Apple is sneaking in one more big product unveiling before 2016 comes to a close, and expectations for new Macs are running high. And how couldn’t they be? Aside from last year’s iMacs and the 12-inch MacBook, Cupertino’s computer lineup has gone largely untouched since 2015 — and there are numerous systems that have remained the same for even longer. But which Macs are going to get an upgrade on Oct. 27th? And is there a chance that other devices will get their moment in the sun? We’ve rounded up some of the more credible rumors to give you a sense of what’s likely in store.
Redesigned MacBook Pro
If there’s anything that could be considered a lock for the “Hello Again” event, it’s a refreshed MacBook Pro lineup. Apple hasn’t made any significant changes there since mid-2015, and some elements have stuck around for ages. The 15-inch models are still using the fourth-generation Core i7 chips they got back in 2014, for example, while the basic designs of both the 13- and 15-inch systems have remained largely the same since they were introduced in 2012. Even if you discount the rumors, it’s safe to say the MacBook Pro is long overdue for a makeover.
Thankfully, it sounds like you’re going to get just that. Numerous scoops (supported by a case leak from Cult of Mac) suggest that the new Pros are coming this fall, and will center around an OLED touch strip above the keyboard that adapts to the context of whatever you’re doing. You’d get media playback controls if music is playing, or app-specific shortcuts for tasks like video editing or web browsing. Also, Apple might introduce a fingerprint-reading power button that streamlines your sign-ins and online purchases through Apple Pay.
Those same leaks also hint that the MacBook Pros’ ports will be a mixed bag. Instead of the usual variety of connections, you’d get USB-C ports (with Thunderbolt 3 for some high-speed peripherals), a headphone jack … and that’s about it. You might need adapters for video output, SD card readers and other hookups that might have had native connections before. It could be an inconvenience, at least in the short term when USB-C peripherals are rare, but it would give you a more flexible computer in the long run. You wouldn’t have to buy a 15-inch system (or a hub) just to get more than two USB ports or worry about where you plug in an external display.
What’s powering these laptops is a tougher call. Intel did just introduce its first seventh-generation Core (aka Kaby Lake) processors, but the current versions are lower-power chips designed for ultraportables, not mobile workhorses like the MacBook Pro. Unless Apple can score higher-power parts, you may have to “settle” for sixth-gen Core CPUs. You could get improved battery life, though, and there are hints you’ll be able to configure it with up to a 2TB solid-state drive.
The graphics on the 15-inch model would definitely get a boost too. Rumors have it sporting AMD Polaris-based video that would help with creative work and the occasional round of gaming. Just don’t expect a 4K display, because the tidbits we’ve seen suggest that you’ll get the same screen resolutions (2,560 x 1,440 and 2,880 x 1,800) that you have now.
Whatever mystery is left comes down to the pricing. Will these systems carry any kind of premium over their ancestors? And will the base models have enough horsepower and storage to keep you satisfied? Barring last-minute revelations, that may have to wait until event day.
A 13-inch MacBook … or is it a new MacBook Air?
It’s when you consider other possible Mac introductions that things get tricky. There have been conflicting reports as to how Apple will tweak its lower-cost laptops, and both sides can make a persuasive case.
One rumor from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman (who has a solid track record for Apple scoops) has Apple releasing an upgraded 13-inch MacBook Air with USB-C ports. It’s not certain what else would be improved. A higher-quality display, perhaps? The current batch of seventh-generation Core processors would work in a new Air, at least, so performance could easily take a step forward. And like it or not, Apple may have to keep the Air current simply because it’s the only MacBook you can buy at a sub-$1,000 price point. Don’t expect the 11-inch Air to survive, as it’s supposedly being cut (it feels a bit redundant now, thanks to the 12-inch MacBook).
However, a conflicting prediction from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who also has a good record) has Apple passing over the Air in favor of something else: a 13-inch version of the MacBook first launched in 2015. Little is known about what that would entail besides a likely Retina display, but a larger frame could allow for a beefier processor (not just one of Intel’s lowest-power Core chips), as well as additional ports. More than one USB-C socket, please! The question is, where this would fit in the lineup? Unless the 12-inch version becomes more affordable, a 13-inch MacBook could be priced well into MacBook Pro territory.
