New Magic Accessories and Mac Pro Graphics Cards

Today Apple has released some upgrades. This includes a new set of “Magic” accessories and some additional upgrades for the Intel Mac Pro. Let us start with the Graphics Cards for the Intel Mac Pro

Graphics Card

Apple indicated that the transition from Intel to their own Silicon would take two years. We are just over halfway through those two years. One of the devices that has not been upgraded yet is the Mac Pro.

In order to allow the Intel Mac Pro to remain relevant, Apple has added three new video card options. These are:

  • Radeon Pro W6800X MPX Module
  • Radeon Pro W6800X Duo MPX Module
  • Radeon Pro W6900X MPX Module
Mac Pro Graphics Card - Radeon Pro W6800x

Each of these can be configured when you order a new Intel Mac Pro. If you do add these they will cost, $2400, $4600, and $5600, respectively. If you already have a 2019 Intel Mac Pro, you can also get these as standalone for $2800, $5000, and $6000 respectively, or $400 more.

Each of these graphics cards have 32GB of GDDR6 memory in them, so they should be plenty fast when it comes to utilization. Apple has also released an accompanying white paper that will provide performance characteristics for the graphics cards.

New Magic Accessories

The Mac has its own set of accessories, like keyboards, trackpads, and mice. Apple has prepended these with the word “Magic”. Therefore, they would become Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpads, and Magic Mice.

When Apple introduced the 24-inch iMac with M1 earlier this year, they came in a range of colors and the keyboards, trackpads, and mice that you would get with the Mac would match the color of the color of the Mac.

The 24-inch iMac did not just have a color-matched keyboard, but there were three keyboard options. These are:

  • Magic Keyboard
  • Magic Keyboard with Touch ID
  • Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Keypad
Standalone Magic Keyboard with Touch ID with Numeric Pad

When these were announced many wondered how long it would be before Apple would allow these to be purchased on their own. Well, today is that day. All three of these, along with the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are available to order. These are only available in silver. The standalone keyboards will cost you $99, $149, and $179 respectively. The Magic Mouse is $79 and the Magic Trackpad is $129.

You can still purchase the older Magic Keyboard with Numeric Pad for $129.

The Touch ID sensor that is on the Magic Keyboards with Touch ID will not work with Intel machines. They will only work with Macs with M1.

While it is not 100% known, it would make sense that the keyboards with Touch ID will work with any Mac, but the Touch ID will not work on Intel Machines.

Closing Thoughts

All of these items are available to order today. The Magic accessories should arrive by Friday, if ordered today. The graphics cards will arrive August 16th to 18th, if ordered today.

It is not known if Apple will release the Magic accessories in colors at a later date or not.

Additional info from Apple’s “Spring Loaded” Event

I thought I would add a few additional tidbits that have been made known after the Spring Loaded event. The topics will include some new information about iOS 14.5, AirTag, Apple TV, and Macs.

iOS 14.5

One tidbit that was made known is that iOS 14.5 is out today. iOS 14.5 supports AirTag, additional Siri voices, and the Xbox Series X|S and Playstation 5 controllers.

The second thing with iOS 14.5 is that there is a new feature, that may be very helpful for developers. If there are multiple beta versions available, both versions will be shown to the user, so they can decide which beta version they want to install. This will be a nice feature for developers.

The question that remains is whether or not you can downgrade a device to a previous version or not. I would suspect the answer is no.

Apple TV

While there is a lot of information about the new Apple TV 4K, one thing that was not mentioned before is that you can now get AppleCare+ on the Apple TV. You could purchase AppleCare previously, but this only covered two years of support.

Now with AppleCare+, you get up to 3 years of coverage for $29. This includes accidental damage coverage as well.

Macs

Similar to the change in AppleCare on the Apple TV, there are some AppleCare+ changes on the Mac now as well. You can now get AppleCare+ on a monthly basis. This means that you can get support beyond three years, which makes a lot of sense given that many people keep their Macs far beyond the previous two years of AppleCare support.

iMac 24-inch Tidbits

There is another tidbit specifically with the new 24-inch iMac. The power cord that goes into the iMac is a magnetic one. The magnets are quite strong because you do not want the power cord to accidentally come out of a running iMac, even if it has solid-state storage.

M1 Mac mini

Another update that Apple made is the additional option on the M1 Mac mini. now you can optionally choose a 10 gigabit Ethernet connection. This will cost an additional $100, but if you need the extra speed, it is an option. This was an option that was available on the previous generation Mac mini and it is good to see it make its way back to the current M1 Mac mini.

Magic Keyboard with Touch ID

One of the new features of 24-inch iMac is the option for a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. While these will be available for the 24-inch iMac, the keyboards will actually work with other M1 Macs. This is most particularly useful with the M1 Mac mini.

As of now the keyboards are not available for purchase separately from the 24-inch iMac, but it is quite likely that they will be available for purchase separately at some point in the future. As an owner of an M1 Mac mini, I know I would like to use Touch ID with that Mac, so I cannot wait until these are available.

AirTag

When Apple announced the AirTag it was not known how the they would be powered. It turns out that the battery in each AirTag is replaceable. These batteries are not proprietary in anyway, in fact, they are ones that you can buy almost anywhere. The specific battery is a CR2032 batteries, so you can get them just about anywhere.

The next question is how long with the battery last. Apple says the batteries should last “over a year”.

iPad Accessories

Apple added a whole new accessory for the iPad, the Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard allows you to have a full keyboard with a trackpad. The new 5th Generation 11-inch iPad Pro does not have any change in its dimensions. However, that is not the case with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a bit thicker than the 3rd and 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. What this means is that the original Magic Keyboard will not work on the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Therefore, if you are upgrading to a 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and you want to use the Magic Keyboard, you will need to purchase a new one, which is not cheap at $349.

Closing Thoughts

There are just a few of the other tidbits from Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event that could not be fit into the event itself. Well, they could have, if Apple wanted to have the event go longer than an hour.

Apple “Spring Loaded” Event Recap

Today Apple held their “Spring Loaded” event, and it was a packed event. There were a bunch of new products announced an update to Apple Card, a new podcast service, a new iPhone 12 Color, AirTags, a new iMac, a new Apple TV 4K, and a new iPad Pro. Let us look at each of these in turn.

Apple Card Family

Apple Card was introduced in August of 2019. Since its introduction each person has to apply for their own card and it cannot be shared. This arrangement means that there is discrimination in that the primary card holder is the one who builds credit, while a spouse or partner may not build up credit. This all changes with Apple Card Family. According to Apple:

Apple Card Family allows two people to co-own an Apple Card, and share and merge their credit lines while building credit together equally. Apple Card Family also enables parents to share Apple Card with their children, while offering optional spending limits and controls to help teach smart and safe financial habits. 

This is a great addition and will be available in May, but this will be U.S. only. It may expand to additional countries in the future, but there is no information on future expansion.

Apple Card Family with multiple users.

Apple Podcast

Audio content has always been a big draw for many users. People listen to audio in a variety of situations. This could be music, radio, audiobooks, or even podcasts. Apple has maintained a directory of podcasts since they first added podcast support to iTunes in June of 2005. Today Apple announced a big shift to podcasts, including Podcast subscriptions.

