One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the rollout of Apple silicon Macs is that the old rules don’t apply, and the new ones are still being written. The cadence of releases is still settling in, and today, in the face of speculation that Apple was struggling to release M3 Macs, Apple made it clear that not one, but three 3 nanometer process-based chips are ready to ship. Along with the M3 iMac, the company refreshed its entire lineup of MacBook Pros, computers that gained the M2 chip less than a year ago.
Posts tagged with "Apple Silicon"
Just over two years ago, I spent the summer with a 24” M1 iMac on my desk and loved it. The elegant simplicity of an all-in-one Mac with just a couple of cables trailing off the back side of the computer is wonderful. The all-in-one design of the M1 iMac wasn’t new, but it was a stunning departure from its predecessor, with a slim, flat design that wasn’t possible in the Intel era. Plus, it came in a variety of vibrant, fun colors, which is all too rare in Apple’s product lineup.
Today, Apple announced the successor to that iMac that features an all-new M3 chip that, by Apple’s account, is ‘scary fast.’ Just how fast the new iMac is compared to other models will require hands-on testing, but from the specs alone, the new iMac is impressive.
Let’s take a look.
Monica Chin, writing for The Verge, interviewed more than 20 professionals to try to figure out who the Mac Pro is for and gauge interest in Apple’s most powerful desktop computer:
I wanted to know whether Apple’s purported target demographic — people who spend their days animating, making visual effects, and doing various other tasks generally associated with big, powerful computers — were actually interested in purchasing this machine. So I asked a bunch of them, and the answer, basically across the board, was no. Not because the Mac Pro is bad but because Apple’s other computers, namely its laptops, have just gotten too good.
For everyone Chin interviewed, one of Apple’s other portable or desktop options was already meeting their needs. Another potential issue for the Mac Pro is its lack of eGPU support:
The lack of support for external GPUs makes the feature particularly confounding for graphic professionals. “GPU support, that’s what we mostly use PCIe for,” said Tom Lindén, who runs a 3D animation agency. Other than a capture card, he says, “there are not that many expansion cards that would be useful.”
Between the MacBook Pro and Mac Studio, it seems that the professional market is satisfied:
“The offering across the board from Apple has gotten so powerful that, frankly, the Mac Pro feels a little unnecessary,” echoes Nathan, who has owned a number of Mac Pros throughout his career but is now very happy with his 14-inch MacBook. “I think we all appreciate it for what it is and what it demonstrates, but at no point has anyone said to me, ‘So when are we getting an office load of these?’”
The Mac Pro has always been a niche product. However, ever since it was announced, there has been a sense among many who write about the Mac that the new Pro is more niche than any of its predecessors, which is borne out by Chin’s reporting. That doesn’t make it a bad computer, but it’s also one that 99.9% of users don’t need, especially at a substantial premium compared to Apple’s other pro Macs. Absent new uses for the Mac Pro emerging, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mac Pro doesn’t remain a product in Apple’s lineup for long.
I’ve seen the future of Mac gaming, and it’s not Metal 3 or Apple silicon. It’s a PC sitting in a Dallas data center with an NVIDIA 4080 GPU. That’s the data center my Mac connects to when I log into GeForce NOW Ultimate, the top tier of NVIDIA’s videogame streaming service. NVIDIA has data centers like it across the US and in Europe, streaming the latest, most demanding titles to a wide range of devices, including the Mac.
GeForce NOW is a technological marvel that turns traditional computing expectations on their head, offering Mac users a world where your Internet connection and display are more important than the computing power of the device on which a game is played. For Mac users, GeForce NOW is an opportunity to finally play the most advanced games available on the computer they love, which is exciting. However, for Apple, which has begun to market Macs as capable of playing modern games, GeForce NOW and services like it may end its AAA gaming ambitions before they leave the gate.
Today, Apple announced new MacBook Pro 14” and 16” models and a new Mac mini via press releases and a video on its YouTube channel. The new laptops are available in M2 Pro and Max chip configurations and feature faster memory bandwidth, WiFi 6E, and the same design as the models they replace. The Mac mini has also been updated to add the M2 and M2 Pro options, as well as other features.
In its press release, Apple had this to say about the new M2 Pro and M2 Max SoCs:
M2 Pro scales up the architecture of M2 to deliver an up to 12-core CPU and up to 19-core GPU, together with up to 32GB of fast unified memory. M2 Max builds on the capabilities of M2 Pro, including an up to 38-core GPU, double the unified memory bandwidth, and up to 96GB of unified memory. Its industry-leading performance per watt makes it the world’s most powerful and power-efficient chip for a pro laptop.