We wouldn’t rule either portable out at this stage, but history would suggest that the second option is more likely. Once Apple introduces a new Mac design at the heart of its lineup, it rarely revisits the old hardware. This is the company that’s still selling a four-year-old MacBook Pro to optical drive diehards, remember. Combine that with the Air’s aging circa-2010 chassis and it’s easy to see why Apple would want to move on.
Wild cards: New iPads, more Macs
What else could appear on Oct. 27th? You might not want to get your hopes up for new desktops. When seventh-generation desktop Core processors aren’t due to appear until 2017, an iMac revamp seems unlikely. Ditto the Mac Pro, which would depend on new Xeon E5 models. A fabled 5K stand-alone display may have to wait until the new year as well, according to rumors. About the only Mac desktop that could qualify for a near-term upgrade is the Mac mini, and any update (we’re not expecting one) could easily be limited to a low-key press release.
If anything beyond MacBooks appears onstage, it’s more likely to be iPads. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is approaching the first anniversary of its ship date, and it’s looking long in the tooth compared to the 9.7-inch model. We’re skeptical of purported A10X benchmarks, but Macotakara (which is sometimes accurate, but not always) hears that a 12.9-inch refresh is in the cards with the 12-megapixel rear camera and TrueTone display of its smaller sibling. The site even talks about a 7.9-inch iPad Pro with many of the features from larger models. Let’s also not forget that the iPad Air 2 is marking its second birthday. It’s old enough that Apple may see fit to either replace it or give it the ax, although there haven’t been any rumors so far.
Image credits: Martin Hajek; AP Photo/Eric Risberg; AOL
Apple is planning to hold an event on Thursday, October 27, which will focus solely on giving the Mac lineup some much-needed attention. Many of Apple’s Macs have gone more than a year without an update, like the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro, while others, like the Mac mini and the Mac Pro, have gone several years without a refresh.
This is Apple’s first Mac-only event in years and the biggest Mac announcement since the Retina MacBook debuted in early 2015.
The MacBook Pro received a major redesign in 2012, and four years later, it’s about to receive another complete overhaul. With a new body, radical new features, and revamped internals, the MacBook Pro is expected to be the headlining product of Apple’s October 27 event. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has even called the MacBook Pro “the most significant upgrade ever undertaken by Apple.”
The MacBook Pro will continue to be available in 13 and 15-inch size options, but it will feature a thinner and lighter form factor than the current MacBook Pro, bringing it more in line with the 12-inch MacBook.
The body of the machine will not be tapered like the MacBook Air or the Retina MacBook, but it is said to have shallower curves around the edges, a wider pressure-sensitive Force Touch trackpad, metal injection mold-made hinges, thin speaker grilles next to the keyboard, up to 2TB of storage space, and a flatter MacBook-style keyboard with more stable keys that use a butterfly mechanism and single LED backlighting.
At the top of the keyboard, the physical function keys will be replaced with an OLED touch panel (perhaps called the “Magic Toolbar”) with digital keys and buttons that are contextual, changing based on the application that’s in use. A Touch ID fingerprint sensor is expected to be built into the touch panel, giving users a way to more quickly unlock their Macs.
A small processor similar to the processor in the Apple Watch may be built into the panel, allowing it to run on a small amount of energy that won’t heavily impact battery life. It’s possible this will also include a secure enclave to protect Touch ID.
Rumors suggest the MacBook Pro will continue to be available in the same resolutions as current-generation models (2560 x 1600 for the 13-inch and 2880 x 1800 for the 15-inch), but better display quality and energy efficiency are expected.
Leaked images of the MacBook Pro casing sourced from a Chinese supplier suggest it will include just four USB-C ports and a headphone jack, doing away with the MagSafe port, USB-A ports, the HDMI port, and the SD card slot, so MacBook Pro buyers may need to invest in several adapters.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple or an Apple-approved third-party manufacturer will perhaps produce a USB-C MagSafe-like adapter with breakaway functionality to replace the MagSafe feature.
Inside, the MacBook Pro is expected to include Intel’s latest Skylake processors, and high-end 15-inch models are likely to feature AMD’s Polaris graphics chips, able to offer “console-class GPU performance” with a low-power mobile architecture.
Thunderbolt 3 and support for the 10Gb/s USB 3.1 Gen 2 specification are rumored for the machine, and drawing on improvements introduced with the MacBook, Apple is likely to use terraced battery technology for impressive MacBook-style battery life that outperforms existing MacBook Pro machines. Faster flash storage, an improved Retina display, and new color options for the body (Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray) are also strong possibilities.
