In this final chapter, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) obtains a 70-year-old message from the time-traveling Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), in which he informs Marty that he has retired to a small town in the Old West. Marty then finds out that the Doc was murdered shortly after sending the letter. In order to save his friend, Marty will have to travel back in time, disentangle a lovestruck Doc from a local schoolmarm, and repair the DeLorean — all while avoiding a posse of gunslingers.

Mac

  • Mid-2007 13-inch Black MacBook: 15 Years Later

    Mid-2007 13-inch Black MacBook: 15 Years Later

    This post is another in the series of me looking back at the technology related events that occurred during the year. The reason for the is because 2007 turned out to be a big year for me technology wise. This is the seventh in the series. the previous articles are:

    Mid-2007 13-inch MacBook

    Back in March I posted about the fact that I purchased a Late-2006 20-inch iMac. While that was both my first Mac overall, it was also my first desktop Mac. A mere 4 months later, I ended up buying a MacBook. In fact, the one that I ended up purchasing was the 13.3-inch Black MacBook.

    Price

    The 13-inch Black MacBook was more expensive than the regular MacBook. In fact, it was quite a bit more, it started at $1499. The model that I got was the base model, because any upgrades would significantly add to the cost. The second reason I chose that model was because the base specifications were enough for what I needed. On the topic of specifications, let us look at the specifications.

    Specifications

    Picture of the back of the 2007 MacBook box

    What was interesting with the 13-inch Black MacBook was that it had most of the same specifications as the Late 2006 20-inch iMac that I had purchased. It had a 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, with 1GB of RAM. The only difference between that and 20-inch iMac is that the MacBook only had a 160GB 5400 hard drive, whereas the iMac had a 250GB 7200 hard drive.

    These specs go along with the two USB 2.0 ports and single Firewire port. Along with this, the MacBook had a first-generation MagSafe power port.

    OS X

    The MacBook came with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. The last version of OS X that the 13-inch MacBook supported was Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. The reason that it did not support any newer operating system is the fact that the Intel 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo is a 32-bit processor, and the logic board was 32-bit as well. Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion dropped support for 32-bit processors.

    Having multiple Macs, I know I ended up buying the family pack of macOS Leopard so I could install it both of my Macs. The upgrade price of $199, so for $70 more than the single price you could install it up to five computers. This was a great thing to have at the time. Now, of course, macOS upgrades are free, so no special licensing is needed.

    Picture of the Mac OS X Tiger DVD
    Mac OS X Tiger DVD

    On the topic of upgrades, let us look at upgrading the hardware next.

    Upgrading Hardware

    Even though I purchased just the base model, it was inevitable thaT I would upgrade the MacBook, because it was still possible with that model.One of the best features of the 13-inch Black MacBook was the simplicity of upgrading. The upgrade process was pretty quick. The steps were:

    1. Turn off the MacBook.
    2. Unlock the battery using a coin.
    3. Remove the battery.
    4. Unscrew the four screws holding the memory and hard drive cover.
    5. Remove the memory and hard drive cover.

    Once you have removed the cover, you had access to the memory and the hard drive. For the hard drive you could easily remove it with the tab on the hard drive enclosure. The memory could easily be removed by pressing on the two tabs next to the hard drives.

    I do not know when, but I know I upgraded both the hard drive and the memory. I know I ended up installing a 250GB 7200 RPM drive and 3GB of memory.

    Usage

    The MacBook was designed to be portable. At the same time, it was not an inexpensive item. Because of the price, I went looking for a way to protect it, even while I traveled with it. I went looking for a good solution. I ended up buying two things. The first was an Incase 13-inch Laptop sleeve, which I still use to this day, but for my 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Th second item I purchased was a Pelican case. Specifically, it was the Pelican 1450.

    Image of the Pelican 1450 case
    Image of the Pelican 1450 case

    The reason I chose this case was two fold. The first reason is that, as mentioned above, I wanted something that I knew could protect the laptop and a Pelican case definitely could do that. The second reason I went with this model was that it included an insert system that consists of tiny blocks. The blocks can be removed individually which would allow you to customize the function of the case.

    Therefore, what I ended up doing was creating a layout for being able to transport just about anything that I could possibly need to transport with it. This included the power brick, the extended charging cord which would go into the power brick, a Mini-DVI to VGA adapter, a Mini-DVI to HDMI adapter, an ethernet cable, and other various cables that I might need, like USB to 30-pin cables.

    Was the Pelican case excessive? Looking back now, yes, it was. I definitely did not need such a rugged case. I still have the case today, but it not really used for anything, but I am reluctant to get rid of it, because If I want to use it for something else, I simply need to get a replacement foam set and reconfigure it as necessary.

    Now, let us look at how I use the 2007 Black MacBook now.

    Usage Today

    I no longer really use the 13-inch MacBook. It still functions, but the battery ended up swelling, so I removed it. Furthermore, my brother needed a replacement power cord for his MacBook Pro, so I gave him mine, along with a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter that he can use for his 2012 MacBook Pro.

    After initially writing this, I ended up buying a replacement power adapter and a NewerTech battery from MacSales.com. After I powered up the MacBook there were a few updates that needed to be installed, and the last version of macOS that is supported on the Machine is Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, which was released in 2011 and the last update was in October of 2012, so it’s been a while since I booted up the MacBook.

    Therefore, if I need any data off of the hard drive, I can either copy it directly on the MacBook, using File Sharing, or even use Screen Sharing to copy data.

    Closing Thoughts

    Even though the 13-inch Black MacBook was more expensive, it did have some higher specifications when purchased. I used the 2007 Black MacBook regularly from 2007 until April of 2015 when I purchased an early-2015 13-inch MacBook Pro, which coincidentally, I am actually using now to write this post, so almost a full eight years of usage of the 2007 MacBook before it was replaced.

    I miss the pure black color on the 2007 MacBook. I understand why it is not possible to get a pure black MacBook Pro these days, but it would be really nice to get a MacBook Pro that is darker than the current Space Gray, even if it would cost a bit more for the color.

    Apple Newsroom: Apple Updates Popular MacBook – May 15, 2007

  • Mac Studio: A Review

    Mac Studio: A Review

    If you were able to time travel back to 2007 and give someone the list of Mac desktops from March 17th, 2022, they would not see any differences. Not a single one. Back in 2007 there were three desktop models, the Mac mini, the iMac, and the Mac Pro. Yes, the form factor, designs, and internals have all changed, but someone the actual devices and their place in the lineup would be instantly understood and comprehended.

    It is not often that Apple introduces a new Mac model to the lineup. But, that is exactly what Apple has done. That device, is the Mac Studio. Before we dive into the Mac Studio, let us briefly look at recent Apple desktops.


    Brief History of recent Apple Desktops

    Apple has always had desktop computers. Their first computer, the Apple I, was a desktop. Apple has continually improved their desktops through the mid 1990s. The problem with the approach that Apple was taking in the mid-90s was that they were really no different than PCs. In fact, they were allowing companies to clone the Mac and as many who used the clones during the time would say, they are not very good. That changed when Apple cofounder Steve Jobs returned to the company. Shortly after his return to Apple, he introduced a new product, the iMac.

    The iMac was an all-in-one device that was self-contained, no separate monitor and computer. Apple continued to update and refine the iMac to include a flat-panel display. The iMac was the first device that Steve Jobs re-introduced after he returned to Apple and became interim CEO in 1997, after Apple purchased NeXT. The iMac has continued to be updated and changed since its introduction in 1998.

    In 2012 Apple introduced a new iMac size, to go with the 27-inch model. That size was the 21.5-inch model. In 2014 Apple introduced a revision that was the first retina version. The 27-inch iMac was updated in mid-2015, late 2015, mid-2017, early-2019, and mid-2020.


    High-end Mac Languishing

    Throughout the mid-2010s many Mac users were questioning what Apple was doing with the Mac. The reason that this was being questioned is because it seemed as though the Mac had stagnated and was not getting the attention that many thought it deserved. This was particularly true in 2015 and 2016 where the high-end of Mac line had not seen any meaningful changes in the Mac Pro. At the time, the model was last updated in 2013, but that model was a revolutionary design, a cylinder.

    In April 2017 Apple convened a roundtable for journalists that re-iterated the fact that the Mac was not dead and that they were still committed to the Mac. At the roundtable Apple indicated that “we’ll see improved iMacs that Apple feels will appeal to a segment of Pro users”. 

    Specifically at the Mac roundtable in 2017, Apple’s Phil Schiller stated:

    “As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a Pro display as well. Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do.”

    While it would take a bit for the new Mac Pro, more on that in a bit, it was not long after that meeting where Apple would introduce a new product, the iMac Pro.


    iMac Pro

    iMac Pro 2019
    Late 2019 – iMac Pro

    Introduced at their World Wide Developer Conference in June of 2017, the iMac Pro was a more professional iMac. The iMac Pro had the same physical dimensions of the regular 27-inch iMac, but it had entirely redesigned internals. The iMac Pro was aimed at more professional users. The iMac Pro included workstation-level processors, the Intel Xeon line, as well as error-correcting code, or ECC, memory. 

    Beyond the workstation graphics and ECC memory, the iMac Pro also included a 1TB solid state drive, which was possible with the standard 27-inch iMac, but this was still during the spinning hard drive era of the iMac. There was 32GB of memory as a base, but could be upgraded to 256GB of memory, if desired. 

    The iMac Pro also included a dedicated AMD Radeon Pro Vega video card, with up to 16 Gigabytes of dedicated graphics memory. The iMac Pro was not an inexpensive machine. Not by any means at all. The iMac Pro had a starting price of $4,999, so nobody would buy this on a whim. The iMac Pro was a one-off product that continued to be sold until March of 2021, when Apple announced that they would stop producing the iMac Pro and would continue to sell the iMac Pro until supplies ran out. 

    Even though Apple stopped selling the iMac Pro, there was still the other professional Mac, the Mac Pro.


    Mac Pro

    2013 Mac Pro
    Late 2013 – Mac Pro

    When the iMac Pro was introduced, some had speculated that the iMac Pro was intended to be the top of the line Mac and that the Mac Pro was no longer going to be updated. But, that was not the case, because Apple explicitly stated that they were working on a new Mac Pro, but it would not be coming in 2017. In fact, it would not be introduced until two years after the introduction of the iMac.

    There is the 2019 Mac Pro, which was unveiled at WWDC in June of 2019 and went on sale in December of 2019. Introducing the Mac Pro at WWDC was the right decision because one large segment of power users are developers. 

    At the same event as the introduction of the Mac Pro Apple also released their first all-new standalone display in nearly 9 years, and three years after selling standalone displays. That product is the Pro Display XDR. 

    I could dive deep into the Mac Pro and the Pro Display XDR, but that is not the primary focus of this review. Even though it’s not the focus, it is important that we keep in mind both the iMac and iMac Pro, because they come into play with a new Mac desktop, the Mac Studio. We will look at the Mac Studio in a bit, but before we do, let us look at a bit more history. Let us turn to my personal history with Mac Desktops.


    Personal History with Mac Desktops

    March 28th, 2022 marked the 15th anniversary of me using a Mac. As I posted in my retrospective, my first Mac was the Late 2006 20-inch iMac that I purchased in March of 2007. According to some, including @TweetDowns, I am merely a “rookie”, when it comes to using Macs. I take no offense to being called a “rookie” even though I have been using a Mac for 15 years, because there are those who have been using them for far longer than I have.

    If you have been reading the site for a while you likely notice that I end up getting a new iPhone and a new Apple Watch every year. One thing that you may also notice is that while I end up buying a new iPhone and Apple Watch every year, I tend to use my Macs for quite a bit longer. In fact, in my time using Macs, I have owned four Mac desktops, all three have been iMacs. These models have been Late 2006 20-inch iMac (purchased in March of 2007), a Mid-2011 21.5-inch iMac (purchased in July of 2011), and a Mid-2017 27-inch iMac (purchased in July of 2017). On average I end up replacing my Mac desktop every five years. And it has been just about five years time to replace it. I do not exclusively use Mac desktops though, I also have owned some Mac Laptops. Unlike desktops I have only owned two laptops. These are the Mid-2007 13-inch Black MacBook and the early-2015 13-inch MacBook Pro.

    On a side note, astute and diligent readers may remember that I also have a base-model Mac mini (M1, 2020), and they may be wondering why I did not include that one in my list. Well dear reader, that is a good observation. The reason I did not include it is that the Mac mini has not been my “daily” computer. It use it exclusively for testing app builds and running beta versions of macOS. It uses an entirely different account and has none of my personal data. With that, I decided to not include it in my list of desktop Macs.

    When I started thinking about which device to replace, my mid-2017 iMac or my early-2015 MacBook Pro, I was initially leaning towards replacing my MacBook Pro, since it is now seven years old. While making these decisions I could not decide whether or not to just get one replacement machine, a MacBook Pro with higher specifications, or continue with my two-computer setup.

    It turned there was something that caused me to end up replacing my iMac. The thing that prompted the replacement was that the iMac screen began to crack. I noticed the initial crack in March of 2021 and at the time it was small crack and it was stable for almost a year. But, over the course of about month it started to expand from that one inch (2.54cm) crack to be 18 inches (45.72cm) overall.

    Once the crack started expanding, that is when I decided to replace the iMac. I ended up buying a Mac Studio with a Studio Display. I will not cover the Studio Display, at least not in-depth, because I did an entire review of the Studio Display. The Studio Display will absolutely come up in the review, but it will be in context of the Mac Studio, and now onto my review of the Mac Studio.


