Apple had their “Peak Performance” today, with some rumors coming true and others not making an appearance. Here’s what we saw.
Apple TV+: We have Baseball!
Apple started off talking about their streaming service, specifically highlighting new and award-winning movies like Coda and Swan Song, among others. They then showed a sizzle reel showing off these movies followed by showing clips of new ones like an animated family film called “Luck” and a Ryan Reynolds movie called “Spirited” starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrel based off of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.
Apple also announced that it is introducing Friday Night Baseball from MLB, with 2 exclusive games every Friday night. You’ll get these as part of your existing Apple TV+ subscription. So Amazon got American football, Apple gets baseball, we’ll see what sports the other streaming services get.
iPhone SE and iPhone 13 in green
Apple then pivoted to talking about the iPhone 13, mainly just to announce 2 new finishes: Hunter Green for the iPhone 13 and Alpine Green Pro 13. They will be available on March 18th, but can be pre-ordered today.
The main focus of the iPhones segment, however, was dedicated to the announce the 2022 iPhone SE. What stays the same is the physical body, including the “physical” home button, and it still comes in “Midnight” black, “Starlight” white, and Product Red. What has changed is the 2022 SE now uses with the A15 Bionic chip (the same as in the iPhone 13). Apple also says it comes with the same glass on the front and back as the iPhone 13 line, making it more durable. Apple also say the battery life is improved thanks to better battery chemistry and efficient A15, but didn’t give any specifications beyond that. We’ll have to see if real-world battery tests hold this claim up.
The SE is getting some other new hardware though. While it still has the single camera on the back, it is now a 12 MP lens. It also comes with 5G if you live in an area that can use it, and that matched up with the rumors.
The price starts at $429. Pre-orders start Friday, with it being widely available March 18th.
iPad: Some new Air
After the iPhone Apple pivoted to talk about the new iPad Air. It now comes in purple! Ok, there are some other changes. The new iPad Air comes with the M1 chip, same as in the iPad Pro and the first MacBooks, just as the rumors predicted. Apple showed it being used for some photo editing, video editing, and gaming to highlight the Air’s P3 Wide Color gamut, 500 NITs brightness, and otherwise great display.
The new iPad has a new 12 MP wide angle front facing camera, which will bring Center Stage camera tracking to the machine. The iPad Air was the last iPad to get the feature, so this helps keep things consistent across devices. Apple said they improved the USB-C port so that it can get 2x the data transfer speed with accesories
Surprisingly they showed off an iMovie update on the iPad. The new feature is called “Storyboard”, allowing video makers to pick themes based around things like gaming, tutorials, crafting, etc. to help create new transitions, title cards, and framing based off these themes. While I don’t know if this will get me to edit my movies in iPad for iMovie, it could help starting video makers look much more professional. We’ll have to see if this feature will be ported to the iPhone and Mac versions of iMovie.
Lastly, 5G is coming to the iPad, much like the iPhone SE.
The iPad Air starts at $599 for 64 gigs of storage, and it comes in gray, tan, pink, purple, and teal blue. You can begin ordering them Friday, and they’ll be widely available on March 18th.
Apple Silicon: One Last Chip, the M1 Ultra
Apple announced their most powerful chip in the Apple Silicon line: the M1 Ultra. During the announcement, they mentioned that the M1 Max had a hidden feature: a die-to-die connection, called Ultra Fusion. This meant that the Apple used these to merge two M1-Max chips into a single M1 Ultra chip. Apple said this memory bus can connect over 10K signals and claimed 2.5 TB/s of bandwidth between the 2 processors. The Ultra will max out 128 GB of unified memory (RAM and GPU RAM) and 8 TB of SSD space. The CPU will have 20 cores, with 16 being Power cores and 4 being Efficiency cores and a 64-core GPU. This will also contain multiple memory accelerators specifically in media decoding and encoding.
Apple showed off getting better power efficiency with similar results to things like the i9 CPU and RTX 3080 TI according to Apple’s own charts. While we’ve not seen the throughput on other M1 chips hitting that max bandwidth claim, they’ve rarely been considered slouches, and the M1 Ultra looks to be continuing that trend.
