Radical chip, so why no radical Ma


(Cybertech) – The Apple Silicon event yielded a brand new platform for the Mac – as expected – as well as a new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13, again as expected. There was also a Mac mini which we didn’t expect, although we should have given the development units released to developers in June were Mac minis. 

But one thing stood out for me – the lack of a killer feature for the new Macs themselves. The eight-core M1 chip is at the cutting edge of ARM-based mobile computing chip design and has a bewildering away of technical capabilities. But what it also does is enable us to have features that we’ve seen on the iPad Pro on the Mac too. 

We were really surprised, for example, that there was no Face ID or eSIM support, even a 5G option for the Air perhaps. And although touch was always unlikely, it should be possible now. It does rather feel like the stubbornness over touch on Mac will continue – because as with macOS moving from version 10 to 11 finally this was the perfect opportunity to break with tradition and change up what it means to be a Mac – after all, even the outward design is little changed. 

Because what I really want is an iPad Pro-type device but with macOS on it rather than iPadOS to give the flexibility of full desktop use when you want it yet the mobility of an iPad when on the move. And that really could have been where a new MacBook Air-style device could have headed. 

Instead, Apple appealed to potential purchasers of the Air with the promise of a faster Mac thanks to the M1, faster graphics and quicker SSDs – always welcome, longer battery life – again a great benefit of ARM-based chips and a fanless design for the MacBook Air – super welcome.

Indeed, as with the last generation, the Air looks a better buy than the entry-level MacBook Pro. Up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing and up to 18 hours of video playback is pretty impressive for the Air, with the Pro offering two hours extra, too. And the startup chime is back which is also a great little feature that we’re welcoming. 

Of course, when it comes to assessing the worthiness of these machines it’ll all be about the apps and their compatibility with the new M1 chip. With Adobe Creative Suite apps supposedly due soon for Apple Silicon, it could be that we see big names dive in straight away. But can Rosetta 2 really paper over app compatibility? And there also appears to be ann Apple Silicon limitation on RAM – capped at 16GB – which will disappoint some MacBook Pro 13 purchasers, too. 

Despite these unknowns, we’re sure Apple will sell oodles of these new machines. It’s sure going to be an interesting few months finding out how new users adapt to Apple Silicon Macs.

We hope Apple has even more interesting Mac hardware up its sleeve for 2021. Because it certainly feels like Apple could have been bolder today – a radical processor change demanded radical Macs.

Writing by Dan Grabham.


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