Lies of Omission (Premium)

Anyone who was hoping for some clarity regarding the true performance and compatibility of Apple Silicon-based Macs has to keep waiting: During its hour-long Mac event yesterday, Apple offered nothing but meaningless data points.

Given that, we need to keep speculating. And I have a few ideas about where the M1 chipset, as Apple calls the Apple Silicon in its new Macs, really lands from a competitive standpoint.

First, it’s quite telling that the only Macs that Apple is converting to M1 for its late 2020 revamp are all low-end products. In fact, the correct way to view what Apple just announced is that it announced minor updates to its lowest-end Macs.

This might be confusing if you’re not well-versed in how Apple differentiates its Macs. After all, one of the products Apple just announced is a MacBook Pro. Surely that product is not low-end.

No, it is a low-end product.

Before this week, Apple offered two basic versions of its 13.3-inch MacBook Pro laptops. A low-end version with two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left only and lower-end Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 graphics, and a higher-end version with four Thunderbolt 3 ports (two on the left and two on the right) and higher-end Intel Iris Plus Graphics.

Today, Apple still offers two basic versions of its 13.3-inch MacBook Pro laptops. A low-end version with an M1 chipset and two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left only that only supports up to 16 GB of RAM, and a higher-end version with four Thunderbolt 3 ports (two on the left and two on the right) and Intel Iris Plus Graphics.

This bifurcation of the M1 product lines occurs again with the Mac Mini: Here, too, we see Apple offering M1-based products on the low-end with Intel-based versions on the high-end. Only the MacBook Air is all M1 now, and that makes sense: The previous two generations of MacBook Air were artificially limited to be less compelling than the MacBook Pro by offering only low-end Y-series Intel chipsets. Now, it's differentiated by offering fewer integrated GPU cores than the M1 provided with the MacBook Pro. Boo!

Second, it is somewhat fascinating to me that all of the M1-based Macs are limited to just 16 GB of RAM. The Intel-based MacBook Pros and Mac Minis can all be outfitted with up to 32 GB of RAM.

Third, while Apple made the dubious claim that the integrated GPU in the M1 was somehow the most powerful integrated graphics in the market---a claim I’m sure Intel would discredit with its new Iris Xe---it is perhaps more notable that there’s no way to add dedicated graphics (dGPU) or external graphics (eGPU) to any current M1-based Mac.

Fourth, I think it’s likewise telling that every one of these three new Macs uses literally identical form factors to their Intel-based predecessors. This tells us a few things. One, that they are not truly next-generation products and that we will need for further revisions to the M1---the M2, M3, or later---before we see design refreshes. And two...

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