For more detail on the next-generation MacBook Pro, make sure to check out our MacBook Pro roundup.
The 13-inch MacBook Air was updated with 8GB RAM earlier this year, and it looks like it’s set to get another minor refresh. Rumors suggest Apple is planning to add USB-C ports to the MacBook Air, bringing it in line with the upcoming MacBook Pro and the Retina MacBook.
Aside from the addition of USB-C ports, it’s possible the MacBook Air could get a minor internal spec bump, adding Skylake processors and Thunderbolt 3 support, but it’s clear that Apple is in the process of phasing out the MacBook Air, so major changes are not expected. At this point, the MacBook Air has largely been replaced by the thinner, lighter MacBook.
Like the standard non-Retina MacBook Pro that’s been available for several years, Apple will likely keep the MacBook Air around as a low-cost option, but it’s unlikely to see big changes going forward. Japanese site Mac Otakara says that only the 13-inch MacBook Air will be sticking around, so it’s possible the 11-inch machine will be retired.
For more info on the upcoming changes that could be coming to the MacBook Air, make sure to check out our MacBook Air roundup.
The iMac line was last updated in October of 2015, and it’s due for a refresh, but a new report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says iMacs aren’t ready to ship. He believes Apple could potentially announce the machines at the event and launch them during the first half of 2017, but this does not agree with previous rumors that have suggested iMacs could debut at the event.
For that reason, it’s unclear if the iMacs will be updated on October 27th. We aren’t expecting to see any exterior changes to the iMac, but internally, Skylake processor upgrades are likely for the 21.5-inch machine. As for the 27-inch iMac, it’s already using the most recent Skylake chips and since no Kaby Lake chips are available, it may not see a processor upgrade.
Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1, and the latest Polaris graphics cards from AMD in higher-end 27-inch machines are likely upgrades we may see in the 2016 or 2017 iMac. Graphics improvements will undoubtedly be the highlight of the iMac update, as AMD’s latest chips are expected to offer double the performance of the previous generation, measured on a per-watt basis.
For more detail on the iMac, make sure to check out our iMac roundup.
Apple retired the Thunderbolt Display in June, but its retirement doesn’t signal the end of Apple’s work on external displays.
Apple is rumored to be developing a 5K Retina display with an integrated GPU in partnership with LG, but there’s no word on when it might be released. Rumors haven’t suggested such a display is coming on Thursday, and Ming-Chi Kuo does not believe they’re ready for an imminent launch, but it does make some sense to release it alongside Macs equipped with Thunderbolt 3.
A 5K display would feature the same 5120 X 2880 resolution as the 27-inch Retina 5K iMac, and it could look similar, too. In the past, the Thunderbolt Display has shared the same screen as the iMac, but with an LG partnership thrown into the mix, the sourcing and the design of the display are less certain.
Because a 5K display requires so much bandwidth, even with an integrated GPU, it’s likely only newer machines will be able to drive it. Full plug-and-play support for 5K external displays will require the DisplayPort 1.3 or DisplayPort 1.4 standards, but none of Apple’s Macs or upcoming Macs support it, so that’s why Apple needs to use an integrated GPU.
For additional info on the 5K iMac and what to expect, make sure to check out our Thunderbolt Display roundup.
The Mac Pro hasn’t been updated since it received its radical cylinder-style redesign in 2013, so it is overdue for an update. Components for a refresh have been available for several years, but it is unclear if Apple will refresh the machine.
There have been no rumors suggesting an update is in the works, but if Apple is planning a refresh, it will likely be just a minor spec bump, introducing the latest Xeon chips, AMD graphics, and USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3 support.
More detail on the Mac Pro and chips might be included can be found in our Mac Pro roundup.
It’s been two years since the Mac mini was last refreshed, and it’s unclear if Apple plans to update it again or quietly retire it going forward. There have been no rumors of a refresh, but there was a two-year gap between the 2012 update and the 2014 update and it is long overdue for a spec bump.
The Mac mini uses the same processors as the MacBook Pro, and there are Skylake chips appropriate for a refresh available. Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C are other possible upgrades the Mac mini could see if Apple is planning to update the machine.
MacRumors will provide live coverage of Apple’s October 27 Mac event both here on MacRumors.com and through our MacRumorsLive Twitter account.
