Category: Mac

Apple Education Event: Additional Thoughts on Classroom

I listen to a lot of podcasts and many of them are technology-focused, which likely would come as o surprise to nobody. One of the announcement that Apple made at their Let’s Take a Field Trip event was that their iOS app named Classroom was coming to the Mac.

The Classroom app allows teachers to perform a variety of tasks. Some of these include:

Start, focus, or pause student work

  • Launch any app, website, or book on student devices with a tap
  • Lock devices into a single app to help students focus
  • Lock screens to pause work or refocus your class
  • Mute audio on student devices

See what your students see with Screen View

  • See an overview of all student screens at once
  • Focus on a single student screen
  • Students are informed when their screens are being viewed

What I heard many times was that the Classroom app was being ported to the Mac because the teachers are more accustom to the Mac. I understand the idea behind it. Meaning that teachers are not used to iPads. I think that for a percentage of teachers this is true, however I do not think this is the primary driving factor. Let us start with a scenario.

Imagine that you are a teacher with 25 kids. You are doing a lesson that involves showing the students the planets and what you are showing them is a video that is within the app. Along with this you would like to make sure that the students are paying attention. Since the iPad that you, as the teacher, are using is showing the app, so you cannot monitor what the students are doing.

Now, with the Classroom app on the nearby Mac, you can now keep an eye on what the students are doing while the video is playing, and if necessary put them back on task.

We are definitely in a transition time, but the immediate thought that teachers are “olds” and need to use a Mac to get stuff done. While that may be the case for a number of teachers, the ability to use the Classroom app on the Mac, in addition to an iPad, will allow teachers to monitor the students even if the iPad is currently in use.

Mid-2017 iMac: A Review

The original Mac was unveiled in 1984, which makes it 33 years old. One of the most iconic Macs has been the iMac. The iMac debuted 19 years ago, in 1998. While there have been a number of form factors throughout the ages, the iMacs overall design has remained unchanged. The iMac has become more svelte as it has aged. The internals have improved significantly over the time. The latest iteration of the iMac if the Mid-2017 iMac.

Given the maturity and longevity of the iMac it is difficult to review the latest hardware, but I shall give it my best shot.

My Mac History

The Mid-2017 iMac is not my first iMac. It is actually my third. My first iMac was a 20-inch 2007 iMac with a 250GB hard drive, running an Intel Core 2 Duo at 2.16GHz, and 3GB of memory. My second iMac was a Mid-2011 iMac with a 1TB hard drive, running an Intel Sandy Bridge at 2.7GHz, and has 12GB of memory. Each of these purchases were done at an Apple Store. This means that they were stock models. The memory was added afterwards. The models that Apple has at the store are the stock models. These are not customized in anyway. The Apple stores generally have different tiers, and these are available at the stores, however there are no customizations at the store. For these purchases, the reason I ended up going with these comes down to price.

Each of the iMacs I bought had a larger version, the 24-inch and 27-inch models respectively. In the case of the 2007 iMac, it was my first Mac, so I did not want to spend too much on my first Mac, just in case. For the 2011 iMac, I would have liked to have purchased the 27-inch model, but I could not justify the cost.

When looking to purchase a new iMac, I did some calculations about the length of time that I have kept my Macs. This came to 6.03 years. I knew it was time to look at getting a new iMac. This information played into my consideration of which model to purchase.

The Screen

The Mid-2017 iMac that I purchased is the top of the line 27-inch model. The iMac maintains the same form-factor as the 2014 and 2015 Models. It sports a 5K Retina Monitor. The difference with this year’s iMac is that it has a 500 nit display. This display is 43% brighter than the previous models. For me, the difference is easily noticeable when compared to my 2011 iMac.

One of the biggest features of this display is also available in the 2015 model and that is Display P3 color gamut. The Display P3 color gamut allows more colors to be shown. The 2017 model is slightly better in that it can do just a few more colors than the old model.

When a color is displayed on a computer, it is made up of three primary colors, Red, Green, and Blue. On most screens, each of these is capable of having one of 256 values, or 8 bits.. This results in the ability to display 16.7 Million colors.

The 2017 iMac is capable of 10-bit color, or 1024 different values for each color, Red, Green, and Blue. This means that it is capable of 1.07 Billion colors. So just a few more colors than before.