    Mac Studio

    Front of an Early 2022 Mac Studio
    Early 2022 Mac Studio

    Apple introduced the Mac Studio last month, in March of 2022 at their “Peek Performance” event. This is the first new all new Macintosh design since 2006 with the Mac Pro. After the event Apple also did something else, they quietly removed the 27-inch iMac from sale. This makes sense, given that they introduced a standalone display, the Apple Studio Display, at the same event.


    Design

    When Apple introduced Apple Silicon at their World Wide Developer Conference in 2020, many thought it would be an opportunity for Apple to redesign all of the Mac models. However, the first models with Apple Silicon did not have any redesign, not even some internals were changed. This makes complete sense to use this approach. The reason that this makes sense is that if you do not change anything then you can do all of your development in secret without anybody knowing that something new is coming. This is exactly what Apple did for their first round of Apple Silicon devices, the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac mini.

    Even though Apple used the exact same enclosures and ports for their first round of machines, they did not continue to do that for newer models. While the MacBook Pros were not the first ones to get a redesign, they were the most anticipated The most anticipated updates were the higher-end MacBook Pros. In particular, Apple redesigned the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Along with the 16-inch MacBook Pro came a smaller model, the 14-inch MacBook Pro alongside it. The exterior of these laptops were redesigned including ports that users had been asking for, including MagSafe charging, HDMI, and an SD Card slot. 

    The first device to see a significant change was actually the 21,5-inch iMac. The 21.5-inch iMac got such a redesign that it was actually replaced with the 24-inch iMac. The 24-inch iMac was a radical change that included a set of new colors, an external power brick with a built-in ethernet cable, and a thin screen. While the 24-inch iMac was a great design, many were waiting for the replacement for the 27-inch iMac. That replacement is the Mac Studio. 

    The bottom of the Mac Studio is very reminiscent of a device that was unveiled in September of 2006 and released in March of 2007, the original Apple TV. The similarities are that they have approximately the same physical size, but the item that is most similar is that both of the devices have rubber element that is covering the entry point to the device. It is a full rubber pad for the original Apple TV and a rubber ring for the Mac Studio. Another similarity, the rubber ring, or pad, will be completely destroyed if you try to remove it. It was possible to remove the Apple TV rubber pad, but more often than not you would ruin it.

    The physical dimensions of the Mac Studio are 7.7 inches (19.7cm) by 7.7 inches (19.7cm) by 3.7 inches (9.5cm). The is the same physical footprint as Mac mini and the original Apple TV. The Mac Studio is significantly taller than the Mac mini, which stands at 1.4 inches (3.6cm). This is just a bit over two Mac minis tall.

    On the front of the Mac Studio is a power light indicator. This light is not super bright, which is good, but it is bright enough to be able to easily see no matter how much ambient light is available. I do not know if the light’s intensity is because it is how the type of light that Apple sourced is designed, or if Apple added a bit of diffusion within the case of the Mac Studio.

    Mac Studio stacked on top of an M1 Mac mini which is on top of an original Apple TV.
    Mac Studio stacked on top of an M1 Mac mini which is on top of an original Apple TV.

    Weight

    The Mac Studio is a somewhat heavy device, at least compared to the Mac mini. In fact, the Mac Studio is 5.9 pounds, or 2.7 kilograms. The Mac mini is 2.6 pounds, or 1.2 kilograms. The Mac Studio is 2.25x heavier. This somewhat makes sense because the Mac Studio is more than two Mac minis on top of each other. The difference in weight is partially the case for the Mac Studio but a majority of it is due to the fan assembly and heatsink. The M1 Ultra is slightly heavier at 7.9 pounds, or 3.6 kilograms. The reason for the M1 Ultra being even heavier is due to the copper heatsink that provides even better heat dissipation.

    It is not often that you will move the Mac Studio, but it is something to be aware of should you need to move it on a regular basis. Next, let us look at the modularity of the Mac Studio.


    Modularity

    When Apple introduced the Mac Studio they discussed that the Mac Studio is modular. When Apple mentioned this many likely thought “wait, this is the Mac Pro mini that was rumored”. Unfortunately for them, that is not the modularity that Apple was talking about. When Apple mentioned modularity they meant that the screen and computer are both modular. Meaning, that you could replace either of the items instead of needing to replace both at once.

    This approach does have its merits, in particular the fact that you are more likely to upgrade the Mac instead of the display. I know that is my intention for the Mac Studio and Studio Display. I intend to use the Studio Display for a long while and I am more likely to replace the Mac Studio before the Studio Display.

    There is another aspect to “modularity” when it comes to the Mac Studio. Unlike many of Apple’s other Macs, the storage is not soldered onto the logic board for the Mac Studio. This means that Apple can easily provide additional storage options, but more on that later.

    I think this was deliberately done. As my friend, and editor of my books, Barry Sullivan astutely pointed out, the Mac Studio is designed to be the replacement for both the 27-inch iMac as well as the iMac Pro. When he mentioned this, it instantly made sense that it was exactly what Apple had intended to do, and just reinforced Apple’s decision to remove the 27-inch iMac from sale. The best way to illustrate this is by explaining the two System-on-a-Chip, or SoC, options available for the Mac Studio.


    Apple Silicon on Mac Studio

    Apple Silicon is Apple’s replacement for using Intel processors in the Mac. The plan to transition away from Intel was unveiled at Apple’s WWDC 2020.  The first Apple Silicon machines, with the designation of M1, went on sale in November of 2020 with the introduction of three machines, the M1 MacBook Air, the M1 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the M1 Mac mini.

    Any Apple Silicon chip is significantly different than a traditional computer setup because it is a System on a Chip, or SoC. With Apple Silicon there is no difference between the system memory and the graphical memory. This means that there are significant improvements in speed due to both the main system memory and graphics memory being a single pool and there is no penalty for moving memory between the CPU and GPU, which requires time. With Apple Silicon there is no delay.

    One of the things that Apple has been able to do with the transition to Apple Silicon is to make the processor line up a bit easier to understand. The line up of chips is quite straightforward. There are four chips in the M1 line. These chips are:

    • M1 (no moniker)
    • M1 Pro
    • M1 Max
    • M1 Ultra

    As you progress the capabilities of each system on a chip changes and improves.

      M1 M1 Pro M1 Max M1 Ultra
    Total Cores 8 8/10 10 20
    Efficiency Cores 4 2 2 4
    Proficiency Cores 4 8 8 16
    GPU Cores 8 14/16 24/32 48/64
    Memory 8GB/16GB 16GB/32GB 32GB/64GB 64GB/128GB
    Neural Engine Cores 16 16 16 32
    Thunderbolt Ports 2 3 4 6

    If you look at the progression of the SoCs you will see that as the chips progress, the maximum amount of memory doubles. This is absolutely the case between M1 Max and the M1 Ultra.

    Apple M1 Chip Family Logos
    Logo of the M1 Family of Chips

    System-on-a-Chip Options

    The Mac Studio has two different processor options; the M1 Max and the M1 Ultra. The M1 Max has two variants, one with 24 GPU cores and another with 32 GPU cores. The M1 Ultra variants are exactly double that of the M1 Max, therefore the M1 Ultra has 20 CPU cores, with 16 performance cores, and 4 efficiency cores, and 32 Neural engine cores. There are also two variants, one with 48 GPU cores or the second with 64 GPU cores. 

    The M1 Ultra is actually two M1 Max chips paired together with a connector, called “UltraFusion”. When a developer hears or reads “two M1 Max chips together”, they are likely to instantly be put on guard. The reason for this is that when there you have two processors that typically means that you, as the developer, needs to handle addressing the various processors and memory on their own.

    However, that is not the case. From the perspective of macOS, the M1 Ultra is still seen as single processor, which means that developers do not need to perform any special programming to be able to take advantage of the additional bandwidth, cores, and memory. Instead, macOS can handle all of it for you.

    I think that Apple intentionally chose the M1 Max and M1 Ultra as the options for the Mac Studio, to directly replace the 27-inch iMac and the iMac Pro; with the M1 Max being the equivalent of the 27-inch iMac and the M1 Ultra being the equivalent of iMac Pro.

    The M1 Max and M1 Ultra both run at 3.2GHz, just as is the case with all of the M1 processors, including the M1 and M1 Pro. Next, let us look at what ports are available on the Mac Studio.


    Ports

    One thing that people often need to do with their device is attach devices. What is attached could be a variety of items, like external hard drives, thumb drives or any other external device. While some MacBooks and MacBook Pros have had a limited number of ports, including the single USB-C port on the 12-inch MacBook, Apple’s desktops have always had many ports. The Mac Studio is no exception to this.

    Early 2022 Mac Studio Ports
    Ports on the Early 2022 Mac Studio

    The Mac Studio has a number of ports. Unlike all other desktop Macs, and even the aforementioned 27-inch iMac and iMac Pro, there are ports on the front of the Mac Studio. There are actually a dozen ports for the Mac Studio. The entire list includes:

    Rear Ports

    • Four Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports
    • Two USB-A ports
    • One HDMI port
    • One 10Gbps ethernet port
    • One 3.5mm Headphone port

    Front Ports

    • Two USB-C (Two Thunderbolt 4 with the M1 Ultra)
    • One SDXC slot

    This is a large number of ports. In fact, this is the largest number of ports that are built-in on any Mac sold today. You can easily add more ports on the Mac Pro with add-in cards, but the Mac Studio has more built-in ports than even the Mac Pro. The Mac Pro has eight included ports, as compared to the Mac Studio’s 12 included ports. <b>Note</b>, the Mac Pro does have two ports on the top of the machine, so one might argue that these are the equivalent of “front” ports, because they are very convenient for users to plugin transient items.

    The front ports on the Mac Studio can vary depending on which SoC is in the machine. For the M1 Max you will get two USB-C ports, while the M1 Max will have two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports. The reason for this is that there is more bandwidth available to support Thunderbolt on those two ports.

    The nature of technology is generally a forward march of progress. However, sometimes that forward momentum requires some legacy ports to be brought along. In 1998 when the original iMac was released there were no “legacy” ports. At the time this would have included SCSI, parallel, 3.5-inch floppy, VGA, or even standard keyboard and mouse connectors. Instead, Apple went all in on USB because it was the future of technology. In hindsight, that was the right call. PCs had included USB for a while, but they still had legacy ports as well as USB ports.

    As much as we would like to get rid of old technology it is not easy to do. Even 26 years after its initial introduction, the original USB plug, called “Type A”, is still on the Mac Studio. There are only two USB-A ports and 6 USB-C ports. If you need more than two USB-A ports, you have a couple of options, you can either get an adapter or you can get a USB-A hub to add even more ports.

    The SDXC card slot is a port that not everybody will end up using. I know I am not likely to use it, not that I will never use it, but it is not a port that I need to use on a regular basis. Both my mid-2017 iMac and early-2015 MacBook Pro both have an SDXC slot on them, and I have used them on occasion, but the times when I do use it are few and far between.

    For those who do use it regularly though, it will be much more convenient to have the SDXC card slot on the front of the Mac Studio will make it remarkably more convenient. Most particularly if you need to import or expo video files to an SD Card slot on a regular basis.

    Now, let us see how much the Mac Studio costs, if you want to contemplate purchasing one.


    Pricing

    Normally, I would look at a price comparison between the 27-inch iMac and the Mac Studio with Studio Display, but I do not think that is necessarily an appropriate comparison. The reason for this is because the Mac Studio is not only an entirely different machine, you cannot directly compare them. Sure, you could try to make an approximation, but the devices are so fundamentally different products.

    The iMac is an all-in-one device meanwhile the Mac Studio is designed to be modular, where you can use any monitor with the Mac Studio, and as mentioned earlier, you can upgrade the display and computer separately as needed.

    The Mac Studio starts at $1999 for the 10-core CPU and 24-Core GPU model, with 32GB of unified RAM and 512GB of storage.. In 2022, a computer that starts at $1999 should have at least 1TB of storage. To me, 512GB does not seem like enough storage space for the price. Unfortunately, this is typical of how Apple prices their devices.

    If you want an M1 Ultra, you can get one, but be prepared to pay quite a bit. The Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra will get you 20-core CPU, 48-Core GPU, 64GB of unified memory, and 1TB of storage. Just as many other aspects of the M1 Ultra being double the M1 Max, the price is also double. The M1 Ultra starts at $3999.

    The Mac Studio with M1 Ultra, 40CPU Cores, 64 GPU Cores, 128GB of RAM, and 8TB SSD would come to a total of $7999. You can configure just about any price between $1999 and $7999. Now, let us look at what I actually ordered.


    My Configuration

    The configuration I opted for is the 10-core CPU, 24-Core GPU model and 32GB of unified memory, which is the base configuration. I did decide to make one upgrade. I upgraded the unified storage, and I went with 2TB of storage. The 2TB of storage is less than I have in my 2017 iMac, which was a 3TB Fusion Drive. The 32GB of unified memory is more than the 24GB of total memory I have in my iMac. 

    Front view of the Mac Studio on a desk
    Front View of an early 2022 Mac Studio on a desk

    I did think about going up to 4TB, but that would have added another $600 on top of the $600 for the 2TB. Instead, I decided to stick with 2TB and if I need more storage I can use an external drive, there are plenty of drives for that.

    Another reason I went with 2TB is that I store most of my documents using iCloud, so if it really comes down to it, I can just remove the items from my Mac and keep them in iCloud. Should I need them again I can download them again. I can also keep things on an external drives if needed, and this is in addition to my other cloud backups as well.

    The reason I went with the base processor is that it is way more than I think I will need for the next five years. 32 CPU Cores and 24 GPU Cores are way more than I have had in any Mac, let alone any computer, that I have used on a regular basis. Now, let us look at Apple Silicon as a daily machine.


