Developer Mac mini running on 2 Year Old iPad Processor, OUTPERFORMS a NATIVE ARM Processor in Emulation!

Ahead of the WWDC 2020 announcement, that the Mac, with macOS 11 Big Sur will finally enter the realms of ARM Processors through Apple Silicon, it’s probably no big surprise that the release of Apple’s Developer Transition Kit has garnered some interest.

Apple’s Developer Transition Kit slide, showing a custom Mac mini running Big Sur

It’s worth noting, however, that no one is meant to perform benchmarks on these systems, but, this is the Internet, so, of course, everyone will.

It’s worth noting that ALL benchmarks done on these will be essentially EMULATED using Apple’s Rozetta 2 technology as no native Apple Silicon version of benchmarks such as Geekbench exist just yet, but, despite this, these are some pretty interesting numbers. It’s also worth noting, before we get to the numbers, that Apple aren’t planning on releasing a Mac with the A12Z Bionic processor, with Apple’s Craig Federighi saying the performance we’re seeing here is Apple “not even trying”.

SINGLE CORE: 833 MULTI-CORE: 2582

This is running, by the way, in X86 mode, which is NOT native to the ARM64 of the Silicon, so this is the performance of Rozetta 2 in beta!

Now, naturally those numbers mean nothing without comparisons, so here we go, below is an iPad Pro running the SAME Silicon on iPad OS 13 natively;

SINGLE CORE: 1114 MULTI-CORE: 4645

Should come as no surprise that the numbers are far greater on the iPad Pro, as this is running the Silicon completely natively under refined codebase, but what’s going to be really interesting to see, over time, is the numbers of the Mac mini when an Apple Silicon version of Geekbench (or any comparable benchmark) become available, as it’s clear Apple are running the A12Z with a higher clock speed and more RAM.

In terms of Apple’s own Mac line, these numbers are actively very comparable with Apple’s MacBook Air 2020 with a Core i5, which itself gets marginal Single and Multi of 1200 and 3500 respectively.

Comparison with Windows ARM on Surface Pro X

One of the biggest announcements at Microsoft’s Surface announcements last year was the introduction of an ARM based Surface Pro device. The device was much thinner, essentially fan-less design, running on Qualcomm hardware built for the device.

So, how does it compare … well, not very good;

SINGLE CORE: 764 MULTI-CORE: 2983

Now, sure, the Multi-Core benchmarks of Microsoft’s SQ1 Processor do beat the Mac mini score, BUT it’s important to remember, the SQ1 is running natively, whereas the Mac mini using the 2 year old iPad Processor is running in an emulated environment using Apple’s Rozetta technology, that’s before we even look at the iPad numbers.

What does this mean for future Apple Silicon Macs?

In a simple term, this should shut up everyone questioning the move to Apple Silicon, as Apple are already beating any ARM based alternative processors and in the transitional period where software slowly gets Universal 2 support or native support, the performance will still be very decent.

Source material: Mac mini Geekbench, MacBook Air, Surface Geekbench

Apple announce all-new iPhone SE featuring an 8 body and 11 Pro internals!

Here it is, the much rumoured all-new iPhone SE has arrived and whilst it may have an older look and feel, what it’s packing internally is actually incredible for the price!

Available in Black, White and Product (RED) and design mirroring an iPhone 8 (which is now discontinued), the new iPhone SE has the power and performance of the iPhone 11 Pro, seriously, we’re talking A13 Bionic Performance, which is still besting the chips from Qualcomm, all in the smaller 4.7 inch familiar form factor.

The new iPhone SE 2020 really is an iPhone 8 supercharged internally, and also features an improved Camera at the back with XR / 11 style Portrait mode, however one thing you will not find if you were a fan of the iPhone 8, is a Plus model, you’re stuck with a 4.7 inch iPhone SE.

Apple’s Phil Schiller had this to say about todays announcement;

The first iPhone SE was a hit with many customers who loved its unique combination of small size, high-end performance and affordable price; the new second-generation iPhone SE builds on that great idea and improves on it in every way — including our best-ever single-camera system for great photos and videos — while still being very affordable. iPhone SE features the industry-leading performance of A13 Bionic that enables great battery life, takes stunning Portrait mode and Smart HDR photos, shoots amazing videos with stereo audio, is great for games and super fast web surfing, and is built with the same industry-leading security features our customers expect. We can’t wait to get iPhone SE into customers’ hands.

Considering that the iPhone SE 2020 has a very capable Camera, the fastest mobile CPU currently in the A13 Bionic, Apple have actually priced this at $399 in the US, and £419 in the UK. Granted, that does start at 64GB, but to be fair, that’s plenty for most people. An extra £50 will double that to 128GB, then £569 will get you 256GB of storage. Apple also offer 0% finance options, should you wish to pay differently, but considering those prices expect some pretty attractive network deals too.

The iPhone SE also features WiFi 6, and Gigabit class LTE, Bluetooth 5.0 and this well known feature called Touch ID in the Home button. Apple state the battery life of the iPhone SE to be “about the same as iPhone 8”.

So, there you go, what do you think of the iPhone SE 2020, does it offer enough for you to consider it? We were honestly expecting a slower processor, but if Apple want to release their fastest CPU for just over £400, count us in.

