New 16-inch MacBook Pro Sports a Redesigned Scissor-Switch Keyboard

Responding to customer complaints and media mocking, Apple has introduced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro that features improves on its predecessor in several ways, most notably with a scissor-switch keyboard in place of the flaky butterfly-key keyboard. The 16-inch MacBook Pro replaces the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro at the top of Apple’s notebook line and starts at $2399. The 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air remain unchanged.

Apple also announced that the new Mac Pro (starting at $5999) and Apple Pro Display XDR (starting at $4999) will ship in December 2019—we’ll have more details once those are available.

New Keyboard Provides More Key Travel

Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboard features “a redesigned scissor mechanism and 1mm travel for a more satisfying key feel.” That’s a positive way to say that many people disliked typing on the previous keyboard’s butterfly mechanism. Plus, keys failed frequently, causing Apple to redesign the keyboard multiple times and offer a repair program for out-of-warranty devices.

Although the new 16-inch MacBook Pro still features a Touch Bar with a Touch ID sensor in place of the classic F-keys, another important keyboard enhancement is the return of the physical Escape key and the reinstatement of the traditional inverted-T layout for the arrow keys.

Initial reviews from pundits who received early access to the new MacBook Pro were positive, with several vocal critics of the previous keyboard saying the new one feels the way a keyboard should.

About That 16-inch Display… and Other Displays

You might expect the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s display to be its most notable feature, and it is legitimately bigger, with that 16-inch diagonal measurement and a slightly higher native resolution. That translates to a scaled default resolution of 1792-by-1120, up from 1680-by-1050, so the new MacBook Pro will show more content on the screen than the previous model. And it’s still gorgeous.

To drive that larger screen, the 16-inch MacBook Pro continues to offer both integrated (for better battery life) and discrete (for faster performance) graphics. On the latter side, you can choose from the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4 GB of memory, or the Radeon Pro 5500M with either 4 GB or 8 GB of memory. Those graphics chips simultaneously support up to four 4K external displays or up to two 6K displays.

More Power, More RAM, More Storage

Apple claims the 16-inch MacBook Pro is up to 80% faster than the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro, thanks to new 9th-generation processors: the 6-core Intel Core i7 and the 8-core Intel Core i9.

16 GB of RAM is the base level, which is good10 since we don’t recommend any less than that. For those who need a higher RAM ceiling, Apple offers 32 GB ($400) and 64 GB ($800) build-to-order options.

When it comes to SSD storage, the base level is 512 GB, but you can upgrade to 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), or a whopping 8 TB ($2400).

Radically Better Audio

Apple clearly had audio professionals in mind while designing the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Along with the beefy processors, high RAM ceilings, and massive storage options, all of which will be popular with the audio crowd, the new notebook features significantly improved audio input and speakers.

For input, the MacBook Pro relies on a three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming that Apple claims delivers a 40% reduction in hiss. Podcasters have praised the new mic array, though without suggesting that it competes with dedicated mics.

Equally compelling for anyone who listens to music is the new six-speaker, high-fidelity sound system. Its force-canceling woofers with dual opposed speaker drivers reduce unwanted and sound-distorting vibrations and enable the bass to go half an octave deeper than the previous model. There’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack too.

Slightly Larger Physical Package

Between the larger screen, the six-speaker sound system, and the 100-watt-hour battery that Apple says provides up to 11 hours of battery life, the company had to increase the size of the 16-inch MacBook Pro slightly compared to the previous 15-inch model.

It’s only about 8mm wider and 5mm deeper, which likely won’t be noticeable. However, it also weighs 4.3 pounds (1.95 kg), which is noticeably more than the 4.02 (1.82 kg) pounds of the previous model.

802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 remain standard for wireless connectivity, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro continues to offer four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports for charging and connectivity. You’ll still need a collection of dongles for connecting to USB-A peripherals, HDMI and DisplayPort monitors, Ethernet networks, and so on.

Price and Availability

You can buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro now, in either silver or space gray. The base model starts at $2399 with 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, a 6-core Intel Core i7 processor, and the AMD Radeon 5300M graphics chip. That’s a totally legit Mac, but if you need more power and can pay for it, a maxed-out configuration with 64 GB of RAM and an 8 TB SSD  would set you back $6099.

Note that the 16-inch MacBook Pro ships with macOS 10.15 Catalina and almost certainly cannot be downgraded to 10.14 Mojave.

