Apple’s October Event: Are These MacBooks Accessible Enough for an Upgrade?

Apple’s October event took place near to a month ago, and to sum up what the event was about, it overwhelmingly concentrated on Macs. Yes; different colours of HomePod Minis were announced, as well as the Apple Music Voice Plan — which I’ll publish my views on in a few weeks — and as well as that, we also found out about the third generation AirPods. But as the title says, this blog is only concentrating on the new MacBook Pros — which come in 14inch and 16inch — and if they’re worth the upgrade from the tech and accessibility standpoint.

Coming with Apple’s M1 Pro or M1 Max chip, these new macs come with improved performance and better battery life. As well as the Liquid Retina XDR display, we also get the same camera and audio performance as we saw in the new iMacs earlier this year, which let you shoot in 1080p, and as well as that, we have ports.

So getting all of the nerd stuff out of the way, these MacBooks come with 3.7 times faster CPU performance, with up to 13 times faster graphics performance. As well as that, you also get up to 11 times faster machine learning, and up to 21 hours of battery life.

The chips these MacBooks come with make them extremely faster than anything else currently on the market, with the 14-inch coming with up to 10-core CPU, the same as the 16-inch. Moving on to graphics, the 14-inch comes with 16-core in GPU, while the 16-inch gives up to 32-core GPU. Lastly, the 13 inch comes with up to 32GB of unified memory, with the 16 inch coming with up to 64GB of unified memory, and the 14 inch getting up to 200GBs of memory bandwidth, with the 16 inch having up to 400GBs memory bandwidth.

This makes it possible for you to do things with Mac that it could never handle before.

To emphasise how much faster these MacBooks are, they offer a faster project build if you’re working with Xcode for us Logic Pro users, with up to 3.7 times better speed in the M1 Max in the 14-inch model, with the 16-inch model coming with 2.1 times better speed. For those of us who are interested in graphics, they offer faster 4K render speed when working with Final Cut Pro or Maxon Cinema 4D, with up to 13.4 times faster speed in the M1 Max chip in the 13-inch model, and up to 9.2 times faster with the M1 Pro Chip. We also get faster 8K render speed in the 16-inch model, with the M1 Max chip coming with 2.9 times better performance, while the M1 Pro chip will give less ay 1.7 times faster.

Some other features coming to this mac include ProMotion, making everything such as scrolling through a webpage or gaming super-fluid and responsive, while reducing power. With refresh rates up to 120 herts, the technology automatically adjusts to match the movement of the content. Apple also claims that ProMotion video editors can also choose a fixed refresh rate. The camera on the macs also uses a wider aperture that lets in more light, and mixed with the larger image sensor, it offers two time better low-light performance.

The new three studio-quality mics means your mac can capture even the subtlest of sound, and add in the three-mic array, and you get directional beamforming, meaning your voice always comes through nice and clear.

Add in the six-speaker sound system, and you’ll get sounds much deeper and filling the room with up to 80% more bass, along with much clearer, fuller vocals. This is also what’s making the Mac support spatial audio when playing music or videos with Dolby Atmos, creating a three-dimensional soundstage. But the only thing I don’t think I like about the way Apple is doing this, is that the connecting experience only works with Apple-based products, while other headphones like Skullcandy — which as you know, I’m a fan of — do connect, but you’ll have to connect them in a different way other than just putting them in front of your phone, iPad or Mac.

The ports you get with these macs is a 3.5mm headphone jack that automatically adjusts for high-independence headphones. You also get 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports, and as well as this, you’ll get a quick-releasing MagSafe 3 port. The other two ports you’ll get is one for a SDXC card, and one for an HDMI.

These Macs also let you connect up to three Pro XDR Displays, and a 4K Apple TV with M1 Max. Or you could connect any of your displays with an M1 Pro, if you have one.

The new keyboard brings a full-height functioning key row, with the same feel of mechanical keys we’ve fallen in love with over the last few years. It’s been updated with new keyboard shortcuts for Spotlight, Dictation and Do Not Disturb, with the Touch ID feature having a ring around it to guide your finger.

