch Bar: Although Apple built the Touch Bar so it could provide haptic feedback—making it feel like you’ve pressed a key down when all you’ve done is touched a flat glass surface—most controls don’t provide it. The $4.99 Haptic Touch Bar utility makes all Touch Bar buttons pretend to be physical buttons, with haptic and audio feedback.

If you’ve been ignoring the Touch Bar because it didn’t work the way you wanted, or if you’ve liked using it but wished it could do more, give these customization options a try!

(Featured image by Adam Engst)


Social Media: Do you love, hate, or just ignore the Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro? Regardless, take a look at these ways of customizing it, and perhaps you’ll end up liking it more.

Apple Updates 13-inch MacBook Pro with Magic Keyboard and Twice the Storage

In a move that completes the transition of the MacBook line from the troubled butterfly keyboard to the Magic Keyboard, Apple has released a new 13-inch MacBook Pro. The company also doubled the amount of storage in each of the standard configurations while keeping prices the same, and it ramped up the specs in the model with four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Like the MacBook Air that Apple released several months ago, the most notable change in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is the replacement of the butterfly keyboard with the new scissor-key Magic Keyboard introduced last year in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. So far, that keyboard has been well-regarded. Unlike the MacBook Air, however, the 13-inch MacBook Pro continues to include Apple’s Touch Bar, though now with a physical Escape key and a separate Touch ID sensor.

Apple doubled the onboard storage across all base configurations, so the 13-inch MacBook Pro now starts at 256 GB, and you can choose from configs that include 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, and even a whopping 4 TB.

As in the past, there are two models of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, one with two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left side and another with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side. The two-port model receives the Magic Keyboard and additional storage, but is otherwise unchanged from last year’s model. It still features 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors running at 1.4 GHz and 1.7 GHz, respectively (the faster processor is a $300 option), and 8 GB of RAM, upgradeable to 16 GB for $100.

However, Apple beefed up the four-port model with faster 10th-generation processors, either a 2.0 GHz quad-core Core i5 or, for $200 more, a 2.3 GHz quad-core Core i7 that should provide even better performance.

These new processors also feature updated Intel Iris Plus Graphics that Apple claims improve graphics performance by up to 80% and can drive the company’s 6K Pro Display XDR screen.

Finally, the four-port model now starts at 16 GB of RAM (up from 8 GB) for the same price, uses faster memory than before, and can be upgraded to 32 GB of RAM for an additional $400.

The two-port model of the 13-inch MacBook continues to start at $1299, and the price of the four-port model still starts at $1799. Both are available now in silver or space gray.

If you’re looking for a new laptop, which should you choose? With its new processors, more and faster RAM, and improved graphics performance, the four-port model provides a particularly attractive package for the price.

For those who would prefer something less expensive, however, the new MacBook Air may be more compelling than the two-port model of the MacBook Pro—it largely comes down to whether you would prefer the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar or the MacBook Air’s function keys. Contact us for help choosing the right Mac for your needs!

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: In the market for a new laptop? Apple has introduced new 13-inch MacBook Pro models with better keyboards and more storage, plus faster processors and RAM. Check out the news at:

New 16-inch MacBook Pro Sports a Redesigned Scissor-Switch Keyboard

Responding to customer complaints and media mocking, Apple has introduced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro that features improves on its predecessor in several ways, most notably with a scissor-switch keyboard in place of the flaky butterfly-key keyboard. The 16-inch MacBook Pro replaces the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro at the top of Apple’s notebook line and starts at $2399. The 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air remain unchanged.

Apple also announced that the new Mac Pro (starting at $5999) and Apple Pro Display XDR (starting at $4999) will ship in December 2019—we’ll have more details once those are available.

New Keyboard Provides More Key Travel

Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboard features “a redesigned scissor mechanism and 1mm travel for a more satisfying key feel.” That’s a positive way to say that many people disliked typing on the previous keyboard’s butterfly mechanism. Plus, keys failed frequently, causing Apple to redesign the keyboard multiple times and offer a repair program for out-of-warranty devices.

Although the new 16-inch MacBook Pro still features a Touch Bar with a Touch ID sensor in place of the classic F-keys, another important keyboard enhancement is the return of the physical Escape key and the reinstatement of the traditional inverted-T layout for the arrow keys.

