So Ordered

Clear, reasoned, calm thinking does not emanate within an hour of an announcement. I'll do my best, but let's instead call this a celebration.

  • MagSafe is back, at the cost of one Thunderbolt/USB-C port.

  • All Thunderbolt ports are now Thunderbolt 4, instead of the "USB 4/Thunderbolt 3" of the M1 Macs.

  • The Touch Bar is gone, with full-height function-row keys to take its place, and leaving Touch ID alone. Could it ever have worked? Maybe, but Apple was interested only in planting the flag and claiming victory instead of acknowledging its failures and working around them. The world is not full of successful touch surfaces that you use by feel, without looking at and which contents change constantly. Considering its mention in the presentation, even Apple eventually thought getting back to what a keyboard is all about was a defendable move.

  • Out of the fog of "M1X" steps M1 Pro and M1 Max, née Jade C-Chop and C-Die. M1 Pro has 16 GPU cores and up to 32 GB memory; M1 Max has 32 GPU cores and up to 64 GB memory. I (and my wallet) might have settled for M1 Pro with 64 GB of memory, but that is not how these things work, and now with some technical justification.

  • M1 Max's GPU chops are apparently "comparable" to laptop-level discrete "Max-Q" chips (GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop, in their comparison). In other words, it's not a bloodbath in terms of maximum performance, and it is not yet a credible alternative to the highest performance discrete desktop GPUs. But if your needs are lower than this, it looks promising.

  • That said, the unified memory strategy means that, as long as you don't want to max out both CPU memory and GPU memory, the ability to address a ton of it over a fast (200 or 400 GB/s) bus is a sleeper hit of this architectural choice. (And even if you do; 32 GB of each does not come easily in most PCs.)

  • The more square-ish form factor reminds me of the aluminum PowerBook G4, and is probably great for airflow.

  • HDMI, SDXC, good. I could have done with a USB-A port or two; them and wired Ethernet are prime reasons to not throw away your dongle.

  • 120 Hz, ProMotion/adaptive refresh rate, mini-LED display, with higher pixel density and display brightness fit to deliver good HDR. I would have been happy to have two or three of these; a notch for the webcam is a negative, but much less of a negative on an OS with a menu bar (assuming the OS knows not to put anything underneath, of course).

  • With M1 Pro and M1 Max, the mirage of an entire product line supported by essentially the same M1 chip is now killed; arguably, it was killed by the M1 itself taking the place of A-series chips in the iPad Pro earlier this year.

At some point in the past, from all I hear, the PowerBook G4 was faster than the then anemic Intel mobile chips despite its lower clocks. When I had mine, its own anemic 167 MHz front-side bus put a damper of any claims to supreme (or at times even acceptable) performance. The switch to Intel and the then-new Core Duo brought a welcome jolt, but at the expense of "just" being as good as the rest of the portable PC market.

Today, for the first time, Apple steps into the brave new world of not just terrific performance per watt, but assuming all the claims hold water, a level of laptop performance that is barely achievable with machines that are several times thicker, heavier, louder, and last for a fraction of the time on battery.

Today, with some caveats, Apple delivered a MacBook Pro that was for actual Pros again, for the people who need more ports, more performance, more capable hardware; who want their computers to be computers, instead of scaled-up app machines.

And today, at long last, Apple listened to its users once again, took their needs and their advice at their word, and made a better computer.

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