Related Roundups: iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro
Buyer’s Guide: iMac (Don’t Buy), MacBook Air (Don’t Buy), Retina MacBook Pro (Don’t Buy)
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KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a new research report outlining his expectations for next Thursday’s “Hello Again” event where Apple is expected to make a number of Mac-related announcements.
In line with long-standing rumors, Kuo believes the highlight of the event will be a redesigned MacBook Pro in both 13-inch and 15-inch sizes, adopting an OLED touch bar and Touch ID sensor, USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, and the same butterfly keyboard design introduced on the MacBook in 2015. Kuo also adds several new tidbits to the rumor mix:
Our new predictions also include: (1) Intel’s (US) Skylake processor; (2) the same panel resolution but better display quality and energy efficiency thanks to an oxide panel; (3) a new option of 2TB SSD storage capacity; (4) adoption of a similar processor as Apple Watch to control the OLED touch bar more energy-efficiently in the new MacBook Pro models; and (5) a Type-C & MagSafe-like adapter rolled out by Apple or a third-party supplier, given positive reviews for the MagSafe charging design.
Beyond the MacBook Pro, Kuo says Apple will also be introducing a “13-inch MacBook,” a claim he has shared previously. Rather than being a slightly larger version of the current 12-inch MacBook, however, this is likely to be a MacBook Air, which would align with other rumors claiming that only the 13-inch MacBook Air will be seeing an update with new USB-C ports.
On the desktop side, rumors have indicated that Apple is working on updated iMac models with discrete AMD graphics options, as well as a new standalone external 5K display, but Kuo says those products will not be ready until the first half of next year. It is still possible, however, that Apple could announce them at next week’s event.
We also expect Apple to launch new iMacs (21.5-inch and 27-inch) and Cinema Display (27-inch) in mid- 1H17. We cannot say for certain whether Apple will announce the new iMacs and Cinema Display on October 27 as the shipping schedule is not imminent.
Apple’s event is being held at the company’s Cupertino campus and kicks off at 10:00 AM Pacific Time on Thursday. MacRumors will have full coverage both here on the site and on our @MacRumorsLive Twitter account, and Apple will be offering a live video stream of the event.
Related Roundups: iMac, MacBook Air, Thunderbolt Display, MacBook Pro, Retina MacBook
Tag: Ming-Chi Kuo
Buyer’s Guide: iMac (Don’t Buy), MacBook Air (Don’t Buy), Displays (Don’t Buy), Retina MacBook Pro (Don’t Buy), MacBook (Neutral)
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Apple today sent out media invites for a Mac-centric event that will be held on Thursday, October 27 at 10:00 a.m. at Apple’s Cupertino campus.
The October event is expected to focus on the introduction of new Macs, headlined by a much-rumored and highly anticipated revamped MacBook Pro. According to rumors, the new MacBook Pro will feature the first redesign to the machine since 2012.
A thinner, lighter body is expected, with a wider, pressure-sensitive trackpad and a flatter MacBook-style keyboard with the same butterfly key mechanism. The MacBook Pro will be available in the same 13 and 15-inch size options, and will feature USB-C with USB 3.1 support for faster transfer speeds, Thunderbolt 3, and Touch ID.
Touch ID is expected to be built into a new OLED touch panel built into the top of the MacBook Pro, where it will replace the physical function key row. The OLED touch panel is said to feature contextual buttons that will change based on each app that’s in use. A leaked chassis suggests it will feature four USB-C ports and a headphone jack, but no HDMI port, no USB-A ports, no MagSafe connector, and no SD card slot.
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A refreshed 13-inch MacBook Air with USB-C ports has also been rumored, but it is not clear if other internal changes will be made to Apple’s low-cost machine. It’s possible the 13-inch MacBook Air will be a standalone product going forward, based on rumors suggesting the 11-inch model will be discontinued.
Apple is also said to be working on updated iMacs with AMD graphics chips, which could be introduced at the event, and we might possibly see the debut of a rumored 5K Retina display with an integrated GPU. Apple discontinued the original Thunderbolt Display earlier this year, but an updated product has been in the works and it makes sense to release it alongside refreshed Macs if it’s ready to launch.
Apple’s Mac Pro and Mac mini are in dire need of refreshes, having been updated last in 2013 and 2014, respectively, but it is not clear if these machines will also see updates at the event.
MacRumors plans to provide live coverage of Apple’s October 27 event, both here on MacRumors.com and through our MacRumorsLive Twitter account. Apple will also live stream the event on its website and on the Apple TV.