How to turn on the macOS Chime on newer Catalina Macs

In newer Macs, Apple, for whatever reason, removed the infamous “dong” sound which plays when you boot. This is true of all MacBook models from 2015 onwards, iMac Pro and newest generation iMacs, the Mac Pro and Mac mini.

But, what if you want to bring it back. Well, whilst there’s naturally being hacks to get this done, there’s now a native way in macOS Catalina to bring this back, and this is how.

1. Open Terminal

Open the Terminal application from Applications > Utilities > Terminal, or via the SPACE + CMD typing “Terminal”.

2. Type the following command

sudo nvram StartupMute=%00

Type the above command

3. Push enter and enter your Admin password

Done. Try restarting your Mac and hear a familiar sound.


Want to turn it back off?

Should you prefer it the way that Apple have changed it, you can naturally change it back with a very slight change;

Open Terminal again, however this time type;

sudo nvram StartupMute=%01

Tap enter, type your Admin password and, done.


 

Idea for post inspired by video from Zollotech

Apple updates iPad Pro with new upcoming Keyboard accessory with full Trackpad support!

Apple have updated the iPad Pro with a fairly minor processor increase, but more notable it was announced alongside the all new Keyboard accessory which with it brings a full Trackpad. The iPad Pro also brings quite a big increase in the Camera performance at the back as well, integrating the same lens options as the iPhone 11, with a bit more of a surprise for AR.

The design of the Keyboard case is actually fairly unique, now offering a floating position for the iPad Pro, which is actually adjustable and offers a USB-C charging input at the bottom sides allowing the USB-C port on the iPad Pro to be used for other accessories.

One thing more for note, is that this also works with previous generation, though for both generations of iPad, you’re gonna have to wait quite a while until this is released. Which is good as you’ll likely have to save up, £299 for the 11 inch iPad Pro or £349 for the 12.9 inch iPad Pro is how much this will cost you! This will only work with current and last generations of both however.

The only other major change to the iPad Pro 2020 line is the change to the Cameras at the back, there’s more of them. Now the iPad joins the iPhone 11 with the singular Camera and a Wide Angle shooter, but it goes one step further with the introduction of a LiDAR Scanner which will be incredibly useful for AR applications as for those who don’t know, LiDAR technology is what is used by Self Driving Cars, so needless to say this is pretty advanced stuff for AR. This could also paint the picture for what is included on the next iPhone Pro models.

The internals of the iPad Pro though are surprisingly disappointing. The A12Z … yes Z, is more or less a variant of the same processor already in the previous generation iPad Pro which supports the LiDAR technology. Thanks to this, it has been found that the actual performance of the iPad Pro 2020 is pretty much, the same. The iPad Pro does have some extra RAM, now 6GB, which may help if you are regularly using multiple Apps or browser Tabs at the same time.

However, whilst you would think this would be a perfect opportunity to run out and check the prices of second-hand or refurbished iPad Pros, Apple have actually made the new one slightly cheaper by doubling the Storage capacity, meaning for £769 you can now get a 128GB iPad Pro 11-inch, or £969 for 12-inch.

However, if you can find a low cost previous generation version, I’d honestly recommend that, or keep your. existing iPad Pro, and if you’re interesting in the Trackpad support, this is part of the iPadOS 13.4 update and that Keyboard accessory (and third party) will be available and work with that too.

Apple updates MacBook Air with “Magic Keyboard” and provide an unsubstantial update to Mac Mini

Whilst Apple couldn’t provide an Event this March for obvious reasons, Apple did provide a website refresh as part of some of the updates they have provided. Amongst these was an update to the iPad Pro, but in this we’re going to focus on the Mac updates that Apple have provided.

MacBook Air

Apple have actually provided a fairly decent update to the MacBook Air, updated now with 10th-generation Intel Core CPUs, and probably much more welcome, the replacement of the much hated Butterfly mechanism with the “Magic keyboard” which uses the more conventional Scissor switches.

One great thing about the MacBook Air finally moving up to the latest generation of Intel processors, skipping 9th-generation meaning the improvement differences will be fairly drastic, in some cases improvements of 76% specially in the Graphics department where the MacBook Air is actually able to do something even the current iMac Pro cannot, and that’s drive an Apple Pro Display XDR at full 6K Resolution. Granted, no one in the target market for a MacBook Air will own a Pro Display XDR, but it says a lot when a MacBook Air is able to drive a Display, that an iMac Pro cannot do with dedicated AMD Vega graphics, although that just further reiterates the sheer need for Apple to provide more Navi Graphics options to their Desktop line.

The new MacBook Air also has the option to, for the first time, bump up to a Quad-Core CPU for the first time, this is the case with the upper base model or the custom Core i7 model. Thanks to this, the MacBook Air is now actually more faster in every way than the current 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is actually kinda wild. Granted, we’re expecting Apple to update that shortly, but it’s now a much more powerful and more portable machine from Apple.

Outside of the internal bump to the CPU, Apple have also doubled the storage capacity and price, now starting at a slightly lower £999 for, granted still a Core i3, but one faster than last generations i5, with a much better 256GB option. Though, we think the £1,299 Quad-Core Core i5 option with 512GB is most definitely the best option Apple sell of this one, and would be the better buy until Apple update the MacBook Pro 13 inch.