    Apple Silicon as a Daily Machine

    Technically, the Mac Studio is not my first Apple Silicon machine. This is because I did purchase an M1 Mac mini back in November of 2020 when they were announced. I got the base model M1 Mac mini, no upgrades. I ordered this after a friend of mine tested my app, wwriteLite, on their M1 MacBook Pro and the app was crashing.  

    The M1 Mac mini has been a test and development machine. The M1 Mac mini came in handy for my book, “iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, tvOS 15, and watchOS 8 for Users, Administrators, and Developers“, last year. The way that the M1 Mac mini was very helpful was because there were a couple of features that were only available on Apple Silicon Macs, and it was my only M1 Mac. Along with this, my 2017 iMac and 2015 MacBook Pro did not get some of the features that were introduced with macOS Monterey, so it was handy being able to use those new features when writing my book.

    Even though I have owned an M1 Mac mini, I did not use, and have not used, it on a daily basis as my primary computer. The Mac Studio is my daily machine and this is the first time I have used an Apple Silicon machine regularly. So, I thought I would share my thoughts on a few things that I have noticed while using an M1 machine every day, starting with Xcode.


    Xcode

    My day job is to work on both web apps and develop and iPadOS app that is used at work. In order to build and iPadOS app you need to use Xcode. My 2017 iMac has been what I have primarily used to develop the app we use at work. Beyond this, my 2017 iMac has been the machine that I have done all of the work on my own app, wwriteLite, since I got the iMac in July of 2017.

    Xcode app Icon
    Xcode App Icon

    I did some benchmarks for how long it took to build my app. I ran three different trials to get an average amount of time to compile. These builds were full clean builds, not incremental ones. Here are the results of those trials:

    Device Trial #1 Trial #2 Trial #3 Average
    Early-2015 MacBook Pro 141.26 115.84 121.44 126.18
    Mid-2017 iMac 61.00 49.25 46.15 52.13
    Late 2020 M1 Mac mini 32.90 28.60 30.30 30.60
    Early 2022 Mac Studio 26.30 24.92 23.18 24.80

    You can clearly see the difference between the iMac and the Mac Studio. The Mac Studio takes half as much time compile my app, and this was just for full builds. Incremental builds did not always take that long to build, but they could still take some time. While I have not done any extensive testing, I suspect that incremental builds will also be a bit faster, but I do not expect the to be twice as fast.

    Xcode contains a huge number of features. One of the most power hungry, and most problematic ones, that I encountered when doing development has been SwiftUI Previews. In case you are not aware, SwiftUI is Apple’s Swift-only framework that uses a whole different approach than traditional programming. SwiftUI uses a declarative syntax. The declarative syntax can allow you to quickly iterate by allowing you to make changes and view them instantly. When doing development on my iMac whether SwiftUI Previews would work was severely hit or miss. 

    Having used the Mac Studio for a little bit and using Xcode I can say for certain that the Mac Studio is a much better platform for using SwiftUI Previews. The Mac Studio was not only able to render my SwiftUI Previews, but it was able to do so without making the fans spin up.

    When I did an actual build of my app to run in a simulator the power usage did spike to around 50 watts, but this was brief and intermediate and when the app was actually running in the simulator the temperature of the Mac Studio was hovering around 100 degrees celsius, and the power quickly ramped back down.

    As mentioned, SwiftUI Previews can be very power hungry. If I was able to use SwiftUI Previews on my iMac, the fans would almost invariably spin up to 100%. When the fans spin up, they can generate a lot of noise, and on the topic of noise, let us discuss noise with the Mac Studio.


    Noise

    When the Mac Studio was first in the hands of individuals there were some that indicated that they could hear the fans in the Mac Studio. The fan noise did not bother some, but the Mac Studio was loud enough that it caused some people to return their Mac Studio machines. I have not been able to hear the fans, no matter what I am doing. I have not been able to make the fans spin up in day to day usage. As I stated earlier I do have iStat Menus installed and I can manually make the fans spin up, and I did just to make sure that they were functioning. But in my day to day usage I have not been able to make them spin up. Not even when I was doing my encoding tests.

    Most of the time I have not heard much noise coming out of my other Macs either. I tend to have pretty good hearing and if there is even a slight change in the fans, I typically hear it. There is a caveat to this, in order for me to hear most changes I need to not be wearing my headphones.

    When I am wearing my headphones I am not prone to hear slight changes in fan noise. However, if the fans really spin up, I will absolutely hear them, even over my music, which is not that loud. When this happens, I know something has gone awry and I need to look at it. Typically the fix is to kill whatever process is causing the excessive fan noise. The major reason that the fans turn on is to remove any excess heat from the system. Let us now look at the temperature of the Mac Studio.


    Temperature

    Internal design of the Early 2022 Mac Studio from the front
    Internal design of the Early 2022 Mac Studio from the front

    One of the things that might make fans spin up on any device is the internal temperature of the device. The reason for this is that devices need to stay cool so they do not overheat. Overheating in the computer world can lead to rather disastrous results. While it is not likely to happen these days, too much heat can cause components to get damaged and can cause systems to fail. macOS is designed to automatically adjust the fan speed as needed.

    I have iStat Menus installed to be able to keep tabs on how warm my systems get. I do not normally need to worry about desktop Macs, and I am not at all concerned about the Mac Studio. I primarily use iStat Menus on my 2015 MacBook Pro, which can get a bit warm at times, particularly if I have any JavaScript heavy webpages loaded.

    Even though I am not worried about it on the Mac Studio, I did install iStat Menus to see what temperature ranges would be shown during normal usage of the Mac Studio. Most of the time the Mac Studio is between 92 and 96 degrees celsius. This is about the same range as my 2017 iMac, but 15 degrees cooler than my 2015 MacBook Pro. If I manage to stress the CPU cores, or the GPU cores, the temperature might reach around 140 degrees celsius. I saw the Mac Studio reach this temperature when I was doing my encoding tests. Even when the temperature was that high, the fans never spun up beyond their standard idling speed of approximately 1325 rotations per minute.

    The Mac Studio is designed to stay as cool as possible. The top half of the Mac Studio is a fan assembly that will pull air from the bottom of the Mac Studio over the components, forcing the hot air to rise and be pushed out of the back of the Mac Studio. Now that we have covered the fans, let us look at another item that might make some noise, but this one is likely to be more deliberately done. That feature is the speakers.


    Speakers

    Almost every computing device sold these days has some way of providing feedback. On an iPhone and Apple Watch this can be through haptics, or the speaker. On the iPad it has to be through the speaker since there are no haptics. The same applies to the Mac Studio which only has speakers for feedback.

    The speaker on the Mac Studio is, as you might expect, functional, but far from the highest quality, but this is expected. The Mac mini and Mac Studio are not devices that people typically buy for their speaker quality. The Mac Studio speakers are decent and do have more bass than the Mac mini, but cannot compare even to my 2017 iMac speakers. Even though they are not as good as my iMac, they are are a bit better than my early-2015 MacBook Pro speakers, in that they have more bass. This is not surprising given how much more room there is for the speakers in the Mac Studio.

    The Mac Studio speakers are very functional and serviceable, particularly if you only want to listen to stuff like podcasts, but you may want something else, like a HomePod or a pair of wireless headphones, if you plan on using the Mac Studio for listening to audio. The decision to not make the Mac Studio speakers the best out there makes sense, particularly since the Mac Studio is designed to be paired with the Studio Display. If you have a Studio Display connected to the Mac Studio, those speakers are absolutely a better choice, and the way to go. On the topic of the Studio Display, let us briefly turn to using dual Studio Displays.


    Dual Studio Displays

    Dual Apple Studio Displays connected to a Mac Studio
    Picture of Dual Apple Studio Displays connected to a Mac Studio

    When Apple announced the Studio Display, it is a product that many were waiting to be released. I was amongst those who were waiting. Since I had been waiting, I ordered a Studio Display as soon as the event was over. When I ordered the Studio Display I anticipated using the Studio Display as a second monitor for my iMac. 

    Prior to receiving the Studio Display, I had been using my iMac with a 27-inch Dell monitor, so I was accustomed to having a dual-monitor setup. The 27-inch Dell is model SE2719H. This model is not a 4K monitor and it can support a maximum resolution of 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall. I bought this monitor in June of 2020 as a second monitor for my iMac. As mentioned in my review of the Studio Display, I completely enjoyed having a two full 5K screens on my desk. 

    Having two displays with the same resolution and overall features make things easier to handle and less jarring when moving between the windows and items on the two displays.

    When I ordered my Mac Studio I also ordered another Studio Display. I ordered the exact same configuration for the screen, which is the Studio Display with the Tilt-Adjust stand. I will not lie, I went back and forth about whether to get the second Studio Display, because I thought it might be a bit too excessive, but I ordered it none-the-less. I also debated on ordering a Studio Display with Tilt and Height Adjustable stand, but I opted to get the same one I already ordered. Now, I will be the first to state that being able to afford two Studio Displays, along with a Mac Studio, is a privilege and this is not a normal configuration for most users.

    The Mac Studio arrived before the second Studio Display, which was not expected. The delivery date range for my second Studio Display was a full week before the Mac Studio itself, but the Mac Studio arrived first. Why it arrived first, I do not know, but it surely did.

    During the time without the second Studio Display I once again used the 27-inch Dell monitor as my second monitor. Having gone back to a single 5K screen with a 1080p display as the secondary screen was, suffice to say, less than ideal. Even in the brief amount of time that I had been using the Studio Display with my iMac, I had gotten used to having two 5K screens on at the same time, and having to go back to a screen with two different resolutions made me appreciate using two monitors with the same resolution. 

    One of the downsides with having a non-Apple supported monitor is that many of the adjustments on the monitor cannot be made through macOS. Chief amounts these is the brightness of the screen. Throughout the day I end up needing to tweak the brightness of my displays to either be brighter or dimmer depending on the amount of light. Even with True Tone and Night Shift, some adjustment is necessary.

    Not being able to adjust the Dell monitor’s brightness within macOS means using the cumbersome buttons underneath the display. Another downside to using the Dell is the fact that the two displays sit at two different heights. This latter issue is a minor one, but it can be hard to find something to place under the lower monitor to bring it up to the same height as the other monitor. 

    Now having had two 5K Studio Displays for a little while has only positively reinforced my decision to buy the second Studio Display. It is quite nice having two screens that are the same height and have the exact same feature set. I fully intend to use the Studio Displays for many years. It is quite likely that I will end up replacing the Mac Studio before either one of the Studio Displays, but only time will tell on that.

    Having two identical displays really is the way to go. Even if you do not want to spend the money on multiple Apple Studio Displays, but you want two, or more, monitors, I would recommend buying the same monitors so that everything can be the same and there is no need to adjust a lot of things just to make everything work in the expectant manner.

    Next, let us move onto something else, Touch ID.


    Touch ID

    Touch ID Logo
    Touch ID Logo

    The Mac Studio has two items in the box; the Mac Studio itself and a power cord. That is it. The Mac Studio does not come with a keyboard, mouse, or any other input device, which is a departure from the 27-inch iMac and the iMac Pro, but is keeping in line with the Mac mini. You may recall that I wrote a review of the Magic Keyboard Touch ID. I did that review with my base model M1 Mac mini, mostly because it was the only computer I could use the Touch ID keyboard on. When it was connected to the M1 Mac mini, the only time I used the Touch ID sensors  to sign into the Mac mini, when I did need to connect to it and not through Screen Sharing.

    Instead of buying a new Touch ID keyboard and mouse, which I may do at some point in the future because who does not like matching colors, I decided to use my existing Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and another Magic Mouse that I already had. Since the Touch ID sensor would not work with my 2017 iMac, nor on my early-2015 MacBook Pro, this is my first experience with using Touch ID regularly on macOS.

    When I started using Touch ID on my Mac Studio I did not realize just how often I would need to fill in passwords. The iMac never prompted me for passwords, they were just automatically be filled in. Obviously having passwords automatically fill in without any biometrics is significantly less secure, but it is significantly  more convenient. As is the case with all things in modern technology, there is a trade off between convenience and security. The more convenient you typically end up making something less secure.

    It has taken me a bit of time to get used to the fact that I can log into my Mac Studio with Touch ID. I have been using may Apple Watch to unlock my Macs since I could enable the feature. However, a Mac will not unlock if the Apple Watch is locked. I am sure using Touch ID to unlock my computer will just take a bit of time to get used to and eventually it will become second nature.

    Even though it is a bit more of an inconvenience to use Touch ID, it is definitely more secure. One area where Touch ID came in the handiest is when it came to logging into the Apple website. You can use your local account’s password to authenticate with your Apple ID account. Now, with a Touch ID keyboard, I no longer have to enter in my password and I can just use the Touch ID sensor to authenticate. This interaction is so much quicker and a very welcome change.

    Next, let us try and look at some of the speed of the Mac Studio, through encoding media.


    Encoding Media

    One of the features of the M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra, are that they are designed with video encoding and decoding in mind. The unified memory system on its own would help improve encoding speeds. The real speed improvement comes with the fact that there are dedicated video engines in these processors. Specifically, there are video encode engines and two ProRes encode and decode engines built directly into the processors. For the M1 Pro there is a single dedicated ProRes encode and decode engine. While on the M1 Max there are two, and there are four on the M1 Ultra. 

    I do not use ProRes in anyway, so I am not sure if they will ultimately go unused, I suspect they might. However, what will not go unused is the encoding engine. This is because I do like to convert my physical media into digital format so I can watch it on one of my Apple TVs. 