Starting in May, listeners in more than 170 countries and regions can sign up for premium subscriptions that include a variety of benefits curated by creators, such as ad-free listening, access to additional content, and early or exclusive access to new series. Listeners will be able to enjoy premium subscriptions from independent voices and premier studios…

All of this coincides with a redesigned Podcasts app which will allow users to discover shows similar to the ones they enjoy through the new Top Charts, Categories, and Advanced Search options. The new Podcasts app will be available with iOS 14.5 and the new Podcast Subscriptions will be available in May.

Apple Podcast Subscription service image.

Purple iPhone 12

While it has not been every year, Apple has consistently added a new color to its latest iPhone lineup in the spring. Typically it has been the PRODUCT(Red) phone, but there is already a PRODUCT(Red) the iPhone 12. Instead of red, Apple has introduced a new purple color. This is a similar shade of purple as the purple iPhone 11.

The purple iPhone 12 will be available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd with delivery beginning on April 30th. The prices remain the same as the regular iPhone 12. You can also get an iPhone 12 mini in purple, if that is your preference.

iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 in Purple

AirTag

Air Tag back and front view

No matter how much we may try, we all end up losing things from time to time. Sometimes we can quickly find the items. However, in some cases it is not that easy. There have been accessories that allow you to find your missing items, and when Apple introduced their “Find My” network, many speculated when Apple would release their own trackers. Well, today Apple announced their tracking device, called AirTag.

AirTags are little devices that utilize the U1 chip in your iPhone 12 to be able to help locate items. AirTag utilizes the “Find My” network to allow anybody to locate your missing device anonymously without giving anyone your location.

Apple has some accessories for the AirTag, including leather key rings, loops, leather loops, and even third-party accessories from Belkin, like the secure holder and secure holder with key ring. Apple has partnered with Hermes to provide a Bag Charm, Luggage Tag, and Key Ring.

You can customize your AirTags by engraving them with up to 4 characters including emoji. This is done when you order them. Speaking of ordering, AirTag will be available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd and they will begin arriving April 30th. You can purchase a single AirTag for $29, or a 4-pack for $99.

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K (2021) and new Siri Remote

Apple is doubling down on their original TV content with shows like “The Morning Show”, “Wolfwalkers”, and “Ted Lasso”. One way to enjoy all of the content that you want is through the Apple TV, and in particular the Apple TV 4K. The last update to the Apple TV was in September of 2017. Today Apple announced a new Apple TV 4K.

The new Apple TV 4K includes an A12 Bionic chip, which provides even better graphics and processing. There are three other features with the Apple TV 4K. The first is a feature called high frame rate HDR.

High frame rate HDR

With A12 Bionic, Apple TV 4K now supports high frame rate HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Dolby Vision video, enabling fast-moving action at 60 frames per second (fps) to play more smoothly and appear more lifelike than ever before.

This should make any video that you watch even better. Beyond fast-moving video, this should also help with things like gaming. The Apple TV 4K supports the Playstation 5 controller as well as the Xbox Series X|S controller. However, controllers are not the only way to control items on the new Apple TV 4K. There is another way, and that is the next big feature, a redesigned Siri Remote.

When the Apple TV was originally introduced many did not like the Siri Remote. Some of the big issues with the Siri Remote were that the touch surface was a bit too sensitive and it was hard to orient the remote in low light situations. Apple has taken these, and additional issues into account with the new Siri Remote.

Siri Remote

Siri Remote (2021)

The new Siri Remote is an all aluminum design with a five-way directional pad, home button, back button, play/pause button, volume up and down buttons, and a mute button. Along with this, in the upper right corner, you will find a power button. The power button and mute button are designed to allow you to control your TV’s power and mute functionality without needing a separate remote. The other buttons are designed to provide you quick access to these functions.

The five-way directional pad will allow you to control the content even easier than before. Along with this, there is a circle around the five-way directional pad that will allow you to more easily jog through content to find the exact scene you are looking for.

The Siri Remote, as the name implies, still has Siri, but this is now a button on the right side of the remote. You can hold down the button and ask Siri your question and you will get a response just as in the past.

There is one last feature, and this one is a software feature called Color Balance.

Color Balancing

Each television set has its own characteristics. Some televisions can more accurately represent colors better than others. With the new Apple TV 4K you will be able to use your iPhone to provide the Apple TV with a better color balance so that it can compensate for any discrepancies in the color representation in your television. This is done by holding your iPhone up to your television when the Apple TV 4K is in Color Calibration mode. Once finished, the Apple TV 4K should be able to provide you with better colors while watching content.

The new Apple TV 4K is $179 for the 32GB model or $199 for the 64GB model. You can purchase a Siri Remote separately for $59 and it will work with previous versions of the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. Lastly, there is an update Apple TV HD with the new Siri Remote. This is $149 for 32GB of storage.

All of these Apple TV-related products are available for pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May. Next, let us turn to a slightly different device, the iMac.

iMac

Last June at WWDC 20, Apple announced that they would be transitioning all of the Macs to their own Apple Silicon chips and this transition would take approximately two years. The first batch of devices, the MacBook Air, the lower-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac min were all released with the M1.

Today Apple unveiled another new Mac with the M1, the smaller iMac. I use the term “smaller”, because the first change is that it is no longer a 21.5-inch device, instead it is a 24-inch model. This is possible through the reduction in bezels, which now are just a thin border around the edges, similar to the iPad Pro. In the bezel is a whole new camera system. More on that in a moment.

Screen

The higher 21.5-inch iMac models had a 4K screen. With the 24-inch screen the new resolution of 4480-by-2520 resolution at 218 pixels per inch, creates a 4.5K resolution for the screen.

There is a now a 1080p camera system, that will allow better FaceTime and other video calls. This is all handled through the M1 image signal processor. This will provide better low-light performance. To go along with the video, is a better microphone system, which Apple calls “studio-quality mics”, similar to the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The microphones will allow better sound due to cancelling out room noise and the like.

The new 24-inch iMac is powered by the M1. This design allows for a much thinner profile. The thinner profile is not just a bit thinner, but massively thinner. The screen is flat, like the iPad Pros and comes in at 11.5mm thick. This is made possible through a redesign of the cooling system, which allows air to be pushed through the system as well as a redesigned logic board, which is much smaller thanks to the M1 powering the entire system.

The screen is not the only new feature, the biggest, and likely most requested feature, is one that users like to customize and that is the color.

Colors

24-inch iMac Colors (2021)

There is another big change to the 24-inch iMac. When the original G3 iMac was introduced, it came in a bunch of colors. Since the Intel transition beginning in 2005, the iMac has only been available in three colors, White, Silver, and Space Gray. With the latter being on the iMac Pro only. The 24-inch iMac now comes in a variety of colors, up to seven different color options, depending on the model. The full list of color options are:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Pink
  • Silver
  • Yellow (Higher end only)
  • Orange (Higher end only)
  • Purple (Higher end only)

The base and front of each iMac is a light shade of the color, whereas the back if a vibrant color. There are two different model types, just like the MacBook Air. There is an 8-core CPU, 7-Core GPU model, and an 8-Core CPU and 8-Core GPU model.

Internals

All models include an M1, a 24-inch screen, 256GB of storage, 8GB of unified memory, and two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. The higher-end model includes two USB-3 ports, and Gigabit Ethernet (configurable on the lower end model).

For options, on the 8-CPU/7GPU model you can configure a 512GB or 1TB storage option, and the aforementioned Gigabit Ethernet. On the 8-CPU/8-GPU model you can configure 512GB, 1TB or 2TB or storage.

