Apple announced new hardware at the recent WWDC 2013, and both the new MacBook Air models and the futuristic Mac Pro have excited, and divided, both reviewers and fans. Much of the post-announcement fuss has focused on what the two model-line updates might mean about the upcoming new iMac models and the “amazing” new model that CRE may be adding to its MacBook Pro rental inventory. We’ll leave the speculation to others and deal with the facts, okay? Here we go…
A new Air there!
Most reviewers sang the same song about the new MacBook Air models—something like, “Yippee, they’re here, but all of the changes are under the hood and the new Air is, you know, evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary.” In fact, the under-the-hood changes are few, but one is major: the new Haswell Core i5 CPU, which sucks just half the power of the previous Ivy Bridge processors and thus nearly doubles battery life. The new Air models differ only in screen size, 11 and 13 inches, with two flash storage options of 128GB or 256GB (resulting in four model versions). All share the same dual-core 1.3GHz Haswell Core i5 CPU, so they also have the newly incorporated Intel HD Graphics 5000 that also boosts performance (though not as much as Apple claims). Finally, Apple is among the first computer makers to use ultraspeedy 802.11ac WiFi. All good stuff.
Of course, there are plenty of criticisms, too. While Apple is boasting in every media crack and crevice about the “amazing” battery life, other laptops with the Haswell chip, like the Sony Vaio Pro 13, are getting even better performance. An even more disturbing observation is one that is being made about many of Apple’s latest computer designs—upgrading RAM and hard drives is getting tougher all the time as Apple continues “closing their mostly-open systems” and reducing opportunities for owner upgrading, a trend that arguably began with the 2012 MacBook Pro. The same argument is being rolled out as a reaction to the new paradigm introduced by the upcoming Mac Pro. It appears that Apple was ready to counter the negative press. Cupertino has a plan!
Will pros buy Mac Pros?
The new Mac Pro is a work of art, but is it the next-paradigm platform for media pros to create their art? Initial reviews, again, were mixed, with the “hooray for Apple” clique saying, well, “Hooray!” while others took the trouble (and time) to examine the specs, the math, and the probable (real-world) meaning. The new inner cooling core, the small form factor, Thunderbolt 2 at 20Gbps, USB 3—sounds pretty potent, right? Well, yes. But some reviewers point out that internal upgrades and expansion are limited, suggesting a return to the rats’ nests of cables from yesteryear. Um, but aren’t more devices going wireless all the time, including hard drives, rechargers, printers, and more? That answer would be, “Yep.”
Apple is not abandoning as many technologies as it once did with its model-line upgrades. With the original Thunderbolt (and the new T2), Apple saw fit to retro-engineer the standard so that it would continue supporting multiple device types through the connector originally called DisplayPort. It offers access to FireWire, FireWire 800, USB of all flavors, and other standards, through standard cabling and device-chains. Contrary to some rumors over the last year, Apple has made a credible effort to update its flagship computer. Now if they can keep pro users happy with Final Cut and this new Pro model, it’ll be one heck of a sustained turnaround. We’ll keep you posted!