AWT News Update: October 31, 2016

Mac Performa 6400

Mac Performa 6400

We have some ghoulishly good stories for you today on the Apple World Today News Update (and a few pictures of Mac Performas, which were some of the ugliest Macs ever!):

  • We tell you about the design decision that resulted in the new MacBook Pros having a maximum of 16GB of RAM and leaving half of the Thunderbolt 3 ports on the 13-inch model with limited bandwidth
  • There's something else missing from the new MacBook Pro that has been in every Mac since the first one back in 1984...
  • Twitter's testing a new feature in the iOS app that might make it easier to read linked webpages

The text version of the podcast can be viewed below. To listen to the podcast here, click the play button on the player below.

Text Version

Hi, this is Steve Sande for Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for Halloween, October 31, 2016.

OK, back to normal sound. Last week, there was some confusion about the choices Apple made on the new MacBook Pros, particularly in terms of the limited 16GB of RAM. It turns out that Intel’s new Kaby Lake architecture processors weren’t available in quantity in time for 2016 MacBook Pro production, and that makes a big difference. For example, the quad-core CPUs that are used now, which use Intel’s Skylake architecture, can only support LPDDR3 RAM — limited to 16GB for low power consumption. It may take another year for the Kaby Lake quad-core processors to arrive in Apple’s MacBook Pro, which will bring with it LPDDR4 and the ability to support more RAM. The choice of processors is also to blame for why the 13-inch quad-Thunderbolt models have reduced bandwidth on the right-hand side ports. The quad-core processors in the 15-inch MacBook Pro models have 16 PCI-e lanes, providing a way to support full Thunderbolt bandwidth on all ports. The 13-inch models only have 12 PCI-e lanes, resulting in the reduced bandwidth on half of the ports. This still doesn’t explain why Apple ignored the desktop line, which doesn’t have the low power requirements of the laptops and some of which are still running processors that are three to four years old. The latest iMacs currently run fairly recent Skylake architecture processors, while the rusty old Mac Pro uses the relatively ancient Ivy Bridge-EP architecture first introduced in 2013.

One longtime Mac feature that’s been around since the first Mac in 1984 is the startup chime, and it’s missing from the new MacBook Pros as well. It turns out that there’s a reason for that, too. The new MacBook Pros don’t power on the same way as their ancestors in that they can be powered on three different ways. First, one can open the lid of the Mac that has been shut down — even without being connected to power — and it will boot up. Second, connecting a MacBook Pro to a power adapter while its lid is open and it is has been powered down will boot it. And third, connecting a shut-down MacBook Pro to a power adapter while its lid is closed and it’s connected to an external display will start it up. So let’s say that you have powered down your MacBook Pro and you’re in a meeting; you pop the lid and the chime rings out. Not too cool. Likewise, if someone wasn’t familiar with how the MacBook Pro can be powered on, they might plug in the power adapter and hear the chime. So another feature — one that is embedded in the soul of the Mac — bites the dust.

Twitter appears to be testing a new feature in the iOS app for use when loading links to outside webpages. Rather than just opening or attempting to open a page in Safari, the test is opening the links in Safari’s Reader mode. Reader is used to strip out most of the images and buttons on a web page, and should leave users with something much easier to read. However, the test is breaking some web pages that don’t have a lot of text-intensive content at the core.

That’s all for today; We’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.