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March 20, 2019 10:53 AM PT
This week, on the 30-minute show that’s never boring, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Kathy Campbell and Rose Orchard to discuss Apple’s new iPad mini, how we decorate our devices, what Apple announcements we’re still looking for this week, and how we feel about Apple employees showing up on podcasts. Plus, a special beverage temperature bonus question!
Jason Snell for Macworld
March 20, 2019 9:31 AM PT
A few years ago, the iPad was in disarray. Sales were collapsing and the line-up of products was a mess. Fixing things takes time, but look at what we’ve got today: With the introduction of the fifth-generation iPad mini and the third-generation iPad Air, iPad is now Apple’s most coherent and complete product line.
By Jason Snell
March 19, 2019 4:49 PM PT
Tuesday’s announcement of new iMacs is exciting for those who have been waiting for an update before buying, but a bit disappointing for those who were hoping for a more comprehensive iMac redesign. I have to admit that I’d been hoping for a new exterior iMac redesign—the current enclosure design’s almost seven years old. But the biggest disappointment of the announcement might have been Apple’s choices when it comes to storage.
Not to belabor the point, but the iMac is the only remaining new Apple product that features a spinning hard drive. It’s also the only Mac in a couple of years to receive an update and not include an Apple-designed ARM processor for security and other features. (The two are probably related—so far as I can tell, Apple has designed the T2 to only use flash storage.)
Spinning disks had a good run, but they’re old tech. They’re far less reliable than flash storage drives, and are also generally much slower. The $1299 base-model 4K iMac ships with a slow 5400 rpm spinning disk. It’s almost unforgiveable.
Apple pushes Fusion Drive as a cost-effective alternative to the much more expensive flash storage—Fusion Drive pairs a small bit of flash storage with a spinning disk drive to create a virtual disk that mixes the speed of flash storage with the much more affordable large capacities of traditional hard drives. And I will accept that Apple is reluctant to ship very small-capacity flash storage drives on iMacs, Macs that traditionally get loaded down with big photo libraries and other large collections of files. (As flash-storage prices continue to drop, the argument gets tougher to make, though.)
I will guarantee you that the single greatest bottleneck in terms of speed on the base 4K iMac is that slow spinning disk drive. People who spend $1299 for a 4K iMac in 2019 deserve not to see a spinning beach ball—but they probably will. This is one case where Apple should either take the hit on profit margin or just raise the price if it has to.
In the wake of Tuesday’s announcement, I’ve heard from a bunch of people who are equally frustrated that Apple hasn’t converted the entire iMac line to flash storage. I get the argument, but Apple knows very well who is buying iMacs, and I am guessing that these decisions are very much made with that knowledge in mind. Many iMac buyers are quite price sensitive, which is why the base models are configured as cheaply as possible. It’s not like you can’t configure an iMac with only flash storage—it just raises the price a lot, and you lose storage capacity in the meantime.
It’s clear where Apple’s going here, of course. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next iMac—the larger model, at least—update inherits some design elements of the iMac Pro, which removed support for spinning disks and used that space for a quieter and more powerful cooling system. And while we’re making wish lists, how about a new enclosure that reduces the size of the bezels and adds Face ID, too?
Alas, those are features that will have to wait for the iMac of the 2020s. The era of spinning hard drives at Apple will continue for a little while longer. I understand it, but I don’t have to like it.
By Jason Snell
March 19, 2019 5:30 AM PT
There was a time when the iMac was Apple’s flagship product. But in an era where there are iPhones and iPads and Apple Watches, it’s easy for a Mac—and a non-laptop, at that—to get lost in the crowd. And yet for all of that, the iMac is a huge product, generating billions of dollars for Apple and filling important ecological niches.
After nearly two years of waiting, iMac fans can rejoice at the arrival of an update. Today is iMac day. Apple on Tuesday announced a new generation of 4K and 5K iMacs with big internal upgrades. The old iMacs had seventh-generation Intel processors, but these models have eighth-generation processors—and in a couple of cases, the very latest ninth-generation processors. Apple has upgraded processor cores across the board, so that most models have six cores and there’s even an option for eight. And both sizes of iMac now have optional access to the more powerful Radeon Pro Vega graphics processor.
