“You almost had me.” Michael Simon explains why he had his Apple Card ready at the time of the last Apple event – but now hesitates to use it. […]
When Apple’s ‘One more thing event’ started on Tuesday, I had my Apple Card ready. I made no secret of the fact that I wanted to wait until Apple started using its own silicon to buy a new Mac – and the day had finally come. The Apple Store was offline, the event clock was ticking, and I was ready to buy my first new MacBook in nearly a decade.
It’s just still not me. At least not yet. While there’s a lot to be said about the speed and battery life demands of the new M1 chip in the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, there are just as many reasons to wait before buying, especially if you’re upgrading from an older, high-end device. It’s not that I am disappointed with the first M1 Macs; rather, it piques my curiosity.
In a nutshell, I want what’s next.
My problem is not the design, which is an exact copy of the Intel models. Sure, an edge-to-edge screen would be nice, as would a smaller footprint, Face ID, a backlit Apple logo, and MagSafe integration, but the current design is very nice.
While there’s no disputing that these devices are insanely fast for their price – though there’s doubts that they’re faster than 98 percent of all PCs, as Apple claims – there’s also reason to believe that Apple is going with what it will deliver, just scratches the surface.
Take the connections. The previous MacBook Pro range had an extra option that included four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of two on the base model. That’s how my workstation is configured, and I use each and every one of these ports on a daily basis, as do many other users. But like the MacBook Air, the new M1 MacBook Pro and Mac mini only have two Thunderbolt 3 / USB 4 ports.
That’s probably because the M1 chip only has a single Thunderbolt 3 controller – which also explains why both ports are on the same side – but it also means you can’t buy an M1 Mac without one seriously obstructing the USB connections. Assuming you’re using one for charging, then you probably need a hub, which is an inelegant solution.
Future MacBook Pro models, even smaller ones, will likely not have this limitation. Apple clearly understands that professional users will need more than two Thunderbolt ports, which is why the 4-port Intel models are still available at the same prices as before. Apple wouldn’t have kept these aging Intel machines if it hadn’t recognized the need for more ports, and I expect M1 models with twice as many ports to hit the market next year.
Ports aren’t the only thing missing on the new Macs. They’re also limited to 16GB of RAM, the same limitation that the earlier low-end models they were designed to replace had. Granted, 16GB is pretty much, but it’s less than what power users want.
Here, too, Apple understands the demand for more RAM and is offering a 32GB upgrade for 460 euros in the better Intel models. That’s not a bad price, but again you are forced to choose between speed and storage. Early Geekbench benchmarks give the M1 a single-core score of 1630 and a multi-core score of 7220 compared to 1260 and 4480, respectively, on the still available 2.0 GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro. Even if these numbers differ by an order of magnitude of 10, the M1 is still significantly faster with or without the additional memory.
Tick, thank you
But even if you don’t need more than 16GB of RAM, it is still wise to wait. While we don’t know exactly how fast the M1 chip in the MacBook Air is compared to the M1 chip in the MacBook Pro, we can assume that it has a higher clock speed and sustained performance, if for no other reason than that that the Pro has a fan for cooling while the Air does not.
As Apple puts it, the fan in the Pro is needed to “maintain lightning-fast performance,” while the Air uses an aluminum heat spreader to dissipate heat for “amazing fanless performance.” While both devices deliver a huge speed boost over their predecessors, it’s pretty clear that the M1 in the Pro runs faster, and therefore hotter.
And these chips are probably just a small part of what Apple will deliver with its M-Chips. The speed tests for the latest Intel MacBook Pros show that there is a huge gap between the entry-level and the entry-level models. Using the industry standard Cinebench R20 benchmark, the 1.4 GHz Core i5 scored 397 (single-core) and 1616 (multi-core), while the 2.0 GHz model scored 436 and 1929, respectively. That’s a decent speed boost, and together with the lack of ports and RAM, it’s clear that an M2 or M1Z chip is on the horizon.
And that’s the model I’m waiting for. Rumor has it that 14-inch and 16-inch Macbook Pros are in the works, and I expect they will deliver the specs I’m looking for, along with the massive speed improvements Apple has already delivered. And who knows, we might get a decent FaceTime camera by then.
* Michael Simon handles all things mobile for PCWorld and Macworld.
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