This Week in Computer Hardware 418: HomePod and MacBooks, and Threadripper, Oh My!

HomePod, the 5K iMac Pro… ain’t that expensive, MacBook update, where’s Threadripper…and an 8K UltraSharp Monitor from DELL. All that and more coming up on This Week In Computer Hardware!

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13-inch Broadwell MacBook showdown: Should you go Pro or get an Air?

The 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch MacBook Air were once very different computers that served very different needs. One was bulkier but pretty fast and user-serviceable, while the other was thin-and-light to a fault, arriving with anemic low-power CPUs and GPUs, slow hard drives, and no easy means to upgrade.

In the last two-to-three years, that gap has narrowed substantially. The Air has become more powerful and less compromised, while the Pro has slimmed down and dumped features like user-replaceable RAM and its Ethernet jack. Both use Thunderbolt 2. Both use modern dual-core CPUs with some of Intel’s better integrated GPUs. They’re even priced in the same ballpark. What was once an easy recommendation has gotten more difficult.

Last year as part of our review process, we took a good long look at both laptops, picked the best and worst things about each, and made purchasing recommendations based on what you need in your 13-inch Mac laptop. We’ll post similar individual reviews soon to better consider how each computer stacks up compared to the wider PC market, but this piece serves a very specific purpose.

If you’re interested in a new Mac laptop but shy away from the extremes (the extreme power of a 15-inch Pro, the extreme portability of an 11-inch Air), which new 13-inch offering do you buy?

Specs at a glance: 13-inch 2015 Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2015 Apple Retina MacBook Pro

Screen 1440×900 at 13.3″ (128 PPI) 2560×1600 at 13.3″ (227 PPI)

OS OS X 10.10.2 Yosemite OS X 10.10.2 Yosemite

CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-5250U (Turbo up to 2.7GHz) 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-5257U (Turbo up to 3.3GHz)

RAM 4GB 1600MHz LPDDR3 (soldered, upgradeable to 8GB at purchase) 8GB 1866MHz LPDDR3 (soldered, upgradeable to 16GB at purchase)

GPU Intel HD Graphics 6000 (integrated) Intel Iris 6100 (integrated)

HDD 128GB PCIe 2.0 x4 solid-state drive (upgradeable to 256GB or 512GB) 128GB PCIe 2.0 x4 solid-state drive (upgradeable to 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB)

Networking 867Mbps 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 1.3Gbps 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0

Ports 2x USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 2, card reader, headphones 2x USB 3.0, 2x Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, card reader, headphones

Size 12.8″ × 8.94″ × 0.11-0.68″ (325 mm × 227 mm × 3-17 mm) 12.35″ × 8.62″ × 0.71″ (314 mm × 219 mm × 18 mm)

Weight 2.96 lbs (1.35 kg) 3.48 lbs (1.58 kg)

Battery 54Whr 74.9Whr

Warranty 1 year 1 year

Starting price $999.99 $1,299.99

Price as reviewed $999.99 $1,299.99

Other perks Webcam, backlit keyboard, dual integrated mics Webcam, backlit keyboard, dual integrated mics

External changes

Winner: N/A

Read More: 13-inch Broadwell MacBook showdown: Should you go Pro or get an Air? | Ars Technica.

Apple refreshes Macbook Air with Haswell and drops price

Apple has refreshed their Macbook Air line-up today that introduces the new Haswell Intel processors to the mix, other than that there have been no changes made to the hardware, meaning we won’t be seeing solar panels and dual displays just yet.

One small, yet significant non-hardware change however does do your wallet a favor: the prices of the Macbook Air models have been dropped by $100 each– a rather welcome move for their premium lineup which usually only extends to “last generation” devices from Apple.

The entry level 11″ model now clocks in at $899 (sans an array of optional upgrades), and for that you’ll get:

the new Haswell 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz,

Intel HD Graphics 5000,

4GB memory, and

128GB of PCIe-based flash storage.

You can check out the Apple Store for the four options that now range between $899 and $1199 for the base models.

One interesting point to note is that the 11″ Macbook Air is now $100 cheaper than the Surface Pro 2 which costs $999, did Apple purposely undercut the Surface? Although the devices are different in nature, it’s refreshing to see Apple being cheaper than at least one of their main rivals.

via Apple refreshes Macbook Air with Haswell and drops price – Neowin.

Same wrapper, all-new candy center: The 2013 MacBook Air reviewed

Same wrapper, all-new candy center: The 2013 MacBook Air reviewed | Ars Technica

While many PC makers introduce new or tweaked laptop designs just about every year, Apple tends to stick with the same design for a few years before changing everything all at once to reflect changes in internal hardware (the move from HDDs to SSDs, for example) and evolving design tastes (the move across the lineup to aluminum unibody chassis). 2013’s MacBook Air retains the same basic design that the laptops have used since their late-2010 rebirth, when Apple refined the design of the existing 13-inch Air and introduced the 11-inch model.

Set the brand-new Airs on a table next to last year’s models and it’s unlikely anyone could tell the difference. Even changes to the speeds of the I/O ports, like what happened in 2011 with the addition of Thunderbolt and in 2012 with the addition of USB 3.0, aren’t here to convince would-be upgraders. Everything that’s new about the 2013 Air is hidden away inside the laptop. While no one thing will convince 2011 or 2012 Air users to upgrade, the year-to-year improvements are still impressive when taken as a whole.

For the bulk of this review, we’ll be comparing the entry-level 13-inch 2013 MacBook Air to the equivalent 2012 MacBook Air. Both laptops’ 4GB of RAM have been upgraded to 8GB of RAM—$100 is a bit steep for this sort of upgrade, but since the MacBook Air’s RAM is soldered to the motherboard, this is an upgrade most of you will probably want to make. The 11-inch MacBook Air shares all of the same internal specs as the 13-inch model (with the exception of the battery), so most of the observations here will also apply to the smaller model.

This also serves as our first hands-on look at Intel’s new Haswell CPUs, the new integrated Intel HD 5000 GPU, and 802.11ac (aka Gigabit Wi-Fi), so it will be a bit more benchmark-heavy than some of our other laptop reviews. We’ll leave no stone unturned, because many of the upgraded technologies in this year’s Air will be making it out to most other Ultrabooks as the year rolls on.

Full Story: Same wrapper, all-new candy center: The 2013 MacBook Air reviewed | Ars Technica.