The M1 Ultra needs a machine, and that first machine is the new Mac Studio. It looks like a Mac Mini but about 2-3 times as thick. You get an SDXC card reader and 2 USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports (depending on if you get the Max or Ultra chip inside) on the front. On the back is an HDMI port, Pro 3.5 mm jack with high-impedance support, 4 TB ports, 2 USB-A ports, a 10 gigabit ethernet jack, and the power port (surprisingly not the magnetic one on the iMac). It also has WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5. With these ports and the Ultra chip, the Studio can handle four Pro XDR displays and a 4K TV simultaneously.
Apple spent a bit of time talking about the cooling system. There’s a double fan system that pulls air up from the bottom, through the system, and out the back. It actually makes up the biggest chunk of the interior of the Studio.
The Mac Studio can be purchased either wit the M1 Max or M1 Ultra. Apple claims 3-4 times increases in performance in both CPU and GPU at least on the 27-inch iMac, but just shy of 2x increases in performance compared to the Mac Pro. Still impressive if the claims hold up. Apple also claims the Studio with M1 Ultra can handle 18 simultaneous streams.
Overall, I like it. It seems like a super-charged Mac Mini but with more of the room and ports it needs. It’s certainly lacking a lot of the modularity that the Mac Pro has, but that’s not too surprising with the switch to Systems on a Chip. It could remind some people of the trash can Mac Pro, especially when they started talking about the fan. We’ll have to wait and see.
That said, Apple did tease that the only machine left in their lineup to get the Apple Silicon treatment is the Mac Pro, but that would come in another announcement, which is great news if you’re still hopeful for that. They didn’t mention anything about the 27-inch iMac replacement, so whether the Mac Studio and Display is meant as a replacement or whether something else will come up has yet to be seen. I admit to being nervous about seeing said iMac disappear from the lineup, but I think we can agree Apple had to say something to at least let the Mac Pro users know that the Mac Studio isn’t the “new” Mac Pro, and they don’t need to start making Mac exit plans.
Mac Studio starts at $1999 with the M1 Max, with 32 GB of memory and 512 GB SSD, or $3999 for the M1 Ultra with 64 GB of unified memory and 1TB SSD, though the starting specs feel a little skimpy for a machine of this class and price.
To go with a new desktop requires a new screen, and Apple now adds a second monitor to its lineup, acting like a spiritual successor to the Thunderbolt Display of (not that) old. This is a 27″ active-inch, 5K display (meaning the screen is 27″ before counting the bezels). It has 600 NIT brightness, along with their standard P3-wide gamut color and True Tone support. The screen has an anti-reflective coating, but Apple said there was an option to get a nano-texture screen coating to further reduce reflections while maintaining color. This is to help cover places like photo and video studios that have exceptionally bright lights.
The actual monitor will have a 30-degree tilting hinge, but users can get a stand that can adjust in height as well as tilt, and there are VESA mount options as well.
Like the Apple monitors before it, this is more than just a screen. The Studio Display is is powered by an A13 inside to help power these additional features and the output of the screen. This include a 12 megapixel ultra-wide webcam and 3-mic array. This will bring Center Stage to the Mac for the first time. The Display also has a 6-speaker array, focused mostly at the bottom corners of the display, and it also support Spatial Audio.
Lastly, Apple showed that the rear of the monitor will include one Thunderbolt 4 port and 3 additional USB-C ports. This Thunderbolt port seems to be the intended way to connect the Display to your mac of Choice, as it will also push up to 96 Watts of power to charge (literally any) MacBook connected to it. Apple said 3 of these could be connected to the modern MacBook Pro either directly or via daisy chaining.
The Studio Display starts at $1599, with additional options for the nano-textured glass and mounting options.
Oh, and actually lastly, there will now be silver and black options for mouse, trackpad, and keyboard.
So what did you think? Admittedly a lot of things like the M2 chip and revised MacBook designs didn’t show, and the revised powerhouse Mac Mini ended up being the new Mac Studio. I think the iPad Air surprised be a bit, just because the M1 was the real difference between the Air and Pro (not counting screen size), so it makes me wonder what they’re going to do with the Pro in the future. Also always good to see the iPhone SE making a comeback. Let me know what you were excited or disappointed about in the poll and comments.