Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Hopes for Mac Hardware at WWDC

A dumb X-Files joke
A dumb X-Files joke

WWDC 2017 was a real winner when it came to Mac hardware. The notebooks got refreshed, as did the Retina iMac. Then, of course, was the unveiling of the iMac Pro, in all of its Space Gray, Xeon processing, Vega-powered glory. While it didn’t ship until the end of the year, the announcement put a smile on the faces of Mac enthusiasts everywhere.

With the next-generation Mac Pro a “2019 product,” according to Apple, this year’s keynote probably won’t be as flashy when it comes to new Mac hardware. However, there are still plenty of things Apple could announce in San Jose.

The obvious choice is a redesigned, more robust keyboard for the MacBook and MacBook Pro. The problems of debris and broken keycaps is well covered, so I won’t re-tread them here, but I really think Apple needs to address the issues with these machines.

I don’t expect Apple to break from the “Thunderbolt 3 or Bust” design of these notebooks, but I’d love to see an SD card slot return to the MacBook Pro. I’m not going to hold my breath.

Besides the ports, the biggest change the 2016 MacBook Pros brought to the table was the Touch Bar. I don’t think it’s been a successful feature, and I would like to see Apple make it optional, especially if that means prices could come back down to 2015-era prices.

I don’t know if Apple is going to do anything with the MacBook Pro’s ports, keyboard or Touch Bar, but the big news with new Macs should be Intel Coffee Lake. This new generation of CPUs could lead to quad core 13-inch MacBook Pros and six cores showing up in 15-inch MacBook Pro.

These machines would not only be better for multi-threaded tasks, but their integrated Iris Plus GPUs should be much faster as well, meaning things like video editing and gaming should be smoother.

If Apple wanted to get real wild, we could see a 15-inch MacBook Pro with discrete Radeon RX Vega M graphics, courtesy of a new-ish package from Intel. These chipsets offer up to 4GB of video memory. If this were to materialize, I’m sure it’d be as a top-of-the-line option. It’d probably be expensive, but I’m sure there are users who would snap them up.

Of course, whatever comes to the MacBook Pro could come to the iMacs as well, as the two systems have shared a good number of components over the years. More cores would be welcome here as well.

Moreover, I hope 2018 is finally the year Apple says goodbye to the spinning hard drive in its default configurations. The entry-level, non-Retina iMac comes with a 1 TB hard drive, as does the starter 4K Retina machine. All other SKUs on come with Fusion Drives. I know that Apple wouldn’t be able to put in 1 TB of solid-state storage in these cheaper machines, but 512 GB may be enough to hold consumers over, with an option to “downgrade” to a larger, spinning disk if needed.

I know the logistics and economics of such a move are complicated, but selling an iMac with a spinning boot drive just looks bad, and leads to a poor user experience.

Lastly, there’s the Mac mini. If Apple doesn’t update it in June, and there’s not something new coming, maybe Apple should put the poor thing out of its misery.

But I’d dig an updated Mac mini with Thunderbolt 3 and more modern Intel components. I want to believe!

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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