Other than all those things, however, everything else remains the same, which is both good and bad. On one hand it’s great that the MacBook Air retains it’s portability and no one can deny it’s not a premium built and looking device, however there’s no updates to the Display, which sure is Retina but not colour accurate, the webcam is a 720p Camera which certainly doesn’t look it.

Mac mini … this one’s a stretch

I would love to tell you that Apple have continued to show their commitment to the Mac mini, offering a favourable update to keep it going, and whilst you will see the “New” tab on it, stating this is a new machine is quite frankly a joke.

Apple also provided a pathetic update to the Mac mini, as in they doubled the default base Storage configurations … that’s it. That’s the update. Apple could have updated the Mac mini with updated 10th-generation Intel CPUs, but they didn’t and it stands with it’s pretty mediocre 8th-generation Core i3 base and more. Hopefully it won’t be the near eternity until we get an actual update on this one.

TCL to no longer make Smartphones for Blackberry, end of the line for good?

It hasn’t been the best few years for Blackberry, though, to be fair, to be fair Blackberry have been living in the shadows since the fall of the companies Blackberry 10 operating systems fell and they were ‘forced’, if you like, to use Android.

The move to Blackberry using Android back in 2016 wasn’t just a software change, it was also when Blackberry signed a deal with Chinese manufacturer TCL to design and produce its Smartphone hardware for it.

However, it appears this is now going to end in August 2020 with the following statement announcing that TCL will be no longer producing Blackberry hardware for the company;

Statement from TCL Communication

When TCL Communication announced in December 2016 that we had entered into a brand licensing and technology support agreement with BlackBerry Limited to continue making new, modern Blackberry smartphones available globally we were very excited and humbled to take on this challenge. Indeed our KEY Series smartphones, started with the KEYone, were highly-anticipated by the BlackBerry community. What made these devices great wasn’t just the hardware developed and manufactured by TCL Communication, but also the critical security and software features provided by BlackBerry Limited to ensure these were genuine BlackBerry devices. The support of BlackBerry Limited was an essential element to bringing devices like BlackBerry KEYone, Motion, KEY2 and KEY2 LE to life and we’re proud to have partnered with them these past few years on those projects.

We do regret to share however that as of August 31, 2020, TCL Communication will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices. TCL Communication has no further rights to design, manufacture or sell any new BlackBerry mobile devices, however TCL Communication will continue to provide support for the existing portfolio of mobile devices including customer service and warranty service until August 31, 2022 – or for as long as required by local laws where the mobile device was purchased. Further details can be found at http://www.blackberrymobile.com or by phoning customer support at the numbers found at https://blackberrymobile.com/hotline-and-service-center/.

For those of us at TCL Communication who were blessed enough to work on BlackBerry Mobile, we want to thank all our partners, customers and the BlackBerry fan community for their support over these past few years. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many fans from all over the world during our world tour stops. The future is bright for both TCL Communication and BlackBerry Limited, and we hope you’ll continue to support both as we move ahead on our respective paths.

From everyone who worked on the BlackBerry Mobile team at TCL Communication over the years, we want to say ‘Thank You’ for allowing us to be part of this journey.

Source: BlackBerry Mobile Twitter

Think it’s fair to say it doesn’t get more blunt than that, from August this year, you will stop seeing Blackberry Smartphones on sale from TCL.

What is unclear, however, is the next direction for Blackberry. TCL makes Smartphones for a collection of other companies, including some of its own, but Blackberry’s future is, as of yet, unproven. The company does have a collection of security features and Enterprise solutions, which they will likely continue, though on the hardware front, could this really be the end?

End of an era becomes real as Apple will finally drop support for Adobe Flash in next version of Safari for Mac! Others to follow

Like most browsers, Apple’s Safari has the option to try out developer version of the browser and it was noted that the latest of Safari’s “Technology Preview” lacked full support for the Adobe Flash plug in.

Apple have infamously being fairly against Adobe Flash, formerly Macromedia Flash, since back in 2010, ten years ago, when Steve Jobs published the “Thoughts on Flash“, which, at the time, was talking more in relation to the use of Flash on touch-based devices such as the, just announced, iPad, and the iPhone OS, in favour of the, also new at the time, HTML5 standard.

It wasn’t too difficult, beneath the usual smoke-and-mirrors, to see where Steve Jobs’ was coming from when it came to the post, Flash was built for a keyboard and mouse interface, something which mobile devices are just not built to support. The post, however, never affected the support for Adobe Flash on Mac OS X, now macOS, until this appearance of the technology being potentially dropped in the next version of Safari.

It’s worth mentioning a few things, however, about this. Safari Technology Preview, version 99, which is the first to stop support for Adobe Flash, cannot gain Flash in any way, whatsoever, so this would literally be a complete drop of support for the plug-in, something we haven’t seen since back in the mid 2000s with the drop of Windows Media support.

This is obviously something which will be affecting Safari primarily, other browser such as Google’s Chrome browser, which have their own embedded plug-ins for technologies such as Flash, will continue to be able to access the format and use it on those browsers. The decision as to whether drop the support on those browsers will lie with those developers, but with this big step by Apple, added to the continued problems Adobe Flash has allowed, it won’t be surprising to see everyone else beginning to follow.

What’s your impressions of the complete drop of Adobe Flash, for us it’s good riddance.

Should Huawei be involved in the UK’s 5G Network?