    Ripping a DVD

    There are a number of ways of doing this. You can use something like Handbrake or FFmpeg. I prefer Handbrake myself. When I set up a new machine, I end up downloading new copies of apps, and this was definitely the case with the Mac Studio. If you use Handbrake on an Apple Silicon machine, be sure to update to the latest version, 1.5.1.

    I ended up ripping one of the DVDs that I have. It was a standard 480p DVD. For the test I used HandBrake with an external USB DVD burner that I own. The DVD burner is USB-A and I connected it directly to my Mac Studio. As a side note, hardware makers, an 8-inch cable is not long enough, not by a long stretch. You really need to include more cable length on these devices, or make it detachable and replaceable.

    The encoding maxed out at 155.18 frames per second, with an average of 119.19 frames per second. The entire encode only took 12 minutes and 13 seconds. While the DVD was encoding the temperature, as reported by iStat Menus, got up to 120 degrees and you know what, the fans did not even spin any faster. They were at around 1336 revolutions per minute, which is where they idle at.

    Compare this to the 2017 iMac, which topped out at around 150.07 frames per second and averaged 118.19 frames per second. The total time took about 12 minutes and 16 seconds. This was the same USB DVD drive, with the same piece of media, using the same version of Handbrake with the same settings. These are comparable, which seems about right because the USB DVD drive was likely the limiting factor

    The iMac did get warmer, at about 134 degrees celsius and that was with the fans on 100% at 2705 revolutions per minute. Obviously, I could hear the fans going on the iMac. Ripping from a DVD is only one option, the is another option, ripping from an image of the DVD.

    Ripping from Image

    I did another test, ripping from an image. I did two different tests, the first was ripping from the image on the internal drive to an external drive and the second was ripping from the image on the internal drive to the internal drive.

    Mid-2017 iMac

    When ripping from the DVD to an external drive, on the iMac the maximum speed was 179.81 frames per second with an average was 151.40 frames per second. Again, the iMac fan went to 100% at 2705 revolutions per minute. The ripping was done from the internal drive to an external, just as it was when ripping to DVD, as to minimize variability and this time it took 9 minutes and 32 seconds. So, this is about 3 minutes, or 25% faster.

    Just to provide one last test, I ripped from the internal drive to another file on the same drive. The statistics for that were a maximum of 200.06 frames per second with an average of 149.24 frames per second and that encoding took 9 minutes and 40 seconds.

    Mac Studio

    Now, compared to iMac,, ripping the image to an external drive on the Mac Studio had a maximum of 402.27 frames per second with an average of 330.69 frames per second and it took 4 minutes and 22 seconds to rip. The temperature did rise to 146 degrees celsius but the fans never spun up beyond their idle speeds.

    Ripping the image to local drive, from the local drive, showed a maximum of 401.33 frames per second and an average of 329.66 frames per second, all in 4 minutes and 23 seconds. The temperature was 147 degrees celsius and as expected, the fans never spun up beyond their idling speed of 1300 revolutions per minute.

    As you can see, ripping a DVD image on the Mac Studio, whether to the internal drive or an external drive was 50% faster. I do not know if it makes sense to rip a DVD to an image and then rip it, because it would take a while to rip from the DVD drive to the image, much longer than just ripping from the DVD drive directly. Overall, I think I will use the Mac Studio for ripping DVDs to my library.

    Next, let us look at some other measurements of how fast the Mac Studio is. That is through benchmarks.


    Benchmarks

    Geekbench 5 app icon
    Geekbench 5 App Icon

    All of my reviews include the obligatory benchmarks. These benchmarks all used GeekBench 5. The devices include other M1 devices, Intel Machines, and even some devices that have A-series chips. The “ML” category is for iOS and iPadOS devices only, as GeekBench has yet to release a Machine Learning app for macOS, I wish they would though. So, onto the actual benchmarks.

    Device Single Core Multi-Core ML (CPU) ML (GPU) ML (ML) Compute (Metal)
    Early 2022 Mac Studio (Max) 1760 12238 59133
    Mid-2017 27-inch iMac 1752 7780 21812
    iPhone 13 Pro Max 1715 4409 926 2467 2722 14940
    5th Gen iPad Pro 1698 7203 1021 28837 2718 21256
    6th Gen iPad mini 1598 4637 892 1885 2537 12097
    Mid-2017 27-inch iMac 1065 4188 41184
    Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro 1099 5388 23194
    Late 2018 Mac mini 1022 4736 4677
    iPhone X 923 2568 502 885 435 4114
    Early-2015 MacBook Pro 742 1540 5151
    iPod Touch 7th Gen 503 1074 359 552 310 2311
    iPhone 6s Plus 466 1013 326 539 284 2530

    The results are what one might expect. The M1 family of chips is based on the A14, so all of those devices have roughly similar results. The one outlier is the 6th Generation iPad mini, which has an A15 in it. The M1 line of chips are based on the A14, and the A15 should have slightly better performance, look at the iPhone 13 Pro Max which also has an A15.

    I am not sure why there is such a discrepancy, but when looking at the other Geekbench submissions, these results are inline with other 6th generation iPad mini devices.


    Closing Thoughts

    The Mac Studio is not an inexpensive machine by any stretch of ones imagination. It starts at $1999 for the M1 Max version, but can range to $7999 for the M1 Ultra with 8TB of Storage and 128GB of unified memory, and almost any price in between. Even though The Mac Studio is designed to replace both the 27-inch iMac and the 27-inch iMac Pro, the Mac Studio is not an all-in-one machine. Instead, it is modular.

    The Mac Studio is a desktop computer that was introduced with an accompanying Studio Display. Taken together these pieces can be upgraded and replaced as needed. Modularity of the Mac Studio does not stop at just the device itself. The Mac Studio is also modular in terms of storage. It is not soldered on and allows Apple to easily replace or customize the storage in the Mac Studio without needing to create different logic boards with a variety of storage options. 

    The Mac Studio is a significantly faster machine than other M1 Macs available and if you are going to purchase one, you should be quite delighted by the speed. Along with the speed, the Mac Studio is replete with external ports, including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A, one HDMI, and one headphone jack. One thing that differentiates the Mac Studio from other Macs is that there are also ports on the front of the Mac Studio. On the front there are two USB-C ports that support USB 4 and an SDXC slot.

    If you are a developer and using an Intel-based machine, you should really look at getting a Mac running Apple Silicon. It will definitely be a game changer for development. If you prefer laptop, the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro is a good choice, but if you want a desktop you cannot go wrong with the Mac Studio as your machine.

    If you are looking to order a Mac Studio, you might want to place your order now, many configurations have a delivery range of 10 to 12 weeks, meaning as of this writing you are looking at August for a delivery date.

  • My First Mac: 15 Years Later

    My First Mac: 15 Years Later

    This article continues the series that I started earlier this year called “15 Years Later”. The series is intended to look back at 2007 and many of the big things that happened in relation to technology, at least in my life.

    So far I have covered the following:

    Next in the series relates to the Windows Vista article, and that is my first Mac. We will get to my first Mac in a bit, but before that let us look at a brief history of my interactions and usage of Apple products prior to 2007.

    A Brief History with Apple and their products

    One of the things that Apple did during the 1980s and 1990s was try to get Macs into schools. Because of this many people’s first interactions with Apple were through these computers. I am no exception. Throughout school we had Macs, not everywhere, but we definitely had labs of Macs. Some of these included Apple IIs. I remember playing Oregon Trail on the green screens.

    We did have a hand-me-down Apple II at home for a while and we played some games on it, games like Into the Eagles Nest, Oregon Trail, and others. However, we also had PCs where we used those most often.

    Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s we had PCs, all Gateway computers in fact. Since we had PCs, I did not have much interaction with Apple and Macs until around February of 2005 when I needed up buying a 1st generation iPod mini. This was after the 2nd generation had been introduced. I managed to get an iPod Mini on sale. So this was my first actual Apple device that I bought.

    It was not that I was not aware of Apple products, I was. However, as mentioned, I was using PCs at the time. Including purchasing Windows Vista, which was a complete disaster when it launched. Because of my significant issues with Vista, I started looking more intently at the Mac.

    On March 28th, 2007 I bought my first Mac. Before I dive into my recollections of the iMac, let us look at what led me to getting the iMac.

    Deciding on the Mac

    There were many things that lead me to getting the iMac. The biggest of these was the fact that it had an Intel processor. What this meant is that I could run Windows either via virtualization or natively via Apple’s Boot Camp functionality.

    At the time, I distinctly thinking that if I was to get a Mac I would definitely want it to be an Intel-based one so that I could run Windows if I needed. If it did manage to turn out that I did not necessarily want to use the Mac, I could always just boot into Windows and use the iMac as a Windows computer.

    I do remember looking at a Mac mini as an option, but the specs on the 20-inch iMac were higher than what was possible on the Mac mini. Therefore, I decided to get an iMac.

    My First iMac

    As I posted at the time, the first Mac that I purchased was a 20-inch Intel Core 2 Duo iMac with a 128MB ATI Radeon x1600 dedicated graphics card, with 1GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive.

    Late 2006 20-inch Intel iMac

    I remember wanting the 24-inch model, but it was more than I wanted to spend at the time. The 20-inch iMac had decent specs. At the time 250GB of storage was enough for what I needed.

    The 250GB hard drive would allow me to store a lot of data, including having enough space to carve out for Windows, whether using Parallels or Bootcamp. On the topic of Windows, let us look at that briefly.

    Windows

    As mentioned above, one of the reasons I opted to get an Intel-based Mac was to be able to run Windows, in some form, should I need to. There are two ways to be able to run Windows on an Intel-based Mac. You can either use virtualization, using software like Parallels, VMWare Fusion, or even VirtualBox or by using Apple’s Bootcamp.

    Virtualization allows you to run both macOS and Windows at the same time. When you run Windows within macOS is considered the “host” operating system, while Windows is the “guest” operating system. This technique works well if you have Windows-only software that you need to run, but you still want to be able to use your Mac apps at the same time.

    Meanwhile, Apple’s Bootcamp will allow you to run Windows natively on a Mac. This means that you will not be able to access any of the Mac apps, nor run them, because using Bootcamp means that you are booting directly into Windows, and not macOS.

    I remember installing Windows in Bootcamp on the iMac. Instead of installing Windows Vista, I ended up installing Windows XP. I did not suspect I would have the same drivers issues that I was experiencing on Windows Vista itself, because Apple was the one who wrote the drivers for Bootcamp, and they surely did not want users to have a bad experience.

    Speaking of macOS, let us look at some of the things that were on macOS at the time.

    macOS

    The 20-inch iMac that I purchased in 2007 was running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Tiger included a number of features, like Spotlight, iChat, and Dashboard. It would support four different

    I remember thinking that macOS was significantly different than Windows, and it was then, and it still is even today. Coming from Windows it was initially tough to adjust to the different paradigm of how things are setup on macOS. One thing that many people did not necessarily need to deal with in Windows, at least at home, is permissions. Most macOS users do not need to worry about them either, but given the Unix underpinnings of macOS, power users may need some basic knowledge of permissions.

    Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger DVD Install disc

    The Late 2006 20-inch iMac came with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, but it would support up to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, which was released in 2011. Just about five years of support for a desktop in the mid-to-late 2000s was more than most could

    It did take some time, but eventually I got comfortable with the way things worked with the Mac. There is one particular set of apps I want to discuss, and those are text editors. So let us look those next.

    Text Editors

    I distinctly remember being both excited and disoriented at the same time. The way macOS works is different than Windows. Beyond that, the applications were significantly different.

    Safari has come pre-installed with macOS for over 20 years now. It is the default browser, and the one that I use more often than any other, even to this day. The web is the web and things all worked the same. However, one area where things are vastly different is when it comes to programming tools.

    When using Windows I primarily ended up using Notepad for almost all of my code editing. When I started using the iMac, I figured I would use the same technique. In the case of macOS, the text editor is TextEdit.

    While this worked, I figured there had to be a better option. I started looking around and eventually stumbled across TextWrangler. TextWrangler was the free version of Bare Bones’ software BBEdit. TextsWrangler has since stopped being updated, but there is a free evaluation version of BBEdit.

    Upgrading Hardware

    Most of today’s Apple products cannot be upgraded in any way. As of this writing, which is just after Apple’s “Peek Performance” event, there are only two device that can be upgraded. The Intel-based Mac mini and that is the 2019 Mac Pro. Back in 2007 this was not the case. Almost all of Apple’s computers could be upgraded.

    It was not long before I ended up adding additional memory within two weeks of getting the iMac. I thought it was longer, but it was about 10 days, according to this post.

    Replace Memory in 2006 iMac

    The upgrade procedure was quite straight forward.

    1. Turn off and unplug the iMac
    2. Unscrew the two screws at the bottom of the iMac to expose the memory. The screws did not come out of the cover.
    3. Remove the cover.
    4. Pull the two tabs to pop out the memory.
    5. Put in the new memory.
    6. Replace cover.
    7. Secure the screws on the cover.
    8. Plug back in and turn on the iMac.

    If done properly, it would be an easy upgrade. And so that is what I ended up doing, upgrading the memory. There was a limitation of the Late 2006 20-inch iMac is that it was a 32-bit systems. This meant that the maximum amount of memory that the system could address was 3GB of RAM, technically 3.22GB. Additionally, with only two slots of memory, this meant that the iMac could have a 1GB and a 2GB memory module to get the maximum amount of memory. Technically, you could install two 2GB modules, but again, the maximum memory was 3.22GB. If you needed that extra 220MB of memory, it could be a worthy upgrade.

    The 1GB that came with the iMac would have been enough for just running macOS, but having the 2GB of memory would be needed to run Parallels. This was actually a prudent decision on my part, because the next version of macOS, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard needed 2GB of RAM to run.

