Apple Just Announced New MacBooks and AirPods — Here's What You Need to Know

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Apple announced new AirPods and updates to its Mac Mini desktop and MacBook Pro laptops at a virtual presentation recorded at its campus in Cupertino, California.

The event kicked off with some announcements to Apple Music, the company’s music streaming service. Subscribers will be able to search for music by “mood” (think dinner party), which will surface songs appropriate for that event. Apple also introduced a new Music Voice Plan tier, which costs $4.99. Subscribing to this plan allows you to access the entire Apple Music catalogue, but doesn’t include access to lossless audio or spatial audio tracks, lyrics, music videos. While this plan doesn’t limit the tracks you can listen to, it does constrain you a little bit. You won’t be able to use Apple Music app on the Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Android to select music, you’ll only be able to ask Siri to play the music you want from Apple devices.

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Apple then moved on to two audio-focused hardware releases. The first was the introduction of the HomePod Mini in an assortment of fun colors. These HomePod Minis are functionally identical to the ones Apple released last year, but you can now choose the speaker that best matches your aesthetic.

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Apple continued the presentation by unveiling the third-generation AirPods, an updated version of its non-Pro true wireless earbuds. This new model features a design that’s reminiscent of the AirPods Pro, but has the all-plastic construction of traditional AirPods. The third-generation AirPods’ biggest features are support for Spatial Audio, Apple’s take on surround sound, and an IPX durability rating, which means they’re both water and sweat resistant.

Active noise cancellation remains an exclusive feature on its AirPods Pro and AirPods Max models. The third-generation AirPods offer up to six hours of music playback per charge (one additional hour compared to the model they replace), and a total of 30 hours when you use their battery case. Apple bundles the third-generation AirPods with a wireless charging case that supports both Qi charging and Apple’s MagSafe accessories. These new AirPods cost $179 and are available for preorder today. They’ll begin shipping on October 26.

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Apple then moved on to the main portion of this event: brand new MacBook Pros. These models feature a redesign that replaces the look Apple’s laptops have had since 2016. This new generation of MacBook Pro comes in 14 and 16-inch screen sizes, each of which has a higher resolution display.

The screens have an edge-to-edge (border-less) design with notch at the top like Apple’s current iPhones. The notch holds an updated, 1080P webcam that should be a marked improvement over the camera in older MacBook Pros. Apple says the camera is 1080p (the first for a Mac notebook) and features a new lens with a wider aperture. Apple says the camera offers twice the low light performance compared to the one found in previous MacBook Pros.

The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are the first Macs to feature a screen that uses Mini LED technology, which offers substantially better color reproduction and contrast. This is important for professional video and photo editors who want to make sure the colors of their content is as accurate as possible. All users will notice an improvement, too, especially when watching videos. These new MacBook Pros are also the first Macs to receive a high refresh rate “ProMotion” display, which supports speeds up to 120Hz.

Apple’s improvements to the MacBook Pro’s camera system and display are complemented by a new, six-speaker audio system that Apple says offers up to 80% better bass response thanks to newly-designed woofers. The audio system’s tweeters are twice as big, so treble response should be greatly improved, too. This audio system supports Spatial Audio. Apple’s final audio update to the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros is an upgraded three-mic array that can create higher-quality audio recordings.

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In 2016, Apple did away with single-use ports in favor of Thunderbolt 3 ports, which could serve the same purposes, but required an adapter. It’s reversed course, and the new MacBook Pros feature both an HDMI port and SD Card slot. Apple has also reintroduced a magnetic charging port, which was also present in MacBook Pros before 2016.

You can charge Apple’s laptops using either the magnetic port or by plugging in a USB-C charger into one of its three Thunderbolt 4 ports. Apple’s new MacBook Pros support quick charging (another first for Mac notebooks), and the company says you can get a 50% charge if it’s plugged in for a half hour.

Apple introduced its own processors, dubbed the M1, in a 13-inch MacBook Pro, 13-inch MacBook Air, and Mac Mini released in November of 2020. These new MacBook Pros feature more powerful versions of those chips called the M1 Pro and M1 Max. Both the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro can be configured with either chip.

Both processors have 10 CPU core — eight high performance, two high efficiency — both of which are 70% faster than the M1. The big difference between the M1 Pro and M1 Max is in graphics performance. The M1 Pro has 16 graphics cores, while the M1 Max has 32 graphics cores. This makes the chips two and four times more graphically performant than the M1.

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To put this performance into perspective, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro is up to twice as fast as the previous generation in processing performance, and two and a half times faster when it comes to graphics performance when it’s equipped with the M1 Pro chip. The M1 Max is four times more powerful than the Intel MacBook Pro when it comes to graphics.

Apple says the 14-inch MacBook Pro is nearly four times as powerful on the processing side compared to the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro it replaces. This machine’s graphics performance is nine to 13 times bettwe depending on whether it’s got an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip inside.

Both machines have an SSD (solid state storage) drive that’s twice as fast as the previous generation MacBook Pros, which will make transferring data substantially faster. New MacBook Pros equipped with the M1 Pro can be outfitted with up to 32GB of RAM (memory), while M1 Max machines can handle up to 64GB.

When it comes to battery life, Apple says the 14-inch MacBook Pro can get up to 17 hours of video playback, while the 16-inch MacBook Pro tops out at 21 hours of video playback. The amount of battery life you get out of these machines will depend largely on your screen brightness level and the apps you’re running.

The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros will be available to order today for $1,999 and $2,499 respectively. These machines are up to $200 more expensive than the models they replace. The new MacBook Pros will both begin shipping on October 25.

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