Whilst the rollout may have begun last year in the UK, 5G in the UK sure has a long way to go, however one of the biggest hurdles in getting the UK’s 5G coverage across the Country is based on who’s technology is going to allow this.

Of course it isn’t just 5G that’s having this same criticism, the rollout of higher speed Fibre networks, such as the Openreach FTTP network, also has been using technology provided by, you know who, Huawei. Whilst there’s alternative companies that provide the technology such as Nokia, the fact is that Huawei offer the best pricing for the same level of technology.

The UK Government is now under pressure from the US to ban the use of Huawei by UK Carrier Networks in their rollout of 5G, however the networks of Vodafone and EE are defending the decision to use Huawei.

Whilst the lead of EE, BT’s chief Marc Allera, and Vodafone’s Nick Read, have both provided a letter dismissing the ban, stating that Huawei’s technology is essential to the 5G rollout in the UK, the question certainly comes upon whether Huawei should be used at all.

The problem is, the Networks have a point, in that Huawei is the best option, from a business stand point, to use for the 5G rollout, however, their has to be the question of, almost, doing the right thing. As we mentioned earlier, their are alternative companies the Carriers could work with.

So, should Huawei be involved in the UK’s 5G Network? No. There’s no excuse other than financial gain to continue to use Huawei in the rollout. Huawei is already used in the UK’s 4G Network, and there’s undeniable evidence of the Chinese government using Huawei to spy. Whilst we are completely up for the rollout of the 5G network in the UK, especially as it’s slowly entering places remotely close to our doorsteps, it’s impossible to support the use of Huawei on these networks.

What do you think, do you agree with the appeal the Carriers are doing towards the Government, whilst it’s still expected the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will likely support the US pressure (UK typically does), so alternatives could have to be used, but we will see.

Why we didn’t cover CES 2020

Whilst we had a big selection of coverage of CES 2019 last year, it’s not gone unnoticed that our coverage of CES 2020 is more or less inexistent, well, they’re just straight up isn’t any. The reason for this is simple, the direction where CES has gone over the last few years.

Whilst we cover technology, its clear that CES just is no longer the place to get the coverage that we are looking. for. In terms of Smartphone announcements, we have a mini, semi-pointless variant of Samsung’s S10 and Note, and that’s more or less about it. The event has focused on the advancements in TV technology, which is incredible, but there’s nothing really which has come out of it for the every day consumer.

One thing that has happened, more or less over the last 12 months especially, but was very noticeable at CES is the advancement in technology from AMD, especially comparatively versus Intel, which is getting insane to see. This is a direction that we’ve not normally gone down, in terms of technology that we cover, but this may be something we start to cover over 2020, as we have been fascinated to see the rise in AMD in the CPU space, we’d just like to see that in the GPU space. We may do a post on AMD with Lisa Su over the next few days.

Long story short, we’ve not covered CES this year for the same reason a lot of people haven’t, the focus has gone. But, we will be back covering technology really soon.

After much delay, the Mac Pro is finally here!

When Apple announced the Mac Pro, one thing that they said was it would be released “Fall 2019”, and in terms of cutting it short, Apple sure did that. releasing it literally at the end of Fall. What Apple have released though is a very controversially priced machine. However, whilst, sure, you can spec out a Mac Pro to the eye-watering stats of £43,000, the fact of the matter is, nobody will, and it’s not meant to be, and that’s the biggest point to make.

In terms of what Apple have delivered, and they have, what you have is one of the most ergonomic PC towers you can buy. One of the most surprising factors of the Mac Pro, is the fact that in terms of cooling, you pretty much only have 3 main fans at the front, but somehow you can run more or less everything on max and not even hear the thing doing anything, which is a massive testament to how Apple have controlled the air flow of this thing.

Where’s the Threadripper option…

As is typical with a Mac Pro, Apple have not opted for consumer grade chips, but gone with Intel’s Xeon line of CPUs, for which you can go all the way up to a 28-Core Processor, for which is of course overkill for what anyone would ever need to use, and that’s the main point in relation to price really, but there’s definitely an elephant in the room… where’s the AMD options.

Over the last couple of years, AMD has just being on a consistent run of incredible performance gains, and even before AMD announce their next generation Zen-based Ryzen CPUs, you can already get better performance out of AMD’s already existing 3rd gen Threadripper processors than what you can get on the Mac Pro’s highest option, and if you were looking at AMD’s Epyc Processor, it’s not even funny! This isn’t a fault of the Mac Pro, this is Intel, Intel have just been completely slacking, though it does beg the question why Apple wouldn’t allow AMD processors, considering the fact that Apple work heavily with AMD with their Metal framework for GPUs, but frustratingly Apple are sticking with Intel, but for the moment that’s not a major problem as these are still overkill CPUs.

But it’s £40odd thousand!!

You can make it £50,000 if you add the newly added 8TB option for SSD and software, but the fact of the matter is, even progressions should NOT buy these configs. These are the halo possibilities that the Mac Pro offers, the fact of the matter is, the realistic purchase is one far less than this, which gets built on as the machine goes forward. In fact the configuration most would be going for, would be more in line of being £10,000 – £18,000 rather than that amount.

One thing that is rather hilarious about the criticism of the price of the Mac Pro, is that it’s ironically a lot cheaper than workstation towers from Dell, HP, Lenovo etc … no really, go on their websites and try making comparable comparisons, and you’ll end up with a much uglier plastic shell as well.