The 24-inch iMac includes a 143 watt power brick, with a 2 meter/6 foot cable. This cable is a woven nylon cable, that is also color matched to the system. This is not the first time that Apple has used a woven nylon cable. In fact, Apple used one on the original HomePod as well as the HomePod mini. That is not the only feature of the power brick.

If you look at the back of the iMac you will notice that there is no Ethernet port, even on the higher-end model. That is because the ethernet port is in the power brick. The power port on the iMac can handle both power and data, and the Ethernet connection is handled over this cable. Apple indicated in the event that this will allow you to reduce the number of cables running to the computer, which was one of the goals of the original G3 iMac.

Next, let us look at the keyboard and mouse, there have been a couple changes there as well.

Magic Accessories

With the addition of colors, Apple is also including a color-matched accessories. These include the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard. The bottom portion of the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are color matched, and white on the top. As is the case with the current Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard, you need to power it with an included USB-C to lightning cable. Just like the power cable, this is color matched with the iMac.

Magic Trackpad colors

The Magic Keyboard is not to be left out of being of being color matched, because it is also color-matched with the iMac. However, there is a big change with the Magic Keyboard, beyond the color. There are new icons on the keys; well there are but that is not the big change. The big change is that the Magic Keyboard now has a Touch ID button, that replaces the eject button.

This is the same Touch ID that you see with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pros. For the first time you can use Touch ID on your iMac just like you can on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. This is a big advancement.

The lower-end iMac does not get the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, however you can configure the iMac with that keyboard. The higher-end 24-inch iMac has the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID included in the box. There is also a Magic Keyboard with Number Pad and Touch ID that is can be configured on either 24-inch iMac model, should you need that model.

The 24-inch iMac will be available or pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May. The 24-inch iMac starts at $1299 for the 8-Core CPU/7-Core CPU model, and $1499 for the 8-Core CPU/8-Core GPU model. Next, let us look at one last new product, the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro

2021 iPad Pros

Last year Apple upgraded the iPad Pro with a couple of new features, an A12Z processor and a new camera system. The new camera system allowed developers to use LiDAR used within Augmented reality applications. This was a minor update over the 2018 iPad Pro. Today Apple released a new set of iPad Pros, however these are not small updates.

Processor

There are still two iPad Pro models, the 11-inch and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, the processor within the two devices is radically different. In fact, it is not longer an A-series processor. It is now an M1 processor, the same one that is iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. According to Apple this means:

The 8-core CPU design features the world’s fastest CPU cores in low-power silicon – delivering up to 50 percent faster CPU performance than A12Z Bionic. The 8-core GPU is in a class of its own, delivering up to 40 percent faster GPU performance. 

M1 Processor Image

With the iPad Pro running the M1, that means that it can support Thunderbolt/USB 4. The iPad Pro does just that. The USB port has been replaced with a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port. This means that you can use accessories like Thunderbolt storage as well as being able to power the Apple Pro Display XDR at its native resolution with the iPad Pro.

Since the original iPad in 2010, the iPad has had an option of cellular connectivity. The latest iPad Pros are no exception. The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models now have 5G connectivity as an option.

Camera

Along with the M1, there is also an improved Face ID camera. There is now a 12 Megapixel camera with a 122 degree field of view. This means that video calls will be even better than before. However, that is not the only feature with the camera. The camera will now automatically try to keep you in the center of the frame, so if you move to the side, the camera will move as well; up to its 122 degree limit. Similarly, if another person enters into the view, the camera will try to zoom out to include everyone in the shot. This is a nice feature which will make things a bit nicer overall.

The M1, Thunderbolt/USB 4 port, as well as the improved camera is included on both the 11-inch iPad Pro and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, there is one feature that is specific to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a Liquid Retina XDR display.

Display

The Liquid Retina XDR display uses a new technology called Mini Light Emitting Diode, or Mini LED. Mini LED, as the name implies, these are very small LEDs. For comparison, in the previous iPad Pro models there were 72 LEDs. In the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there are over 10,000. These are broken down into dimmable regions so the color can be reproduced even more accurately than before. This also allows certain areas to be individually dimmed, again allowing even better color options.

The Liquid Retina XDR display has a standard brightness of 600 nits. However, at max brightness it is 1000 nits, and its peak is 1600 nits of brightness. It is not likely that the max brightness will occur very often.

Accessories

The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models support the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil. Along with this, there is a new Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard is a slight change from the previous generation. There is a new color as well, White.

The 11-inch iPad Pro supports the existing Black Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a new Magic Keyboard, which will be $349.

Both the Magic Keyboard for the 5th Generation iPad Pro, as well as the White version of the 11-inch and 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard will be available for pre-order on April 30th.

Price

Both iPad Pro models came in a variety of storage sizes, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB options. The 2TB option is new this year. The 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, models all have 8GB of memory, while the 1TB and 2TB models have 16GB of memory. This is the first time that Apple has indicated the amount of memory in an iPad.

The 11-inch iPad Pro has the following cost breakdown of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular

  • 128GB – $799 / $999
  • 256GB – $899 / $1099
  • 512GB – $1099 / $1299
  • 1TB – $1499 / $1699
  • 2TB – $1899 / $2099

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has the following cost breakdown of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular

  • 128GB – $1099 / $1299
  • 256GB – $1199 / $1399
  • 512GB – $1399 / $1599
  • 1TB – $1799 / $1999
  • 2TB – $2199 / $2399

The 12.9-inch model is more expensive this year, as is cellular. Cellular costs an addition $200, whereas last year it was $149. You can pre-order an 11-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro on April 30th, with availability being the second half of May.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, what Apple announced definitely lived up to the name of the event being “Spring Loaded”.

The event was full of new products including Apple Card family, which allows two co-owners of a card to build credit equally as well as providing limits for children. This will be available in May. Apple also introduced a new Podcast subscription service, that will allow listeners to support their favorite podcasters. This feature will be available in May. Apple also unveiled a new iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 color, purple. This will be available for pre-order on Friday with delivery beginning on April 30th.

Along with the iPhone, Podcast, and Apple Card, Apple unveiled a new product, AirTag. The AirTag is a way of being able to locate missing items. AirTag will cost $29 each or $99 for a 4-pack. These will be available for pre-order this Friday for delivery beginning April 30th.

The new AirTag is not the only new product, there is a new Apple TV 4K replete with a new Siri Remote. The new Apple TV 4K has an A12 Bionic processor. The A12 Bionic also allows for the new Color Calibration feature and high frame rate HDR to allow the best television watching experience. The new Siri Remote is aluminum with a new button layout and the dedicated Siri button is now on the side. There are new power and mute buttons that will operate your existing television. The Apple TV, and Siri Remote, will be available for pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May.

Possibly the biggest product release is the new 24-inch iMac. The iMac has an improved Face Time camera and thinner bezels. The new 24-inch iMac is significantly thinner, 11.5mm thin. The speakers have been improved as well. The 24-inch iMac can come in 7 different colors and there are three configurations. The 24-inch iMac starts at $1299, can be configured up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM. The iMac will be available or pre-order on April 30th, with availability beginning in the second half of May.