Ports

One of the biggest changes for the Mid-2017 iMac is the the ports that are on the machine. The 2017 iMac has traditional USB-A ports. These are USB 3 ports. The old Thunderbolt 2 ports have been removed in favor of the new Thunderbolt 3 ports. Thunderbolt 3 ports are compatible with USB 3.1 ports, or more commonly known as USB-C. The USB-C connector is the new standard for many computers, not just Macs. You can still use Thunderbolt 2 accessories with an adapter.

There is a standard ethernet adapter. The beloved SD Card slot and headphone jack are still present as well.

Keyboard

One of the more recent changes to the iMac line is the inclusion of the Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard differs greatly from the old-style keyboard. There are a couple of major differences. The biggest is that it no longer requires batteries and instead uses a rechargeable battery. The method in which it connects is still bluetooth, but you pair via an included lightning cable.

The keyboard switches in the Magic Keyboard have less distance to travel, compared to the older style keyboards. These switches make the keyboard a little bit noisier than before. I purchased a Magic Keyboard for use with my old iPad Pro but I don’t use my keyboard with my iPad as much as my iMac. I have become accustom to typing on the Magic Keyboard and now typing on an old keyboard, like that on my MacBook Pro is definitely a bit of an adjustment to go back to the old keyboard.

Remote Disc

One of the trends with modern computers is the removal of optical drives. This trend is completely understandable given the tendency to lean towards digital media purchases and streaming. Yet, there may be times when you need to use an optical drive. Apple has covered with a feature called “Remote Disc”. Remote Disc will allow you to share the optical drive of another Mac with any computer that you would like. I never really had a need to use the feature, but I was working on my iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra e-books and wanted to watch a DVD while adding images. The 5K iMac does not have an optical drive, so I used Remote Disc. I put the DVD into my 2011 iMac and connected to the computer. The playback was just as if the disc was being played on the 27-inch iMac. I was only trying to play a DVD, so it was not super data intensive.

5K Screen Comparison

On the topic of DVDs, the maximum resolution possible on a 5K iMac is 5120 pixels wide by 2880 pixels tall. The 5K iMac was not my first Retina device, that was the 3rd Generation iPad in 2012. It was not my Retina Mac either, that is my 2015 MacBook Pro. But it is my first desktop Mac with Retina. The number of pixels is not easy to comprehend if you are coming from a non-retina screen. My 13-inch MacBook Pro is capable of 2560 pixels by 1600 pixels. This means that there are 3.6 times as many pixels on the 5K Retina iMac Screen as compared to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. To really get a good comparison, here is an image of 27-inch iMac at its full resolution with a DVD in the corner, which is 480 pixels.

Here is a picture of the maximum resolution of the 5K iMac with the maximum resolution of the 2011 iMac, which was 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels.

And just for good measure, here is a screenshot comparing all three sizes.

I have settled on using a resolution of 3200 pixels by 1800 pixels. While this may degrade some performance, as the note in display preferences states, it is a trade off I am willing to make. This is because most of the time I need more screen real estate than performance. Yet, if there is a reason why I need performance, I will have that option as well.

Geekbench Comparisons

I thought I would run some Geekbench comparisons across all of my devices. These were run with the latest version of Geekbench 4. For those who really want to know, below is what I got when I ran the tests.

  27-inch iMac 21.5-inch iMac 13.3-inch MBP 12.9-inch iPad Pro iPhone 7 Plus iPhone 5
32-bit Single Core 4844 3152 3148 769
32-bit Multi-Core 17372 7776 6021 1252
64-bit Single Core 5732 3542 3686 3882 3341
64-bit Multi-Core 19661 8772 6865 9222 5591
Metal 65613 17177 29726 12602
Open-CL 127096 5762 17350

Closing Thoughts

If you are in the market for a new Mac and want to get a desktop, which is not the most common type of computer purchased these days, then the Mid-2017 27-inch 5K Retina iMac may be right for you. If you know that you need a significantly, and even more, powerful workhorse of a Mac, then wait for the iMac Pro that is coming later this year. While the 2017 27-inch 5k Retina iMac may be iterative over its previous brethren, it is a speedy and powerful machine that is worth an upgrade. If you are in the market to create Virtual Reality content, but the starting price of the iMac Pro, $4,999, is a bit out of reach, then the 2017 27-inch iMac may be a good option.