There’s a few things to keep in mind, however, before you get configuring;

  • Apple’s SSD + T2 – Whilst Apple charge quite the hefty amount for their SSDs, and it’s still a joke that this starts with 256GB of it, one thing to keep in mind, whilst the Mac Pro can be configured with additional Storage, and Apple’s SSD is removable, it is configured to a Motherboard level with the SSD using Apple’s T2 Security Chip, meaning this simply will not boot if you use a replacement SSD (not supplied by Apple), so it’s recommended that you do consider this when configuring. Thankfully, Apple’s pricing aren’t too unreasonable for the performance speeds.
  • Do not buy Apple RAM – The opposite of the above point is true about the RAM options in the Mac Pro. The base model starts with 32GB of RAM, which, for many, is plenty, for the Pros it is certainly not, but do not pay Apple’s RAM pricing. You can buy the exact RAM Apple use, or comparable, and use that with the Mac Pro. This alone can save you literally THOUSANDS on the price, for no reason.

Just how good is the AMD Vega II? Expectedly overkill

Whilst AMD is now focused on Navi with their RDNA architecture in their GPUs, much has been questioned upon the performance of the AMD Vega II, though the question of the performance naturally enters the area that was never intended with the Mac Pro, gaming.

The important point to keep in mind, is that the AMD Vega II, alongside the Afterburner Card, is built for productivity, it’s built for outputting high grade Video, Imagery and Audio, as well as so much more, so asking whether it’s decent for Gaming, is a bit wrong. If you wish to Game on the Mac Pro, you’d probably be better just simply purchasing a Radeon RX 5700 XT and putting that in one of the PCI slots, rather than one of these, for the price.

For those wondering, however, performance of a single Vega II in Gaming, what they were not built for, perform better than an Nvidia RTX 2080, and a Duo, will be around a 2080Ti, or if you really spent out and bought the 4 GPU option, with the 2X Vega II Duo, you will then have what Apple and AMD can brand, the worlds most powerful GPU, but for a near £10,000 premium over the abysmal RX580 default, it should be.

Workstation variants of the 5700 XT coming soon

One thing that will allow a great saving when it comes to GPU performance on the Mac Pro, will be the finally introduction of Navi options for the Mac Pro. AMD’s 5700 series of GPUs have been very popular as a best bang for buck 1440p Gaming Card versus Nvidia’s 2060 and 2070 series of GPUs, but the variant Apple will be offering soon for the Mac Pro, will be one built for productivity, the W5700X with 16GB of GDRR6 or the option to buy 2 of them. Performance is not likely to be as good as the Vega II, likely due to not using the more expensive HMB2 memory, as well as having half the GB of VRAM too, but will be a massively lower amount for those who need it.

The wheels … just don’t.

The Mac Pro has some stupid configuration options, we’ve mentioned not touching Apple’s RAM prices, but when it comes to paying ~£400 for a pair of wheels is just stupid. Whilst it will make it easier to move, for sure, just lift the thing up, seriously.

Summary of the Mac Pro

The Mac Pro is Apple’s fastest Mac ever … shocker, right. However, it’s also Apple’s most misunderstood Mac, mostly because the media like to make headlines. Apple, of course like to be renowned as the luxury brand, but with the Mac Pro, it’s sure nice to see Apple finally make a Mac, which you can literally build up from purchase. Even if you bought the 8-Core base model, you could upgrade the CPU down the line, which is quite frankly unheard of in the Mac of recent times.

Of course, this brings up the question, the request, the want, for Apple to build a Mac Pro mini, but we highly doubt Apple will do this. The problem with the Mac Pro, almost, is how it is now so comparable to the iMac Pro, which we personally think is a much better buy for the 80% of people looking for a high end Mac. To be fair, if Apple updated the iMac Pro with Navi graphic options, let’s say replacing the Vega 56 base with the 5700, with an 5700 XT option, then maybe a custom AMD + Apple higher end option, or just AMD releases a 2080Ti style GPU, that iMac Pro would be perfect. But, for now, that’s a dream, but this Mac Pro sure ain’t bad, but you’ll probably need a loan … though, then again, if you do need a loan to get this, it’s probably not for you anyway.

Apple announce all-new 16 inch MacBook Pro with new “Magic Keyboard” and Navi Graphics!

It’s here, Apple’s infamous and very expected all-new MacBook Pro and, we’re not going to lie, it’s a lot better than we were expecting to be honest. Does it have the same divisive keyboard, no, does it still have the ancient Polaris AMD Graphics, no, all these improvements in a 15 inch form factor and price point, this is actually looking fairly decent!

Speaking of the looking like, in terms of design, you’d be hard pressed to tell much difference from the 15 inch it actually replaces, which means the same 4 USB-C ports but outside of that we’re actually fairly praised surrounding the improvements.

16 inch display

Supporting a 3072 x 1920 resolution, the 16 inch display on the new MacBook Pro is literally a slightly increased 15 inch one, with the same PPI to show for it, supporting P3 colour gamut and a very bright 500-nits of brightness.

This all from a form factor the same size as the 15 inch which means the display is far closer to the edge and looks incredible. What won’t look incredible is that Apple have decided to keep the quite-frankly abysmal 720p Webcam on the top.

AMD Navi makes it to a real Mac!