Initial reviews from pundits who received early access to the new MacBook Pro were positive, with several vocal critics of the previous keyboard saying the new one feels the way a keyboard should.

About That 16-inch Display… and Other Displays

You might expect the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s display to be its most notable feature, and it is legitimately bigger, with that 16-inch diagonal measurement and a slightly higher native resolution. That translates to a scaled default resolution of 1792-by-1120, up from 1680-by-1050, so the new MacBook Pro will show more content on the screen than the previous model. And it’s still gorgeous.

To drive that larger screen, the 16-inch MacBook Pro continues to offer both integrated (for better battery life) and discrete (for faster performance) graphics. On the latter side, you can choose from the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4 GB of memory, or the Radeon Pro 5500M with either 4 GB or 8 GB of memory. Those graphics chips simultaneously support up to four 4K external displays or up to two 6K displays.

More Power, More RAM, More Storage

Apple claims the 16-inch MacBook Pro is up to 80% faster than the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro, thanks to new 9th-generation processors: the 6-core Intel Core i7 and the 8-core Intel Core i9.

16 GB of RAM is the base level, which is good, since we don’t recommend any less than that. For those who need a higher RAM ceiling, Apple offers 32 GB ($400) and 64 GB ($800) build-to-order options.

When it comes to SSD storage, the base level is 512 GB, but you can upgrade to 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), or a whopping 8 TB ($2400).

Radically Better Audio

Apple clearly had audio professionals in mind while designing the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Along with the beefy processors, high RAM ceilings, and massive storage options, all of which will be popular with the audio crowd, the new notebook features significantly improved audio input and speakers.

For input, the MacBook Pro relies on a three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming that Apple claims delivers a 40% reduction in hiss. Podcasters have praised the new mic array, though without suggesting that it competes with dedicated mics.

Equally compelling for anyone who listens to music is the new six-speaker, high-fidelity sound system. Its force-canceling woofers with dual opposed speaker drivers reduce unwanted and sound-distorting vibrations and enable the bass to go half an octave deeper than the previous model. There’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack too.

Slightly Larger Physical Package

Between the larger screen, the six-speaker sound system, and the 100-watt-hour battery that Apple says provides up to 11 hours of battery life, the company had to increase the size of the 16-inch MacBook Pro slightly compared to the previous 15-inch model.

It’s only about 8mm wider and 5mm deeper, which likely won’t be noticeable. However, it also weighs 4.3 pounds (1.95 kg), which is noticeably more than the 4.02 (1.82 kg) pounds of the previous model.

802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 remain standard for wireless connectivity, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro continues to offer four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports for charging and connectivity. You’ll still need a collection of dongles for connecting to USB-A peripherals, HDMI and DisplayPort monitors, Ethernet networks, and so on.

Price and Availability

You can buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro now, in either silver or space gray. The base model starts at $2399 with 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, a 6-core Intel Core i7 processor, and the AMD Radeon 5300M graphics chip. That’s a totally legit Mac, but if you need more power and can pay for it, a maxed-out configuration with 64 GB of RAM and an 8 TB SSD  would set you back $6099.

Note that the 16-inch MacBook Pro ships with macOS 10.15 Catalina and almost certainly cannot be downgraded to 10.14 Mojave.

Frankly, this new MacBook Pro is a solid upgrade, particularly for those who have been delaying due to the problems with the butterfly keyboard. The only real problem is that the smaller, lighter, and less expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are still saddled with that keyboard. We hope 2020 will bring the redesigned scissor-switch keyboard to those models as well.

(Featured image by Apple)

Apple Issues Voluntary Recall for Certain 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro Units

Heads up! If you’re using an older 15-inch MacBook Pro—the version with lots of ports that predates the current Thunderbolt 3 models—Apple has started a recall program to replace batteries that could explode and catch on fire. (We’re not kidding.) The affected MacBook Pro models were sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017. To find out if your 15-inch MacBook Pro is affected, enter its serial number into Apple’s recall page. If it is included in the recall, shut it down and stop using it immediately! Contact Apple for a free battery replacement, and if you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

(Image courtesy of Apple)