Related Roundups: iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro
Buyer’s Guide: iMac (Don’t Buy), MacBook Air (Don’t Buy), Retina MacBook Pro (Don’t Buy)
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Even before Apple’s September event, rumors swirled that the company would save any Mac-related updates for an October presentation. As the month has gone on, however, fans have wondered whether or not or not anything would happen. Isn’t it a little late to send out press invitations? Supposedly, you can relax. Recode sources claim that Apple will introduce new Macs at an event on October 27th. This would be a smaller-scale affair than the iPhone 7 introduction (possibly held on Apple’s campus), but that doesn’t mean that it would be devoid of interesting products. If you believe the rumors, just the opposite is true.
While the leak doesn’t give any hints as to what you can expect, there have already been plenty of rumors. The headliner may be overhauled 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros that include OLED touch strips and fingerprint readers, but ditch conventional ports in favor of multiple USB-C connections. You could also see a stand-alone 5K display and refreshed MacBook Airs with USB-C. And of course, nearly every other computer in Apple’s lineup is due for an upgrade of some kind — you could see a slew of revisions, even if some of them never get mentioned on stage. The purported unveiling is just over a week away, so you won’t have long to find out whether or not the story is true.
While we prepare to see the next iPhone on September 7th, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has delivered another batch of rumors centered around Apple’s iPad and Mac plans. According to his sources, along with a standalone 5K monitor the company is working on with LG (that would surpass even the 21:9 screens just announced) the next step for iMacs are the option of AMD GPUs built-in, while the Macbook Air is expected to get a USB-C upgrade that could mimic the current Macbook.
Otherwise, a thinner (of course) Macbook Pro could take its own notes from the Macbook with a flatter keyboard, plus what Bloomberg says is a “Dynamic Function Row” above the keyboard. Earlier rumors referred to an OLED touch bar, and combined with the upcoming Sierra macOS update, it could handle different functions depending on what software is active, like iMovie or Safari.
Finally, the iPad is expected to get upgraded display tech that zooms and scrolls faster, while a software update would make the Apple Pencil work across more software on iOS. The new iPad software is expected to arrive at some point in 2017, while the new Mac hardware is expected to debut later this year.
Apple to Release New MacBook Pro and Air as Early as October, AMD iMacs and 5K Display With LG Also in Works
Apple is planning to refresh its Mac lineup, including the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, as early as October, according to Bloomberg. The report also claims Apple is working on a standalone 5K display in partnership with LG Electronics, while it plans to update iMac models with an option for new graphics chips from AMD.
The report reiterates that the new MacBook Pro will be thinner and include an OLED-based touchscreen strip along the top of the flatter keyboard, which will present functions that dynamically fit the current task or application, as well as integrate Touch ID to enable users to quickly log in using their fingerprint.
For example, if a user is on their desktop, the screen will show a virtual representation of the standard function row, which includes brightness and media controls. When in an application, the virtual row will show options specific to the task at hand, but volume controls and a switch to show the default functions will always be present.
Apple has reportedly named the feature “Dynamic Function Row” internally, but its official name may differ when announced.
The tweaked MacBook Air models, meanwhile, are said to include multipurpose USB-C ports, which makes the inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 a possibility. No other details were shared about the planned MacBook Air and iMac refreshes.
Apple’s plans to work with LG on a standalone 5K display surface two months after it discontinued the five-year-old Thunderbolt Display. It remains unclear if the monitor will be based upon the Retina 5K iMac, and it is also unclear if the report’s broad late 2016 timeframe for “some of the new Mac products” includes the display.
The report makes it nearly certain that the focus of Apple’s just-announced September 7 media event will be on the iPhone 7 and the second-generation Apple Watch, the latter of which has now been confirmed for the event. Apple will also provide updates about its software, including iOS 10, macOS Sierra, watchOS 3, and tvOS 10.
Related Roundups: iMac, MacBook Air, Thunderbolt Display, MacBook Pro
Tags: bloomberg.com, LG, USB-C, AMD
Buyer’s Guide: iMac (Don’t Buy), MacBook Air (Don’t Buy), Displays (Don’t Buy), Retina MacBook Pro (Don’t Buy)
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When you write about technology for a living, a lot of folks ask you for buying advice. And, while we get to test the latest and greatest gear on the planet, telling others what to spend their money on is often easier than shopping for ourselves. Only a select few devices are deemed worthy of our dollars. These are the best gadgets we bought in 2015.