This is a big one! For the longest time, we’re talking nearly 10 years now, the Mac notebook line up has just had very small incremental upgrades to more or less the identical Graphics cards from AMD. We’d blame AMD if they didn’t already have better solutions out there, but they did. Apple did add support for some low power Vega cards if you had the money for it, but finally you can get a Mac and use AMD’s RDNA architecture with their Navi Graphics Cards.

RX 5300M and RX 5500M

These are a big step up from the Radeon Pro 555X you had from the previous MacBook Pro, in fact in terms of the 5500M, it’s worth mentioning this is being put in to gaming PCs for high performance 1080p gaming, so that should tell you in itself that these are worlds better. What’s also nice to see is that they’re not as costly as the older Graphics.

The base models 16 inch MacBook Pros come with either the 5300M or 5500M in their lower 4GB GDDR6 variants, but for not that much more you can top out at the 8GB GDDR6 variant of the 5500M which we would recommend you do, especially as it’s only £180 more on the base, or £90 more on the second base model.

These are a great step up, and definitely worth the extra buck.

That keyboard … is actually good again!

Whilst it may seem the last variant of the butterfly keyboards did fix the issues with the keyboards, Apple seem to have very much heard the call and have gone back to scissor keys on the new 16 inch MacBook Pro, a hallelujah we can already here for so many. This has resulted in the machine being slightly thicker and weighty than it could have been, but we expect this is a more than a perfectly fine trade off for practically everyone.

The keyboard isn’t the MacBook Pro keyboard of yore, it still has a reduced travel, but it will definitely be more reliable, you know, like other Computers.

Specs

The MacBook Pro 16 inch features the latest-ish Intel processors, latest AMD graphics, keyboard it shouldn’t of taken this long to get, and more, and starts at the same price as the 15 inch, but of course it goes further;

15 inch base model – £2,399

  • 2.6GHz 6-core 9th-generation Intel Core i7
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6
  • 16GB 2666Mhz DDR4 memory
  • 512GB SSD

As far as Apple goes, the base spec isn’t actually that bad, as we mentioned earlier though we would tweak the Graphics, but we’re still very impressed with what you get here, this in every category nearly destroys the previous gen.

15 inch high tier – £2,799

  • 2.4Ghz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6
  • 1TB SSD

Whilst this spec does get you the Intel Core i9 and an SSD upgrade, this is really only for those who want to go all out, which is next, but when looking at upgrading the lower tier, it does work out worth it

15 inch maxed out – £5,769

  • 2.4Ghz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9
  • 64GB DDR4 RAM
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6
  • 8TB SSD

Let’s be fair, that SSD is the majority of that price point, but that’s as far as you can chug it and with the added thickness, redesigned cooling, it should be able to deliver it!


Apple’s all new 16 inch MacBook Pro goes on sale in a couple weeks, will you be picking one up?

Apple AirPods Pro Review – They’re Good, but sure ain’t Pro

When Apple announced the original AirPods, which if you can believe it, is way back on the launch of the iPhone 7, which, whilst it was clear they had a ton of engineering surrounding them, the experience of Audio quality and generally the look definitely left most with a lot less to be desired, especially when you consider they sound (if not slightly better) a near-identical fit to Apple’s wired EarPods.

Not to mention the clear number of emissions that you would expect from a pair of Headphones in that price bracket, such as noise cancellation, being absent, the AirPods definitely were a tough sell for most. However, despite all these shortcomings, they are still currently the worlds most popular Bluetooth devices on the market today, reason why is fairly simple, everything else about AirPods is really good, such as reliability, integration with other Apple devices, the battery case and more.

But, you already knew this. The question now comes to how Apple are going to fix the lacking features with these. AirPods 2 may have made a minor improvement to audio and introduced Wireless Charging as an option, but where does that leave the future of AirPods…

In comes AirPods Pro

A slightly wider and larger case, now with Wireless Charging as a default, is what originally greets you with AirPods Pro, though, whilst they do still charge using Lightning, Apple now includes a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box matching the already included cable in the box of Apple’s newest iPhones … so, no, not fully adopting USB-C in this generation, we reckon this is a transitional period and we could see that from the next generation update to the AirPods, likely expect we will have to wait until the iPhone has USB-C for that to happen first.

Of course the inclusion of USB-C at the end of the Charging Port is useful for recent Mac purchases, especially on the Notebook side, as that’s more or less the only Port you have, but also as you can also use more traditional chargers that could come from Android or other devices, perhaps even iPad Pro devices as well. However, if you don’t have a USB-C device, you can of course use your iPhone charger as well with these.

Battery life is nearly the same as AirPods of old, 5 hours of listening in the buds, with a combined of ~24 hours when using the case, though Apple do state this goes down by around half an hour if you use the software level Noise Cancellation, or Transparency mode, more on that later, if both of those are Off, the same 5 hours applies from prior AirPods.

Design – Less stem, but more wider

If there’s one thing we certainly didn’t like about the original AirPods, or perhaps even the EarPods, it’s the one-size-fits-all approach to the way they fit in the ear, as well as the rather over-sized stem, which whilst that may give you that added bit of confidence when it comes to the microphone you will be using for phone calls or Siri, it does make them look like an eye-sore. With AirPods Pro, this is gone, now in favour of, granted, a more wider design, but least now they look a lot more conventional in the ear, but, whilst still maintaining that AirPods look.

