Review – Apple Gives macOS Hardware Some Attention

At this week's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, Apple gave macOS hardware some attention, revising four separate product lines and pre-announcing a new offshoot.

The most important announcement was a revised iMac. The only thing truly missing from the previous generation was modern connectivity, and the new 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs fix that, with USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. The updated models also get improved integrated and discrete graphics options.

Apple also revised the MacBook and MacBook Pro product lines, adding Intel's 7th generation Kaby Lake chipset to all models (which also improves integrated graphics). Keyboards got some attention; the keyboard on the MacBook has been enhanced to be more like that of the MacBook Pro, and most Apple keyboards now have graphics that more closely match what you see in macOS menus.

Apple moved to a slightly speedier Broadwell processor but did nothing else to upgrade the now virtually obsolete MacBook Air, almost of whose components have not changed in over two years. Potential buyers who might have previously considered the MacBook Air will likely be interested in the MacBook Pro 13-inch without TouchBar, which starts at $1,300. Apple's challenges in coming up with a system that has the same appeal as the 2011-era MacBook Air underscores how tough it is to differentiate in today's lightweight notebook market.

The pre-announcement was an interesting one because it is six months ahead of the earliest possible release—and Apple is dependent on Intel to make that December 2017 date. The new iMac Pro is a workstation-class version of the 27-inch iMac. It will be available with 8, 10, or 18 core Xeon processors and up to 128 GB of 2,666 MHz DDR4 RAM. Because Apple can't help themselves, the iMac Pro is available only in Space Gray, with matching Space Gray Magic Keyboard (with numeric keypad), Magic Mouse 2, and Magic Trackpad 2.

These introductions mark Apple's biggest single set of macOS hardware releases in many years. They show at least some renewed interest from a company that has spent most of its recent efforts on iOS-based devices and software.

John Mulhern III, Posted 6/10/2017

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