My wife’s seven year old iMac died this year. After years of delivering email, editing photos and being used exactly once to boot Windows XP, I’m pretty sure it was the power supply that did it in. Naturally, the only option to replace that 17-inch computer was a 27-inch, 5K Retina display iMac with a 1TB drive. The screen is amazing. It makes all those stored photos look way better than they actually are. Also, that email text is really, really crisp. It’s really great for watching Rick and Morty when your wife commandeers the TV to watch a period piece on PBS. The computer, while probably more than we needed, is making our lives a bit better. If only OS X El Capitan would stop putting it to sleep and refusing to wake back up when pinged by the network — even though I’ve set it to wake for network access. Really, if that niggle were fixed, it would be the perfect emailing, photo editing, random cartoon-watching machine.
While we shelled out a hefty chunk of cash to use only ten percent of that 5K iMac’s potential (We’ll grow into it!), I’m actually pretty thrifty. So, a few months ago I treated myself to a soldering station with a magnifying glass and two alligator clips to hold my delicate pieces of electronics while I melted metal to metal. I’ve used it to fix a few microphones (I’m in a band) and I totally intend to use it to finally put together that LED sign set I bought at DEFCON. In recent years, I find myself gravitating more towards these maker type of tech purchases. Sure, I buy a new iPhone every year or two, but as I look at the commercial hardware filling the tech world, I’m largely unimpressed. On the other hand, the DIY/Maker world is currently where the fun is at. BRB, I gotta go buy some LEDs.
Like millions of other people, I also stayed up late to pre-order the Apple Watch on the night of April 10th, 2015. I’d tried many smartwatches before that, including the original Moto 360, but none of them ever managed to become an essential part of my life. Not that I was expecting the Apple Watch to do what those couldn’t, but having recently switched back to an iPhone and it being Apple’s first take on this kind of device, I simply couldn’t resist. I did debate whether or not to pull the trigger on the stainless steel version, but ultimately decided to wait until the second generation before springing for the higher-end Watch.
So, I bought the entry-level model.
Eight months later, I find myself wearing it every day and suffering no buyer’s remorse. That’s much to my own surprise, since I’ve never been a “watch guy.” Worst case scenario, I figured I could return it to Apple if I didn’t end up using it much. But here it is, strapped to my left wrist as I type these very words. Now, the Watch is far from being a gadget I feel the need to be rockin’ on a daily basis. While it’s a nice extension of my iPhone, letting me view notifications or use Apple Pay directly from my wrist, I would be okay without either of those features. That said, the Watch is now one of the first things I grab when I start getting ready for the day, which says a lot about its effect on me.
More than anything, I just love the way it looks and feels. Unlike the Moto 360 I have, Apple’s 42mm Watch doesn’t feel big or bulky on my wrist — most of the time I forget I’m even wearing it. My favorite part of the Watch, however, is the feature that reminds me to stand up if I’ve been sitting for long periods of time. If I’m at my desk, every hour I get a notification telling my to stand up and walk around for a few minutes. Considering my job requires me to be in front of a computer for nine or more hours every day, those periodic reminders are much appreciated, since chronic sitting just might slowly be killing me. That the Watch does what it does in style is just a plus, and it really pops when paired with that Product Red band I purchased a few weeks ago.
My favorite gadget purchase this year is actually something released last year: Amazon’s Echo. I’ve written a love letter about the Echo already, but as we near the end of 2015, it’s worth reiterating just how great it is. I usually start every day by asking Alexa, the Echo’s digital assistant, to play WNYC, my local NPR station. As I’m feeding my cats, I ask about the weather. When I’m making dinner, I can have Alexa set timers and change music tracks, all hands-free. At this point, the Echo is basically the household computer I’ve always wanted.
Even today, Siri and Google Now can’t compete with the Echo when it comes to listening and responding to voice commands. Apple only recently added hands-free Siri support to the iPhone with iOS 9, a feature that’s nice to have, but has been mostly frustrating in my testing. I’ve had better luck with Google Now, but it still sometimes takes several tries of shouting “Okay Google” for it to work properly. Since the Echo is always plugged in and has an array of microphones at the ready, it’s simply better at listening to your voice.
