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Posts tagged with "Apple Silicon"

The Magic of the M2 MacBook Air

Stephen Hackett writing on 512 Pixels about the M2 MacBook Air:

There’s something about the design of this machine that I can’t escape. The footprint is pretty similar between the two notebooks, but in my backpack, there’s a huge difference. Don’t get me wrong: I am thrilled that the MacBook Pro has beefed up to be a better computer, but I’m drawn to the clean, simple look of the Air. I know the Pro is a better match for my workflows, but the Air can do everything I need — if just a little bit slower. And I don’t care about that speed difference any time I pick up the Air to take it with me. Something about it just clicks with me in a way I didn’t anticipate.

I completely understand where Stephen is coming from on this. On paper, the MacBook Pro’s advantages are undeniable, but they’re also expected. It’s a bigger, heavier ‘pro’ computer with fans, after all.

In contrast, the M2 Air feels like magic, despite the M1 version that preceded it. The performance boost from the M2 SoC and features like a bigger, brighter screen and a higher memory option are part of it, but so, too, is the fact that the new Air even looks like a MacBook Pro. Yet, the M2 MacBook Air is still the svelte, silent laptop that it replaces, which feels improbable if not impossible. Like Stephen, the MacBook Air has captured my heart, and I don’t see myself switching to a different Mac laptop anytime soon.

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Digital Foundry Tests How a Fully-Loaded Mac Studio Stacks Up to High-End Gaming PCs

It’s not unusual for Apple keynotes to feature gaming. Sometimes it’s about Apple Arcade, and other times it’s a demo of a third-party title coming to one of the company’s platforms. However, this year’s WWDC keynote was a little different, sprinkling developer-focused gaming announcements throughout the presentation and focusing on the upcoming release of No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil Village on the Mac. With Metal 3, controller functionality that continues to be extended, and an emphasis on titles with name recognition, many came away wondering if Apple is trying to position its latest Macs as legitimate challengers to high-end gaming PCs.

That’s the question Digital Foundry set out to answer in its latest YouTube video and companion story on Eurogamer by Oliver Mackenzie. When it comes to evaluating gaming hardware, few do it as well as Digital Foundry, which is why I was immediately curious to see what they thought of a fully loaded Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra SoC.

At just slightly larger than an Xbox Series S by volume and with ultra-low power consumption, the Mac Studio is unlike any high-performance PC. Digital Foundry came away impressed with the technical details of the M1 Ultra SoC, which held its own against high-end Intel CPUs and was in the ballpark in comparison to top GPUs:

The M1 Ultra is an extremely impressive processor. It delivers CPU and GPU performance in line with high-end PCs, packs a first-of-its-kind silicon interposer, consumes very little power, and fits into a truly tiny chassis. There’s simply nothing else like it. For users already in the Mac ecosystem, this is a great buy if you have demanding workflows.

However, the system’s performance doesn’t tell the whole story and can’t make up for the lack of videogames available for the Mac:

These results are really just for evaluating raw performance though, as the Mac is not a good gaming platform. Very few games actually end up on Mac and the ports are often low quality. If there is a future for Mac gaming it will probably be defined by “borrowing” games from other platforms, either through wrappers like Wine or through running iOS titles natively, which M1-based Macs are capable of. In the past, Macs could run games by installing Windows through Apple’s Bootcamp solution, but M1-based chips can’t boot natively into any flavour of Windows, not even Windows for ARM.

The upshot is that gaming on the Mac remains a mixed bag. Apple’s most capable M1s make the Mac more competitive with gaming PCs, but it’s not clear that the catalog of games available on the Mac will change anytime soon:

Gaming on Mac has historically been quite problematic and that remains the case right now - native ports are thin on the ground and when older titles such as No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil Village are mooted for conversion, it’s much more of a big deal than it really should be. Perhaps it’s the expense of Apple hardware, perhaps it’s the size of the addressable audience or maybe gaming isn’t a primary use-case for these machines, but there’s still the sense that outside of the mobile space (where it is dominant), gaming isn’t where it should be - Steam Deck has shown that compatibility layers can work and ultimately, perhaps that’s the route forward. Still, M1 Max and especially M1 Ultra are certainly very capable hardware and it’ll be fascinating to see how gaming evolves on the Apple platform going forward.

Digital Foundry’s results highlight that tech specs are necessary but not sufficient for videogame industry success. The Mac hasn’t been in the same league as high-end gaming PCs for a long time, and tech specs historically were just one of the issues. Given Apple’s lackluster history in desktop gaming, it’s fair to be skeptical about whether the company can attract the developers of current-generation, top-tier games to the Mac. Still, for the optimists in the crowd, the power of the M1 Ultra has brought the Mac a long way from where it stood during the Intel-baed days as a gaming platform. Personally, I’m a skeptical optimist with one foot in each camp. The hardware is heading in the right direction, but the jury’s still out on the software and Apple’s business plan to attract game developers.