So is it worth updating to one of these new MacBooks, even if you currently have an older model? Well I would argue it is and it isn’t. Speaking as someone who still has a 2015 MacBook Pro, I saw myself getting one of the new iMacs earlier this year, as my 2015 MacBook just can’t put up with large film and audio files anymore, though it is ok for everything I do with writing. Although Apple has introduced Touch ID to their Mac Lineup, I can’t use it because I can’t use anything other than my head, and so I will be waiting until they introduce Face ID into Macs, to even consider upgrading my laptop.

24-inch iMac Review: How Accessible is it for Disabled Users?

The 24-inch iMac Pro is one of Apple’s new Mac lineups, coming in a range of seven different colours. I got one of these during the Summer as my 2015 MacBook Pro has started running out of storage for so many things. Throughout the last few years, I’ve been using it for videos, for audio, and of course the book I’m writing. But what all do these new iMacs come with, and are they accessible for everyone?

So the new 24-inch iMac was announced on the 30th of April 2021, with the first customers getting theirs on the 21st of May. After watching loads of reviews, I decided it would be worth the upgrade, and got mine at the end of July. I got the blue version.

iMac Box Photo © Phoebs Lyle

The box that the iMac comes in has a picture of your colour of iMac on the front, with the word ’iMac’ round the side, and more pictures of the device, itself, at every single side, and covered with the usual special plastic that Apple fans love, it allows for quite the unboxing experience.

As soon as you open the box, the first thing you’ll see will be a protection shield with the word: ’Hello’ on it, and covering the actual iMac beneath it. Under the iMac, you have your keyboard, your Magic Mouse, the charger for your iMac and the one for your keyboard, and all of your quick start information, and this would also be where your Magic Trackpad would be if you ordered one, but the Apple Store in Belfast didn’t have any in stock at the time, so I ended up ordering a silver one on Amazon. Although I’m happy with the trackpad I got, it would still be nice to be able to buy a blue one to match at some point, so if Apple ever let you customise colours of their Magic Trackpads at some point in the future, that would be great.

Everything was very nice to unwrap and set up though, as these couple of videos will show.

The keyboard is also extremely easy to type on, although in future, I wouldn’t bother with getting the one that comes with Touch ID, as it just isn’t accessible enough for people who can’t do everything with their hands or their feet.

Getting back to the geek stuff, the new 24-inch iMacs are 11.5mm in thinness, with a screen you can move to adjust the angle, and less than 40 kilos.

Powered by the M1 chip, the chip is what gives the iMac its extraordinary design, and helps integrate the processor, graphics and more. I like how the screen sits on a poised stand, sort of like it’s iPad-ish, if you compare it to the 2020 Magic Keyboard Case for the iPad, and at the back you have your power button, with incredibly fast ports beside it.

The charger you get attaches via magnets, and all the accessories you get come in exactly the same colour as your mac.

As someone who is still using the 2015 MacBook Pro but has moved to the 24-inch iMac for film and audio reasons, you can really see the difference in the 4.5K Retina display. The P3 wide colour gamut brings what you’re watching to life, and images shine with a brilliant 500 nits of brightness. The True Tone technology adjusts the colour temperature to the ambient light of your environment, for natural viewing experience. I can’t wait until I try making a couple of short films next year so I can see how the display plays them back.

Even the cameras have got a massive update in this iMac, with a 1080p FaceTime HD Camera. Double the resolution of higher quality video calls, we get a larger sensor that captures more light, and the Advanced Image Signal Processor, thanks to the M1 chip, greatly improves image quality.

The new iMacs come with studio-quality mics, which make sure that whether you’re recording a podcast, a video chat or on a video chat, you’ll always come across crisp and clear. The three-mic array is designed to reduce feedback, so conversations flow more naturally, with the including beamforming technology helping to ignore background noise, meaning everyone hears you and not what’s around you.

The new sound system on the iMac brings room-filling audio to any space. The two pairs of force-cancelling woofers create rich, deep base without any unwanted vibrations, and with high performance tweeters – the volume on this new iMac is absolutely brilliant.