Frankly, this new MacBook Pro is a solid upgrade, particularly for those who have been delaying due to the problems with the butterfly keyboard. The only real problem is that the smaller, lighter, and less expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are still saddled with that keyboard. We hope 2020 will bring the redesigned scissor-switch keyboard to those models as well.

(Featured image by Apple)

Apple Releases Redesigned Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR

We’re not going to beat around the bush. Apple’s new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR redefine what “pro” means. If you aren’t certain that the fastest and most powerful Mac and an expertly calibrated 6K Retina display will enable you to make more money immediately, they’re probably not for you. You should also be ready to spend at least $12,000—and likely several thousand more—on the combination. For that money, though, you’ll get a system that puts every previous Mac setup to shame.

Mac Pro

The new Mac Pro, which Apple first teased in April 2017 and formally announced over two years later in June 2019, is the result of a complete reimagining of what a Mac for pro users should offer. In contrast with the previous cylindrical design, which favored form over function, Apple consulted with numerous pro users on the design and specs of the new Mac Pro tower.

Physically, the Mac Pro utilizes a stainless steel frame that provides mounting points for a wide array of components and configurations. An aluminum housing slips off to provide 360-degree access, with the processor, graphics, and expansion slots on one side, and storage and memory on the other. One size does not fit all pro users, so you’ll be able to customize the Mac Pro to your needs. Finally, optional wheels make it easy to move the Mac Pro around a set, stage, or studio.

For the ultimate in performance, the Mac Pro relies on an Intel Xeon W processor, and you can choose from 8, 12, 16,  24, or 28 cores. Base clock speeds vary with the number of cores, but all except the 8-core model support Turbo Boost to 4.4 GHz (the 8-core model only spikes to 4.0 GHz). Similarly, the 8-core model operates memory at 2666 MHz, whereas the remaining models run memory at 2933 MHz for increased performance. With the high-end 28-core configuration, Apple is promoting performance increases over the previous 12-core Mac Pro of 300% to 500% for activities like Photoshop filters, Xcode builds, Logic Pro plug-ins, and Autodesk Maya rendering.

Speaking of RAM, the base level is 32 GB, but there are 12 DIMM slots, so you can upgrade to 48 GB, 96 GB, 192 GB, 384 GB, 768 GB, or a whopping 1.5 TB. That final RAM ceiling is available only with the 24- and 28-core models.

These days, much of a workstation’s performance comes from its dedicated GPUs, which are essential for 3D animation, 8K video compositing, and building lifelike gaming environments, along with pure number crunching. Apple integrates GPUs via the new Mac Pro Expansion Module, or MPX Module, and the Mac Pro holds two MPX Modules. Those modules come with an AMD Radeon Pro 580X, Radeon Pro Vega II, or Radeon Pro Vega II Duo, the last of which combines two Vega II GPUs in a single module. For maximum compute power, configure two MPX Modules with Radeon Pro Vega II Duos for four GPUs. Those cards also offer a variety of DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and HDMI 2.0 ports for connecting displays.

Of course, any Mac aimed at pros needs to be expandable, and the Mac Pro offers eight PCI Express expansion slots: four double-wide slots, three single-wide slots, and one half-length slot preconfigured with an Apple I/O card. Apple also offers the Afterburner PCI Express card, which accelerates ProRes and ProRes RAW codecs in Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime Player X, and supported third-party apps.

That Apple I/O card provides two USB 3 ports using the USB-A connector, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and two 10-gigabit Ethernet ports. The top of the Mac Pro case (shown below) provides another two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Of course, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 are built in.

In terms of storage, the Mac Pro starts with a 256 GB SSD for those whose data is all stored externally. However, you can also upgrade to 1, 2, or 4 TB SSDs, and Apple’s T2 security chip automatically encrypts all onboard storage.

All this computing power requires lots of electrical power, so Apple has outfitted the Mac Pro with a 1.4-kilowatt power supply. It will generate a lot of heat as well, so the design facilitates thermal cooling, with heat pipes directing hot air away from the CPU and dispersing it along aluminum fin stacks. Three impeller fans keep cool air moving across the CPU and GPUs, while a blower on the other side pulls air across the memory, storage, and power supply.

