It’s the time of … October … again. Once again, Apple is hosting an event in October shortly after its big iPhone event in September. This time it’s a Monday. While this is a bit unusual, it won’t stop us from speculating. For this event, the theme is ‘unleashed’ which could mean anything from AirTags mounted on a dog collar to letting the dogs out in terms of performance.
Even though my little puppy is sitting on my lap as I write this, and even though he doesn’t care about the Apple product line at all, let’s let our spirits go and see if we can sniff out some details. What can we expect? I’m going to stay away from the various accessory rumors and focus on Macs.
What is missing from the Mac range?
A good approach is to take a look at what Apple has left behind. Apple offers M1 Apple Silicon versions of the Mac mini, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and 24-inch iMac. Apple still offers Intel versions of the 27-inch iMac and Mac Pro. The iMac Pro, which Apple no longer sells, is completely absent from the action.
Let’s get rid of the Mac Pro; I don’t expect Apple to introduce a Mac Pro replacement this year. The performance of this machine is such that, for the uber-pros who really need it now, it’s probably still safe to spend between $ 6,000 and $ 50,000 on a machine you can count on to do all that. it must do, although it will probably be out of date quite quickly. Remember, this thing can take loads of RAM, a bunch of traditional video cards, and a bunch of processor cores.
I have no doubt that a year or two later, as Apple perfects the capacity and yields of Apple Silicon, we will see incredible performance from the top-of-the-line Mac Pro paw. It will come back to life, but not in 2021.
Not quite a new generation processor
The big wait for 2021 is a version boosted by the specifications of the M1 chip. Without a doubt, the M1 freshman chip was a top superstar, but it’s limited. So far, we haven’t seen it capable of supporting more than 16GB of RAM or two Thunderbolt 3 ports. I’m guessing that’s a limitation of the silicon itself, and we’ve seen the top of it. what this chip can produce.
Which brings us to the M1X processor rumors. Earlier in the year there had been rumors of an M1X or M2, but the rumor mill seems to have settled on the M1X nomenclature for now, so that’s what we’ll be using.
The M1 has eight cores: four high performance Firestorm cores and four lower performance Icestorm cores. Don’t expect the M1X to be a drastically new generation of chips. Instead, find the M1X to fill in the holes that the M1 left open. These include support for 32 or 64 GB of RAM, support for four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and possibly more. Maybe there will be more cores, going from four each of Firestorm and Icestorm to, maybe, six or eight each.
These performance improvements don’t matter to the lower end of the Mac user spectrum. Everything indicates that M1 based Macs are more than enough for most Mac users. I’ve even replaced almost all of my Intel Macs with M1 versions, and they’re actually pretty fast for most (but not all) of my work. Any rumor that the M1X Macs are aimed at low-end Mac users would bark in the wrong tree.
So if we want to see an M1X, it’s to serve the needs of more professional users, and not for $ 52,000 of extreme, tech-savvy professional users, of course. These are the business users who need more RAM and more ports.
What could be introduced
My editors have harassed me for educated guesses about what will be presented on Monday. So let’s dig.
14-inch MacBook Pro
First of all, of course, we can expect a new MacBook Pro. Rumor has it that there is a 14-inch model with a 120Hz display. Given that Apple has innovated in iPad Pro screens, this could be true.
Now here are some of the big questions. First, will Apple finally get rid of the Touch Bar? This is one of Apple’s most egregious UI errors, and it has been almost universally ignored. The fact that it sacrificed a physical escape key to the Touch Bar’s design, and was paired with the equally maligned butterfly keyboard, made the Touch Bar a complete mess.
Apple fixed the butterfly keyboard with its so-called Magic Keyboard (magical, because it wasn’t that bad) in 2020, so we can expect the new MacBook Pro 2021 M1X to sport the Magic Keyboard as well.
But the next big question is about ports. Intel MacBook Pro, introduced in 2016, had four Thunderbolt 3 ports. This disappointed most business users, who sorely missed the SD card slot, an HDMI output, and a few old-fashioned USB-A ports. The MacBook Pro M1 had even fewer slots, limiting users to just two Thunderbolt 3 ports. I wouldn’t expect the MacBook M1X we are planning to include an HDMI port, but four Thunderbolt 3 ports would bring it back to the pre-M1 standard.
As for the SD card slot, this is just a rumor. But given that SD cards are widely used in DSLR photography, drone video, and 3D printing – which, no coincidence, fits the profile of many of Apple’s most creative business users – it would help if Apple included an SD card slot. with this new machine. And, unless there are matrix-related issues with the M1X, I would expect to see 32GB and 64GB of RAM available as well.
I have my doubts. Apple has never opted for the useful over the elegant. We will see.
16-inch MacBook Pro
Then the missing 16-inch MacBook Pro in action. The current 16-inch Intel device supports a maximum Retina display resolution of 3072 x 1920 pixels. We know this is well within the capabilities of the M1 chip, as the 24-inch iMac M1 supports 4480 x 2520 resolution.
But, with supply chain issues, can Apple release 16-inch screens? I guess if we don’t see a 16in MacBook Pro M1X it will be supply chain related.
Having said that, it’s also possible that if Apple adds ports like the SD card slot and more Thunderbolt 3 ports, they could limit that to the 16in model as the case will be much larger.
27-inch (or 32-inch iMac)
Another Mac missing in action is the 27-inch iMac. The 24-inch iMac has been reviewed from the inside out, and there’s plenty of room inside. But it is possible that the M1 could not achieve the resolution of 5,120 x 2,880 offered in the 27-inch Intel machine.
That said, we can certainly expect a great iMac, as the pros often complain about needing as much display space as they can get. But will we see a 27-inch model, or will Apple bump the iMac to 32-inch, echoing the 32-inch size (but hopefully not the mind-blowing price tag) of the Pro Display XDR?
Again, expect more cores, more RAM options, but probably no more ports than the 24in model.
Mac mini M1X
We’ve heard rumors of a redesigned Mac mini, with tipsters claiming roughly the same shape but half the thickness. I’ve always felt that the Mac mini is misunderstood, not just by users but by Apple itself.
The current long-lasting form factor is nice. Most Mac mini users don’t claim a half inch cut off from the top. But more cores, more RAM, and even more Thunderbolt ports? Throw me a bone. Otherwise, the M1 Mac mini is surprisingly good as it is. It has an HDMI port, an Ethernet port (or even a 10GB Ethernet port) and a few USB-A ports.
But I also have a potential bad feeling. If Apple crashes the Mac mini, will they lose the Ethernet or HDMI ports? I wouldn’t let them pass. But, I don’t shih tzu, that would be a terrible mistake.
What to boo on Monday
I’d be pretty surprised if we don’t see this upgrade to the 14in MacBook Pro. I’m pretty much halfway there in terms of a 16in MacBook Pro or a 32in iMac. I try to be vigilant on the Mac mini, but Apple has often been disappointed with this model. Even so, since we’re talking about Apple, I’m sure there will be some drool-worthy devices.
Join the pack on Monday. ZDNet will provide full and continuous coverage. You can count on that, real fur.
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