WWDC 2017: The Hardware Barrage of iMacs, MacBooks, iPads, and HomePods

WWDC 2017: The Hardware Barrage of iMacs, MacBooks, iPads, and HomePods

Make no mistake, WWDC is Apple’s developers conference. Its primary mission is announcing what’s coming next to Apple’s operating system line up. That said, hardware is not out of the question. This year’s keynote had an unusually large amount of hardware across 5 different product categories. Three of those were completely new or radically redesigned. With as Mac focused as it was, we’ll start there.

MacBook


The big redesign updates to Apple’s notebook range happened in 2015 and 2016. 2017 is spec upgrade to Intel’s latest 7th Generation Kaby Lake Core CPUs. The 12-inch MacBook remains the only Mac in Apple’s lineup to use USB-C only instead of USB-C + Thunderbolt 3. Its price also remains the same. However, its specs are now worthy of its price tag with a very useable 8GB of memory and a 256GB hard drive. Unlike the 11” MacBook Air, this can be your everyday computer.

The low end model comes with 256GB of SSD storage and a 1.2ghz dual core Core m3 for $1299 while the high end model has a 1.3ghz Core i5, and 512GB of storage. Both have 8GB of Low Profile DDR3 memory and Intel HD 615 Graphics. Both models are now shipping.

MacBook Pro


Like its little brother, the 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pros got an upgrade to Kaby Lake. With the exception of a new 13” 128GB model to effectively replace the low end 13” MacBook Air, there is not a whole lot different from the 2016 models except for CPUs and graphics. Same configurations, same price points, same storage options, same upper limit of 16GB DDR3. For 2017 the 13” models come with Iris Plus 640 and 650 integrated graphics while the 15” models get your choice of a 2GB AMD Radeon Pro 555 or 4GB Radeon Pro 560.

The Non-Touch Bar 13” has a 2.3ghz Dual Core i5 CPU and gives you your choice of 128GB of storage for $1299 or $256 for $1499. The Touch Bar 13” comes with 3.1ghz Core i5 in $1799 for 256gb or $1999 for 512GB. The 15” model comes in at $2399 for a 2.8ghz Quad core i7, 256GB of storage, and the 2GB Radeon Pro 555. The higher end model comes with a 2.9ghz CPU, the Pro 560, and 512GB of storage. Addition options are available BTO. They ship today.

iMac


All ranges of the iMac got their first big update in quite a while. Like the MacBooks, they get Kaby Lake, albeit of the desktop variety. They come in 3 Different models: 21.5” Full HD, 21.5” 4K, and 27” 5k. All models of the iMac have been upgraded with modern I/O. No matter what model you choose, you get 4 USB 3.1 Type-A connectors and two Thunderbolt 3 ports as well as a SDXC slot, Gigabit ether, and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. With the exception of the Full HD model which has the Intel Iris Plus 640, all iMacs for 2017 come with dedicated Radeon Pro 500-series graphics. The 21.5” 4K model gives you the choose of the Radeon Pro 555 or 560; the 27” 5K offers the Radeon Pro 570, 575, and 580. The displays are 43% brighter than previous models and display up to 1 billion colors.

The new iMacs are shipping now. The Full HD model starts at a very affordable $1099 while $200 more gets you the entry level 4k iMac. The 27” 5K starts at $1799, BTO options give you up to 32GB of storage and 1TB of SSD storage or 2TB of fusion drive storage.

iMac Pro


If you want the Trash Can Mac Pro in an iMac, your wish has been granted in the iMac Pro. This Space Gray Beauty shares its screen and looks with the 27” 5k iMac, but that’s all it shares. Internally, its pure workstation. The iMac Pro gives you the option of 8, 10, or even 18-core Xeon CPUs. Ram has a very tower-like 128GB maximum of 2666mhz DDR4 error correcting memory. Storage is all SSD with up to 4TB. Graphics are provided by workstation class Radeon Vega-series chips with up to 16GB of video memory. While the normal iMac had 2 Thunderbolt Ports, the Pro doubles it to 4. Those four can drive up to two additional 5K displays in addition to its own. To top it off, the iMac Pro comes standard with 10 gig-E ethernet.