(Check out my podcast interview with iMac Product Manager Colleen Novielli on this week’s Upgrade podcast.)
The $1099 base model non-Retina iMac remains unchanged, the desktop equivalent of the $999 MacBook Air—an old model anchored to a low price. But beyond that, things get more interesting.
The $1299 21.5-inch 4K iMac is a 3.6GHz quad-core Core i3, and the $1499 model brings six-core power to the smaller iMac with a 3.0Ghz Core i5. The 4K iMac’s top-of-the-line processor configuration is a 3.2GHz six-core Core i7. While standard graphics configurations on these models are the Radeon Pro 555X and 560X, the high-end model can be configured with a Radeon Pro Vega 20.
On the 27-inch 5K iMac, six-core processors have replaced four-core models as the default. (You couldn’t even upgrade to a six-core processor on an iMac before!) Base processors for these are a 3.0 GHz six-core eighth-generation i5 ($1799 model), 3.16GHz six-core eighth-generation i5 ($1999 model), and 3.7Ghz six-core ninth-generation i5 ($2299 model). The 5K iMac can also be configured with a 3.6Ghz eight-core ninth-generation Core i9 processor.
According to Apple, those latter two processors are the two available ninth-generation Intel chips that are currently available and fit the iMac’s design. They’re hot off the presses, so to speak, and Apple has pressed them into service.
Graphics on the 27-inch models are, by default, Radeon Pro 500 series (570X, 575X, and 580X respectively), but again, Apple’s offering a configurable option with the Radeon Pro Vega—it’s the Pro Vega 48 for the 5K model.
What this means is that these new iMacs have closed a bit of the gap between the highest-end iMac and the lowest-end iMac Pro. You’ll need to pay extra in configurable options, but the highest-end eight-core iMac should creep close to iMac Pro territory in terms of processor and graphics performance.
Of course, all that performance comes in a familar shell—it’s the same iMac cooling system as before, which means if you stress out the iMac you will hear the fans. My friend Stephen Hackett ended up switching from a high-end 5K iMac to an iMac Pro in order to get a computer that was silent under heavy load, thanks to the iMac Pro’s superior (and quiet) cooling system. It’s another data point to keep in mind if you’re considering whether to buy an iMac or an iMac Pro.
Adding processor cores to many standard configurations (at the same prices as the old models) should be a big step forward for iMac performance, as is the addition of a few configurations from Intel’s latest processor generation. Throw in the optional Vega graphics and it’s clear that Apple has raised the headroom of the iMac—even the little 4K iMac, because sometimes you want speed but don’t need size!—quite a lot.
Apple says the iMac is popular with families, businesses, and other users who don’t necessarily need the most power possible, but appreciate that the iMac can handle the required job and do it with its trademark sleek aluminum all-in-one style. But of course, it’s also popular with pro users who don’t need all the workstation power of the much pricier iMac Pro. Those users will be the most excited about the processor and graphics improvements in these models.
It might not steal the spotlight from an iPhone or even next week’s services-themed media event, but the iMac still matters. And as of today, it’s refreshed with more power than ever before.
March 19, 2019 5:29 AM PT
After nearly two years, Apple has released new iMacs, and Jason has an exclusive interview with Apple’s iMac product manager, Colleen Novielli. We also discuss the surprising new iPad Air and iPad mini announcements, and then it’s time for another Upgrade draft, as we make our choices for what will be on stage at Apple’s services event next Monday!
Dan Moren for Macworld
March 15, 2019 7:55 AM PT
We’re teetering on the edge of an embarrassment of Apple riches. The company’s March event is just over a week away, but with this week’s official announcement of the 2019 Worldwide Developers Conference, many eyes are already fixed on that point, three months from now.