    The Screen

    I no longer have the 20-inch iMac in my possession, so I can not verify , but if I recall properly the screen was not of the best quality. Yes, it was 20 inches diagonally and it worked well, for the time. At this point in time though. I do not know if I could even handle a 24-inch screen, let alone a 20-inch screen, I have become way too accustomed to having a 27-inch monitor

    Closing Thoughts

    I do not regret getting the 20-inch iMac back in 2007. It was a good machine for the time and allowed me to learn a new operating system, yet at the same time move away from the problems of Windows Vista. The answer was the iMac.

    The Late 2006 20-inch iMac will always have a special place in the computers I have owned. This is because it was my foray into the world of Macs and macOS. The iMac I bought in 2007 was not the last Apple product, let alone Mac, that I would buy during the year. But those are products for posts later in the year.

    The picture below is from the box for the iMac, even though I do not have the iMac itself, I still do have the box. It makes a great place to put things on that are not too heavy.

    Late 2006 20 Inch Includes
    Links

    Apple Newsroom: Apple iMac Line Now Features Intel Core 2 Duo Processors In Every Model – September 6, 2006.

  • Apple Studio Display: A Review

    Apple Studio Display: A Review

    Apple touts that its products are of high quality. For the vast majority of cases, this is true. No matter how much quality assurance is done, there are always going to be individual exceptions to having quality products. I do not mean lines of products, although sometimes that happens. What I mean is that individual items end up going bad. No matter how hard a company tires, it is just the way with modern manufacturing. Apple started out as a computer company, and has since transitioned away from being a computer company to be a general technology company, and is attempting to move towards being a services company.

    Most of Apple’s modern devices are all-in-one devices. Some examples are the iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, Apple Watch, and MacBook Air. These devices all come with displays built-in. For all of these, except the Apple Watch, you can plug in the device into an external monitor if you so choose. Most people who have an iPad or iPhone may use AirPlay, but sometimes that is not always possible and instead connecting directly is the way to go. Before we dive into Apple’s latest standalone display, let us look back at a short history of Apple’s previous displays.


    Apple Display History

    Standalone displays are not a new product line for Apple. The first computers that Apple created did not include a monitor and instead users were instructed to plug the computer into their television. This changed in 1980 when Apple unveiled the “Apple III”. The Apple III included a Cathode Ray Tube, or CRT, monitor. Apple would continue to offer CRT monitors for sale with computers until the late 1990s. At this point Apple began a switch away from CRT monitors to flat-panel monitors. These would not be the first Liquid Crystal Display, or LCD monitors. The first LCDs were used with the Mac Portable line of computers during the mid to late 1990s. Most did not have any experience with these because most users purchased desktop computers.

    Apple Studio Display from 1998

    The standalone displays produced by Apple have had a long history and have shifted over the years. Over the last 25 years there have been 16 different models of standalone display sold by Apple. Most have been flat-panel models, however there have been a few CRT-based models. Here is a list of all of the released Standalone displays with the introduction and end dates. The list includes:

    • Apple Studio Display – 15-inch – March 1998 – January 1999
    • Apple Studio Display – 17-inch (CRT) – January 1999 – May 2002
    • Apple Studio Display – 21-inch (CRT) – January 1999 – January 2000
    • Cinema Display – 22-inch – September 1999 – July 2000
    • Cinema Display – 22-inch – July 2000 – June 2003
    • Apple Studio Display – 15-inch – July 2000 – January 2003
    • Apple Studio Display – 17-inch – May 2001 – January 2004
    • Cinema HD Display – 23-inch – March 2002 – June 2004
    • Cinema Display – 20-inch – January 2003 – June 2004
    • Cinema Display – 20-inch – June 2004 – February 2009
    • Cinema HD Display – 23-inch – June 2004 – November 2008
    • Cinema HD Display – 30-inch – June 2004 – July 2010
    • LED Cinema Display – 24-inch – October 2008 – July 2010
    • LED Cinema Display – 27-inch – July 2010 – December 2013
    • Thunderbolt Display – 27-inch – July 2011 – June 2016
    • Pro Display XDR – 32-inch – December 2019 – Currently Available

    If you look at each of these displays, you may notice that each display type was not on the market for that long. The longest was the 30-inch Cinema Display, which was around for just over six years. The next longest available was the Thunderbolt Display, which was just about five years. Most models were only around for a year or two. We will not dive into all of these different models, but we will look at three models. In order we will look at the Thunderbolt Display, the LG UltraFine displays, and the Pro Display XDR. The reason for these two in particular will be shown. But before we dive into each of those, there is a quick side topic that I want to cover, Target Display Mode.


    Target Display Mode

    One of the features that Apple included in Macs between 2009 and 2014 was a feature called Target Display Mode. Target Display mode was a way of being able to connect a Mac to an iMac and use the iMac as a display for the other Mac. This function worked well when using a MacBook or MacBook Pro, and using an old iMac. Target Display Mode only worked for iMac between 2009 and mid-2014. You can check out the Apple support article all about Target Display Mode.

    The big change that happened with iMacs released after mid-2014 is that the screen resolution of iMacs improved to become “Retina”. The late 2014 iMac came in two sizes, 21.5-inch and 27-inch. The 21.5-inch was 4K and the 27-inch was 5K. Both of these required a custom timing controller. This timing controller meant that the iMac could no longer be used as a second display for a Mac.

    When I got my Early 2015 iMac, I remember using my mid-2011 iMac as a second display for the laptop. It worked quite well and when I needed a larger screen it was a nice thing to have. There are third-party solutions, like Luna Display, which can take an iMac and make it into a second display. Before you delve down this, you may want to read about Adam Engst’s experience at Tidbits.com or Allison Sheradin’s experience at Podfeet.com.

    Now, let us look at one of Apple’s standalone displays, the Thunderbolt Display.


    Thunderbolt Display

    Apple Thunderbolt Display

    The Thunderbolt Display was introduced in July of 2011 and Apple stopped selling it as of June 2016. The Thunderbolt Display was a 27-inch in-plane switching, or IPS, paneled display. It had a resolution of 2560×1440, so just slightly higher than High Definition. The Thunderbolt Display was an improvement over previous versions because it was intentionally designed to be used with a MacBook or MacBook Pro. It was not just designed to be able to connect to a MacBook or MacBook Pro, but the Thunderbolt Display included a MagSafe power adapter that would allow you to charge a MacBook Pro when it was connected to the Thunderbolt Display.

    One of the advertising aspects of the Thunderbolt Display is that there were two cables total, the Thunderbolt cable with MagSafe connector, and the power cable. The Thunderbolt Display was more than just a display, it was actually a hub. If you connected the Thunderbolt Display to a Mac, you could plugin some peripherals with the provided ports and the devices would be connected to the Mac. The available ports on the Thunderbolt Display were three USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire 800 port, another Thunderbolt Port, and a gigabit ethernet port.

    Ports on an Apple Thunderbolt Display

    Almost six years ago, on June 23, 2016, Apple announced, through a statement, that it was discontinuing the Thunderbolt Display and they would no longer produce standalone displays. At the time they stated,

    “We’re discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display. It will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users”.

    Apple would continue to sell the Thunderbolt Display until supplies ran out. Apple clearly stated that they were getting out of the standalone display business. Instead of making their own displays Apple decided to partner with LG to make some displays. Let us look the LG UltraFine displays next.


    LG UltraFine

    When Apple introduced the 27-inch 5K Retina iMac in 2014 many were hoping that Apple would eventually release an “iMac without the computer”, meaning just the screen. However, this did not happen. Instead, as mentioned above, Apple partnered with LG to make displays that were not only compatible with Macs, but also sold by Apple in its physical stores as well as their online store.

    The reason that they chose LG is because LG was already in the display manufacturing business. Secondly, LG was the company that built the actual panels that were used for Apple’s 4K and 5K Retina displays in the iMac; therefore it made sense to partner with LG to make the displays.

    The LG UltraFine monitors came in two sizes, a 21.5-inch 4K model with a resolution of 3840-by-2160, and a 27-inch 5K model with a resolution of 5120-by-2880 pixels. These resolutions are the same as the 4K and 5K Retina iMacs. The screens also included support for the P3 color gamut, meaning that colors are brighter and more vibrant than standard Red Green Blue color space.

    LG UltraFine 5K Display

    The LG UltraFine monitors also featured a Thunderbolt 3 connector and a USB Hub to connect up to three USB-C devices. The USB-C ports are USB 3.1 generation 1, which are capable of up to 5 gigabits per second. As you may notice, this is very similar to the functionality of Apple’s Thunderbolt Display, just by a third-party manufacturer.

    Also similar to the Thunderbolt Display you could charge a MacBook or MacBook Pro. The 4K model could charge up to 60 watts and the 5k Model could charge up to 85 watts. These two wattages means that you could easily charge any of Apple’s MacBooks.

    In May of 2019 some changes were made. The 21.5-inch 4K model was replaced by 23.7-inch 4K model. The power from the monitor was increased to 85 watts. The 27-inch model was updated in July of 2019. The changes for this model were increased power to 94 watts, and this added support for the iPad Pro.

    The LG UltraFine monitors were not completely well received, at least not by everyone.

    LG UltraFine Critiques

    There were some critiques of the UltraFine monitors. The most notable is that if you had a 27-inch LG UltraFine that was too close to a wireless router, including the Apple AirPort, the screen would go black and become unusable. LG did fix this by adding additional shielding to models produced after February 2017.

    There was another issue that has not been satisfyingly fixed, and that is that the monitor does not always sit properly on the stand. What happens is that the stand ends up wobbling whenever it is touched. This can make using the UltraFine less than ideal.

    In June of 2019 at their World Wide Developer’s Conference, Apple unveiled a brand new Mac Pro with its complement Display, the Pro Display XDR.


    Pro Display XDR

    Introduced in June of 2019, the Pro Display XDR was the first Apple standalone display in three years. The Pro Display XDR took the 5K Retina screen and made it bigger. The Pro Display XDR is a 32-inch 6K monitor with a resolution of 6016 by 3384. The “XDR” portion within the name stands for Extreme Dynamic Range. Dynamic Range, in relation to color, is the range from smallest value and the largest value. In this case, it is in terms of color range.

    Similar to the Thunderbolt Display and the LG UltraFine, the Pro Display XDR can also be used as a USB hub, USB-C to be exact. However, unlike the Thunderbolt and LG UltraFine these ports are USB 2 speed, except when using a 16-inch MacBook Pro, where they are USB 3.1 generation 1, or 5 gigabits per second. So, in reality these ports are better used for charging or for devices that are not speed-sensitive. The reason for this is because the bandwidth for Thunderbolt 3 is used up by the display to make sure it gets the full 6K screen resolution.

    Apple Pro Display XDR with stand

    When the Pro Display XDR was introduced Apple mentioned that it was a display that could be used as a replacement for $40,000 reference monitors that are used by video professionals to make sure they are getting accurate color within their video or photos. Color is not the only reference mode that you can do with the Pro Display XDR. The complete list of reference modes includes:

    • Pro Display XDR (P3-1600 nits)
    • Apple Display (P3-500 nits)
    • HDR Video (P3-ST 2084)
    • HDTV Video (BT.709-BT.1886)
    • NTSC Video (BT.601 SMPTE-C)
    • PAL and SECAM Video (BT.601 EBU)
    • Digital Cinema (P3-DCI)
    • Digital Cinema (P3-D65)
    • Design and Print (P3-D50)
    • Photography (P3-D65)
    • Internet and Web (sRGB)

    Beyond reference modes the Pro Display XDR has some additional features that can be found on other Apple devices. This includes, Night Shift and True Tone both adjust the color. Night Shift automatically adjusts the color temperature of the display as the day progresses to the warmer end of the spectrum, so this is easier on the eyes.

    True Tone will take the light levels around you and adjust the temperature of the screen to be close to the light in the area surrounding you. This is designed to make the color appear more natural.

    The Pro Display XDR also supports Dolby HDR 10 and Hybrid-Lag Gamma (HLG) playback for video. Along with this, the Pro Display XDR supports various refresh rates, including 47.95Hz, 48.00Hz, 50.00Hz, 59.94Hz, and 60.00Hz. These refresh rates are standards that are used for both National Television System Committee, or NTSC, and Phase Alternating Line, or PAL, standards.

    The Pro Display XDR is a standalone display that has some advanced features. The Pro Display XDR is designed for professionals and has the professional price. The Pro Display XDR starts at $4999 to be exact, and that is without a stand. You have two options for stands, the Pro Stand or the VESA mount. The Pro Stand will add an additional $999 and the VESA mount adds $199.

    There is an alternative screen technology, which is an option for the Pro Display XDR. That technology Apple calls “Nano Texture”. Nano Texture is an advanced glass technology that is etched directly into the glass and it is not another layer on the glass. Nano Texture is designed for those places that have direct sunlight or changing lighting conditions where being able to see the screen in all conditions is needed. For most users though, Nano Texture glass is not needed, but for those that need it, it is an option.

    Therefore, the base model Pro Display XDR and the professional stand brings the total price up to $5999 for both. The Nano Texture price will add another $1000. Many people want to get an Apple standalone display, but cannot afford, nor justify, the entry price. However, there is now a product that more people can afford called the Studio Display. Now, let us look at the Studio Display.


    Studio Display

    Apple Studio Display on a desk.

    As mentioned earlier, many Mac users have been hoping Apple to take the screen out of the 27-inch iMac and just put it into a standalone display, which is basically the iMac without the computer. When Apple announced that it was no longer making standalone displays, many figured that Apple would not end up doing this. Furthermore, Apple has done just this, and then some. Before we dive into the display itself, let us look at the name.