Pro Display XDR

If you’re a high-end software developer or audio pro, you may not care that much about your monitor. But if you spend your days working with video or graphics, you may want to consider Apple’s new Pro Display XDR to accompany your Mac Pro. It starts at $4999.

For starters, the Pro Display XDR is a 6K Retina display, which provides nearly 40% more screen real estate than a 5K display. It runs at 6016-by-3384 pixels at 218 pixels per inch. For those working with 4K video, that means you can see your video and have room for your tools, all on one screen.

It’s also likely the best-looking display you’ve ever used. It features 1000 nits of sustained brightness, and peaks at 1600 nits—most typical desktop monitors provide only 350 nits of brightness. That results in a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. It also provides a P3 wide color gamut and true 10-bit color, enabling it to produce more than 1 billion colors accurately.

The Pro Display XDR offers reference modes that enable you to match its output—color space, white point, gamma, and brightness—to the requirements for HDR, HD, SD video, and digital cinema, not to mention general photography, design, and print. You can even create custom reference modes.

Most displays suffer if you’re not looking straight at them, but with new polarizing technology, the Pro Display XDR boasts a wide viewing angle that provides up to 25 times better off-axis contrast than a typical LCD screen. Apple also engineered it for low reflectivity, and for the ultimate in matte screens, you can pay $1000 more for nano-texture glass that cuts reflections even further.

Not surprisingly, the Pro Display XDR is a hefty unit. It’s 23.8 inches (71.8 cm) wide, 16.2 inches (41.2 cm) high, and 1.1 (2.7 cm) inches deep, and it tips the scales at 16.5 pounds (7.5 kg). On the back, you’ll find one Thunderbolt 3 port and three USB-C ports.

What you won’t get with the Pro Display XDR out of the box is a stand. You can choose between Apple’s Pro Stand for $999 or the $199 VESA Mount Adapter, which lets you put the Pro Display XDR on an arm attached to a desk or wall. The beefy Pro Stand, which weighs in at 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg), offers a total height adjustment of 12 cm and can tilt from -5º to +25º. When using the Pro Stand, you can also rotate the Pro Display XDR from landscape to portrait to choose the orientation that you prefer.

Configure Carefully

As you can tell, the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR provide a vast array of options, and at the prices Apple is charging, you want to make sure you’re getting the configuration that best fits your needs and budget. So before you order, get in touch with us to talk through what options you’re most likely to need.

(Images by Apple)

Catching up: New MacBook Pros, New iPod touch, OS Updates

Apple is well known for its splashy media events, now usually held in the Steve Jobs Theater at the company’s new Cupertino campus. But Apple reserves such events for major announcements. Smaller announcements, such as minor updates to particular product lines, operating system updates, or new repair programs, get only a press release, if that.

But just because a change doesn’t merit much fuss doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting—if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to buy a new Mac, for instance, an announcement of a small MacBook Pro revision might be exactly what you want to hear.

Here’s a roundup of Apple’s recent announcements in May 2019.

New MacBook Pro Models Feature Faster CPUs and New Butterfly Keyboards

Although Apple has a reputation for innovation, the company should also be lauded for its evolutionary changes, which are much more common. To wit, Apple quietly updated the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models equipped with a Touch Bar with faster CPUs while keeping the prices the same.

You can now buy a 15-inch MacBook Pro with the latest 9th-generation 8-core Intel Core i9 processor, making it the fastest MacBook Pro ever—the previous model offered only a 6-core processor. The 15-inch models also offer faster graphics processors as options.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro models didn’t receive the same level of changes, but they gained slightly faster 8th-generation Intel processors that provide minor performance improvements.

Both models now come with the fourth generation of Apple’s controversial butterfly keyboard. We’ll have more on that issue soon.

Apple Launches MacBook Pro Repair Program for “Flexgate”

13-inch MacBook Pros from 2016 are susceptible to a display-related problem the press has dubbed “Flexgate.” According to Apple, affected Macs exhibit one or both of these symptoms:

  • The display backlight continuously or intermittently shows vertical bright areas along the entire bottom of the screen.
  • The display backlight stops working completely.

The problem is related to a flex cable connected to the display that’s too short and too fragile; some repair experts have suggested that failure is inevitable.