I’m also a big fan of the Chromecast Audio, which can transform just about any speaker into a modern, connected music machine for just $35. It sounds a lot better than streaming Bluetooth audio, and it’s not locked into a proprietary platform like Apple’s AirPlay. The Chromecast standard is also far easier to connect to than either Bluetooth or AirPlay, and it also allows you to do other things with your phone without messing up music streams. And Google just made it better by adding high-res music support and multi-room syncing. If you’ve already got decent speakers, Chromecast Audio can give you a Sonos-like experience without shelling out big bucks (or being locked into a more closed ecosystem).
My favorite tech purchase this year came in the form of the Fitbit Charge HR and Aria scale — both of which I purchased as part of the #EngadgetFitnessChallenge. The Charge has been fantastic, pulling triple duty as timepiece, pedometer and health/sleep tracker. The associated FitBit app, especially its calorie tracking feature, has been a boon as well. I can see exactly how much I’ve done in a given day, plot my progress over time, check my heart rate and keep tabs on how many Doritos I’ve crammed into my face during the past 24 hours.
I initially had a couple issues with the Charge HR because, prior to the last firmware update, the unit did not automatically track my exercise and I would continually forget to manually activate the feature. Or worse, I’d forget to stop it after my workout ended and would wind up with results for 10 hours of “exercise.” Still, the Charge HR has motivated me to not only exercise consistently for the first time in years but also change my eating and sleeping habits. Armed with this information, I’ve managed to drop 8 pounds over the past two months.
The Aria, however, I despise — namely because it keeps pointing out how fat I still am whenever I stand on it.
The 5X is my third Nexus phone. My first was a Samsung Galaxy Nexus I picked up while waiting for the iPhone 5 to be released, and never looked back. I followed that up with a beautiful red Nexus 5, which served me well until two months shy of the 5X launch, when I dropped it and cracked the screen. I suffered with it for weeks, as shards of glass slowly flaked off, until my new Nexus 5X finally arrived.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from LG’s third Google offering, but I’d become a fan of its immediate predecessor’s raw Android experience, light weight and affordable price. The 5X’s ice blue shade doesn’t quite pop like the brilliant red of the 5, but it still lets me escape the mundanity of basic black and white. Sadly, Qi wireless charging — a favorite feature of mine — failed to make the cut this time around. And, being ahead of the curve with USB-C requires you to plan out your charging regimen, since compatible cables are scarce. The phone feels great, but its plastic exterior and ultra-lightweight build look a bit like a budget phone — which, to be fair, it kind of is.
OK, I lied before, this is technically my fourth Nexus phone, since I had to return my first 5X. It arrived with a speck on the inside of the lens that ruined every photo. After attempting to replace it through Nexus Protect, I learned that a) Google handles all warranty replacements itself and b) the insurance company administering claims doesn’t use email to update you — it uses actual, physical letters. Despite the archaic means of communication, my new handset arrived a few days later. Unfortunately, I still see bits of stuff on the inside of the camera lens, though they have yet to interfere with the camera. It may have something to do with the rattling noise that emanates from the phone — an issue that spans all three 5X handsets I’ve checked.
It’s not all bad, though. The second-rate camera that’s plagued the Nexus line for several iterations has been improved upon a great deal in the 5X. Photos are crisp and bright, especially in low light, so you can finally get to Instagramming at parties with the best of them. Another great leap forward is the 5X’s fingerprint sensor that provides quick and secure access to the phone. The rear placement meshes well with how I hold the thing and it’s saved me a lot of time compared to entering a pin code repeatedly.
Could it be better? Sure, but the price, feature set and design make it a worthwhile purchase. Being first in line for Android updates is also a nice bonus. Android 6.0 Marshmallow works well, feels comfortable and doesn’t suffer from skinning or bloatware like many forked versions. Thus far, I’m happy enough with this most recent Nexus that I see Google reference phones in my hand for the foreseeable future.
Though I often tell people that I am not a gamer, the truth is that I do enjoy and play video games. I have fond memories of Doom, The Secret of Monkey Island and Myst, and I had Atari and SNES consoles as a kid. I’ve even owned a PS2 and an Xbox 360. But I’m really more of a casual gamer with a closer affinity to Threes than Halo or Call of Duty. That fact — combined with my nostalgic love for Nintendo titles like Super Mario Bros and Zelda — is why I bought the Nintendo Wii U this year instead of an Xbox One or PS4.