    Name

    The Studio Display was introduced at the same time as the Mac Studio computer, so the common word of “Studio” makes sense and the two products are very complementary. Long time Mac observers may recognize the name “Studio Display”, because it is not the first time that Apple has used the name “Studio Display” before.

    The name of “Studio Display” was used previously in 1998 when it was used for the 15-inch flat panel LCD that was introduced with the G4 Cube. This was the start of a series of flat-panel and cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors that ranged from a 15-inch screen to a 22″ model.

    Beyond the name, each of the Apple Studio Displays had a commonality between all of the displays. That commonality was that they were all in the same ratio, 4:3. The various models had different connections. Some had DVI, others had ADC. The 17-inch Apple Studio Display was the last model available, but was ultimately discontinued in 2004. The replacement was Apple’s Cinema Display line, which was a line of widescreen displays.

    It has been almost 18 years since the name was last used, and with a new display, it makes sense to use the name again. Now that the name has been covered, let us look at the devices that you can use with the Studio Display.


    Supported Devices

    There are a number of devices that fully support the Studio Display. These include:

    • Mac Studio (2022)
    • 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019 or later)
    • 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
    • 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016 or later)
    • 15-inch MacBook Pro (2016 or later)
    • MacBook Air (2018 or later)
    • Mac mini (2018 or later)
    • Mac Pro (2019 or later)
    • 24-inch iMac (2021)
    • 27-inch iMac (2017 or later)
    • 21.5-inch iMac (2017 or later)
    • iMac Pro (2017)

    Macs are not the only devices that support the Studio Display. You can also connect an iPad to the Studio Display. There are only a few iPad models that are supported. The complete list includes:

    • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later)
    • iPad Pro 11-inch
    • iPad Air (5th generation)

    The reason that there are only a few models that support the Studio Display is because each of the iPads has an M1 processor. The M1 has Thunderbolt support. In order to be able to support the full 5K resolution, as well as being able to support charging, you need enough power and bandwidth. Other devices, like the iPad mini, only supports USB-C, so it only has 5 gigabits per second for bandwidth. This just is not enough to handle 5K resolution. The 5K resolution for the Studio Display needs 14.75 gigabits per second. With this whole discrepancy you can see that USB-C just does not have enough bandwidth for the display.

    When you do connect one of the supported iPads to the Studio Display you will likely see the iPad screen mirrored to the display. It is possible that some apps will display a different screen than the main app, but the developer needs to explicitly code this into their app to fully support external displays.

    Now that we have looked at what devices can be used with the Studio Display, let us look at what drives the Apple Studio Display.


    Display Driver

    Every display that you use, no matter how small or large, nor how basic or how advanced, needs some sort of mechanism to actually run the display.

    You might think that a display is a very basic item. All that the display would need to do is take the video signal from the Mac and put it upon the screen. If this was the case, it might be easy enough to just use an off-the-shelf part. However, with the Studio Display that is not Apple’s approach.

    Apple could have developed an entirely custom chip, with its own custom firmware, just for the Studio Display, but it was not necessary to do, because Apple already had developed a chip that would be able to handle all most of the features of the Studio Display, That chip is one that Apple has used for a number of its products. The Studio Display has an A13 processor in it, and it is the same processor found in the 9th generation 10.2-inch iPad, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and 2nd generation iPhone SE.

    Even though Apple included an A13, they could have created a custom operating system, or firmware, just for the Studio Display, but they did not. Instead, they are using iOS, yes, iOS to run the Studio Display. You can actually check the firmware version of your Studio Display by using the following steps:

    1. Click on the Apple Menu.
    2. Click on “About the Mac”.
    3. Click on “System Report” to bring up the system report.
    4. Click on “Graphics/Displays”. Each of the graphics cards and displays should be shown.
    5. Under Studio Display, locate the line that says “Display Firmware Version”.
    Apple Studio Display information within macOS System Report

    This is the firmware version. As of this writing my Studio Display has Version 15.4 (Build 19E241). This is the same build as iOS and iPadOS 15.4. From time to time, you may need to update the firmware in your Studio Display, so let us look at that next.


    Updating Firmware

    The Studio Display will likely need to be updated to improve features and functions. It is possible to think that there might be a dedicated app to update the firmware, but that is not Apple’s approach to this. Instead, you update the firmware for the Studio Display as you would any other update to macOS, by going to Software Update. If there is an update it will appear in “Software Update” in system preferences. Once the update has been downloaded and installed, the Studio Display will reboot to complete the installation of the firmware.

    Studio Display firmware update

    There is an Apple support article that was published on March 19th, 2022 which outlines the process as well. The update took about 10 minutes total from the time I started the download to the time macOS booted up again. You will need to reboot your Mac, because the firmware on the Studio Display will need to be updated when macOS is not running. After I updated my Studio Display, it was running 15.4 (Build 19E241).

    There are a lot of things that the A13 is used for, and with iOS running on the display, it . One of the most important reasons that Apple included an A13 was for one of the features of the Studio Display, the camera, so let us look at that next.


    Camera

    One feature that the Studio Display has, that the Pro Display XDR does not, is a built-in camera. The camera on the Studio Display is a 12 megapixel ultra-wide camera, the same one that is on the 5th generation iPad Air.

    The A13 processor contains an image signal processor. The image signal processor is used to process the signal coming from the camera and then applying various filters, and then sends them to the display to be shown through whichever app needs the camera. On the topic of the camera, let us look at the specs.

    The camera has a 122 degree field of view with an ƒ/2.4 aperture. These specifications allow a device to support feature Apple calls Center Stage. Center Stage is a feature that will automatically follow anybody in the view of the camera, so they remain the focus of the view. This is possible because the camera will automatically move in and out as the focus of the screen changes. This is the same feature that is on the following devices:

    • 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro
    • 3rd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro
    • 9th generation 10.2-inch iPad
    • 6th generation 7.9-inch iPad mini
    • 5th generation 10.9-inch iPad Air

    The Studio Display is the first non-iPad device to support Center Stage. As of this writing, there are no Macs that support Center Stage, just iPhones and iPads. Even though the Mac does not natively support Center Stage, if you have a Mac connected it will support Center Stage through the Studio Display.

    I am not one who uses cameras for video calls that often. The only time I generally do is for work. For those I use my work issued MacBook Pro.

    I did do some testing with the camera, and I did see that the camera did seem to have some artifacts when I was using it. What I mean by this is that the the image did not seem to be as crisp as it could have been. Instead, it was blocky and not what many would suspect from Apple’s hardware.

    Other reviewers who had the product before me have stated that Apple has acknowledged that there are issues and they will be releasing a firmware update in the future.

    Let us now look at something that is related to the camera, or at least is used in conjunction with the camera. That item is the microphones.


    Microphones

    The Studio Display has an array of three microphones. These are used with the camera to provide audio for FaceTime calls, or any other app that uses the camera. According to Apple, the microphones have a high signal-to-noise ratio. What this means is that the higher the signal to noise ratio the clearer the audio will be.

    Beyond the high signal-to-noise ratio, the microphones also have directional beamforming. Beamforming is used to be able to cancel out background noise, all while picking up the person speaking. This will be very useful when on FaceTime or other video calls, because any background noise will be removed which should help make your voice as clear as possible.

    The microphones are not only used for video calls. The Studio Display has another feature, it supports “Hey Siri”.


    Hey Siri

    Back in April of 2010 it was announced that Apple purchased an app called “Siri”. When Apple purchased the Siri app it continued to be available on the store. With the introduction of the iPhone 5S in October of 2011 Apple released a version of Siri built into iOS.

    Starting in 2014 iOS and iPadOS devices could actually use a new feature called “Hey Siri”, without needing to touch the device itself. This was only supported on iPhone 6s and later. The list of supported iPads for “Hey Siri” include:

    • iPad Air (3rd generation) and later
    • iPad mini (5th generation) and later
    • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2nd generation) and later
    • iPad Pro (10.5-inch)
    • iPad Pro (9.7-inch)
    • iPad Pro (11-inch) all generations
    • iPad (6th generation) or later

    iPhone and iPads are not the only devices that now support Hey Siri. The other devices that support it are HomePod, AirPods 2nd generation or later, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Apple Watch, various Beats models, MacBook Pros (2018 and later), MacBook Air (2018 and later), iMac Pro, iMac (2020 and later). You can add one more device, the Studio Display.

    As mentioned above, the Studio Display uses an A13. One thing that the A13 can do is be used for “Hey Siri” on the device. Having Hey Siri on the Studio Display means that you can get information regardless of which Mac is connected. This means that you can ask Siri to get the current weather, sports scores, or any of the general facts that Siri is able to retrieve for you.

    The Apple Studio Display is not only for displaying things or being able to use FaceTime, but it can also be used to connect things, so let us look at what you can connect to the Apple Studio Display.


    Connectivity

    Much along the lines of LG UltraFine displays, the Studio Display can be used for more than just a display. The Studio Display can also be used as a USB hub for connecting additional devices. You can connect up to three USB-C devices. The three USB-C ports are capable of handling up to 10 gigabits per second, which is twice as fast as the LG UltraFine monitors was capable of.

    Apple Studio Display Ports

    To make things easier, there is a Thunderbolt cable included with the Apple Studio Display. This cable is compatible with Thunderbolt 3 ports so you can connect the Studio Display to any compatible Mac or iPad. The maximum bandwidth for Thunderbolt 3 is 34.56 gigabits per second. The math is a lot of multiplication, but if you are not using any compression, running at the native resolution of 5120 by 2880, with 12 bits of color, the entire link can become saturated.

    It is not likely that the peripherals will get the full 10 gigabits per second throughput. This is because the video will get priority for the bandwidth from the Mac to the Studio Display. This makes sense because any configuration that would have the video become distorted would negate the entire purpose of having the display. Instead, it makes more sense to have the throughput of peripherals drop down and become slower, because you are less likely to notice a speed drop in peripherals, where you would if the display is distorted.


    Power Cord

    As of right now items without batteries still needs to be physically connected to power. Technology has not progressed enough to have perfected wireless power, and I do not mean Qi charging, that is more inductive charging than true wireless charging. The power cable on the Studio Display is directly connected with no way of being able to remove it. This is not the first time that Apple has used this approach with its products. There are two recent products that do not have removable power cables, the HomePod and HomePod mini.

    For the HomePods, one could argue that it makes sense because those two products are speakers that might cause some issues if the power cables were removable. It would also add some bulk to the product and likely interfere with the acoustics of the speakers if there was a bulky power cable coming out one of the sides of the HomePod.

    The thing with the Studio Display is that that argument does not hold up. The Studio Display is a large product, so it should also have a removable power cable. All of Apple’s previous displays, including the Pro Display XDR have had a removable power cable. Laptops, obviously, need to have them, but all iMacs have had a removable power cable.

    I have a couple of theories as to why there is no removable power cord on the Studio Display, plug placement. My guess is that there is not much space left on the interior of the Studio Display that would allow a power plug to be exposed to the back of the display. The second theory is that this may be the approach going forward. For devices like displays, HomePods, and other “appliance” devices that are not portable, have the cable built right into the device without being able to remove it.

    What I do find interesting with this is that Apple could have placed the power plug anywhere. They did not put it directly center on the Pro Display XDR, so it could have been an option to place the power cord anywhere along the back of the device.

    Friend, and editor of my books, Barry Sullivan has his own theory. He thinks it is a cost cutting decision. Having a power cord that is hardwired to the display is just plain wrong. The cost of repairing a damaged cord is expensive. What does one do for a display on their computer while waiting for repairs?

    Regardless of why Apple decided to do this, it could be problematic for some users. There are instances when you want to be able to have either a longer power cord, or a shorter one, depending on need. Since that is not an option with the Studio Display, there will likely be a loop of extra cable.

    That covers the connectivity, so let us move onto the speakers.


    Speakers

    If you were to look at all sorts of monitors, one thing that you might notice is that most monitors do not have speakers on them. This is the case for a couple of reasons. First, including them would make monitor and the internals a bit more complex. Secondly, for most people the price of the monitor is a factor when it comes to which monitor to purchase. Therefore, any speakers that would be included with the monitor would increase the price of the monitor, again price is a major factor for most users. Furthermore, any speakers that would be included would likely not be of the highest quality, because while a differentiation, it increases the price of the monitor. Lastly, and somewhat related, many who want good speakers will have a separate pair of external speakers, therefore including them are are not worthwhile. If you do manage to find a monitor that has speakers in it, they are very likely going to be basic stereo speakers.

    Unlike the Pro Display XDR, the Studio Display does have speakers built-in. Over the last few years Apple has steadily been improving the speakers in all of their products. The Studio Display has a six-speaker system, similar to that of the MacBook Pro.

    The speakers support Spatial Audio for music as well as video with Dolby Atmos audio. The Dolby Atmos support means that you can watch movies with pretty good audio right on the monitor. This is a significant improvement over using the built-in speaker on the Mac mini, and likely significant improvements over the built-in speakers in the Mac Studio.

    During my usage, I easily noticed that the Studio Display speakers are significantly better than the iMac speakers. They have more bass, and are louder in general than the iMac speakers. This makes complete sense given that there are six speakers in the Studio Display as opposed to the two speakers in the iMac.

    For additional comparison I tested the speakers on my iPad Pro and they sound better than the iMac, but not nearly as loud as the iMac. The Studio Display speakers sound a lot better than the iPad Pro, which makes sense given there is more space for the Studio Display to move air, and the are more speakers. However, when I compared to a HomePod mini, the HomePod mini has better sound than even the Studio Display. After thinking about it for a bit, I can understand why. The HomePod mini is designed to create the best sound for the environment that it is in.

