The introduction of Intel’s new Haswell chipset in 2013 saw upgrades for most of the Mac lineup. The MacBook Air received a healthy boost to its battery, with the 13” model now capable of running for twelve hours of normal use on a single charge. Apple also refreshed the MacBook Pro Retina, utilising Haswell’s more powerful Iris graphics capabilities to drive the demanding display. At the high end we were also introduced to a newly designed, and incredibly powerful, Mac Pro, with its cylindrical shape and shockingly compact size.
Two Macs not partaking in the new generation of Intel creations were the MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini. Although both still remain on sale in the Apple store it looks very likely now that this will be end of line for at least the older MacBook Pro. With the entry level retina model moving to a £1099 price point and the listing for the old Pro on the Apple store site relegated to the back pages, expect to see the model quietly disappear before too long. With it goes the end of an era, one where Apple laptops came with optical drives and could be upgraded by the user. From now on the Mac you buy will remain in that configuration for the whole of its lifetime, so choose wisely.
The Mac Mini is more puzzling. This little unit has been an excellent way for people to enter the OS X world without needing to spend the best part of a thousand pounds. It also enticed those switching over from Windows as they could still use their existing monitor, mouse and keyboard. The choice not to upgrade the internals suggest a few possibilities. One is that the focus has been on the raft of other products Apple has recently upgraded, and the Mac mini will be silently bumped up to Haswell when the Mac Pro arrives in December.
Another could be that the Mini will receive a new design, maybe to allow the inclusion of Intel’s Iris graphics, which Apple claim boosts the performance of its 13” MacBook Pro retinas by up to ninety percent. Designers or anyone who relies on their Mac for graphically demanding work will be hoping that the new Mini has an option for Iris Pro graphics, as found in the 15in MacBook Pro Retinas, but it could be a while before the price point comes down to something we’re used to seeing on the Mini range.
Of course the possibility exists that Apple will choose to discontinue the Mini range altogether. Certainly it would simplify the catalog, with customers having just the iMacs or MacBooks to choose between. It would also fit with the sealed unit designs that every other consumer-level Apple product now features.
Will Apple launch a cheaper Mac?
Industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has an impressive recent history of predicting Apple releases, has gone on record as saying the company will introduce a budget iMac in 2014. If this turns out to be the case then it would make sense if the Mac mini was retired, or possibly just sold as a server, with the new all-in-one taking its place.
When will Apple launch a MacBook Air Retina?
Certainly one new model we hope to see emerge is that of the MacBook Air Retina. With the iPad Mini now having been upgraded to a retina screen, the MacBook Air is the only remaining high-end device not to have received the ultra clear display. Whereas the 1440 x 900 resolution has served it well thus far, it’s beginning to look less impressive now that many of the Windows machines in this space have full HD displays. Also, as iOS devices are known to be an entry point for new Apple customers, when compared to the immaculate screens on iPads and iPhones, the MacBook Air looks a little underwhelming.
What Intel chips will appear in Macs in 2014?
One of the reasons often given for the slow switch to retina is that the power required to drive the screen would have an impact on battery life. Haswell chips made great strides in this area, and the new Intel range due out in 2014, named Broadwell, are claimed by the company to be up to thirty percent more efficient. This should mean that the MacBook Air retains its all day charge but can finally have the display it deserves. One consideration to bear in mind is that Intel has recently stated that it’s had a few problems with the initial Broadwell chips they’ve manufactured, which has caused a delay in the release date. But hopefully we should still see enough produced for a MacBook Air refresh in June.
Could Apple stop using Intel chips?
All this is reliant on Apple actually sticking with Intel chips. One rumour that has continued to rumble on in the background is that Apple could switch from the x86 processors it currently uses to ARM processors. This isn’t quite as outlandish as it sounds. iPads and iPhones all use Apple’s own A series of ARM processors, and as they begin to grow more powerful it’s not inconceivable that Apple could make the transition to a unified platform. It still feels far off though, as the work needed to rewrite applications for the different architecture, both from Apple and the developer community, remains prohibitive. At least at the moment.
Will Apple launch a Mac iPad hybrid?
Finally there have been reports of a 12in iPad/laptop hybrid being tested by Apple, with some saying it’s a larger iPad aimed at the professional market. Ming-Chi Kuo has commented on this, saying that Apple will introduce a new design of Retina laptop which will be lighter and thinner than the MacBook Air, but as powerful as a Pro. He also expects it to be cheaper than the current range. How Apple could achieve this still remains to be seen, and we would be very surprised indeed if such a product was announced. Could it be that this is not quite a Pro level device, but instead the first sighting of an experimental ARM-based MacBook? Whatever it is, we certainly think it could be very exciting.