The last new item that Apple released was a new set of iPad Pro. Both models include an M1, providing even more performance over the previous generation. The iPad Pro models can come in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB. There is a Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The Wi-Fi + Cellular models cost $200 more than the Wi-Fi models, but the cellular is now 5G. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a new Liquid Retina XDR Display that uses Mini LED technology. The iPad Pro models will be available for pre-order on April 30th, and will be available in the second half of May.

All of the new products today are great upgrade, or addition, to Apple’s product line up. While there is nothing available to purchase today, there are a couple of items available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd, while the remainder are available for pre-order on April 30th.

Source: Podcasts, Apple TV 4K, iMac, iPad Pro

M1 Mac mini: A Review

There are some things that I purchase on a regular basis. Among these are groceries, gifts, and other various things. In terms of technology the chief among these is purchasing a new iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. I have purchased an iPhone and an Apple Watch each year since their respective introductions. I have purchased a number of iPads, but I have not purchased a new one every time one has been released. One type of device that I have not purchased on a regular basis is a computer, in particular Macs.

In my lifetime, I have purchased a total of five different Macs, three of these have been and two of these have been laptops. The first Mac that I purchased was a 20-inch 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo iMac that I purchased in March of 2007. The reason I ended up with a Mac was because I had nothing but issues with Microsoft Vista. I got tired of dealing with the constant crashing of the video drivers, even 6 weeks after its release, I opted to buy a Mac. This was in March of 2007, so it was after the transition from PowerPC to Intel. Here is the list of the other devices that I have purchased:

  • 2007 – 20-inch iMac – 2.16 Core 2 Duo, 8GB RAM, 500GB 7200RPM HD
  • 2007 – 13.3-inch MacBook – 2.16 Core 2 Duo, 8GB RAM, 750GB 7200RPM HD
  • 2011 – 21.5-inch iMac – 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5, 12GB RAM, 1 TB 7200 RPM HD
  • 2015 – 13.3-inch MacBook Pro – 2.7GHz Dual-Core Core i5 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD
  • 2017 – 27-inch – 4.2 GHz Quad-Core Core i7 with 24GB RAM, 3TB Fusion Drive HD

All of these devices have one thing in common, they are all Intel-based devices. 

Apple announced that they would be transitioning away from Intel processors to their own Apple Silicon. This announcement was made at their 2020 World Wide Developer Conference. At the announcement Apple indicated that the first machines would be released this year and that the entire transition would take approximately two years. While many suspected that Apple would announce a laptop, they announced more than just a single device.

Apple announced two laptops, that had Apple Silicon chips in them. These are the 13-inch MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. As a surprise, Apple announced a desktop machine would have Apple Silicon in it as well, the Mac mini. All of these machines have the first Apple Silicon chip, which Apple has called the M1, inside them. Let us discuss a bit about the M1.

Apple’s M1

A processor with an Apple M1 logo on it.

Computers, for most of their history, have been comprised of distinct chips. Some of these include the processor, the system memory, the graphics chip, and storage. As time has gone on, some of these items have been integrated onto a single board. Most commonly the processor and graphics. Many computers these days also have their system memory soldered in, so that this cannot be expanded. This is quite common with laptops and less common with desktop machines. This type of configuration is consistent between both Intel-based and AMD-based systems. Apple’s M1 takes a different approach.

The M1 is not just a processor. Instead it is a System on a Chip, or SoC. The M1 is not Apple’s first custom SoC. In fact all iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices that have been equipped with an Apple A-series chip have been an SoC. This is also the case for the Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePods.

For the M1, the SoC consists of more than just the central processor. In fact it includes the processor, graphics, and a 16-core Neural Engine. Along with this, comes the Unified Memory Architecture, or UMA. In traditional computer configurations, you have memory that is a separated from the rest of the system and on their own dedicated chips that connect to the system on the motherboard. A Unified Memory Architecture is one where the the processor, graphics, and in Apple’s case, neural engine, all share the same memory. 

In a traditional computer, each subsystem would have its own memory. For instance, there is the main system memory, which is accessed by the central processing unit, or CPU. The graphical processing unit, or GPU, has its own dedicated memory. There are some tasks that are better suited for a graphics chip while others that are better suited for the CPU. In order to be the most efficient and process things most efficiently, different segments of the memory need to be transferred between the two processors. This transfer, while it takes very little time in reality, it can still take some time.

With the M1, this processor, graphics processor, and neural engine all share the same memory pool. What this means is that there is no delay in switching between using the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine. This results in the system processing items significantly faster.

The M1 chip is an 8-core chip, with four performance cores and four high efficiency cores. When you do not need top performance the efficiency cores will be utilized. However, when you need speed those processors will be used. This is beneficial for all Macs running the M1, but there is a specific benefit for portable systems. Significantly increased battery life. In particular, for the MacBook Air, you can get up to 50% more battery power, which is a significant increase, and a very welcome one.

Line drawing image of Apple's M1 with the Graphical Processing Unit outlined.

The shared memory pool, for the current machines, all come with 8GB standard. These machines are configurable for up to 16GB of memory. While this seems like a small amount, the machines that have been released are not aimed at those who need significant amounts of memory. Instead, they are aimed at the general consumer. This is most apparent with the fact that the 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini still have Intel models that can be configured for higher specifications available to order, should users need the extra memory.

The M1 Macs are based on the same technology that is used within Apple’s other devices. This has a side benefit, the ability to run iOS and iPadOS apps natively, right on the Mac. It is up to the developer of the app to determine if their app is available on the M1 Macs or not.

If you look at the machines I have purchased, I end up purchasing a new Mac desktop every four years, and a new laptop every 8 years, although with two data points I doubt that this will be the case. There is one more computer to add to that list, the M1 Mac mini.

M1 Mac Mini

Top view of an M1 Mac mini box

Initially, I had not planned on buying an M1 Mac, at least not right away. My 2017 iMac works quite well and in reality my MacBook Pro needs to be replaced first, since it is older. I kept going back and forth on which configuration to get. Do I need the MacBook Pro, or would the MacBook Air suffice? I was not sure if I wanted to get the first-generation machines. Not because I think there would be any issues, but because I would want something with more than 16GB of RAM, and since I was looking at replacing my MacBook Pro, I wanted something with more than 2 ports. None of the devices that were released has more than two ports, so I was planning on waiting until the higher-end models were available.

Things came to a head when I asked a friend, who did get an M1 MacBook Pro, to try my app on the M1. He was able to install and most everything worked. Except there were a couple of things that ended up crashing. I could have attempted to trouble-shoot them, but that is not easy to do without being able to debug as you co.

Because of this, I had to order an M1 Mac. I decided to get the base model Mac mini, which comes with 256GB of storage and 8GB of ram. I opted to get the base model Mac mini for two reasons. The first is because it was the cheapest and second it was able to shipped right away. I ended up just getting the base model, because I primarily need it for development and since it will be a dedicated development machine, and not my main machine, I did not need it to be completely upgraded. In some respects, I wish I had upgraded it, but that is for discussion later. 

I was able to figure out the issues that were crashing the app. The problem was not with the M1 specifically, instead the issue that my friend was experiencing turned out to be a server-side issue. I ordered the M1 Mac mini in late November, and doing so extended the return window to be in early January. I have not returned the Mac mini yet. I do not think I will. In fact, I had not purchased Apple Care initially with the Mac mini, but I did just purchase Apple Care for my M1 Mac mini.

