Apple had their One More Thing Apple Event earlier today. As expected, it announced the first Apple Silicone Macs. The new Macs can be ordered now, they will start delivering in a week. Big Sur, the new OS, will be released on Friday (Nov. 13th).
Three new models were announced. Well, “new” could be argued. The new models kept the look of the models they are replacing. They look like they could be Intel Macs. I’m sure this is intentional on Apple’s part. It softens the blow to those who fear change. Let’s be honest, care should always be taken when the tools we use change. So, this isn’t surprising. Their message was that Apple Silicone was a radical improvement in PC performance (PC as in “Personal Computer”), while the lack of design changes signaled continuity.
Their first Apple Silicone chip for Macs is called the M1. The M1 is a system on a chip (SOC) so a lot of sub-systems are on the chip, such as the GPU. An interesting change is that now when you order a Mac and specify memory it’s “Unified Memory” and everything shares that memory. This isn’t new, iPhones and iPads do the same thing.
All three new Macs use the M1 chip. Apple didn’t get specific when mentioning specs. I suspect some of this is because the chip will perform differently in each machine. The Air doesn’t have a fan, while the MB Pro and Mac mini have active cooling. I suspect the MacBook Pro and Mac mini will be able to run hotter, and longer, thereby providing better performance. The presentation certainly promoted significantly better performance than earlier models, and comparably priced Intel based performance.
I got a chuckle from the “one more thing” at the end when John Hodgeman returned as the PC.
Other Quick Thoughts
- They mentioned iOS apps running on these Macs, but significantly they did not demonstrate any iOS apps running on the machines.
- I was impressed by how much Apple was able to increase both battery life and performance. I knew Apple would increase both, I just didn’t realize how much they would.
- The low-end ($999) MacBook Air has a 7-core GPU, all other models have a 8-core GPU. The consensus is that the 7-core tips are binned chips that didn’t quit make the cut when testing. This is a common practice in the industry, despite making them sound like castoffs.
- I was hoping for cellular support, Face ID and touchscreen. I figured a touchscreen would be very unlikely, but did hope for the others. I have hope touchscreen models will show up at the end of 2021 after another OS update cycle.
- The MacBook Air line is now Apple Silicone only. There are still Intel based Mac Minis and MacBook Pros available.
- It looks like the M1 ship architecture is limited to 16GB of RAM. That’s the max you can buy. You can still get more than 16GB on the Intel versions of the Mac M ini and the MacBook Pro.
- The new models only have two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports. These are low end machines, so that’s not unexpected. But they now support Thunderbolt hubs which will allow expansion.
What I Ordered
First I ordered the base MacBook Air. My theory here was that I wouldn’t be selling my current MacBook Pro 16″ and would just use the Air for testing. But then I decided that the base Air could never be my primary machine and that, while the least expensive option, was still a lot to pay for satisfying my curiosity.
I eventually decided I’d be better with a more capable machine so I cancelled the base Air and ordered the next level up, along with a memory upgrade. I suspect 8 GB would be enough RAM, but it’s been many years since I bought a Mac with less than 16 GB of RAM so that was more reflex than analysis. Besides, RAM can’t be upgraded.
Since it was a build-to-order it will take longer to arrive, and the eta is around Thanksgiving. The stock models had delivery dates of about a week.
Update: My indecision continued, and after sleeping on it I cancelled the order yet again, and place a third order for a model with a 1TB drive and 16GB of memory. I also set up a trade-in for my current laptop. While I could get more selling the laptop myself on eBay, or a similar site, and make a little more money. But my experience on those sites has been frustrating, so I’ll give up a few bucks as use the Apple Trade In. I have two weeks to return the laptop so that will give me time to see if the new MacBook Air is a suitable replacement for my current machine.
Overall, I’m excited about the new Macs. I’m really excited to see what they do with the higher end machines over the next two years. (Two years is the timeframe that specified for the transition. I had a MacBook Air a long time ago and it served me well, although it was certainly underpowered for my needs. It will be interesting to see how the new M1 MacBook Air compares to my MacBook Pro. My MacBrook Pro is underutilized, although the fan does spin up on occasion. I suspect my biggest problem will be swapping between the 13″ and 16″ screens.
The proof will be if I sell my MacBook Pro or return the MacBook Air.