Apple Finally Gave Its Computers a Long-Needed Upgrade
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Finally, Apple is returning the Mac to its roots. Once again the mega name is creating powerful, well-designed, practical products. With the new MacBook Pro and Mac mini, and the M2 chip powering these models, we're back to paying for power instead of brand with Apple. Back between the early 2000’s to the mid 2010’s, you either had or knew someone who had an iMac in the family computer room. It was cool. It was ahead of its time.
There was a reason for that. Mac OS may be rigid compared to some more open source operating systems, but that's what makes it such a great family computer. It's easy to use, powerful, and was a great preliminary creative teaching tool for kids and adults alike.
The problem was that for the last five to seven years (not that we're counting) Apple, as a whole, had a sort of fall from grace. Inflated prices, lackluster power, and some silly “innovations” (I’m looking at you, MacBook Pro touch bar). And it was sad. While everyone's got their own preferences and breaking points, it pushed me to take the Microsoft plunge. Imagine that. A designer, animator, and creative, leaving Apple? Unheard of. Now I’m no Apple fan boy, nor a mortal enemy, but I try to not make blood oaths to any company. This time around, the suitors over on the Mac team won me back over with humility, invention, and a remarkable new little chip.
Two years ago, Apple launched the Apple silicon, A.K.A. the M1 processor. But who cares, really? What does that mean and how does it help? Well, the long and short of it is that the M1 is a chip built by Apple, for Apple computers, and it kicks ass. Previously, Apple used chips from Intel and other big brands. To be clear, those brands make killer chips, but it was like mixing Legos and Mega Blocks. Sure, it will work, but not as well as it could.
With the power of silicon and a return to traditional power house design, these laptops became exponentially better. But until this year, the chips were reserved for more expensive MacBook Pro models, all be it cheaper than previous MacBook Pros. The M1 was being more geared to creative and high power professionals.
After that remarkable little soiree with the M1 in the MacBook Pro, Apple has shown an interest in bringing the power of Apple silicon to everyone, and in doing so is replacing one of the most beloved Mac products of all time.
Now, let's get to it: Last week, Apple launched a slew of new products with the little bionic brother to the M1, of course named the M2. The M2, which comes in various Apple-fied versions (Pro and Max), refines and perfects what the M1 did at an even cheaper price point. That's right, I said cheaper. Apple products have never been cheap, rarely do they want to be “affordable.” But this pivot is a near makeover for the Mac community.
Of course, you can still get MacBook Pros for $4k plus, but now the cheaper options are pretty comparable. I unfortunately fell in love with the new MacBook Pros from my design and animation side. (I have never saved more time rendering.) But enough of my Super Nerd Corner. The real star of the show is the new Mac mini.
This new Mac mini with the M2 chip is the spiritual predecessor to that iMac 27-inch we all grew up with. It’s a powerhouse: Productive, versatile, and affordable. Actually affordable. The new Mac mini, with the killer M2 and unified memory, starts at $599. Sure it doesn't come in a monitor package like it used to, but anyone that's part of the work from home workforce already has a monitor at home.
The barebones package is what kept the Mac mini's price down. Mac minis are used across the world for servers, digital signage, security systems, and more mainly based on its lightweight, transportable, yet extremely flexible form factor. We got to sit down for some rare direct commentary from Apple.
Colleen Novielli, part of Mac Product Marketing, told us that the Mac mini gets used in many different business applications—from compiling cold code and compressing assets to running a digital signage and an actual storefront. "It's really had quite the evolution over its life," she said. "With Apple silicon, we've been able to take this experience to an entirely new level.”
While I wasn't in the room for the product meetings, I have to imagine Apple realized it was starting to lose ground in the computer industry. But, they're returning to what made them special in the first place. A damn good accessible OS, that is safe, and built to be the perfect center for kids, adults, creators, grandparents, or anyone who wants something that works well without having to worry about it.
Now, I try not to dive into specs like a Big Nerd. Nor do I like to swing too far into the mechanics of how things work, I have a cool guy reputation to uphold (don't fact check that). But allow me to indulge vaguely. The M2, Mac Mini, and Macbook Pro, change the way we have to read specs. Sure, you may have a work laptop currently with 16GB of RAM. I almost assure you, with the M2 and 8GB of unified memory you can do just as much, if not more.
I need a lot of power, and have never seen standardly small RAM work so freakishly well. Novielli, our friend over in Mac Product, says that performance uptick I felt comes from because the M2 is actually working with unified memory, which looks to be the next wave of computing access memory. "You can even do an aspiring pro performance on this entry configuration with eight gigs, because of its unified memory—offloading progress acceleration to the media engine, so the CPU can be freed up to do other things," she said. "It brings this next level performance even to something at the base level configuration.”
And for those of us who want a ton of power: I'm currently using an M2 MacBook Pro with 64GB of RAM, and it functions better then my specialty home-brewed desktop with 96GB of RAM. I am determined to find out how, but for now just trust me: These things are powerhouses. I mean hell, gaming was even killer on it. It’s no gaming tower, but streaming games off of Gampass, Ps5 remote play, and trying Resident Evil 8 (one of the new titles built for Mac OS) all worked great.
Plus, I can connect any game controller now with relative ease and no mapping headache. I’m not dumb; it's not going to replace gaming computers, but you sure can do a hell of a lot more gaming on it than before.
It’s time for the Mac and the Apple ecosystem to return to invention and, most importantly, accessibility. No more silly vanity inventions, and a return to the roots for learning and creation. There’s never been a better time with the widespread use of iPhones and Apple's ecosystem choke hold to get into mac.
From native messaging, Airdrop file sharing, screen extending on iPad, and even handoff where you can open apps mid-activity on different devices, it's sort of incredible. I’ve been away from Mac for a while, for good reason, but it's nice to see an old friend return. Keep it up, Apple. Next step: Add some innovation to iPhones.
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