This iMac also supports Spacial Audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos, but the fact that a lot of this is still limited to Apple headphones makes it a bit annoying. Although you can still connect non Apple headphones to Apple products, I would love if my Apple products would show my Skullcandies on the screen the same as how the AirPods show up if you’re truing to connect them, but hopefully if both companies are seeing this, there’s a way they can make this happen.

Lastly, this iMac is able to run the newest iOS software, which at the time this blog has been written is iOS Monterey, and if you any iPad later than the iPad 6th gen, iPad Mini 5th gen, or the iPad Air 3rd gen, or any iPad Pro, you will be able to use SideCar. SideCar isn’t fully accessible as of yet, however, because to use it you have to have an Apple Pencil, and other styluses which are easier for people with mobility issues to use won’t work, but hopefully this changes one day. Away from Sidecar, you will also be able to download iPhone and iPad apps onto your mac, although this does depend on the developer.

But overall, although there are some small things that could be improved, the vast majority of stuff on this new iMac I am able to access. It was easy to set up, and once my Trackpad arrived, it was easy to set up all the accessibility features I needed to use the Mac, such as tapping the right side of the trackpad instead of using two fingers to right click, and setting up Sticky Keys so there’s no reason for me to hold down two buttons at the one time. The only things I think have to improve is for the side bars for scrolling down the side of applications to be constantly on, and with customisable largeness, for Face ID to be added so those who can’t use Touch ID have a smart way of paying, and for SideCar to work on iPad with styluses that are more accessible than the Apple Pencil. But other than that, I’ve loved using the new iMac ever since I got it, and overall, it is accessible.

You can get the new 24-inch iMac in Blue, Green, Pink and Silver, with Orange, Yellow and Purple also being a choice with the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID options. They cost between £1,249-£1,649.

2015 15-Inch MacBook Pro With Retina Display Review

The 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is the larger of two Pro laptops designed by Apple, and available in silver. Made with a diagonal 15.4 inch LED-backlit display, 2880-by-1800 native resolution at 220 pixels per inch with support for graphics, supported scale-resolutions, 300 nits of brightness, a Standard Colour Gamut (sRGB) and 900:1 contrast ratio. There’s two choices of Processor to choose from: the 2.2GHz plan _ including a 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache _ or the 2.5GHz plan _ 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache Configurable to 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache, with 16GB of 1600MHz of unbound memory, and 2.2GHz-256GB, or 2.5GHz-512GB in storage. So what else is there to say about it?

When you first get the 15-Inch MacBook Pro, you see it comes in a white box, with Apple’s special plastic over it. After taring it off, you can see information at the back, with the main picture of the product on top of the lid, and the product title on the side.

Inside, you get the 15-Inch MacBook Pro, with some information and apple stickers, a charger and a charging block below. This MacBook Pro is lighter than previous generations _ height: 0.71 inch (1.8 cm), width: 14.13 inches (35.49 cm), Depth: 9.73 inches (24.71 cm), and weight: 4.49 pounds (2.04 kg). Giving its an older model, I expect it will get lighter over time, but it would help a lot if it did to make it safe for people who can’t lift it as easy as others.

There are ports at the side which are used to charge, plug in USBs and other pen drives, as well as one for the wire of wired headphones to go into, but it also supports wireless headphones.

It also includes a force touch trackpad, which can be accessed by a harder click, and can bring content up no matter where you click on it.

Aimed at people working in Film, Photography, or any other creative market, it has Intel Iris Pro Graphics _ 2.2GHs-256GB or 2.5GHs-512GB _ Dual display and video mirroring _ supporting full native resolution up to 3840 by 2160 pixels _ Thunderbolt digital video output, HDMI video output, and a 720p FaceTime HD camera.

So what are my thoughts about it?

As someone working among photography, video production, graphics and writing, the 2015 15-Inch MacBook Pro is a good laptop which has been able to show all my content in good definition. It takes a long time for the memory and storage to fill up, which works for me as I often have to work with big documents.

My only bit of criticism is that it’s hard for me to do a force touch on the trackpad, and since I got my laptop in mid-2015, I’ve also struggled with doing a right click. I fixed this a few months ago by changing the two-finger-right-click to a right-trackpad-tap to allow me to do this, but in future versions I would like for the user to be able to set this up during the setup.