Overall Thoughts

The M1 Mac mini is fast. When I am using it, I can generally use it without any issues, slowdowns, or performance losses; most of the time anyway. Even though the model I have only has 8GB of RAM, this seems to be enough, and the 256GB of storage should be plenty since I am not using it as my primary machine.

The M1 Mac mini is the same physical form factor as the previous Mac mini, albeit in silver instead of Space Gray. The fact that it is the same form factor means that it includes a spinning fan. In the time that I have had the Mac mini I have not heard it spin up, even when performing system updates. This is not the experience that I have had with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The fans on that will spin at full speed while updating. So, this is a nice departure. As a side note, the M1 MacBook Air does not have a fan, so you will never hear the fan on that machine ever.

The M1 Mac Mini does not have the same port configuration as the previous models. The M1 Mac mini has 2 USB-A ports, 2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, a gigabit ethernet jack, and an HDMI 2.0 port. For most users this port configuration is plenty. I know it is more than I need. The Intel model has the option of configuring the ethernet port to 10 gigabits per second and includes four Thunderbolt/USB-C ports. 

The M1 Mac mini includes Bluetooth 5.0 and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is the same as on the Intel-based Mac mini. There is one last difference, and that is in wireless connectivity. The M1 Mac mini supports 802.11ax, also known as WiFi-6. If you have an 802.11ax router, you should see significantly faster speeds, when going between other 802.11ax devices. 

The M1 Mac Mini is capable of supporting two monitors, including Apple’s Pro Display XDR, as well as a 4K monitor. You can also use the USB-C ports for a display, along with the standard HDMI port.

Upgradeability

This should be a pretty quick section, as there is no way to upgrade the internals. The memory and storage are soldered onto the board, so nothing can be upgraded. Any storage upgrades would have to be external. There are not even any pins on the board to even begin to connect something internally.

Intel-based Apps

One of the benefits of the M1 is that you are able to run both Apple Silicon-based apps and Intel-based apps on the same machine. The ability to run Intel-based apps on the M1 is done through Apple’s translation layer, called Rosetta 2.

I have only used one app that has been Intel-based on the M1 Mac mini and I have not experienced any issues with that app. It is likely that you will not experience any issues with Intel-based apps on an M1 Mac, but it is possible that some issues might exist depending on the app, but most should work without any issues. There might be some performance issues, but they should be minimal.

Having articulate the speed difference with the M1 Mac mini as compared to other devices. So, I opted to use unarchiving the Xcode 12.3 beta. Let us now look at quantifying the speed increases, with some benchmarks. What would a review be without them?

Obligatory Benchmarks

I was trying to find a way to be able to articulate just how fast a Mac running an M1 really is. I decided to unzip the Xcode 12.3 beta on a number of different devices that I have access to, and here are the results from slowest to fastest, formatted in minutes and seconds:

Device Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds):
Mid 2011 21.5-inch iMac (2.7 GHz Intel Core i5), 12GB): 1:36:35
Mid 2014 iMac (1.4 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 8GB): 45:25
Early 2015 MacBook Pro (2.7 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 16GB): 26:21
Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro (2.6GHz 6‑core Intel Core i7, 16GB): 17:57
Mid 2017 27-inch iMac (4.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, 24GB): 12:58
2018 Mac mini (3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5, 8GB): 9:05
2020 Developer Transition Kit (A12Z, 16GB): 8:29
2020 M1 Mac mini (8GB): 5:00

As you can see, the M1 Mac mini is blazingly faster when it comes to unzipping a 11.2GB xip file to its full 27.2GB size. This is just part of the speed that the M1 offers.

Any time you use a newer machine, whether you replace an older machine or just add another machine to your existing computers, you expect the machine to be faster. This is definitely the case with the Mac mini. It is not faster just in Geekbench benchmarks, it is, see the chart above, but just in the general feel it seems faster. I am sure part of this is the fact that it is an SSD only machine, as well as not having all of my usual apps on the machine, and the fact that it is a new machine.

However, the actual difference is borne out through the benchmarks that have been done using Geekbench 5.

Device Single Core Multi Core
iPod touch (6th Gen) 258 528
iPod touch (7th Gen) 553 1077
iPhone 7 Plus 740 1355
Early 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro 746 1652
Late 2018 Mac mini 992 4442
Mid-2017 27-inch iMac 1068 4377
12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) 1124 4680
Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro 1170 5391
iPhone 11 Pro Max 1328 3252
iPhone 12 Pro Max 1604 4297
M1 Mac Mini 1739 7366

In Single Core performance, the M1 mac mini is 8.4% faster than my iPhone 12 Pro Max, 54% faster than my iPad Pro, and a whopping 62.8% faster than my 2017 iMac.  Even crazier though, is the multi-core benchmarks. The M1 Mac mini is 57.4% faster than my iPad Pro, 68.2% faster than my 2017 iMac, and 71.4% faster than my iPhone 12 Pro Max. This difference is absolutely noticeable. 

The biggest speed improvements that I have seen are actually while I have been doing development.

Developing on an M1 Mac mini

As mentioned earlier, the primary reason that I bought an M1 Mac mini was that my app was crashing on a friend’s M1 Mac. Although, the issue ended up being on the server-side, and not the app itself, I have done quite a bit of development using the M1 Mac mini. I have some things that I have noticed along the way, so let us look at some of those now, starting with the screen.

Screen, or lack there of

One of the possible downsides of the Mac mini is that it does not include a screen. While I can purchase a monitor, including a 4K or 5K monitor, it is not likely to be a P3 color gamut monitor, and since the Mac mini is not my primary machine, I do not want to invest too much into it. I do have a 27-inch 1090p monitor that I purchased earlier this year, and have been using that.

Using this setup is definitely not ideal and is a significant departure from what I am used to with my 27-inch iMac. The difference is not only in the color, but also in the amount of screen real estate. On my iMac I use a scaled resolution, to provide me more usable space. This does result in smaller font, which I have no problem seeing, for the most part. 

However, with the Mac mini and a 1080p monitor, I am limited in the amount of space that I have available to me, so I have to do some juggling in order to be the most efficient. Sometimes I have multiple windows open, one for the current file I am looking at and another for the simulator that I have running. With the amount of space on the iMac, I am able to position all of the windows to be able to see everything at once. That is just not possible on the 1080p monitor I have. It is situations like this where I wish Apple had continued to sell a stand alone monitor. I understand that it is a very small market, but having quality monitors that work well with Apple’s hardware would be ideal.

Even though I have to do some juggling, I am able to get some development done. I do not necessarily need to use the Xcode simulator all the time. This is because I have begun using a slightly different way of doing development.

Most general computing tasks do not process things using more than a single core. Yes, there are a number of applications that are specifically designed to utilize all of the cores of a machine, but most do not necessarily utilize these to their fullest extent.

One area that can utilize the multiple cores simultaneously is when you are building an app. The reason that this is possible is because the compiler is able to handle multiple tasks at once. This is most noticeable when using a specific feature of Apple’s Xcode app, called SwiftUI Previews.

SwiftUI Previews

Despite having a 27-inch iMac, which should be able to handle most development tasks, there are some things that it is not able to do. Most notably, it is not able to use SwiftUI Previews. SwiftUI Previews is a technology built into Xcode that allows you, as the name states, preview SwiftUI views. SwiftUI is a user interface that takes the core aspects of the Swift language and builds a series of user interface elements on top of the language. When you create SwiftUI Previews, they are in almost real-time. This is possible because when you use SwiftUI Previews, your screen is divided in half. On the left side you see your code and on the right side you see the SwiftUI Preview. With this arrangement, when you make a change it should be instantly reflected in the preview. This has been my experience on the Mac mini, and is the intended experience for anyone using SwiftUI Previews.