The first two titles I bought were Splatoon and Mario Kart 8; the former was more for my husband, while I’ve always been a fan of the quintessential kart racing game. While I rarely partake in Splatoon, I still enjoy watching my husband wreak havoc in paint-festooned battlegrounds, blasting his opponents with blanket color bombs. But the real fun comes when we compete against each other in Mario Kart — few things are more satisfying than yelling “BLUE TURTLESHELL INCOMING” to your spouse and laughing (perhaps a bit too loudly) at his misfortune when it hits home.
Since then, we’ve expanded our repertoire with Super Mario Bros 3D World and, most recently, Yoshi’s Wooly World, which is the most delightful game I’ve played this year. Little Yoshis made of yarn? Swallowing enemies and then pooping them out as yarn balls? It’s charming game that never fails to lift my mood every time I play. This combination of whimsy and solid gameplay is precisely why I bought the Wii U, and why Nintendo will always hold a special place in my heart.
Earlier this year I found myself on the basement level of a mall in China standing face-to-face with the MOTQRONA, a hideous gold knock-off of a Zach Morris-era Motorola phone. I obviously couldn’t leave without it (never mind the price), and it’s by far the best gadget I bought in 2015. It might even be the best gadget I’ve ever purchased, period, because it’s so damned versatile.
Goodness, where to even start? First off, it’s enormous, and the huge battery wedged in its back should make the MOTQRONA an effective weapon in a pinch. That battery pulls double duty, too — thanks to a full-size USB port, the MOTQRONA also works as a power bank, though I dare not use it to charge anything I actually like. There’s a big LED embedded in the top of the phone for lighting up those dark, wintry New York City streets, too. And next to that, the already-long antenna telescopes outward to become even more ridiculous looking, yet ideal for picking up radio stations and OTA television signals. (That TV capability is pretty much useless here in the States, but I did manage to watch a few moments of… something… in my Shenzhen hotel room.)
Did I mention that the MOTQRONA also has the loudest speakers known to man? Just ask anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot when I’ve turned the phone on or off — the phone plays a traditional melody that would be delightful if it wasn’t loud enough to burst an eardrum or two. Even better, there’s no way to turn that insanely loud greeting off. At this point, I’m fairly sure no one in our New York office can stand the sight of me or my hulking gold monstrosity. And the pièce de résistance: whoever made this phone slavishly copied iOS’s design, from the slide-to-unlock mechanic (yes, it has a touchscreen) to just about every single icon. Oh, and the MOTQRONA gets bonus points for speaking aloud the names of menu items in Mandarin, just because.
Apple’s latest 4K and 5K iMacs support a 10-bit graphics driver on OS X El Capitan, allowing for smoother color transitions, according to German website Mac & i. The 10-bit color output enables 1024 gradations per color channel, a significant increase from 256 with 8-bit depth on previous iMacs.
30 bit pixel depth — 10 bit for each RGB color (Image: cinema5D)
Digital filmmaking news website cinema5D explains the technical benefits of 10-bit color depth for professional colorists, photographers and editors:
Professionals know that 10-bit screen color is the desired color depth for serious color correction. When you work in 8-bit you often see banding artefacts and lose detail on soft gradients which makes editing harder and less accurate.
This is not to be confused with the bit depth of your source files. We all know that working with video DSLRs or other heavily compressed video footage that is limited to 8 bit color depth gives you less options during grading and 10 bit, 12 bit or even 16 bit color photos and videos are better. On the screen side 10 bit is the desired depth to let you view the end result without gradation steps.
The new 10-bit color depth reportedly only works within the Preview and Photos applications for now, but other third-party software should eventually take advantage of the technology. The 2014 5K iMac also supports 10-bit color depth on OS X El Capitan, according to these reports.
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I can’t believe it’s already been 20 episodes! You guys have been awesome about sending in questions, so thank you. But enough sentimental stuff, let’s get to the questions!
First up, we look at your responses from our recent emoji poll on audiobooks vs. reading. You had some thoughts on this one, like this tweet from John:
— John Upton (@jwareup) October 8, 2015
Don’t worry John, you’re commenting in the right place. Though I have to disagree, I think the pause button can be put to excellent use in that scenario!
We also had a great question from Chris via email about modern-day video game emulators, which is answered by Engadget editor Tim Seppala. I also tackle some inquiries about podcasting on Spotify, and how to make your old school iMac run at tolerable speeds.
Thanks for watching, and make sure to keep sending those questions in for future episodes, either via email or on social media with the hashtag #DearVeronica.