In short, this is not an iMac pretending to be a workstation. Quite the opposite, its a workstation trying to pose as an iMac. When shipping it also has a workstation level starting price: $4999. It’ll come in December. Make no mistake, this is the fastest and most advanced computer Apple has ever made.

iPad Pro


The iMac Pro wasn’t the only Pro model Apple’s introduce today. The iPad Pro got an update as well. Both models were upgraded with the 6-Core A10X fusion system on chip with 12-core GPU and high end displays with ProMotion technology for an an active refresh rate up to 120hz. the iPad Pro comes in two sizes: the 12.9” starting at a familiar $799 and a 10.5” model replacing the 9.7” for $649. The larger display on the smaller model allows for a full size on screen keyboard and distances itself from the consumer model. Like pretty much everything else, you can get your hands on them now.

HomePod


Rumors of Apple’s competitor to the Amazon Echo and Google Home proved to be true in the form of the Apple HomePod. As expected, the HomePod is based around Apple Music, Siri, and HomeKit functionality.

In both price and feature set, this a more high end device. The HomePod features a 7 tweeter array with custom woofer for 360° sound. For listening, there is a similar array of 6 microphones. Apple is targeting at those who want the high end sound of a Sonos system with the functionality of an Echo. Basically if you’ve used one of those or Siri at all, you know how to use a HomePod, the big difference is security. Apple doesn’t monetize data, so they submit yours anonymously.

To accomplish this, its smart. Really smart. HomePod is able to sense the room and its position in it then modify its sound output to give optimal sound for the room. Its even able to work with other HomePods to optimize sound. To achieve this, its based around the same A8 chip that you find in older iPhones and the AppleTV.

I hinted at a premium price, I wasn’t joking. At $349, its double of the price of an Echo. It’ll ship in December.

Apple Unleashes New iPhones, iPad Pro, Apple TV, and More

Time has come for the annual fall iPhone event and man it was a dozy. Apple picked one of the largest venues it could get with San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and the event was big to match. First off, as expected we got the iPhone 6S. Next, the iPad family literally grew with a 12” iPad Pro. Lastly, Just as we had a new development platform in WatchOS last year with the Apple Watch announcement, there is another new platform in the 4th Generation AppleTV and its new tvOS. These new products look to grow Apple’s brand either further in the coming year, but what exactly was in them? Let’s take a look.

Apple Watch

Apple-Watch-Hermes
I honestly didn’t expect much from the Apple Watch at this event, but we got a lot. First off, Watch OS 2 is coming, soon. Like next week on September 16th soon. It comes with full native app support so you’re no longer relying on your iPhone to power the thing. While at its heart, the Apple Watch is still a bit of an advanced accessory, it aides your iPhone in its own right and can take a lot of the load of of its larger sibling. Most importantly, just as we’re reaching the holiday season, mainstream buyers will be receiving the Apple watch as it was intended to be.

Next is a surprising amount of new accessories for the Apple Watch itself. The Sport Band now comes in quite a few new colors including (PRODUCT) Red. There are also new two-tone classic buckles. Existing watches can be ordered with new band options including a more affordable Space Black model with black sport band instead of the link bracelet.

But they couldn’t have brought brand new Apple Watches to the event, could they? Oh they they did. The Apple Watch Sport has received from new style. It now comes in the the same gold and rose gold aluminium finishes as the iPhone line. Apple also partner with noted French luxury manufacturer Hermès on a collaboration that introduces an exclusive new Collection of the Apple Watch with the Hermès style, look, and feel. Included are Single Tour, Double Tour, and Cuff straps designed by Hermès. They will only be sold in select locations. I have a feeling this won’t be the only time Apple partners with an existing watch maker.

In a summer of constrained supply and wild rumors, the Apple Watch ecosystem seems to be coming together this fall.

iPad Pro

ipad-Pro
If I had to place a bet of things I would see, an almost 13” iPad with a stylus would not be on the list. Yet it exists in the form of the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is based around a 12.9” screen with a 2732 x 2048 resolution. The 2048 isn’t an accident as it’s designed to run standard iPad apps side by side in portrait mode. The new chip is Apple’s third generation of 64-bit Armv8 Systems on chip. While the A8 was an improved version of Cyclone, A9 and this model’s A9X is something completely different and more powerful. Apple is projecting up to twice as fast, but we’ll see later this when real world numbers hit the street. The Pro is also an improved media platform with a four speaker array.

The Pro just doesn’t mean it’s bigger. It’s aimed at Pros, especially graphic design pros and artists. To that end, it’s paired with Apple’s new Pencil Stylus. At $99 its rather expensive, it only works with the iPad Pro, and we’ve seen stylii many times before, but it’s nice to Apple taking steps to make the technology more compatible for those who prefer a stylus. It’s no longer a necessity for controlling the OS, but it’s become exactly watch it should be, a digital writing and drawing tool.