The way that this works is by constantly re-building your app. If you have done development for any amount of time you likely realize that this seems like it would be a constant drain on the system. In most cases, it would be. However, Swift is able to recompile only the parts of the app that need to be recompiled, and this technique allows SwiftUI previews to work. 

My initial thought is that the reason SwiftUI Previews has not worked on my iMac is because it has a fusion drive, where a majority of the drive is a traditional spinning hard drive and a smaller portion is an SSD. So, I thought I would try SwiftUI Previews on my 2015 MacBook Pro, which is a pure SSD. However, I never ever been able to satisfactorily use them either. I have a 16-inch late 2019 MacBook Pro for work, and while SwiftUI can work on this, there are times that it even has issues with SwiftUI Previews.

That is not the case on the M1 Mac mini. I am able to use SwiftUI Previews without any issues, including the near real-time recompiling of my app. Changes that I make are reflected in the previews, and that is previews plural. With SwiftUI Previews you are able to have multiple devices show in the preview canvas simultaneously. This can allow you to easily see how an app will look at various screen sizes.

Each of these previews is its own simulator. Any simulator requires some memory, and if you have a large number of SwiftUI previews, even for a single SwiftUI View, they can use significant amounts of memory. This can be problematic in some situations. On the topic of memory, let us look at that next.

Memory Usage

Throughout most of the time I spent working on my app on the M1 Mac mini I did not experience that many issues. However, it seems as though Xcode will use as much memory as it can. At one point I started running into some performance issues and realized that Xcode was using 10.2 GB of memory, the LLVM process was using nearly 3GB of memory on its own. The amount of swap being used was 6.3GB.

This resulted in the Mac mini needing to use some swap, which I never experienced on my iMac. The reason for this is because my iMac has 24GB of memory in it The 8GB that came with it, and the 16GB of memory that I added after the fact. The 2017 iMac still has an access door for being able to add memory.

As you might expect, once I quit Xcode and waited for all of the processes to close and then restarted Xcode, I was back to having my regular performance. I guess that proves that sometimes it is best to just quit the app and restart it. However, the 8GB of memory does seem to be a bit of a bottle neck. This is most noticeable if I am working on SwiftUI Previews while also having simulators running at the same time.

Just as is the case with a tradition architecture, if the memory that is being used is full, anything not being used is swapped to the SSD. The speed of the SSD is fast enough where you will not likely notice the memory being swapped. However, as I experienced, there is a limit. Even though the memory swapped very fast, and I did not even notice it being done, it can have a slight performance impact.

One of the benefits to the M1 Macs is that users can run iOS apps natively, provided a developer opts in. Now, as a developer this has a benefit for you as well. You are able to test your iOS apps natively, including all of the features that are supported, such as handoff. This means that if you have an M1 Mac and an iPhone, you are able to do full handoff testing to verify that everything will work as expected without needing to have multiple iOS devices. Granted, this is provided that you are not offering a native macOS app, but only offering your iOS app for use on the M1 Macs.

Even though the M1 Mac improves your experience with macOS, and development using some of Apple’s most intensive development tools, it has not been entirely smooth sailing. So let us dive into some of the issues that I have experienced.

Problems

As much as we would like it to be the case, nothing is perfect. To quote John Siracusa, “Nothing is so perfect that it can’t be complained about.” I have actually experienced a few different issues with the M1 Mac mini. The first of these, and the most annoying as well as most prevalent, is with an item I use all the time, the Magic Mouse.

Magic Mouse

Apple Magic Mouse 2

I use a Magic Mouse 2, and a Magic Keyboard, with my Mac mini. I did not buy these new when I got ordered the Mac mini. The whole idea of the Mac mini is to be able to use your existing Keyboard, Video, and Mouse, which is what I did. Most of the time these just work, however, the Magic Mouse seems to randomly disconnect. This happens right in the middle of me using it. Sometimes I am pasting text and other times I am simply scrolling. There is no rhyme or reason as to why it happens that I have been able to ascertain, yet.

Once the mouse disconnects, it will reconnect, then immediately disconnect again, and then reconnect again. Again, this is not consistent. There are times when the disconnect and reconnect only occurs once, sometimes it is twice, and yet on a few occasions it has been three times. Sometimes, the mouse will work after it reconnects, but sometimes it does not. I have tried manually disconnecting and then reconnect the mouse, and it will work again for a while. This could be a half hour, an hour, or even longer, but it will inevitably happen again.

At first, I thought it could be an issue with macOS Big Sur 11.0.1. It was the first release of macOS Big Sur after the M1 Mac launched. While using the Mac mini macOS Big Sur 11.1 was released. I, of course, updated to this version. I updated not just because of this issue, but because I prefer to stay on the latest version of macOS. After installing the update, the issue continues. So that did not fix it. 

The next thing I tried was a different Magic Mouse, a first generation one, that requires batteries and is not rechargeable with a lightning cable. Unfortunately, this did not fix the issue either. While it seemed that the issue happened less often with the first generation Magic Mouse, it did still happen. The issue is transient and does not happen consistently enough for me to be able to identify a pattern. I will continue to see if I can identify what is causing the issue. I have not experienced any issues with the Magic Keyboard disconnected, that I know of, so I think the issue may be isolated to the Magic Mouse.

I am beginning to suspect that the issue is entirely related to Xcode. I have used the mouse quite extensively while browsing the web and other tasks on the Mac mini and they did not happen when I was doing that, so it seems like it might be an Xcode-specific bug. This is still problematic because I am intending to use the Mac mini as a development machine, so Xcode is pretty important.

The issue with the Magic Mouse has not been the only issue I have experienced. I have encountered some issues while doing development.

Problems with Development 

The second issue is one that I have only experienced twice, and may only be due to the 8GB of memory on the machine. I was working on my app and I came across an error, while using Xcode, that states:

The current system settings are not sufficient to allow booting additional simulators: maxFiles: 1288, openFiles: 1163, enforcedFilesBuffer: 1868. Please see Simulator help for information on adjusting resource limits.

Xcode with error "The current system settings are not sufficient to allow booting additional simulators: maxFiles: 1288, openFiles: 1163, enforcedFilesBuffer: 1868. Please see Simulator help for information on adjusting resource limits."

I have never seen this error before, or anything even like it. Even with my usual build and run cycle on my iMac I have never come across this, or anything similar. Now, when I saw this error I was a bit confused because I was not trying to actually boot a simulator. I was actually in the middle of coding and just trying to build the app. I am sure that the reason that I got this error was because I have been using SwiftUI Previews. SwiftUI Previews can have multiple previews and each preview can rebuild the current view in an incremental manner. This results in quick builds and I suspect that there were just too many preview windows that ended up using up the available resources.

Furthermore, I am thinking that the fact that I only have 8 GB of memory in the Mac mini is part of the cause. It could be that I have not experienced this on my iMac because it has 24GB of memory, therefore it has enough resources to handle this. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, SwiftUI Previews has never worked properly on my iMac. Therefore, it could be a combination of me not using and it not working properly on my iMac as the reason I have never experienced this.

