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.

Editorial: There are Other Options to the 2016 MacBook Pro’s Dongle Life

Look, I respect the living hell out of The Verge’s Lauren Goode. She is one of the best tech journalists out there today. If you’re not following her and reading her stuff, you’re doing yourself a real discredit. If it sounds like I’m just buttering her up to bring everything crashing down, that’s because I pretty much am. I didn’t want to write a rebuttal of someone I respect or revisit this topic, but I thought this was incredibly one-sided.

Lauren wrote a piece and filed an associated video for the verge called Is it worth living the dongle life for the new MacBook Pro and iPhone 7? for the Verge. The article takes a rather extreme angle, showing the worst case of the new Thunderbolt/ USB-C MacBook Pro without exploring other options. Despite what a lot of people are saying and writing, there are other options. We’ll now go over what other options could have been taken.

In each Exhibit section in the video, there is a Black shirt wearing Lauren with a 2016 MacBook Pro debating a flannel wearing version with a 2011 MacBook Pro. This was the last version with an optical drive, Firewire, and a traditional 2.5” form factor hard drive. The 2016 Lauren is surrounded by an army of various adapters and the new headphone-less iPhone 7.

Exhibit A

2016 Lauren is looking to charge her phone. She picks through a myriad of mini-hubs and Lightning to USB-A adapters. Not present in any form is the simplest solution: Lightning to USB-C. Apple offers them in 1m and 2m lengths for $19 and $29 respectively. You can expect that go down as third-party MFI versions hit store shelves. You can bet they are coming fast now that there’s a market for them.

The fact ignored here is that USB-C IS USB, not some abnormal Apple variant. You don’t need an adapter, you need a cable.

Exhibit B

In Exhibit B, the Laurens are trying to listen to music. 2011 Lauren simply places her 3.5mm headphones into the jack on her older smartphone while 2016 Lauren looks for Lightning splitter adapter and Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. This is a clunky solution, but there are other options.

I’ve never run into it. Why? Because I am extremely happy with a pair of an affordable pair of bluetooth earphones that I bought earlier this year. I press the power button, they automatically pair and I listen to my music. No adapter or even cable required. I have yet to use either the included Lightning EarPods or the adapter. By the announcement of the Ear Pods and three different sets of wireless beats, this is what Apple intended.

Exhibit C

Exhibit C is 2-point. 2016 Lauren is looking for a wait to put her pictures from her camera on her computer. Of course the only way is the SD-reader right? Nope, there are also more options here.

First, you can directly hook up the camera to the MacBook Pro. In many ways, this faster than digging out the SD card. You would need a USB-C to USB A adapter as many cameras use a proprietary form of miniature USB-B, but those are available in leading retail stores for under $10. You could also purchase an external reader, but what if you didn’t even need a cable at all? Most cameras of the last couple years include wireless capability built-in.

The other part of the Exhibit was transferring photos from a Thunderbolt hard drive to your Thunderbolt 3 Mac. If you have a Thunderbolt Drive, you will need the Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt 3 adapter. However, let’s be honest here, the Thunderbolt hard drives are very rare. Pretty much everybody, Mac users included, have USB 2.0 or 3.0 for single drive units. These will need either the afore mentioned C to A adaptor or a Mini/Micro-B to C cable. You can get those on Monoprice easily and cheaply.

Exhibit D
Exhibit D is kind of a rehash of part of Exhibit B. 2016 Lauren receives a phone call and fumbles around with adapters while she misses the call. Oh please. I am either wearing the aforementioned bluetooth headphones or simple just pick up the iPhone and answer the call.

The Cost of Adapters

2011 Lauren asks 2016 Lauren how much all of it cost. If you would have all the adapters Lauren has in front of her, its not cheap. However, you don’t need all of those adapters. There are other, more cost effective and many cases better solutions out there.

The Dongle Life Isn’t Unique to the 2016 MacBook Pro

Let’s say that 2011 Lauren wants to to charge her phone, her smart watch, plug in a mouse, plug in a hard drive, she couldn’t do it all. Why? Because that MacBook only has 2 USB ports. You need a USB Hub, a type of adapter to plug all devices in. Ironically with 4 ports that could be used for USB, in a couple ways, the 2016 model is more flexible. The 2016 MacBook wasn’t designed to place undue hardship people. It realizes the change in how people use our computers. I survived the change form ADB, serial, and SCSI to USB and FireWire. I survived FireWire to Lightning. I survived like half a million different ways to connect a computer to a display. You will to.

Apple Updates 15-inch MacBook Pro, 5k iMac

Apple today updated two of its top of the line Macs, the 5k iMac and 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display.  Both are relatively minor refreshes that tweak the already existing lines.

5k iMac

The new iMac, which was launched in its 12″ 5k incarnation last fall, comes in a much more affordable price.  The initial model debuted at $2499 and today a new lower end version with a 3.3ghz Quad Core i5 CPU can be had at $500 less at $1999.  It also comes with 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive as well the Radeon R9 M290 graphics.  The original top of the line model receives a $200 price drop to $2299.  That features a 3.5ghz Quad Core i5 CPU and R9 M290X graphics.  If you were looking for other changes like USB Type-C, you’ll have to wait for the next generation.

The 21.5″ which was last refreshed in June of 2014 and Non-5K 27″ iMac last touched in September of 2013 were not updated along with the 5k models.

15″ Macbook Pro Retina

The 15″ Retina MacBook Pro was also updated with some of the features found on the new MacBook and updated 13″ model.  The updated machines feature the new Force Touch trackpad, faster PCI-E x4 SSD drives, and new Radeon R9 M370X graphics chip in the higher end model.  The battery has been tweaked to be slightly larger.  This has the side effect of bumping the battery life from 8 hours to 9 hours.

What does not change are the CPUs.  While the new 13″ has 5th generation dual core Broadwell chips, the 15″ retains 4th generation Quad Cores at 2.2, 2.5ghz, and 2.8ghz.  These are the exact same chips as the 15″ updates launched 10 months ago.  Apple isn’t alone.  Intel hasn’t shipped 5th generation Quad Cores to anyone yet.  Since the Intel graphics are on-die, it also retains the Iris 5200 Pro integrated graphics.

General configurations and the $1999 and $2499 price points remained unchanged from last year.

Source: Apple