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M2 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro: The MacStories Overview

Yesterday during their WWDC keynote event, Apple unveiled the updated M2 Apple Silicon chip. While the M2 might not be quite as revolutionary of an upgrade as the M1 was over previous Intel chips, it’s still a very solid year-over-year improvement which continues to boost Apple ahead of the competition.

Debuting with the M2 inside are the all-new MacBook Air and the upgraded 13” MacBook Pro. While the MacBook Pro has very few changes other than the new processor, the MacBook Air sports a completely new industrial design. Let’s take a look at Apple’s latest entires into the Mac lineup.

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Dropbox Releases Apple Silicon Version of Its App to Beta Testers

Last fall, Dropbox caused a stir when one of its employees suggested on a company forum that the cloud service’s Mac app wouldn’t be updated for Apple’s M1 architecture until customers demanded it. The response from customers was immediate and vocal, prompting Dropbox CEO Drew Houston to publicly state that an M1 version of the app would be released in 2022.

The existing Dropbox app uses Apple’s Rosetta translation layer, which is fast but can’t match a native Apple silicon app. The app also uses more power and other system resources than a native version would, and for an app that constantly runs in the background, that was a constant source of irritation for users.

The first sign of an Apple silicon version of Dropbox emerged late yesterday. As reported by 9to5Mac, Dropbox released a native M1-based version of its app to beta testers, which can be downloaded here. The new version of the app, which was noticed by a user in the Dropbox forums, was later confirmed by a Dropbox community manager, as reported by The Verge. Dropbox is very late in updating its app to offer native Apple silicon support, especially given that the service is so widely used, but it’s good to see the company following through with last fall’s promise.

Betas that affect important cloud-based files should be approached with caution, but in my limited testing so far, the M1 version of Dropbox makes a noticeable difference in the app’s resource usage. Before installing the beta, I took a look at its memory usage, which stood at just above 4 GB, a substantial portion of the 16 GB available on my MacBook Air. Immediately after installing the Dropbox beta, memory usage dropped to a much more reasonable 645 MB. That’s a substantial improvement, which coupled with lower power usage and improved speed, should greatly improve the experience of using the cloud service, especially on Apple laptops.


Two Months with Apple’s New M1 iMac

The very first Mac I owned was an iMac. That white polycarbonate, first-gen Intel iMac was the epitome of a family computer, sitting in a central location where everyone in my family could use it for work, school, and projects. I had an early aluminum iMac too, but gradually, portable devices took over, satisfying everyone’s computing needs, and the iMac fell by the wayside.

In the ten years or so since then, the Macs I’ve bought for myself have been laptops and the Mac mini. It’s a flexible combination that has served me well. The mini isn’t as customizable as the Mac Pro, but it suited my needs well, allowing me to easily set up and tear down various peripheral configurations, which became even more useful when I started writing at MacStories. Combined with the MacBooks I’ve owned over the years for when I want to get away from my desk, I haven’t pay much attention to the iMac for a long time.

The iMac has come a long way since the first one I owned (left) and the latest M1 model (right).

The iMac has come a long way since the first one I owned (left) and the latest M1 model (right).

As a result, when Apple sent me an M1 iMac to test, I was curious to see how it would fit in in my home, but I didn’t expect it to rekindle my interest in an all-in-one Mac. Boy, was I wrong.

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Apple M1 Mac Review Roundup: Big Performance and Battery Gains

Last week, Apple unveiled M1-based models of the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. With deliveries of the computers beginning to arrive around the world, reviews are out, and I’ve rounded up some of the most interesting tidbits from them.

The reviews are overwhelmingly positive with a few caveats. However, reviewers were universally impressed by the new Macs’ performance and the laptops’ battery life. The experience of Wired’s Julian Chokkattu was common:

Spend a day with the new MacBook Air and the improvements are immediately noticeable. The thing’s as powerful as many of the higher-end Intel-powered Macs, blowing past the speed limits of the higher-tier MacBook Air from earlier this year. The M1 is no Mac evolution, it’s a Mac revolution.

What’s especially remarkable about these Macs is that they are low-end models as Jason Snell observes on Six Colors:

It’s all too easy to overlook the fact that these are low-end models, given how fast they are. But this is just Apple’s first step in what the company says is a two-year-long transition. The M1 chip, which appears to be a next-generation riff on the A12X processor in that 2018 iPad Pro, has a bunch of limitations that will undoubtedly not exist on future Apple-designed Mac processors: It only supports two Thunderbolt ports and up to 16GB of RAM. It has no support for external GPUs or discrete graphics of any kind. It can drive a maximum of two displays. It is, by every definition, a low-end chip, the slowest and least capable Mac chip Apple will ever make.