Whilst we are still testing the AirPods Pro microphone quality, one thing we will say, is Siri has been very responsive and picked up everything we said, as for calling, we found that people on the other side couldn’t tell if we were using the iPhone microphone or the AirPods microphone, which to be fair, makes them a win for us just there alone.

As a result of the more wider, but far less narrow design of the AirPods Pro, this has resulted in a completely different shape for the Charging case, gone from the pack of Tic-tacs design of yore, now with a more wider design. This design is also a tad thicker, but to be fair both are still very pocketable and compact, and, still offer the same functionality for the AirPods they house, in fact identically if you have the AirPods with Wireless Charging case versus the new AirPods Pro.

As you can see from the picture on the side, the design of the AirPods Pro, being less stem and more wide, as an end result, just means they look far less obtrusive and just like someone who, sure, is wearing Apple earphones, but not someone who is wearing those silly looking AirPods. It is worth mentioning that some people never minded the original AirPods design, if you are one of them, just know you’re a minority in this one, which is why we’re very happy with the far less in your face look of them now.

Thanks to the 3 different size rubber tips you have in the box as well, these are no longer, what Apple defines as, “universal fit”, these are now earphones you can customise the fit for your ears. By default, out of the box, the AirPods Pro come preinstalled with the medium fit tips, which, naturally, for most, these will probably be the ones to use, though we will say that we actually find the larger tips to be far better for both quality, more on that later, and comfort, though then again, another person who tested these found they could only wear them with the smaller tip, but at the end of the day, it’s having that option that makes these a worlds better than the traditional AirPods design.

BIG SIDE-NOTE FROM US: The AirPods Pro sounded like absolute garbage when we first got them and I think it’s fair to say we were looking at all the reviews saying they’re a big step up, sound great, and wondering what people were smoking as ours sounded rubbish. Why was this? Well, comes down to how we were putting these on. Unlike most earphones with tips, the AirPods Pro are shaped oval, not circular, which means instead of what felt tips do, which essentially is mould to your ears, these are shaped in a way where they are designed to be placed in your ears aligned and correctly. This is something you get used to doing, but it is incredibly important to note, as these genuinely sounded like rubbish headphones for a fiver for a moment and we were getting braced to have a much less, let’s say, rosy review.

SIDE NOTE #2: This isn’t really a side-note, but for those wondering, the AirPods of course work with non-Apple devices, and can be paired using the built in button placed on the back of them under the metallic hinge when the AirPods are opened. By tapping the button they will enter a pairing mode, a light will begin to flash, this is when you can pair with them with any other devices by generally selecting Pair.

Sound quality + noise cancellation = Mixed results…

Whilst Apple didn’t adopt felt tips for the AirPods Pro, these are plastic/rubber texture tips, they more or less, by themselves, increase the quality of audio, just naturally by bouncing the audio around a seal within your ears, this also, as a result gives you a minor level of audio cancellation, which is to be expected, but of course Apple went one step further than this by adopting software level Passive noise cancellation.

Whilst this is nothing breakthrough, it’s probably the only “Pro” feature on these. The AirPods feature mics on the exterior, naturally for phone calls and Siri integration, but also mics on the inside, which together map the Audio outside and attempt to invert that using sound waves to essentially give you a blank sound. This even works whilst not playing anything, and it’s almost creepy to begin with and it does work pretty well in many instances, though it’s certainly not perfect.

One the other side of that, Apple also have a Transparency mode, which again uses the mics, but in a completely different way. This time, the external mics are projected internally to allow you to still hear all what’s happening around you, almost as if you weren’t wearing the AirPods at all. We find this more impressive than the passive noise cancellation as it really does allow you to hear everything externally, and we’ve used it whilst buying things in a shop, though naturally do be aware everyone will still think you’re being rude and thinking they’re not heard as much.

Noise Cancellation = The best feature we don’t use

The problem with the noise cancellation feature of the new AirPods Pro is it’s only good at very specific surroundings. If you have a consistent sound occurring in the background, a perfect example of this was being inside a parked bus, they work amazing, you literally can’t hear anything and it’s just you and the music, BUT, the second there’s loud noise that’s not consistent things begin to break up.

When you’re in a more inconsistent noisy background, we find the Audio quality of the AirPods Pro suffers quite dearly and many parts of the Audio you’re listening to almost get an interference sound, akin to a severe reduce bitrate, an almost watery effect in some highs which can be incredibly distracting when trying to enjoy your music.

Whilst it’s true this may not be a problem for everyone, for us it’s a dealbreaker for the majority of areas we would like the feature to work on, whilst traveling on a bus. We’ve full confidence this will work better on an Aeroplane as the sound in that is more consistent. As a result of this, we tend to have the Setting on majority time to Off, then Transparency when we need to hear the outside world.

When we are at home, however, walking the streets, noise cancellation certainly does it’s job, so it’s definitely situational.

Audio quality = Sure ain’t pro, but it’s decent

Original AirPods sounded the same as Apple’s EarPods, which was pretty much embarrassing, in our opinion, this slightly improved, and we mean slightly, with AirPods 2, but the difference with AirPods Pro is certainly noticeable. Bass is more richer and free, though we will say we think the Trebles are a bit too extreme in many areas and as a result the overall sound isn’t as good as we think the drivers are capable of delivering.