    If you look at a System Report for the a device that has a Studio Display connected, you may notice that the there are actually 8 output channels. These are capable of outputting up to 48KHz, so it can provide high quality sound. The internal speakers on my mid-2017 iMac can only output at 44.1KHz, so this is definitely and improvement, just in output quality.

    Even though the HomePod mini sounds better, the Studio Display speakers are still really good, and much improved over the iMac speakers. Now that viewing things has been mentioned, let us look at the screen itself.


    Screen

    Throughout my time using computers I have gone back and forth between using two screens and just using one. The sizes of the screens have varied as I have purchased new computers and new screens.

    If you have used any of the 27-inch 5K Retina iMacs since their introduction in 2014, you may not initially notice that many differences between the Studio Display and the 5K Retina iMac Screen. You would be completely rationale to think that they are same screen. The reason you might think this is because the actual screen of the Studio Display is very, very similar. In fact, they are the exact except for one specification. The resolution as the 27-inch 5K iMac, of 5120-by-2880, it supports the P3 color gamut, True Tone, and supports for 1 billion colors, and support for Night Shift.

    The one area where the Studio Display screen has a slight improvement over the previous 27-inch 5K iMac is in its brightness. Instead of having 500 nits of brightness of the 5K iMac, the Studio Display has a maximum of 600-nits of brightness. This is a 20% improvement. What this means is that the screen can be brighter when needed.

    You may not initially notice any change, but that is not really a problem because you likely will not want to have the screen at its highest brightness setting. Having the highest brightness level can hurt ones eyes when used for a long time. Even if you do not want to use it at its brightest settings all the time, there may be times when you need it temporarily. For those times, there is a feature that can utilize the full brightness.


    Brightness

    It has been a while since I have had two Apple screens connected to a computer and I had forgotten that when you have two Apple displays connected, that many functions can be set independently. For instance, The brightness setting can be set differently for each screen. What this means is that if I want to have the Studio Display be a bit dimmer than the iMac screen I can do just that.

    There are a couple of different ways to adjust the brightness, using hardware keys and Control Center. When you want to use the dedicated keys on a keyboard you can do so just like you would for just an iMac or MacBook Pro. The thing to be cognizant of is that when you switch the second display, it needs to have focus before the hardware keys will adjust properly.

    The second option through Control Center is a bit different. Once you open up Control Center and click on the arrow next to “Display”, it will expand and show both of the screens independently. Here you can adjust the sliders to the brightnesses that you would like for each of the displays.

    While you might not need to have the brightness set all of the way up at all times, you may want to be able to make sure that some aspects of the item you are working on meets industry standards. There is a feature for specifically for that situation called Reference Modes, so let us look at those now.


    Reference Modes

    Reference Modes are not a brand new feature to macOS. They were actually introduced with the Pro Display XDR in 2019. The ability to use reference modes is also supported on the 14-inch and 16-inch M1 Pro/M1 Max MacBook Pros introduced in 2001. The same functionality now comes to any Mac with a Studio Display connected.

    A reference mode is a preset on the Studio Display that will allow you to make sure that you are matching the industry standard requirements for the particular mode. There are a number of presets that are possible with the Studio Display. The available reference modes are:

    • Apple Display (P3-600 nits)
    • HDTV Video (BT.709-BT.1886)
    • NTSC Video (BT.601 SMPTE-C)
    • PAL and SECAM Video (BT.601 EBU)
    • Digital Cinema (P3-DCI)
    • Digital Cinema (P3-D65)
    • Design and Print (P3-D50)
    • Photography (P3-D65)
    • Internet and Web (sRGB)
    Setting a Reference Mode

    There are a two different ways of setting a reference mode. Either through the mirroring menu item or through System Preferences.

    Accessible by using the following steps:

    1. Open System Preferences.
    2. Click on “Displays”
    3. Click on “Display Settings” at the bottom of the screen.
    4. Select the Studio Display
    5. Under Presets, select your desired preset.
    Apple Studio Display Reference Modes

    If you need to be able to quickly access different reference modes you can select specific modes to appear in the menu. You can so by following these steps:

    1. Open System Preferences.
    2. Click on “Displays”
    3. Click on “Display Settings” at the bottom of the screen.
    4. Select the Studio Display
    5. Under Presets, select “Customize Presets”. A popup will appear.
    6. In the list of presets, enable the checkbox next to each of the presets that you want to enable.
    7. Once finished, click the “Done” button to close the popup.
    8. Click “Done” again to close the Display Settings screen.

    The list of reference modes that you select with the “Show In Menu” checkboxes will be shown in Control Center, as shown in the example below.

    Customize Studio Display Reference Modes

    When you switch reference modes, the device will momentarily turn off and then turn back on. To me, it seems like the screen is doing a soft reboot. What I mean by this is that it disconnects from the host Mac, including stopping and switching audio, and then changes the reference mode, reconnects audio and shows the screen again.

    Most non-professional users are not likely to use reference modes, but for those that do need them they will come in handy and are a nice feature to have. And now, you do not need to purchase the Pro Display XDR or upgrade your MacBook Pro just to get the modes. Next, let us move onto the pricing for the Apple Studio Display.


    Pricing

    The Apple Studio display is somewhat reasonably priced. The Apple Studio Display starts at $1599. For this amount you can get a standard display, with either the tilt stand or with a VESA adapter. If you want the Tilt and Height adjustable stand, the price would be $1999.

    There is a second screen option, called Nano texture. Adding the Nano Texture option will cost an additional $300. Therefore it is $1899 for the Tilt adjustable stand or VESA Adapter, and $2299 for the Tilt and Height Adjustment stand.

    There is one thing to note about the Studio Display, the stand is not replaceable. This means that the stand you get when you purchase the Studio Display is the one it will have for its entire life. Therefore, if you do purchase one be sure to get the stand you want.

    One last thing to note is that if you do go with the VESA mount, you can put the Studio Display in portrait orientation. Therefore if you have the need to use a monitor in portrait mode, you might want to think about the VESA adapter.

    There is one other item related to pricing that you may want to know about. That item is AppleCare.


    AppleCare+

    When you buy the Apple Studio Display you may want to add on AppleCare for the display. You have two options. The first is to pay for three years of coverage up front for $149. You also do have an additional option of paying per year. The price per year is about the same as the up-front cost at $49.99 per year. Regardless of which route you go, the price will be about the same.

    If you do need to use the AppleCare+ for the Studio Display you will be charged $99 for screen damage or external enclosure damage. If there is any other damage it will cost you $299. With AppleCare+ you will get two incidents every 12 months.

    When I purchased my Apple Studio Display I opted to go with the yearly AppleCare+ coverage. This is the first time I am going with yearly payments for AppleCare. The reason I opted for this is that I will likely keep the monitor for well more than three years, probably closer to 5 or 6 years, before I replace it. I would rather pay $299 for getting a replacement or getting my Studio Display fixed after the three years. Furthermore, if for some reason I do not keep it for three years, I will only need to pay for the coverage that I need and not more. However, I did run into a problem.

    AppleCare+ Billing Issue

    When I have purchased AppleCare in the past I have always gone with pre-paying for AppleCare. As mentioned above this time around I decided to go with the annual AppleCare payment. This was the first time that I have opted to use the annual AppleCare option, and I ended up running into a problem with purchasing the yearly AppleCare+ for my Studio Display.

    When I went to order the Apple Studio I added AppleCare+ at that time. Apple’s policy on annual AppleCare is to bill it when the device ships or is picked up. This approach makes sense because lead times for devices can vary. As expected, I received an email stating that my Studio Display had shipped. Within a half hour of receiving that email, I received another email indicating that there was a billing problem with purchasing my AppleCare+. This is odd considering that Apple charged my card for the Studio Display with the same card. Immediately after receiving that email, the payment went through on my card, albeit in a “pending” state.

    Studio Display Billing Problem email.

    Because there was a problem, I called Apple support to verify whether the charge went through or not. Apple’s voice system initially sent me to technical support, despite me asking for billing (computers, gotta love ’em). The first person I talked to in tech support did a cursory check to see if they could see anything, but they could not see much on their end. So, they sent me over to the AppleCare team.

    The second support person I talked to thought it might have been a phishing email, which is possible. But phishing emails would not contain AppleCare agreement numbers, valid serial numbers, not to mention the last four of my credit card number. So, we ruled out the email being a phishing attempt. They continued to do some additional checking, but ultimately they ended up sending me to the Agreement Admin team.

    The third person I talked to did some more searching but they could not bring up the agreement and serial number combination in their system. There is an Apple site that you can use to add an agreement to your account if you have both the agreement and serial number. They asked me to attempt to add the agreement to my Apple account, but I could not add it to my account. The last check we did was to look up the coverage using checkcoverage.apple.com using the serial number. That site indicated that the Studio Display did not have active AppleCare plan.

    After discussing with the AppleCare admin support person, we decided to wait until the charge either cleared or was removed from my card. If it cleared, then I would call them back so they could figure it all out. If it was removed then I could sign up for AppleCare+ on the site or by calling them again.

    It turns out that the payment ended up going through about five and a half hours after I got the email saying that there was a billing problem. It took another 12 hours or so before the Apple site indicated that it was under warranty.

    Now that AppleCare has been covered, there are two other sets of items to look at. The first of these is what happened when I connected the Studio Display to some of the supported, as well as, non-supported devices, so let us look at that next starting with the supported devices.


    Usage with Other Devices

    I use the Studio Display with my mid-2017 iMac as a the primary display with the built-in iMac screen as the secondary display. As outlined above is the list of supported devices. Macs are not the only devices that are supported. One of the devices that is supported that I have is the 5th generation iPad Pro.


    5th Generation iPad Pro

    According to Apple’s page, the entire iPad Pro line can be used with the Apple Studio Display. So, I decided to try and connect my 5th generation iPad Pro to the Studio Display.

    When I initially connected the 5th generation iPad Pro to the Studio Display, nothing showed up. Instead nothing appeared. When something is not working, it is best to reboot a device. So, I ended up rebooting the iPad with the Thunderbolt cable connected to the iPad. When the iPad rebooted the iPad would not finish loading. It acted the same way as my iMac when there is a secondary bootable hard drive connected, where it would just stall. Once I unplugged the thunderbolt cable from the iPad the iPad booted right up. I then re-connected the Thunderbolt cable and the iPad screen showed up on the Studio Display.

    It might just be my device, but it seems as though unless the iPad is turned on and unlocked, the negotiation between the iPad Pro and the Studio Display fails at some point. For example, I plugged in the Studio Display to my iPad Pro when the iPad was closed. When I turned on the screen for iPad Pro, nothing appeared on the Studio Display. The only way to get it to work was to unplug the Studio Display and plug it back in, while the iPad Pro screen was on.


    6th Generation iPad mini

    Unlike the iPad Pro, I had zero issues connecting the iPad mini to the Studio Display. When I connected the iPad mini to the Studio Display the iPad mini screen showed right away without any issues. I was able to control the exact same things as the iPad Pro.


    Older Devices

    I did some looking around for what devices I could actually connect to the Studio Display. At first I thought that I could not connect anything except Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 devices, because I could not find any way to connect older Thunderbolt 1 and 2. I knew I had a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter, but I thought that was a one way device, like so many other adapters. After thinking about it a bit, I realized that Thunderbolt is a two-way communication medium, so any connection from Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 should work without issue.

    I got out my Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter and a Thunderbolt 2 cable and proceeded to connect some devices. I connected my Early-2015 13-inch MacBook Pro, a mid-2014 21.5-inch iMac, and even a mid-2011 21.5-inch iMac, all with various results.

    The early-2015 MacBook Pro is running macOS Monterey 12.3, so it was able to connect, mirror or extend the display and function as a second monitor. The one function that did not work was that I could not adjust the brightness on the Studio Display with the function keys on the keyboard. However, I could adjust it using Control Center or in System Preferences, so you can use the Studio Display with any device that runs macOS Monterey 12.3.

    The mid-2011 21.5-inch and mid-2014 21.5-inch iMacs could not display anything on the screen. This makes sense given that neither of the devices is capable of running macOS Monterey. The latest operating system for these are macOS High Sierra (10.13) and macOS Big Sur (macOS 11) respectively. Given that all of these devices run Thunderbolt, both of these iMacs was able to see the USB-C drive connected to the Studio Display, so even if it cannot be use as a display, it can be used in a pinch for connecting devices.

    System Report showing Studio Display on an unsupported 2014 iMac

    The mid-2014 21.5-inch iMac was able to identify the display in system preferences, and even in System Report. So there was some communication between the Studio Display and older devices. But this all leaves me with some questions.


    Confusion

    As outlined above, the Studio Display has a limited number of iPads that it supports. What is not described is what features or functions that the the supported devices can utilize that other devices, like the iPad mini, might not be able to. I did some testing of connecting USB-C drives, playing music, and even adjusting the volume. All of these worked on both the iPad Pro and the iPad mini.

    I could not find anything that the iPad Pro was able to do that the iPad mini could not. It is possible that it could be that the iPad Pro can support Dolby Atmos over thunderbolt, where the iPad mini might not be able to, because it is USB-C. It should be noted that neither of these devices was on a beta operating system, both were using iPadOS 15.4 (19E241), so it is not a case of one device having improvements or a different set of software features, over the other.

    Furthermore on my early-2015 MacBook Pro, it was able to display the screen and I could use it in either mirrored, extended, and even as my main display.

    The common thing that I could not do with any of the devices, even the iPad Pro which is supposed to be fully supported, was adjust the brightness automatically. For the early-2015 MacBook Pro I could use the Studio Display without issue.

