Wednesday Morning News

Reviews of the 2018 MacBook Air and 2018 Mac mini are out, and even though both have a storied history, we’ll start with the Mac mini. Marco Arment uses the Mac mini as many people do, as a home server. Arment says there’s almost nothing worse and almost everything better about the new Mac mini, which is the ideal Mac update. The form factor is the same, which he says is the right tradeoff for the performance and ports the Mac mini now offers, all of which is enough to move the Mac mini more into general-purpose desktop territory than relegating it to home server duty. It’s a fantastic little computer.

Over at Six Colors, Jason Snell writes that when it was introduced, the Mac mini was the cheapest Mac ever. That’s no longer the case, and the new Mac mini is also no longer offered in the silver that all previous Mac minis were, but the new Mac mini is powerful, has enough ports to connect up whatever peripherals you want, and even has upgradable RAM, if you wish to do so down the track. Upgrades for your desired configuration may be pricey, but both of the base models offered by Apple, even in Australian dollars, should be adequate for most desktop computer usage. The new Mac mini fills a unique niche, but more importantly, tells us that Apple still cares about the Mac.

TechCrunch writes that the Mac mini is not the entry level Mac it once was, but that’s OK, because it’s overall a much more premium Mac. There’s plenty of power and ports on offer, perhaps let down by a GPU that might have trouble driving more than one 4K monitor at a time. But it’s as silent-running as it ever was, making higher-end configurations suitable for situations where you might not need a Mac Pro (which is just about due for its own ground-breaking update).

The new MacBook Air only comes in 13-inch, although you can get it in the same three colours as the Retina MacBook. While the outside design is unmistakably a MacBook Air, Apple’s managed to cram a 13-inch display into a laptop that’s closer in size to the old 11-inch MacBook Air, than the old 13-inch. The keyboard remains divisive, there aren’t that many USB ports for plugging things into, but on the plus side, benchmarks put the new MacBook Air at below MacBook Pro speeds — handily beating out the previous generation Air and somewhat-underpowered core m3 Retina MacBooks.

Gruber calls the new MacBook Air a meaningful update, with the new Air being faster, smaller, and lighter, with a Retina display, Force Touch trackpad, and Touch ID. While there are aspects of the MacBook Air that only Apple enthusiasts will care about — the fact that it has Apple’s divisive laptop keyboard with butterfly switches, or how Apple’s A12X CPU and GPU performance beats out the Intel processors in the MacBook Air, or how the addition of the MacBook Air makes Apple’s laptop lineup all the more confusing, along with other minutiae — the MacBook Air remains the Mac laptop that most people should buy.

For whatever reason, The Verge didn’t seem as impressed with the new MacBook Air, despite upgrades in all the ways that you’d expect from Apple in 2018. The MacBook Air ticks all the boxes and remains the same portable Air that it was, and even though it justifies its own price tag, maybe that’s not enough when you might be able to “find something just as good and probably a little bit faster for less money”.

The Verge also says it’s curious that the MacBook Air launched with Touch ID when it’s clear, at least on iOS devices, that Face ID is the way of the future. Imagine an edge-to-edge display on the next MacBook Air, or Face ID that will let you login to your Mac like you can do on Windows. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Apple’s Mac laptops need a notch, but clearly the less bezels we have on our devices, the better.

A Twitter thread by Steven Sinofsky explains Apple’s slide in their event last week comparing iPad sales to traditional notebooks. There are various ways you can interpret Apple’s slide of iPad sales versus notebook sales from HP, Lenovo, and whoever else, but Sinofsky’s take is that Apple is the largest single vendor of portable computing that isn’t a phone.

An interesting story originating from Reddit regarding Apple device malfunctions that coincided with the installation of a new MRI machine. The reason turns out to be helium which threw a metaphorical spanner in the works of iPhones and Apple Watch devices in proximity, but the whole story is fascinating.

It looks like Apple are bringing some of its own first-party complications to the new Infograph and Infograph Modular Apple Watch Series 4 watch faces, at least according to leaked assets from the watchOS 5.1.1 release. I know of a few people who have been wanting Messages and Phone complication support on the new watch faces, so this will be a significant improvement.

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