One of our biggest annoyances about Audio quality of the AirPods Pro is Apple’s DREADFUL EQs on iOS. We’ve found that, overall, generally speaking the best choice is the “Hip-Hop” preset, but the fact that Apple don’t just allow granular controls to the equaliser is just incredibly frustrating, as most AirPods Pro competitors do so within their own accommodating Application to make up for iOS sheer lack of it.

Overall though, we don’t think most people will be let down by the Audio quality of the AirPods Pro, but there’s one thing we will say about this; as we mentioned in Design, if you put these on as you would with “normal” earphones, they will sound like garbage, so you do need to put them on correctly, with the tip pointing towards what would be your lips.

The fundamentals = Where these things just shine

Whilst the whole “magic” of AirPods is something which is incredibly easy to mock, there’s something fairly undeniable about AirPods when it comes to the experience, not only out of the box, but just in general.

Software integration with Apple’s main operating systems is of course top of the line, and there’s no hiding that pairing just by opening them for the first time near your phone is nothing less than incredible. This also works if you choose to “Share Audio” with another none paired Apple device, you just watch it happen and it’s crazy.

The reliability history of AirPods is also hard to deny. We’ve experienced enough Bluetooth headphones to know that there’s A LOT of areas where they can just fall short, and whilst we can’t entirely comment on this much with the AirPods Pro, let’s not forget how old these things are, they were literally announced on Tuesday, what we can say is they’ve just done the job.

Battery life, sure there’s competing headphones with better battery life, but they have cases that are simply humongous, these are compact and will easily last you a working week. We’ve not had them for a week, no one has, but we can tell you based on what’s left and we’ve been using these far more than we would normally use them for, it would be an easy bet to suggest they would get you through a 5 day working week.

Tiny things such as music pausing when a single AirPod is removed is nice, especially when it instantly resumes once it’s placed back in. Sure, these are small things, but they’re small things that add up to such a good experience.

Being able to check the battery life of your AirPods via the Apple Watch battery or your iPhone battery, is also incredibly useful, more so that the Apple Watch could do it, we almost wish Apple expanded that so it shows your iPhone battery life on the Watch, but that’s an entirely different conversation.

The Pros, the Cons and Summary

PRO
  • Improved audio quality versus the standard versions with deeper bass
  • Multiple sized tips so they’ll be one that fits great in your ear
  • The tip of the AirPods is so much smaller so they look far less silly
  • The integration between Apple devices is really neat
  • They instantly pair on and off without even thinking about it
  • Battery life is stellar and just as advertised
  • Connection has been far more reliable than a number of other Bluetooth headphones we have tested
  • Include a USB-C cable to charge using more conventional chargers, though also Apple’s newest Mac and iPad hardware
CONS
  • If noise cancellation is not important for you, the normal AirPods may still be a better buy
  • Maybe not for all, but there’s certainly a learning curve at putting them on
  • They’re not as seamless at going back in the case
  • There’s currently a UI bug on iOS that sometimes twitches between L or R when showing the AirPods battery life by opening the case with them in
  • For the price, if you’re looking for the best audio quality, these just simply aren’t for you
  • Whilst they do support Wireless Charging, we find it’s incredibly slow
SUMMARY

Most won’t be disappointed, a lot of features like reliability and integration are industry leading, but if audio is everything to you, “audiophiles” out there, these ain’t for you

One good thing about Apple’s AirPods Pro, is that they don’t actually replace the AirPods 2 Apple have been selling very well, and what that means is you now have a choice upon which AirPods you should buy. The AirPods Pro really do take everything most people critiqued about the AirPods and attempts to fix all of them, and they’ve certainly done a very solid almost at every one of them, but it is worth mentioning that for so many people, the normal AirPods will still suffice, and with how poor we find Wireless Charging on these, there’s a clear £90 difference between getting, sure, battery audio quality, but for most, just the noise cancellation, and if that’s not important for you and you just want the AirPods experience we would still recommend the £159 versions.

However, when it comes to us reviewing the AirPods Pro, these are literally the only AirPods we would ever consider. We’re listening to them during this review, and whilst we’re hardly in a noisy environment, they just sound good, nothing out of this world special and groundbreaking, but also not bad and disappointing, just they sound good, and we know for most people that’s what we’re looking for.

The biggest hurdle for the AirPods Pro will of course be the £249 asking price, which could go down slightly as we enter the holiday season, like the AirPods traditionally do, but as with all AirPods you’ve to ask yourself whether the naturally really good unique fundamentals that these things do offer is worth it enough for you to consider them. If you want them, and get them, we doubt you’ll be disappointed, but if you’re an audiophile who listens for every bit and channel, you should naturally step away now.

Update January 2020

Since the release of a number of software updates that Apple has released for the AirPods, we have noticed a number of things. For one, the Noise Cancelation is slightly less-so, which is a bit disappointing, but it appears that this is in response to once of our biggest complaints with the feature, being the weird noises that we were experiencing when using the feature in inconsistent noisy environments, such as travel. So, we can now confirm that we do use Noise Cancelation above the simple “Off” feature, which does still cancel a bit out, but obviously you still get more canceled out. The audio quality of the AirPods Pro, however, is exactly the same as we said from the start, which is to say they’re good, but sure ain’t pro.