    So, the real question is what does Apple mean when they say “supported” devices with the Studio Display? It cannot be fully functionality, because the two iPads do not seem to have any difference even though the iPad mini is not officially supported. It is possible that I am missing something. Does anybody else have any idea?


    Possible Future improvements

    There are a couple of things that I could think of where the Studio Display could be improved. There are three areas total where I think there could be improvements are with Thunderbolt 4, Airplay, and the power cable.


    Thunderbolt 4

    Given the intention for the display, Thunderbolt 3 is sufficient. However, it could be nice to have Thunderbolt 4 for additional bandwidth for two reasons. The first being consistency between the monitor and the Macs that are connected and supported. The second is to be able to have the USB-C devices connected be able to run a their full 10 gigabits per second bitrate.


    AirPlay

    It would be nice to be able to have a Studio Display be an AirPlay receiver. I am sure this would require additional hardware, but it since there is already an A13, it might not be as much extra hardware. The Apple TV is an AirPlay receiver, and even the A10 can be an AirPlay receiver, so the A13 is not the limiting factor on that.


    Removable Power cable

    Similar to HomePod, the Apple Studio Display does not have a removable power cable. While this is not likely a problem for most users, it could become one. If any damage occurs to the power cable, then it would likely fall into the $99 accidental damage portion of AppleCare. Having to pay $99 to get a power cord fixed would be, in my opinion, absurd.


    Closing Thoughts

    On one of the biggest factors when it comes to purchasing anything these days is the price. At first when you see a monitor that starts at $1599 you might think that it is overpriced. Many users are not willing to spend that much on a monitor, but others will if it has the proper set of features. The Apple Studio Display is a 5K Retina screen. There are not many 5K Retina screens on the market today. There are a large number of 4K ones, but there is only one other 5K screen on the market, the LG UltraFine 5K.

    When you compare the features and price of the Apple Studio Display to the LG UltraFine 5K, you might reevaluate that the Studio Display is too much. The LG UltraFine has a retail price of $1299. So, for the $300 difference you get a number of features. You get an Ultra Wide camera with a 122 degree field of view that supports Center Stage, so everyone will stay in focus and the center of the screen.

    Instead of a set of stereo speakers, you actually get six speakers that not only sound better, but also supports music mastered for Spatial Audio as well as audio from movies that have a Dolby Atmos option.

    You can use the Studio Display as a USB-C hub and connect peripherals to the display. When you do you will be able to use them with your Mac as you would if they were directly connected. These will run at 10 gigabits per second. While this is not Thunderbolt speeds, 10 gigabits per second is fast enough for many peripherals like audio interfaces, external hard drives, and other accessories.

    Those who were asking for Apple to just take the screen out of the iMac and do nothing else with it, they would have been perfectly happy, but that is not what Apple did. Instead, they went above and beyond by providing features and functions that many users have come to rely on with their MacBook Pros. If you are looking for a new display, you might want to check out the Apple Studio Display.

  • Apple’s Peek Performance Event Announcements

    Apple’s Peek Performance Event Announcements

    Today Apple held their “Peek Performance” event. The event itself was an hour long and included five product announcements including updates to existing products, including the iPhone, iPad Air, and iPhone SE. There were two brand new products introduced as well, the MacStudio and Studio Display. The releases go up in terms of amount of changes as the post goes on.

    iPhone 13

    iPhone 13 lineup in Green

    The iPhone 13 line was the simplest of the updates, a new color, Green. There are actually two different shades of green, one for the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13, and another shade for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. For the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 is called “Green”. The color for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max is called “Alpine Green”.

    These two shades of green are reminiscent of the “Midnight Green” that was present on iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

    These phones will be available for pre-order on Friday, March 11th, starting at 5 am Pacific Time and delivery will begin on Friday, March 18th.

    Source: Apple News

    iPad Air

    The iPad Air got an update today as well. The 5th generation of the iPad Air is a mix of the iPad Pro and the iPad mini. It still has the same physical form factor, including Touch ID in the Home button at the top. The iPad Air still supports the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil. But there have been some internal changes.

    It has the same design as the previous iPad Air model, but it includes an M1 processor like the iPad Pro. The M1 is an 8-core CPU, 8-Core GPU, includes Apple’s Neural Engine, and has a whopping 8GB of RAM. This is double the RAM of the previous iPad Air, which only had 4GB.

    There are three big big changes. The cellular models now support 5G, just like the cellular versions of iPad Pro and iPad mini. The second big change is the Face ID camera, which is a 12MP sensor. It now supports Center Stage, like the iPad Pros and MacBook Pros.

    5th Generation Apple iPad Air

    The 5th Generation iPad Air comes in 5 colors, Space Gray, Starlight, Pink, Purple, Blue. The only color that is the same as the previous models is the Space Gray, all of the others are new colors. Silver is replaced by Starlight, Rose Gold is replaced by Pink, Purple replaces Green, and the new Blue replaces the Sky Blue.

    The storage remains the same at 64GB or 256GB. The 64GB Wi-Fi only model is $599, the 256GB Wi-Fi model is $749. The Cellular models cost $749 for the 64GB model and $899 for the 256GB Model. This is a $20 increase for the cellular models.

    You can order the new iPad Air starting Friday, March 11th, starting at 5 am Pacific Time and delivery will begin on Friday, March 18th.

    Source: Apple News

    iPhone SE

    The iPhone SE (3rd generation) is a bit more subtle upgrade. The form factor remains the same, as does the size, and the home button. The iPhone SE now includes an A15 processor, like the iPhone 13 line. This makes sense given the last update to the product was released in 2020. Beyond the inclusion of the A15, the iPhone SE also now supports 5G connectivity and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax).

    iPhone SE 3rd Generation

    The iPhone SE comes in three colors, Midnight, Starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED. You can now choose between 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB models. The 256GB option is new this year. The prices are $429, $479, and $579 respectively.

    Just like the iPhone and iPad Air, you can order the new iPhone SE starting Friday, March 11th, starting at 5 am Pacific Time and delivery will begin on Friday, March 18th.

    Source: Apple News

    That covers the existing products, let us now turn to the new products, Mac Studio and Studio Display.

    Mac Studio and Studio Display

    Apple Mac Studio and Studio Display

    The Mac Studio and Studio Display were designed to work together. We will cover each in turn, starting with the Mac Studio.

    The Mac Studio is an entirely new product. It has a similar form factor to the Mac mini, except in its height. The dimensions of the Mac Studio are 7.7 inches (19.7cm) by 7.7 inches (19.7cm), by 3.7 inches (9.5cm) tall. This is where the similarities between the Mac mini and Mac Studio end. Both the outside and inside of the Mac Studio are different.

    Mac Studio - Front View

    External

    The Mac Studio is is the same width as the Mac mini, yet it manages to pack in two more ports in the back. Specifically it has 4 Thunderbolt 4 ports, 2 USB-A ports, a single 10Gbps ethernet port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The front of the Mac Studio has three ports, an SDXC card slot and either Two USB-C or Two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Which one of the ports is on the front depends on the internals.

    Mac Studio - Back

    Internals

    The design of the Mac Studio is dictated by processor. The Mac Studio has two options, the existing M1 Max, and the all new M1 Ultra. You have your choice of 64GB The M1 Max is the same ones that are available with the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros. There are two M1 Max options, 10-Core CPU/24-Core GPU or 10-Core CPU/32-Core GPU. Again, these are the same options available on the latest MacBook Pro models. You can choose between either 32GB or 64GB of unified memory.

    M1 Ultra

    Apple M1 Ultra Chip

    The M1 Ultra is effectively two M1 Max chips that have a custom interconnect that Apple calls “UltraFusion”, between the two processor dies. This interconnect allows the two processors to communicate with minimal latency and both processors can access the same shared memory. The M1 Ultra appears to apps as a single processor, so there is no need for developers to make any special accommodations with their apps to take advantage of the power and processing capabilities of the M1 Ultra.

    Since the M1 Ultra is effectively two M1 Max chips the core count is doubled. This means that the processor comes in two flavors. One with has a 20-Core CPU, 48-Core GPU, and 32-Core Neural Engine, and another that is a 20-Core CPU, 64-Core GPU, and 32-Core Neural Engine.

    Double the processors results in being able to address twice as much memory, so the M1 can support 64GB or 128GB of memory.

    Configurations

    The Mac Studio is only available in Silver. The pricing on this starts at $1999 for the 10-core CPU/24-Core GPU M1 Max with 32GB of memory and 512GB of storage and $3999 for the 20-core M1 Ultra. You can configure up to 8TB of storage.

    The Mac Studio can be ordered today, but shipping times depend on the configuration.

    Studio Display

    Apple Studio Display

    Apple has long had standalone displays. However, that has not always been the case. In fact from 2016 to 2019, Apple did not have its own standalone display. Instead it partnered with LG to provide the Ultrafine 4k and 5k displays. When these were introduced there were some interference problems with the displays and Wi-Fi. In June of 2019 Apple introduced a standalone display, the Pro Display XDR. While this was great for certain groups, it is not affordable for most people. The Pro Display XDR starts at $4999 (without a stand), and is more like $5999 with the stand.

    Today Apple introduced a more affordable standalone monitor, the Studio Display. The Studio Display is an all-aluminum design 27-inch 5K Monitor. The Studio Display is not simply a monitor. Much like Apple’s previous standalone displays, it includes some connectivity. Specifically it has Thunderbolt # port for connecting to a supported Mac, or iPad. Along with the Thunderbolt 3 port for connecting, there are three USB-C ports that can connect at 10Gbps, so you can connect peripherals to the display.

    The Studio Display is actually powered by an A13 Bionic processor. The A13 Bionic enables for some features that are currently only available on iPads or MacBook Pros.

    The Studio Display includes a “High-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers”, support for wide stereo sound. Beyond Wide Stereo sound, it also supports Spatial Audio when playing music, as well as with video, if the video supports Dolby Atmos.

    Much like the Pro Display XDR there is a camera built into the display. The one included is a 12MP ultra-wide camera with a 122 degree field of view with an ƒ/2.4 aperture. These the same specifications as the one in the 5th generation iPad Air. This means that the Studio Display can support Center Stage.

    The Studio Display is designed for professionals and can be used as a reference monitor. It includes most of the same reference modes as the Pro Display XDR. The available reference modes are:

    • Apple Display (P3-600 nits)
    • HDTV Video (BT.709-BT.1886)
    • NTSC Video (BT.601 SMPTE-C)
    • PAL and SECAM Video (BT.601 EBU)
    • Digital Cinema (P3-DCI)
    • Digital Cinema (P3-D65)
    • Design and Print (P3-D50)
    • Photography (P3-D65)
    • Internet and Web (sRGB)

    The Studio Display has two different screen options, standard and Nano-Texture. There are also three stand options to choose from. The first is the Tilt-adjustable stand, which has a 30 degree adjustability. The second is the Tilt and Height Adjustable stand, which has the same adjustability but can be adjusted up to 105mm. The final option is a VESA compatible bracket so you can mount it on an arm.

    Apple Studio Display Stand Options

    The Studio Display is available to order today. It starts at $1599 for the standard glass and either the Tilt-adjustable stand or VESA mount adapter. The Tilt and height-adjustable stand is available for $1999. The Nano-texture glass version will cost $1899 and $2299 respectively. These can be ordered today and delivery starts Friday, March 18th. However, as of this writing the delivery dates have slipped to March 24th as being the earliest delivery date, and April is for most configurations.

    Source: Apple News, Apple News

    Other News

    There are a couple of other things to cover. First, Apple has removed the 27-inch iMac from sale. The intended replacement is the Mac Studio and Studio Display. The Intel Mac mini and Mac Pro are now the only Intel-based machines available from Apple.

    Along with the Mac Studio and Studio Display Apple also released matching Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Pad, a Magic Trackpad, and a Magic Mouse. These are designed to match the Studio Display. They are priced at $199 for the Magic Keyboard, $149 for the Trackpad, and $99 for the Magic Mouse. These accessories are available to order today.

    Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Mouse in Black and Silver

    Closing Thoughts

    There were a ton of things announced today, including the new Green colors for the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13, and Alpine Green for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. These are available for pre-order on Friday at 5 am Pacific Time.

    The 3rd generation iPhone SE keeps the same form factor, but adds an A15 processor and 5G cellular connectivity. There are three colors, Midnight, Starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED. The price has increased $20, probably to accommodate the price difference for the 5G cellular modems. You can order on Friday starting at $429.

    The 5th Generation iPad Air now includes an M1 processor with 5G for cellular models. This now includes 8GB of RAM and is available in five colors; Space Gray, Starlight, Pink, Purple, and Blue. The iPad Air is still available in 64GB and 256GB Models starting at $599. You can order the iPad Air starting on Friday at 5am Pacific Time.

    The biggest announcements are the Mac Studio and the Studio Display. The Mac Studio is a new Mac that supports either the M1 Max or the new M1 Ultra. The Mac Studio starts at $1999 for a 10-core CPU/24-Core GPU and 512GB of storage.

    The Studio Display is a new 5K Display that can be used as a reference monitor for some profiles. The Studio Display includes 1 Thunderbolt 3 port to connect to a device and you can use any of the three USB-C ports to connect peripherals. The Studio Display has a 12MP Camera that supports Center Stage and support for spatial audio. The Studio Display starts at $1599. Both the Mac Studio and Studio Display are available to order today.

    I will post how I did with my predictions later this week. What do you think about today’s announcements?

  • New Magic Accessories and Mac Pro Graphics Cards

    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

    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

    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

    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