And yet…

Based on my testing, it’s also safe to say that all three M1-based Macs, these low-end systems at the bottom of Apple’s price lists, are among the fastest Macs ever made.

Jason and Myke Hurley also interviewed Apple’s Tim Millet and Tom Boger on Upgrade about the M1 Macs.

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The Independent Interviews Federighi, Joz, and Ternus on M1 Macs

Following Apple’s special event this Tuesday, The Independent scored an interview with Craig Federighi, Greg Joswiak, and John Ternus. The Apple execs provided some fascinating insight into their new M1 chips, including that the speed and battery life of the M1 Macs were far greater than even Apple had imagined they would be before the project began.

Federighi discusses the differences between the new MacBook Air and Pro as well. The Independent’s Andrew Griffin writes:

The M1 arrives at first in three different products: the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini. The latter occupies its own place in the line-up, but given that the Air and Pro now have the exact same chip, how can they stay distinct?

“Thermal capacity,” says Federighi decisively. The Pro has a fan – Apple calls it an “active cooling system” – while the Air doesn’t, and the rest of the performance flows from there.

Federighi starts sketching out a graph that will be familiar to anyone who watched the event. The thing that is really holding these chips back is heat: as you give them more cooling to play with, they become even faster. The MacBook has some other things, too – such as even more battery – but it’s that extra headroom that really allows them to roar.

The interview also discusses Apple’s chip naming strategies and their decision to not ship new laptop hardware designs alongside the new chips. Federighi even gets a chance to pour cold water on the popular theory that Big Sur is paving the way for touchscreen Macs:

“I gotta tell you when we released Big Sur, and these articles started coming out saying, ‘Oh my God, look, Apple is preparing for touch’. I was thinking like, ‘Whoa, why?’

“We had designed and evolved the look for macOS in a way that felt most comfortable and natural to us, not remotely considering something about touch.

Make sure to check out the whole article over at The Independent.

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iPhone and iPad Apps Are Coming to the Mac App Store

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple’s M1-based Macs will start to be delivered to users next week and are capable of running iPhone and iPad apps natively. In an App Store story and developer documentation, Apple has explained how that will work.

iPhone and iPad apps will be available on the Mac App Store by default, although developers can opt out of offering their apps there. A developer might not want to make their iPhone or iPad app available on the Mac App Store for a variety of reasons. For example:

Some apps available on Mac may not function as they normally would on iPhone or iPad. For example, features that rely on hardware unique to iPhone or iPad—such as a gyroscope or a screen that supports complex Multi-Touch gestures—may not work on Mac. In some cases such a feature may be central to the app’s functionality, while in others the app may be usable without it.

Developers who want to offer their iPhone and iPad apps on the Mac App Store don’t have to do anything to make them work on the Mac. However, Apple is asking developers to consider adopting things like keyboard support, multitasking, and Auto-Layout, which will add Mac keyboard and window resizing support, for example.

Apple is also encouraging developers to verify that their iPhone and iPad apps work on the M1 Macs. Apps built for iOS and iPadOS will be labeled as ‘Designed for iPhone’ and ‘Designed for iPad,’ so users can identify them, and if an app hasn’t been verified by its developer yet, it will also be labeled as ‘Not verified for macOS.’

Search results will feature a toggle that separates Mac apps from iPhone and iPad apps. Source: Apple.

Search results will feature a toggle that separates Mac apps from iPhone and iPad apps. Source: Apple.

Apple’s developer documentation notes that iPhone and iPad apps can be found on the Mac App Store,

by browsing curated selections and charts, or by searching and clicking the “iPhone & iPad Apps” toggle at the top of search results.

The toggle strikes me as a good way to handle search results to help ensure that users understand which version of an app they are downloading. Also, developers who offer their iPhone or iPad app on the Mac App Store can later replace it with a macOS version, which will be delivered to users as an update to the app. However, if developers already offer a Mac app as part of a universal purchase, they cannot later offer an iPhone or iPad app instead.

It will be interesting to see how many apps opt out of the Mac App Store. There are many reasons why a developer might not participate, but I expect those that do will verify their apps relatively quickly to provide users with the confidence to try their app on a new M1 Mac.


The M1 Mac mini: The MacStories Overview

At today’s special event Apple announced the much-anticipated first round of Apple silicon Macs. Running the impressively fast and efficient M1 chip, Apple’s initial offering includes new MacBook Air and 13” MacBook Pro models, and an all new Mac mini.

The M1-powered Mac mini features significantly faster compute and graphics performance, two Thunderbolt/USB-4 ports, Wi-Fi 6 support, SSD storage, and significantly improved machine learning capabilities. To top it all off, the starting price has been dropped by $100.

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