It’s been a long time. Too long! But we are here and we think about you. And today I’m here to review all of Apple’s big announcements at their annual developer conference.
There’s really so much to go over that I’m going to do it in two parts, rather than make you read a book in one sitting. But here’s the headlines:
- An all-new 15-inch MacBook Air has a big screen, yet is cheap and light
- Apple’s compact high-end desktop computer, Mac Studio, has been improved with M2 Max and M2 Ultra processors
- Apple’s ultra expensive top of the line desktop tower, Mac Pro, was updated with the M2 Ultra chip, making it equivalent to a Mac Studio with internal expansion (and with this update, Apple no longer sells any computers based on Intel chips)
- iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, and macOS 14 “Sonoma” will have features oriented around privacy and security, as well as other bells and whistles, none of which are blowing my mind; these will be released in the fall, so I’ll have more to say about them then
- Apple’s long-rumored augmented/virtual reality headset was unveiled, is called “Vision Pro,” and will be for sale next year for a lot of money; it looks pretty awesome, if it can live up the hype video they presented
I mean, each of these could warrant a whole newsletter, especially the Vision Pro, but let’s start with Mac.
For the last many years, if you wanted a Mac laptop with a large screen, you have had to buy a high-end MacBook Pro. That’s no longer the case. There is now a 15-inch version of the MacBook Air. The original 13-inch model, released last year and covered by us here, is a superb machine I have no difficulty recommending to almost anyone, so I have the same guidance here.
Featurewise, the new Air is the same, except for the larger screen, and more internal speakers for better sound. It manages to stay fairly light, at 3.3 pounds (versus the 2.7 lbs of the 13-inch model and the 3.5 lbs of the 14-inch MacBook Pro). If you want a big screen in a slim machine that doesn’t cost a ton, the new 15-inch MacBook Air looks like a winner.
The 15-inch Air is, happily, the same price as the 13-inch model used to be, starting at $1,299 (8 GB memory, 256 GB storage, 10-core GPU, 35W compact dual-port or 70W fast charging power adapter), and it maxes out at $2,499 (24 GB memory, 2 TB storage). Presale is open now prior to general availability on June 13.
The 13-inch model had its price reduced, offering the same options for $100 less than the 15-inch model, or $200 less if you elect for a (perfectly fine) 8-core GPU with a 30W power adapter.
The 2020 MacBook Air M1 still remains available starting at $999, and while still a fine machine for basic computing, it’s harder to recommend now that the 2022 M2 model is only $100 more.
You might be able to do a little better than list price: Amazon often discounts the standard configurations of these machines (8 GB memory and 256 GB or 512 GB of storage) by up to $200; Adorama Camera often has deals; and Apple’s refurbished products page is also a good place to save money (I consider those to be good as new–my last several Macs have come from there).
We recommend getting at least 16 GB memory if you want to use the computer for more than three years; also note that the 256 GB models of the M2 have somewhat slower performance than M2 models with more storage, or the 256 GB M1 model.
The Mac Studio, introduced in last year and covered by us here, is a high end, physically compact desktop computer aimed at power users and media creation professionals, a step up from iMac and Mac mini. The Studio is designed for use with the 27-inch Apple Studio Display, though it will work fine with a monitor from any vendor. The 2023 Mac Studio has had its M1-family processors upgraded to the M2 Max and M2 Ultra (which is two M2 Max chips working in tandem for twice the oomph).
There’s no real reason to upgrade if you already have a Mac Studio; there are performance gains, but you’ve already got a high-powered computer. However, if you’ve got a 27-inch iMac (which has an Intel chip), and you want to keep using a 27-inch screen, then give the Studio (and the Mini) a look.
The new Mac Studio starts at $1,999 (M2 Max chip, 30-core GPU, 32 GB memory, 512 GB storage, four Thunderbolt 4 ports + 2 USB-C only ports), and goes all the way up to $8,799 (M2 Ultra, 76-core GPU, 192 GB memory, 8 TB storage, six Thunderbolt 4 ports).
For completeness’ sake, on the lower end of the desktop Mac price spectrum, the similar but less powerful Mac Mini starts at $599 (M2 chip, 10-core GPU, 8 GB memory, 256 GB storage, two Thunderbolt 4 ports), and the all-in-one iMac with an integrated 24-inch display starts at $1,299 (M1 chip, 7-core GPU, 8 GB memory, 256 GB storage, two Thunderbolt 3 / USB4 ports). The iMac, released over two years ago, is well overdue for an update, so I don’t recommend purchasing it unless you need it now and don’t want to or can’t wait.
The Mac Pro is off most Mac buyers’ radar because it’s not priced for consumers, but rather professionals working for media production companies. It’s a traditional desktop “tower” computer with slots inside it, much as you might buy from a Windows PC vendor. It has been the lone holdout in Apple’s product transition away from Intel-based Macs, but that is over as of this week — the Mac Pro now hosts an Apple silicon M2 Ultra chip. This is almost more significant than the machine itself, because it starts the clock ticking on just how soon Apple feels they can stop supplying a version of macOS that runs on Intel-based Macs — my prediction is three more years, and then after that, new macOS updates will be available for Apple silicon (e.g. M1, M2, etc) machines only.
As for the actual computer, it’s a disappointment, since computationally it’s no better than a Studio with an M2 Ultra chip. All it offers for $3,000 more, apart from bulk, is more external connecting ports, after-purchase upgradeable storage (for outrageous prices), and internal expansion slots of little utility to anyone apart from video production professionals.
While the new Apple silicon Mac Pro is likely to outperform the 2019 Intel-based Mac Pro, it may not fare as well compared with contemporary high-end Windows or Linux PC’s; it is possible Apple will lose some of the production professional market to competing vendors. Most notable is that maximum memory of the new Mac Pro tops out at 192 GB, same as the Studio; while more than enough for you and me, it’s a far cry from the 1.5 TB of memory supported by the 2019 Intel-based Mac Pro. (Rumor has it that Apple had higher ambitions for the innards of this machine, but real-world technical constraints led them to scrap those plans; perhaps we’ll see a more exciting version of this model eventually.)
I think that’s enough for now! I’ll let you know what I think about the Apple Vision Pro real soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions about any of the new Mac models Apple announced, or anything else, let us know!