If your 13-inch Mac is showing either of these symptoms, you can now take advantage of Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program to get a free repair. You can have your Mac fixed by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, and if you already paid for a repair, you can request a refund from Apple.

iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 Add New TV App; iOS 12.3.1 Fixes Calling Bug; macOS Addresses ZombieLoad

As you’ve no doubt noticed in your Software Update notifications, Apple recently updated all its operating systems: iOS 12.3.1, macOS 10.14.5, watchOS 5.2.1, and tvOS 12.3. If you’re already running iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave, it’s fine to update.

iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 are notable primarily because they include a new version of Apple’s TV app. This app now provides access to “channels,” by which Apple means subscription-based streaming video services like HBO and Showtime. Apart from letting you subscribe to such services inside the app and playing content from them in the app, the new app looks and works much like the previous version. The new app will also support Apple’s original content on the Apple TV+ service later this year.

Shortly after iOS 12.3 shipped, Apple released iOS 12.3.1, which fixes a critical bug that could prevent your iPhone from making or receiving phone calls. So if you upgraded to iOS 12.3, be sure to update to iOS 12.3.1 right away.

Similarly, it’s worth updating to macOS 10.14.5 to protect against a security vulnerability called ZombieLoad, and if you’re still running 10.12 Sierra or 10.13 High Sierra, be sure to install Security Update 2019-003 for the same protection.

New iPod touch Gains the A10 Chip and a 256 GB Configuration

Finally, Apple showed a little love to the littlest iOS device, the diminutive iPod touch. In the new model, Apple swapped the old A8 chip for a faster A10 chip that promises up to twice the performance. That added performance enables the new iPod touch to support Group FaceTime calls and enhanced augmented reality (AR) games.

The only other change in the iPod touch is that Apple now sells a 256 GB configuration for $399, joining the 32 GB configuration at $199 and the 128 GB configuration for $299.

(All images courtesy of Apple)

New AirPods Add “Hey Siri”,More Talk Time & Optional Wireless Charging

If you use Apple’s AirPods, you’re probably a fan. But if you haven’t tried them, you may not realize what you’re missing. They pair quickly and reliably with all your Apple devices, provide excellent audio quality, and sit comfortably in most people’s ears (more so than the wired EarPods). The AirPods are Apple’s most popular accessory—the company sold 35 million in 2018.

Apple has now unveiled the second-generation AirPods, the first hardware update since its initial release in December 2016. A new Apple-designed H1 chip designed for headphones provides faster connections, more talk time (up to 3 hours), and the convenience invoking Siri with “Hey Siri.” (With the first-generation AirPods, you can configure a double-tap to bring up Siri—when the AirPods are active, look in Settings > Bluetooth > AirPods.)

The new AirPods still cost $159 with a standard Lightning-based charging case, but Apple has also introduced the Wireless Charging Case, which is bundled with the new AirPods for $199 or available separately for both the first- and second-generation AirPods for $79. The Wireless Charging Case works with any Qi-compatible charging mat. It features a tiny LED indicator light on the front of the case to show the case’s charge status.

Considering a New iMac? Wait No Longer—Updates Are Here!

The iMac has long been the core of Apple’s desktop lineup, but it hasn’t received any updates since June 2017. Now, however, Apple has quietly updated the 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display and the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display while keeping prices the same. The bargain-basement non-Retina 21.5-inch iMac remains for sale, but received no changes.

These updates are targeted at improving performance, so you won’t see any changes to the case, screen, or even networking capabilities. But if faster CPUs, GPUs, and memory are what you want, now’s a good time to buy.

The new 21.5-inch iMac boasts speedier 8th-generation Intel quad-core processors and an optional 6-core processor at the top of the line that delivers up to 60% faster performance than previous models. For even greater speed boosts—Apple claims up to 2.4 times faster performance—look to the 27-inch iMac, which now offers 9th-generation 6-core Intel Core i5 processors running at 3.0, 3.1, or 3.7 GHz. If that’s not enough, you can choose an 8-core 3.6 GHz Intel Core i9 processor for the best performance short of an iMac Pro.

Modern computers rely heavily on graphics processors for both silky smooth screen drawing and computationally intensive tasks. By default, both new iMac models have updated versions the previous Radeon Pro graphics chips, but anyone who needs more power can instead choose a blazingly fast Radeon Pro Vega. For the 21.5-inch model, Apple says the Radeon Pro Vega is up to 80% faster; for the 27-inch iMac, it’s up to 50% faster.

Note that both iMacs now use 2666 MHz RAM instead of the previous 2400 MHz RAM. It probably won’t make much of a performance difference, but it’s worth keeping the speed in mind if you’re buying RAM separately from the iMac.