The fix was quite simple and an easy one. I simply closed Xcode and made sure the simulator, and all of its associated processes were closed. After restarting Xcode, I was back in business. I have not experienced this issue again, but who is to say that I will not again in the future.

LSBundleWrapper

I did get another issue, one that is not related to memory, but what seems like a compiler bug. This is the error I received:

Please try again later. Failed to finalize LSBundleWrapper mutator instance for [bundle identifier]

Xcode error that states "Please try again later. Failed to finalize LSBundleWrapper mutator instance for [bundle identifier]"

One of the things that you can do with an M1 Mac is run iOS apps. In addition to this, you can run your iPad app right on your M1 Mac. In order to do this, you select the build target of ““My Mac (Designed for iPad)”” in Xcode. Each time you successfully run a build using this target, your iOS is wrapped in a bundle and copied to your debug folder. As is the case with other apps, if there is already an existing app with the same name the app is incremented. For instance, for my app wwriteLite, the first build would be “wwriteLite”, the next would be “wwriteLite 2”, the third “wwriteLite 3”, etc.

At first, I thought that I ran into the issue because the Mac mini has a limit on the number of builds allowed in the directory, but I do not think that is the case. I attempted to replicate the issue by purposely building and running, but I could not replicate the issue.

When this happened, I tried the first step in any troubleshooting, I tried quitting Xcode and re-opening it, but that did not fix the issue. I then decided to google the issue. The only result that I could find indicated that you needed to enable Mac Catalyst, build the app, and then disable it. To me, this does not seem like an appropriate solution because I was not building a Mac Catalyst app, and I did not want to deal with any possible problems that might arise from doing that.

At this point I opted to do the equivalent of nuke and pave for development: Clean the build folder and build the app again. Guess what, this fixed the issue. So, if you run into issues sometimes just doing a clean build folder and rebuilding the app fixes it. It the development equivalent of “quit and relaunch”.

There is yet another last issue I ran into, and this was also related to compiling.

Compiling Issue/Resource Utilization issue

A few times while I was compiling my app, I have had the entire system just stop responding. The mouse was able to move but that was it. Ironic, I know that the mouse, which has been causing other issues would continue to work, but I could not click on anything, I could not hit command-tab to switch to another app, nor could I bring up any windows. When this did happen, I let it sit and it would eventually catch up. Of course any actions that I had performed would replay. Obviously something locked up the system, but I am not sure what it was. 

Read Only File System?

The last weird error that I have encountered while using the M1 Mac mini is an error that stated:

You can’t save the file ‘About.swift’ because the volume “Macintosh HD” is read only.

Xcode error that states "You can't save the file 'About.swift' because the volume "Macintosh HD" is read only."

Now, when I got this message I was definitely confused, because I had been using the system, and therefore it the volume that the app is on is definitely “read only”. I do not use iCloud Document and Desktop syncing for my development iCloud account, because I do not need the feature since I do not have more than one machine dedicated for development. Even if I did, all of my code is source controlled, so I can just pull from source control.

As has been the case with many of the issues, quitting Xcode and restarting it fixed the issue. I have not experienced the same issue again. It is possible that I happen to try and save the file when the file system was taking a local Time Machine snapshot, but if so, then that was some really good timing on my part.

Closing Thoughts

The M1 Mac mini is fast, even in its base configuration. The M1 Mac Mini is speedy with everything it does, from just interacting with Finder, to building the incremental SwiftUI previews, and even building an app from start to finish.

If you are a developer, I recommend getting an Apple Silicon Mac as your next development Mac. This is particularly true if you plan on supporting your iOS to run on the M1 Macs, but a necessity if you have a native Mac app. If you do need one, you do not need to break the bank to get a great machine. However, you may want to wait for larger memory configurations.

The speed of the Mac mini alone is worth it. This is particularly true if you use SwiftUI and utilize SwiftUI Previews. The Mac mini is able to render these in near-real time is quite nice. Furthermore, the speed of the Mac mini allows you to be more productive. The fact that the system can compile builds, and incremental builds, so quickly means that you will spend less time waiting for the system and more time actually developing. 

One thing I would recommend would be to get at least 16GB of RAM. At the time of this writing, the maximum you can get is 16GB, and I would definitely recommend it. I am sure that some of the issues that I have experienced have been due the fact that the Mac mini I purchased only has 8 GB of memory and not 16GB. In some ways, I regret not ordering a machine with 16GB of RAM, and time will tell if this was ultimately the wrong decision.

On a similar note, since I am only using the Mac mini as a development machine, the 256GB of storage should be sufficient, but I will not really know until I have used the machine for a bit longer. The reason that I say this is because half of the space is already used up, and I do not have a lot on the device. I have Apple’s built-in apps, Xcode, BBEdit, and a couple of other small applications. I do not have much else on the machine. As any developer knows, Xcode and its associated files do take up a lot of space. I wish Apple would have some sort Xcode cleanup utility, or have ways of cleaning up some of the excess Xcode files.

While I think 256GB should be enough for this device, for my needs. If this was my main machine, it would definitely not be enough storage space. So, take that into consideration if you do decide to purchase an M1 Mac. Even thought I have experienced some issues, I can still recommend getting an M1 Mac, even if you are not a developer.

I am not the first one to say this, but it does need to be said, these are the SLOWEST Apple Silicon Macs we will ever see, and these are already super fast. I do not expect to see the same type of speed increases in the future, but this is a great baseline to compare to with future M1 Macs. These machines absolutely blow away all Intel machines, and even most of Apple’s other Apple Silicon-based devices, like in the iPad and iPhone.

Ultimately, I may end up getting a different Apple Silicon-based Mac in the not too distant future, depending on what Apple releases. Even if I do end up buying another Apple Silicon Mac and using that for development instead, the current Mac mini can be used for a number of different things, like a server. If used as a server, the limitations of the smaller internal storage and 8GB of memory would not necessarily be limiting factors in that, since storage can be external, and while possible, it is hard to see 8GB of memory not being enough, for a server.

Here is one last thing to keep in mind. Even if you are not planning on getting a Mac mini, because you would prefer a laptop, everything I have written also applies to those machines as well. This is because all of the M1 Macs are using the same processor. Therefore, regardless of M1 Mac that you get, you should see significant improvements. Furthermore, even if you are not a developer and just need a new Mac, I recommend getting an M1 Mac, it should be able to serve your needs for many years to come. Now, if Apple would only release a standalone 5K monitor, but again, that is a whole other story.

Apple’s “One more thing” event Recap

Today Apple held their “One more thing” event. This is the third event in the last two months and as expected, this event focused strictly on Macs, specifically their Apple Silicon Macs. There was also a brief mention about the operating system needed to run the Macs, macOS Big Sur. Let us start with a brief look at macOS Big Sur.

macOS Big Sur

Back at their World Wide Developer Conference in June, Apple unveiled the next version of macOS named Big Sur. macOS Big Sur features an all new design that is heavily inspired by iOS and shares many of the same features as iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. The big feature with macOS Big Sur is that it includes the ability to run iOS apps and iPadOS apps natively, but only on Macs running Apple Silicon. Because this was such a monumental shift, the version number of the operating system changed from what would have been 10.16 to 11.0.

In today’s stream they provided a release date for macOS Big Sur, and that day is this Thursday, November 12th, 2020. There is still time to pre-order my e-book, macOS Big Sur for Users, Administrators, and Developers from Apple or Amazon for $3.99 each.