The iPad Pro comes in 3 models in your standard three colors of gold, silver, and space grey. It also comes in a trio of models: 32GB Wi-Fi for $799, 128GB for $949, and 128GB Cellular for $1079. Also joining the fray is a new iPad Mini with with a new thinner design and specs to match the iPad Air 2.

Apple TV 4 and tvOS

Apple-tv-4
I have been waiting for the new Apple TV for Years. The Amazon Fire TV changed everything for me a year and a half ago. It paired flagship phone level hardware with voice search and ushered in a new paradigm of set top boxes. Android TV has followed up with some very intriguing hardware on its own. Neither of them had exactly what I was looking for. The new Apple TV does.

The new box looks much like the old one, but only a bit taller. The small remote doesn’t look anything special, but they are both a far leap forward over their predecessors. The hardware is based upon the A8 Chip from the iPhone 6. This is a gigantic leap forward from the single Core A5 that powered the third generation model. It shows in all aspects of the TV. In fact, it now runs a full-powered fork of iOS 9 called tvOS. tvOS has its own App Store that includes both custom AppleTV apps, the devs have full control of their interface this time around, as well as universal apps that share code. This will make full screen apps like games extremely easy to port. Having the full line of iOS 9 APIs including metal and MFI controller support doesn’t hurt either.

The interface is based upon a new remote. Like the Click Wheel gave way to the touch screen, the new AppleTV remote is based around a TouchPad at the top. of the remote. It has far more buttons than the old AppleTV remote because it does far more. It’s based on Bluetooth 4.0 instead of RF in the old model. There’s a voice button for Siri who is pervasive throughout tvOS, a menu button, the play/pause button, and TV on and volume buttons. Yeah, the new AppleTV has CEC support and can control your tv’s functions so you don’t have to switch remotes. The remote has a three month charge and is charged by a standard Lightning cable. The remote isn’t revolutionary in its feature set, but Apple seems to have implemented it better than anyone else.

Now we come to the content. Siri has the ability to search not only iTunes content, but Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Showtime as well. That’s just the first wave. The search seems quite advanced too with Siri able to find a tv show episode that Edward Norton guest starred in. Being able to quickly play the content you want rather than searching through menu after menu is a killer feature that the Apple TV has lacked. The overall menu is more powerful while being easier to use at the same time. Touch swipes are used for navigation and additional content. This was used to great effect during a demo for the improved MLB at Bat app with the Apple TV brining up stats and easily switching between games. If there is one drawback, the 4th Gen Apple TV is not yet ready for 4k Ultra HD. Its still a 1080 full HD device.

The new Apple TV 4 comes in at $149 for a 32GB model and $199 64GB model. If that’s too steep, the 3rd generation model sticks around at $69.

iPhone 6S & 6S Plus

iphone-6s
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus look exactly like the models released a year ago beyond an additional color of rose gold. The screens are also roughly the same as the old models. What’s new then? Lots actually. The iPhone is based on the same A9 architecture as the iPad Pro. It promises to be a much more substantial upgrade than last year’s A8. The camera is a high quality 12mp part that brings 4k to the iPhone camera. It also does Apple’s version of living pictures and automatically. The front Facetime camera has been upgraded to 5mp part with the screen wired to be used as flash. These are all great features, but they’re evolutionary. They make it a better version of the 6 and 6 Plus. That’s not everything its got up its sleeve however.

The 6S also has 3D touch. This is more or less iOS’s version of Force Touch. Essentially it adds equivalent functionality to quick peek and the right click on the Mac. This is huge. It means you can get to more functions much quicker. This also means you can perform limited app tasks without having to actually launch the app. This takes the tablet from a more limited environment to something that is more functionally equivalent to a desktop OS.

Rounding out the 6S’s spec list is new LTE chip. Its faster with LTE and it uses pretty much all of the LTE bands. Up to 23. This includes Band 12 which is popular with T-Mobile, US Cellular, and many smaller carriers. Apple has been reluctant to use band 12 prior to this model. The chip also has LTE-Advanced support.

Pricing for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, is exactly the same as the preceding models. The 5S, 6, and 6 Plus each drop $100 in price. If you want a colorful plastic iPhone, you better it one while it lasts.

For other iPhone owners, Apple announced the iOS 9 will ship September 16th, the same day as WatchOS 2

Wrap Up

This was a good year for Apple. The Apple Watch, iPad Pro, Apple TV, and iPhone 6S look to be very strong products. I can’t wait to get my mitts on them. I have a feeling I won’t be alone.
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