Whatever comes our way in March, it will almost certainly pale in comparison to WWDC, which is probably the most significant event in Apple’s calendar. Yes, the September launch of new iPhones and attendant devices may get more attention, but WWDC is where the company sets its agenda for the year—or years—to come.
Though it’s still a few months away, it’s never too early to start thinking about where Apple may be looking to focus the priorities of its many and varied platforms.
Jason Snell for Tom's Guide
March 13, 2019 10:18 PM PT
Spotify’s dispute with Apple over how iOS users access the music service boiled over this week, as Spotify filed an antitrust complaint and launched a special marketing site to put pressure on Apple to change its business practices — or have them be changed by government regulators.
In many ways, this is an old story. For several years, Apple and Spotify have been jousting over Apple’s App store rules. Apple claims that Spotify doesn’t want to follow the rules that Apple has instituted to protect its users, while Spotify says that Apple is just trying to prop up its own second-rate services rather than straight-up competing.
Who’s right? The truth, it will not surprise you, is somewhere in the middle.
March 13, 2019 11:21 AM PT
This week, on the 30-minute show that’s springing forward, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests and superstar Panic designers Christa Mrgan and Neven Mrgan to discuss subscription service fatigue, fragmentation in the Internet of Things, Spotify’s allegations against Apple, and whether we’ve lost our sense of wonder when it comes to tech. Plus a transportation-themed bonus topic.
Jason Snell for Macworld
March 13, 2019 10:13 AM PT
This week marks the 30th anniversary of the web, or at least the date that Tim Berners-Lee made a proposal at the Swiss particle physics lab CERN involving the creation of a hypertextual system that would end up becoming the web as we know it today.
The history of web browsers on Apple devices takes a lot of twists and turns. Fortunately, I’ve been around for most of them—in fact, my first magazine cover story ever was in July 1996 about the first big browser war. You might be surprised just how much impact Apple has had on the development of the web itself.
March 13, 2019 7:45 AM PT
This week, on the irreverent tech show where someone apparently talks about their Mac mini too much, we run down a variety of topics, including expectations for Apple’s upcoming “It’s show time!” event, Spielberg’s weird comments about Netflix, the rumors around Apple’s streaming service, Elizabeth Warren’s call to break up tech giants, and, most importantly, Mophie’s battery pack for the new Palm phone.
March 11, 2019 8:50 AM PT
Hey readers, Dan here. Never thought I’d see the day when I was sponsoring our own blog, but I just wanted to let you know about my latest novel, The Bayern Agenda.
Simon Kovalic, the Commonwealth’s premiere covert operative, has a problem. The rival Illyrican Empire is trying to make a deal with Bayern, a planet-sized corporation that’s one of the galaxy’s financial hubs. That’s not good for the Commonwealth, and it’s not good for Kovalic. But, to make matters worse, he’s injured on a mission, and command of his team of operatives is handed over to Lieutenant Commander Natalie Taylor…his ex-wife. So now he’s got two problems.
But when Kovalic’s boss tells him that the situation’s even more complicated than they thought, it’s up to him to find the team before they’re all caught or killed. And the problems, well, they just keep coming.
Find out what happens in The Bayern Agenda, available now at fine booksellers everywhere.
Dan Moren for Macworld
March 8, 2019 5:35 AM PT
When people roll out wish lists of things they wish Apple would do to its products, they’re often focused on brand new features. We all like new features, sure, but part of me worries that while the focus is on the shiny, the basics—the software that we’re all using everyday—gets ignored. In particular, I’m really ready for Apple to tackle that old standby: Mail.
I know: email’s dead, supplanted by a myriad of other means of digital communication. Except, for many of us, email is still something that we’re unavoidably attached to when it comes to corresponding with people, signing up for accounts, and archiving or doing a to-do list.
Apple expended a lot of effort developing tools in iOS 12 that let us spend less time on our devices by preventing us from using them at certain times. But what about all that time where we are using our smartphones, tablets, and computers? Maybe there are features that can help us be more efficient, and treat our time with the respect it deserves.