The 13” MacBook Pro and MacBook Air were upgraded to the base model M2 last year, but the laptops announced today are the first to include the Pro and Max versions of that SoC. Regarding the MacBook Pro, Apple says:
With M2 Pro and M2 Max — the world’s most powerful and efficient chip for a pro laptop — MacBook Pro tackles demanding tasks, like effects rendering, which is up to 6x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro, and color grading, which is up to 2x faster. Building on the unprecedented power efficiency of Apple silicon, battery life on MacBook Pro is now up to 22 hours — the longest battery life ever in a Mac. For enhanced connectivity, the new MacBook Pro supports Wi-Fi 6E, which is up to twice as fast as the previous generation, as well as advanced HDMI, which supports 8K displays for the first time. With up to 96GB of unified memory in the M2 Max model, creators can work on scenes so large that PC laptops can’t even run them.
The MacBook Pro with M2 Pro comes in 10 and 12-core CPU configurations that Apple says deliver up to 20% faster performance than the M1 Pro, about what you’d expect from an SoC with 20% more cores. The laptops can be configured with up to 32GB of unified memory that has 200GB/s of bandwidth, which is double the standard M2. The GPU has 19 cores and delivers 30% faster performance, according to Apple. The laptop also features Apple’s media engine that handles encoding and decoding video.
The M2 Max version of the MacBook Pro can be configured with up to 38 GPU cores for what Apple says is 30% better performance than the M1 Max, while the CPU has 12 cores. The MacBook Pro with M2 Max also supports up to 96GB of unified memory with 400GB/s of bandwidth.
Apple also updated the Mac mini today. Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said:
With incredible capabilities and a wide array of connectivity in its compact design, Mac mini is used in so many places, in so many different ways. Today, we’re excited to take it even further with M2 and M2 Pro. Bringing even more performance and a lower starting price, Mac mini with M2 is a tremendous value. And for users who need powerful pro performance, Mac mini with M2 Pro is unlike any other desktop in its class.
The Mac mini, which was among the first Macs to be updated to the M1, is gaining an M2 SoC, with an option to configure the desktop Mac with an M2 Pro. The M2 mini has two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and the Pro version comes with a total of four. The M2 model can power two displays, and the Pro model three.
The updates bring WiFi 6E to all of the Macs announced today for the first time too. The only other devices Apple makes that support the faster wireless networking standard are the 11” and 12.9” iPad Pros.
These look like solid updates across the board, but I’m especially interested in the Mac mini, which seems to be the best value among the Macs announced today.
Both Macs can be preordered today, with deliveries starting January 24th.
In November, HandyGames released Wreckfest for iPhones and iPads. The demolition racing game was originally released by Bugbear Entertainment on PC in 2018 and the following year on PS4 and Xbox One. Since then, the game has been brought to current-generation consoles, streaming, and now, mobile platforms.
Although Wreckfest is several years old, it’s one of the more demanding console games brought to mobile recently, which makes it a good test for Apple’s latest SoCs. That’s what MrMacRight did on his YouTube channel, testing the game on everything from an original iPhone SE with an A9 chip to a 12.9” iPad Pro with an M2 chip.
There’s a lot of the sort of technical detail in MrMacRight’s video that I love, along with settings recommendations if you want to get the most out of whatever device you’re using to play the game. To me, though, the most interesting part of the video is the point in the Apple silicon lineup where the game’s performance drops off and how the choices the publisher made to bring Wreckfest to mobile affect the game.
The M1 and M2 SoCs handle Wreckfest well, maintaining an almost steady 60fps throughout. The first dip comes when trying to run the game at 60fps on an iPhone 14 Plus with an A15 SoC that ran into thermal throttling issues. Still, with tweaks to the game’s settings, it remains playable on a wide variety of iPhones and iPads thanks to quality reductions of some graphics assets, which also serve to reduce the size of the game and its memory footprint. Those graphical compromises made by HandyGames are understandable but also a bit disappointing for anyone with an M1, M2, or A16 device, which could handle better graphics and textures.
Big picture, MrMacRight’s analysis of Wreckfest suggests that we’re still in the early days when it comes to games that approach console quality coming to the iPhone and iPad. Plus, the sheer size of the gaming market that is still on older A-series SoCs means the sweet spot for game development will likely take a few more years before the performance that is possible on M-series and A16-based devices becomes the norm for most mobile gamers. Whether Apple silicon gets to that point before another solution, like game streaming, takes widespread hold, it will likely be one of the most interesting stories to follow in mobile gaming.
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.
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.
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.