Apple Announces Refreshed MacBook Pros With New M1 Pro, M1 Max & Third-Generation AirPods

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Apple has just wrapped its October "Unleashed" event, announcing its refreshed line of MacBook Pro computers, new M1 chips and the next generation of AirPods. Let’s take a look at all the announcements from the virtual event, starting with the new AirPods.

Credit: Apple

The third-generation AirPods feature shorter stems and an updated design that appears to take a lot of cues from the AirPods Pro. They're also resistant to sweat and water. The company added that it has achieved a new contour design that delivers sound directly to your ears.


Speaking of the sound, the new wireless earbuds house a new low-distortion driver under the hood. This allows it to output better sound quality, specifically more powerful bass and clean high-frequencies. Similar to the AirPods Pro, the new Airpods also include spatial audio, which simulates surround sound speakers, giving you a much more immersive listening experience.

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What's more, the AirPods boast improved battery life, lasting up to six hours. Apple claims five minutes of charge time can get you about an hour of use. The charging case also delivers additional full charges, which can push the listening time for up to 30 hours.


The third-generation AirPods are priced at US$179, with orders starting today. They'll be available next week.


On top of this, the Cupertino company debuted a brand new subscription plan for Apple Music, called the Voice Plan. The plan lets you use only your voice and Siri to access every song on Apple Music for US$4.99 per month. It will be available in 17 countries and regions later this year.


Along with this announcement, it was also announced that the HomePod mini speakers will be re-released in new colours: blue, orange, and yellow. They'll be available this coming November for US$99.

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Apple last year kicked off a two-year transition plan for Mac computers to switch from Intel’s processors to Apple’s own silicon. In November 2020, Apple unveiled the M1 chip, the company’s first ARM-based CPU for Macs. The chip debuted with new models of the Mac mini, MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro. This year, Apple announced new silicon to mark its first year into the transition.


The first of which is the M1 Pro, which touts up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth, nearly triple that of the M1's. It features a 10-core CPU configuration with eight high-performance cores and two efficiency cores, along with a 16-core GPU. The CPU is said to be 70% faster than the M1 while the GPU is two times faster. Other features include ProRes encode/decode engine, support for multiple displays and additional Thunderbolt controllers.

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Meanwhile, the M1 Max builds on the M1 Pro's performance and takes it up a notch. It has up to 400GB/s memory bandwidth, which is double the M1 Pro's and six times that of the M1's. Additionally, it includes up to 64GB of unified memory. The chip features the same 10-core CPU configuration of the M1 Pro but doubles the GPU at 32 cores.

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Apple claims that both chips deliver great performance while using up to 70% less power.


Housing the new chips are two new MacBook Pros: a 16-inch model and a 14-inch model.

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Both MacBook Pros sport slightly overhauled bodies, which look very similar to the existing Macbook Pro. However, they do appear slightly thicker. The 14-inch model weighs 3.5 pounds and is 15.5mm thick. The 16-inch model, on the other hand, weighs 4.7 pounds and is 16.8mm thick.


The redesign marks the return of ports that have been absent for the last few iterations, including an HDMI port and an SD card slot, which joins the three Thunderbolt ports and the headphone jack. The M1 Pro option supports up to two ProDisplay XDRs while the M1 Max supports three ProDisplay XDRs and a 4K TV simultaneously. The headphone jack supports new high-fidelity headphones. You also get a MagSafe charging port.


The keyboard, meanwhile, drops the Touch Bar in favour of a row of function keys, including a Touch ID key.

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For display, the new models come with mini-LED panels, which was previously exclusive to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Mini-LED technology allows for thinner displays while offering you many of OLED’s benefits, such as a wider dynamic range, higher contrast, and deeper blacks. Apple touts that it can reach 1000 nits of sustained brightness, 1600 nits of peak brightness and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.


The company also shaved the size of the screen bezels, visibly increasing the screen real estate. The 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros have a display resolution of 3024x1964 and 3456x2234 respectively.


The panels also feature an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate or ProMotion technology, as Apple calls it. Adaptive refresh rates allow the display to automatically adjust the refresh rate based on your activity. For example, if you’re scrolling through your social media feed, the refresh rate could be pushed to the maximum of 120Hz to give you that fluid look and feel. On the other hand, if you’re, say, viewing a static image, it will go down to a lower number to preserve the battery life.


Arguably the most worthwhile update to the new models is the improved webcam. Instead of the old 720p camera, this year’s MacBook Pros house an updated 1080p Full HD camera with a wider aperture. This is the first time that a MacBook will ship with a 1080p webcam, but it couldn’t have come at a better time, with practically everyone being reliant on video calls for work meetings and social activities. It also performs two times better in low light.


This new camera is housed in a notch situated at the top centre of the screen. If notches bother you, you'll probably be at least glad to know that the menu bar wraps around it.

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Apple said the 16-inch model has a new six-speaker sound system with two tweeters and four force-cancelling woofers. This should give it 80% more bass.


When it comes to graphics performance, the M1 Max and M1 Pro option of the 16-inch model is four times and two and a half times faster than the Radeon Pro 5600M Macbook Pro respectively. For CPU performance, both chips are two times faster than the Core i9 model. At the same time, the M1 Max and M1 Pro option of the 14-inch model is 13 times and nine times faster than the integrated graphics of the Core i7 model respectively. For CPU performance, both chips are 3.7 times faster than the same model.

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The new MacBook Pros support fast charging, allowing you to juice up to 50% battery capacity in 30 minutes. You can also get up to 8TB of SSD storage, which delivers up to 7.4GB/s transfer speeds. That's two times faster than existing models. You can also get up to 64GB of memory.


Both MacBook Pros will ship with macOS Monterey out of the box. The 14-inch model starts at US$1,999 while the 16-inch model starts at US$2,499. They come in Silver and Space Grey colours. You can order today, with both models coming out next week.

 

Written by Kyle Chua

 

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