Apple Silicon Macs

Today Apple unveiled not one, but three Macs running Apple Silicon. Before Apple introduced these though, they talked about the chip that powers these Macs, the M1.

M1

Apple has been designing their own custom silicon for over a decade with the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. They have brought this knowledge and experience to the Mac with the M1 chip. The M1 will power the first-generation of Macs running Apple Silicon.

The M1 has an 8-core CPU with four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. According to Apple the CPU will have up to 3.5x faster performance than previous Macs. The high-performance cores will only be used when when they are needed. For instance, if you are editing video or doing any computational intensive tasks.

However, if you are doing some less intensive tasks, like editing a note or reading email, the more power-efficient cords will be used instead. This efficiency will allow even longer battery life, because the power-efficient cores can be utilized instead of the high-performance cores.

A CPU is great at some tasks, but one area where it not the best is when it comes to graphics. For those tasks, there is the 8-core graphics processing unit.

Many of the features found in Apple’s other devices will now be present in the M1, like the 16-core Neural Engine. This will let machine learning tasks scream more than ever.

What is needed to make all of this work together is some memory. The memory architecture of the M1 is unified. This means that the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine can all access the same memory areas, which makes transferring data between the different processors. This unified memory architecture is what is used throughout Apple’s other devices.

Now that we have covered the M1 chip, let us look at the three Macs that Apple released. These are the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. Let us look at each of these starting with the MacBook Air.

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is Apple’s thin and lightweight laptop that is great for a majority of users and is great for everyday tasks. This is also the best-selling laptop that Apple sells. This is likely due to its starting price. On the topic of price, the MacBook Air has a new starting price of $999. There is another configuration that starts at $1249. Both of these models have

  • Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU and 16‑core Neural Engine
  • 8GB unified memory
  • Retina display with True Tone
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Touch ID
  • Force Touch trackpad
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • Wi-Fi 6

The difference between the two models is with the GPUs and base storage size. The $999 model only has 256GB of storage included and a 7-core GPU. The one few core is done in order to keep down the cost. Meanwhile, the $1249 configuration does come with an 8-Core GPU and starts off with 512GB of storage. Both models can be configured with 16GB of memory, a 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB storage options.

The MacBook Air also now supports the P3 Wide Color that has been present on iOS and iPadOS devices for a number of years now. P3 Color allows better representations of colors when looking at photos and videos.

One of the more noticeable changes with the MacBook Air that comes as a benefit of the M1 is more battery life. According to Apple you can get up to 15 hours of browsing the web and 18 hours of video playback. This is an improvement six hours of video playback, as compared to the previous MacBook Air. Here are some improvements that Apple states you will get with the MacBook Air:

  • Export a project for the web with iMovie up to 3x faster. 
  • Integrate 3D effects into video in Final Cut Pro up to 5x faster. 
  • For the first time, play back and edit multiple streams of full-quality, 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro without dropping a frame.
  • Export photos from Lightroom up to twice as fast.
  • Use ML-based features like Smart Conform in Final Cut Pro to intelligently frame a clip up to 4.3x faster.
  • Watch more movies and TV shows with up to 18 hours of battery life, the longest ever on MacBook Air.
  • Extend FaceTime and other video calls for up to twice as long on a single charge.

The MacBook Air comes in the same three colors, Silver, Space Gray, and Rose Gold and are available to order today and arrive next week. Next, let us look at the other 13-inch laptop, the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is a popular model of Mac used by many creatives. The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at the same $1299 price. For that price you get the following:

  • Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
  • 8GB unified memory
  • 256GB SSD storage
  • 13-inch Retina display with True Tone
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • Force Touch trackpad
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • Wi-Fi 6

Just like the MacBook Air you can upgrade the memory to 16GB, the storage to 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB. To go with all of this the 13-inch MacBook Pro

Apple is touting just how fast these machines are with these improvements:

  • Build code in Xcode up to 2.8x faster.
  • Render a complex 3D title in Final Cut Pro up to 5.9x faster. 
  • Fluidly design intricate game scenes in Unity Editor up to 3.5x faster. 
  • Perform ML tasks in Create ML up to 11x faster.
  • Separate out beats, instrumentals, and vocal tracks from a recording in real time in djay Pro AI, thanks to the amazing performance of the Neural Engine. 
  • Play back full-quality, 8K ProRes video in DaVinci Resolve without dropping a single frame. 
  • Compile four times as much code on a single charge, thanks to the game-changing performance per watt of the M1 chip.

The Thunderbolt and USB 4 ports do provide the ability to run the Apple Pro Display XDR at its native 6K resolution, should you find yourself in that situation.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro is available to order today and begins arriving next week.

Mac mini

The last Mac to discuss is the first desktop to get Apple Silicon, the Mac mini. the Mac mini is a very versatile machine that is used in a variety of situations. These can range from a simple home computer, to a server, to a portable rendering station. The Mac mini now also comes with the M1 and a new price point. The Mac mini now starts at $699, which is $100 less than before. For that $699 price you get the following:

  • Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
  • 8GB unified memory
  • 256GB SSD storage
  • Gigabit Ethernet

You can customize the Mac mini with 16GB of memory, or you can upgrade the storage to 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB options. One of the reasons that people opt for a Mac mini is the variety of ports. The Apple Silicon Mac mini includes Thunderbolt/USB-C 4 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, 2 USB-A ports, a gigabit ethernet port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

There are a couple of other changes with the new Mac mini. The first is that it is no longer space gray, instead it is back to being silver. While this is cometic, it may be a deterrent for some users. The second change is that there are some ports that are no longer on the new M1 Mac mini. The number of USB-C ports is half of what the Intel-based Mac minis had; the previous model had four. While for most this may not be a problem, is can be problematic for some users. The other port that has changed is the 10-gigabit ethernet option. That is not available on the Apple Silicon Mac minis. It is likely that the choice for the 10-gigabit ethernet was a very niche option, it is something to note.

Apple is also providing some statistics for the improvements for the Mac mini over the previous generation. These include:

  • Compile code in Xcode up to 3x faster. 
  • Play a graphics-intensive game like “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” with up to 4x higher frame rates. 
  • Render a complex timeline in Final Cut Pro up to 6x faster. 
  • Take music production to new levels by using up to 3x as many real-time plug-ins in Logic Pro.
  • Magically increase the resolution of a photo in Pixelmator Pro up to 15x faster. 
  • Utilize ML frameworks like TensorFlow or Create ML, now accelerated by the M1 chip.

The new price point for the Mac mini will make it very attractive for some users. However, the lack of 32GB or 64GB options may be a major factor for some users.

Closing Thoughts

Today’s event was quite short, 45 minute in total. Even though it was a shorter event, it was entirely focused on the Mac and Big Sur. macOS Big Sur will be available as a free update starting this Thursday.

While many expected a MacBook Air, the inclusion of a 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac mini to all be introduced at the same time shows that Apple is well on its way with Apple Silicon.

Macs with Apple Silicon are new and not everybody will want to, or will be able to use the new devices. Therefore, Apple is still selling Intel-based Macs for two of the Macs released today; the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac mini. It is not known how long this will go on, but it is possible to still get an Intel-based Mac for each of these models. The MacBook Air is only available using the M1 chip.

The three new Macs are available to order today and will begin shipping next week. Customized models may take longer, depending on the choice of options.

Sources: Apple