Apple announced updates to its MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini laptops in a pre-recorded video presentation filmed on its campus in California Tuesday. These new computers may look the same, but they’re actually the most substantial updates Apple has made to its computers in 15 years.
The biggest change is that Apple has moved away from Intel processors to its own custom Apple M1 chip. Apple’s A-series chips have powered the iPhone and iPad since 2010, but this is the first time the company has brought similar technology to the Mac. This switch has two major benefits: increased speed, and far better power efficiency.
All of the computers Apple announced today have the same M1 chip, which has eight CPU (processor) cores, and eight GPU (graphics) cores. The processor enables features like WiFi 6 support, which means they’ll be able to upload and download files a lot more quickly if you have a fast connection.
One of the most welcome new features coming to Apple’s updated MacBooks is a far better iSight camera, which features advanced lighting techniques that keep you looking visible in a dim room. It also features a new auto-focus system that ensures you don’t look blurry if you move around. Apple debuted this camera upgrade with the iMac desktop computers it released earlier this year, and it’s a welcome improvement in these laptops.
The new MacBook Air is now twice as fast as the previous generation, and has up to five times the graphics horsepower. Apple has also doubled the speed of its SSD (solid state drive), so working with larger files will work a lot more smoothly. This leap in performance makes the MacBook Air a much more capable machine, and Apple itself cited resource heavy tasks like 4K video editing as being possible.
Despite this power, Apple says the MacBook Air can get up to 18 hours of battery life when watching movies, or 15 hours when surfing the web.The MacBook Air starts at the same $999 price, and you can preorder it today.
Apple’s M1 will also appear in an update to its Mac Mini desktop computer. The company says this Mac Mini is three times faster than the one it replaces, and has up to six times the graphics performance. This larger performance leap is possible because the Mac Mini doesn’t have to worry about balancing power and battery life. Apple actually cut the price of the Mac Mini, which starts at $699, and is available for preorder it today.
The final Mac Apple announced today was an update to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The M1 allows this machine to be 2.8 times faster than the version Apple released earlier this year, and has five times the graphics performance.
The 13-inch laptop also gained the “studio quality” microphones that were previously available in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Finally, Apple says the new 13-inch MacBook Pro has a battery that can last up to 20 hours when watching videos and 17 hours when surfing the web. That’s the best battery life Apple has ever offered in a laptop. The new MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 and is available for preorder it today.
These new battery claims may seem inflated, and the actual basis will depend on the apps you use, your screen brightness settings, and whether you’re using WiFi and Bluetooth heavily. The efficiency of the A-series processors allow the iPad to get 10 hours of actual battery life for a decade, so you should expect a real upgrade in daily use on these new MacBooks.
Another big benefit of moving away from Intel processors to Apple Silicon is enabling Macs to run iOS apps.
This means you can run your favorite iPhone or iPad apps on the Mac with no reduction in performance. App developers have the option to opt out of this program — Facebook has announced its iOS app will not be available on the Mac — but millions of new apps will become available on the Mac App Store on day one.
This is the most significant upgrade to the Mac’s software experience, and will have a substantial impact on how you can use your computer for professional work or leisure. Critically, Apple’s new computers can also run apps that weren’t designed for the M1 chip. If you’re upgrading from an older machine, the apps you rely on will still work.
All of these new Macs will be released next week, and run MacOS Big Sur, a new operating system that will also come to older Mac models as a free download on November 12. Big Sur features an updated look, and improvements to Apple’s apps, including Messages, Maps, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and Safari. This new version of MacOS brings additional security and privacy settings to the Mac as well.
Apple updates its computers on an annual basis, but these new M1-equipped models represent the largest jump in performance the Mac has seen in over a decade. Not only are they more powerful, the energy efficiency makes the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro an even better choice for travelers, remote workers, and students. Apple has always been reliant on advancements from Intel to make its computers more powerful, but that’s no longer the case. Now that it’s brought Apple-designed processors to the Mac, the company’s computers have an advantage PC makers can’t compete with.