For those ordering a Custom Order iMac from us, if the options you want are in the top-level configuration, start there rather than in the next configuration down. It’s possible to configure two Macs to have the same options for the same price but get a better Radeon Pro graphics processor if you start from the top-level configuration.

For storage, we generally recommend SSDs over Fusion Drives—add external storage if you need more space. Whatever you do, don’t buy an iMac with an internal hard drive because it will destroy the performance.

For those looking for the ultimate power in an iMac Pro, Apple also quietly added options for 256 GB of RAM (for a whopping $5200) and a Radeon Pro Vega 64X GPU ($700) while simultaneously dropping the prices on some other RAM and storage options.

Apple Updates iPad Lineup with new iPad mini and iPad Air

iPad mini lovers, rejoice! If you’ve been holding onto an aging iPad mini because of its small size, you’ll be happy to learn that Apple has at long last released a new 7.9-inch iPad mini with modern-day technologies. Joining it in the lineup is a new 10.5-inch iPad Air that turns out to be a retooled iPad Pro for a lot less money.

iPad mini Gains A12 Bionic Chip and Apple Pencil Support

It has been hard to recommend the iPad mini 4—last updated in September 2015—for several years now because its hardware was increasingly long in the tooth, and Apple hadn’t seemed enthused about updating it.

That has all changed with the fifth-generation iPad mini, which boasts the same speedy A12 Bionic chip that powers today’s iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max. It provides over three times the performance as the iPad mini 4’s A8 chip and graphics that are nine times faster. The other huge change is that the iPad mini now lets you use the $99 Apple Pencil for drawing, taking notes, and more. Note that the iPad mini supports only with the first-generation Apple Pencil, not the second-generation model that’s specific to last year’s iPad Pro models.

Another welcome, but less notable, changes include a screen that is 25% brighter, displays more colors, and supports Apple’s True Tone technology for matching the color temperature of the screen to the light in your surroundings. The Wi-Fi + Cellular model of the iPad mini also now supports faster gigabit-class LTE connections and the improved Bluetooth 5.0.

The basic specs of the rear-facing camera on the new iPad mini haven’t changed—it’s still an 8-megapixel camera—but it likely takes better photos and videos thanks to the A12 Bionic chip’s computational photography capabilities. Plus, the front-facing FaceTime HD camera can now capture 1080p video at 30 frames per second for better FaceTime calls.

You can order the iPad mini now in silver, space gray, and gold. For 64 GB of storage, a Wi-Fi–only model costs $399, whereas a 256 GB model is $549. Adding cellular connectivity bumps the prices to $529 and $679.

iPad Air Lowers the 10.5-inch iPad Pro Price with a Less-Capable Camera

Despite its name, the new 10.5-inch iPad Air has far more in common with the now-discontinued 10.5-inch iPad Pro from 2017 than it does with the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 from 2014.

Apple has clearly taken the iPad Pro and modernized it with the current A12 Bionic chip, gigabit-class LTE, eSIM, and Bluetooth 5.0. But to cut $150 from the iPad Pro’s $649 starting price, Apple replaced the iPad Pro’s rear-facing camera with a less-capable model and traded the quad speaker system for stereo speakers. That’s not to say that the iPad Air’s rear-facing camera is a problem—it’s the same 8-megapixel camera as in the iPad mini—it’s just not at the level of the 12-megapixel camera that was in the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

Like the old iPad Pro, the iPad Air supports the first-generation Apple Pencil and the original $159 Smart Keyboard (again, not the Smart Keyboard Folio for the 2018 iPad Pro models).

As with the iPad mini, Apple offers only two tiers of storage, 64 GB for $499 and 256 GB for $649, and the cellular option increases the pricing to $629 and $779. The color choices are again silver, space gray, and gold.

Other iPads

Apple’s slate of iPads makes a lot of sense now, with this new fifth-generation iPad mini and third-generation iPad Air joining the sixth-generation iPad and the 11-inch iPad Pro and third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

If you want small, get an iPad mini. If you want cheap, buy the iPad. If you’re looking for a bigger screen or Apple keyboard (the Smart Keyboard is excellent), go for the iPad Air. And if you have the budget, the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models are fabulous. Apple has a helpful online comparison tool, or feel free to ask us what we’d recommend for you.