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The neon lights start flashing in a dazzle of colors, the background hipster music blares giving an upbeat mood. More dazzle of neon colors goes around and the camera zooms out to reveal the Apple logo and a figure appears dress in bright blue with a yellow Apple Watch band. That person is the CEO, Tim Cook, and he as always, begins with his signature move: “Good Morning !!”. “Peek Performance” show has started and it is the first Apple event of the year.
Overall, “Peek Performance” comes out with a mixed bag of things that you expects to see, things that you didn’t expect and things you wish you would see it now. We list down all the items that appear on the event from the expected, unexpected and the one that we missed.
iPhone SE 3: The iPhone SE follows the same formula: use the same chassis from an older iPhone and upgrade the internals with the latest iPhone. In this case, it is still using the iPhone 8 chassis but with the internals that you find in the iPhone 13. The price has been bumped from $399 to $429 but everything else about the iPhone is about the single goal: cost reduction and maximum performance.
The great thing about this iPhone is that you will almost be guaranteed that it will be supported by Apple for the next 7-8 years judging from the state of iPhone 6s and the design is simple enough that it can be used from school children to grandmothers. This iPhone is just that: perfect phone for employees, children, grandparents and somebody who wanted an iPhone, just don’t want to pay the extra Apple tax for it.
iPhone 13: as usual, iPhones go through a mid-cycle refresh with a fresh new color and this is no different. This year’s color is green which resembles the midnight green of iPhone 12 Pro which one considers the best iPhone color of all time. So if you one of the laggards who bought the iPhone late because of indecisiveness or contract commitments, this is the iPhone for you.
iPad Air 5: Prior to this event, the iPad Air is the only iPad that has not been updated in the line up. Now the iPad Air, which always borrows features from the flagship iPad Pro, has been updated. The major feature is the inclusion of the M1 chip that first appeared on the iPad Pro. Everything else is basically the same which is not really a bad thing since the previous iPad Air is already way ahead of its competitors. The only problem is how iPadOS is still the crippled version of the macOS that the iPad desperately deserves.
Studio Display: There were rumors about Apple fielding a new display a few days prior to the launch. What is surprising is the specs that the display carries and the impact on the entire Mac lineup. Spec-wise it is a 27” 5K monitor that was in the 27” iMac and the LG Thunderbolt Monitor.
Apple put a A13 chip from the iPhone 11, so the display can now have spatial audio through its 6 speakers, Center Stage feature on the ultra-wide webcam, 600 nits of brightness and around 4 ports of USB-C (1 which is thunderbolt 4). Unlike the Pro Display XDR, Studio Display comes with a stand that has a tilt function, but you can pay extra for a Pro Display stand style which can move around and even swivel into vertical orientation. There’s also a paid option to put anti-reflective nano texture coating.
Judging from the feature set, form factor and overall introduction of a new Mac, this was meant to be the replacement for the 27” iMac, but since the last 21.5” iMac was enlarge to a 24”, and they do not think a 32” 6K iMac will sell well (or need to compete with the new Mac Studio), they decided to gut the monitor and modify the current monitor to become a new smart monitor: the Studio Display.
For more detailed view on the Mac Studio, please read the article here
Mac Studio: The Mac Studio is the first Mac from Apple since 2008, when Steve Jobs walks up to the stage, carrying a paper manila envelope and pulls out the MacBook Air from the said paper manila envelope.
While the rumors specific on the Mac Studio leaked a day before the event, rumors that Apple is working on a smaller version of Mac Pro has been out for over a year. And the specs that come out is truly impressive: new M1 Ultra chip (which we will cover below), ample I/O, massive cooling and quiet operation that performance beats the Mac Pro Xeon chips.
What’s surprising is that we do not expect to see such a machine until WWDC since it clearly aims at high end users and professionals. But we guess that Apple changed their timetable due to various reasons.
M1 Ultra: A brand new SOC from Apple that combines two M1 Max chip into a single die via chip to chip interconnects which Apple calls HyperFusion. Overall, the chip is quite impressive. Over 116 billion transistors, 20 compute cores, 32 neural cores, up to 64 graphic cores (48 graphic cores for the binned version), 4 media engine (for up to 16 8K ProRes 422 streams), 4 AMX engine (for matrix manipulations), 128 GB RAM support and 800GB/s memory bandwidth (over 10 times of Intel’s core i9 12th generation processor).
Rumors concerning the M1 series line up has been confirmed and if going by the rumored roadmap, there should be one massive SOC left that is for the Mac Pro which, according to the rumors, combines 4 M1 Max chips to be one massive SOC.
M1 Ultra design also shows the amount of manufacturing efficiency that Apple makes to get out from a single production line. The chips are lined out as M1 Ultra chips, which can be binned as either 64 or 48 graphic cores. The M1 Ultra chip then can be binned into M1 Max chip if one half of the M1 Ultra has some production issues. That M1 chip can be binned into 32 to 24 graphic cores. Finally, if there’s some defect on the M1 Max, that M1 Max can be chopped into an M1 Pro chip with either 16 or 12 graphic cores version. If the rumors about the M1 Extreme (the one that will be in the Mac Pro which combines two M1 Ultra), you would have more than 7 versions of the same SOC in a single production line!
There is a surprise why Apple decided to showcase the M1 Ultra so early in the year. One speculation is that Apple chips need to remain competitive with Intel’s 12th generation Core chips which tweak their power consumption to provide extra power. Whatever it is, it shows a strong start on Apple’s lineup for this year.
Now here are the things that are missing from the Apple “Peek Performance” Spring event
AirPods Pro: This sounds like a broken record, but Apple has yet to update the popular AirPods Pro. Despite Apple has released lossless feature in Apple Music and pushing their spatial audio, none of Apple wireless headphones can play lossless audio. The new codec and AirPods chip is suppose to alleviate such issue.
M2 Series: We expect Apple to kick off the M2 series with updates on the MacBook Air, Pro and new Mac Mini. We can understand why Apple has not made the move yet since Apple does not want to take away the spotlight of Mac Studio away from the Spring event. So we expect the M2 series will either be released during WWDC or in the fall event.
New M2 Macs: With the launch of the M2 series, we expect the MacBook Air and Mac Mini to be updated with a design language that is similar to the iMac and a unmodified MacBook Pro. Just like the delayed M2 launch, we believe Apple did not want to take out the spotlight on the Mac Studio away for the Spring event.
Conclusion & What’s Next
So there is the analysis of Apple’s Spring “Peek Performance” event. The M1 Ultra and Mac Studio is a surprise since we expect such a professional grade device to be unveiled in WWDC which is scheduled for June. We reckon that Apple needs to stay competitive with Intel and Nvidia.
The Studio Display is Apple’s decision to do away with the larger iMac screen. Instead of fielding a low volume 27” or 32” iMac, they decided to put in a powerful Studio Display as it would be more flexible than a large screen iMac.
We expect that Apple will instead launch the new M2 series Mac the Mac Pro at WWDC since both computers are at the opposite end of the spectrum in both price and performance. But then again, WWDC is usually software focused but that does not mean Apple has not fielded new hardware before.
Whatever it is, 2022 will be a one wild ride for Mac and Apple enthusiasts alike.
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