Mac year in review, 2023: Big wins for new hardware, but minor software updates

The 2023 M3 iMac on a wooden desk, showing the features of macOS Sonoma
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)

Well folks, they did it — the Apple silicon transition that kicked off with the M1 back in 2020 is finally complete. Apple’s chips are now powering every desktop, all-in-one, laptop, and Pro-level machine in the lineup.

Yes, it was a big year for Apple’s Mac hardware, and the platform many once feared was winding down has seen new life. This year saw the debut of seven new Mac models, including M2 models that were superseded by M3 ones within months of release.

That shows how quickly Apple is moving with its Apple silicon advances, and while the software side with macOS Sonoma was a little less exciting, it still brought plenty of long-awaited features.

Here’s our rundown of the year 2023 for the Mac platform.

Back to the Max

M3 MacBook Pro review

(Image credit: Future)

It struck me as strange that the M2 chipset introduced in 2022, came to the iPad Pro before it arrived on the Mac mini.

Thankfully, Apple rectified that in January with the release of the M2 Mac mini, alongside the M2 Pro and M2 Max MacBook Pro models.

The latter was then overhauled again in November as Apple unveiled three chips at once, with the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max all being made available in MacBook Pros. That’s a pretty quick upgrade, and while you may be salty if you picked up an M2 model at the start of the year, you’ll no doubt still be enjoying the performance on offer.

June also saw the arrival of three new machines. The 15-inch MacBook Air M2 and the Mac Studio M2 were welcome arrivals: the 15-inch Air M2 is an easy laptop to recommend for just about anyone, while the M2 Mac Studio fixes the noise and Bluetooth connectivity issues that some users had with the M1 version, while providing tons of power.

the new Mac Pro with Apple silicon

(Image credit: Apple)

The third new model to join that lineup was the Mac Pro, which certainly divided opinion. It’s still pricey, and 99% of users likely have no need for such power, but I was hoping for a fresh industrial design. Many potential customers were put off by the change to the available build specs, though, meaning RAM is now capped at 192GB rather than the wild 1.5TB available in the 2019 model.

Those are still astronomical RAM amounts (with prices to match), but if you need that sheer brute strength it’s something to think about. You also can’t upgrade the new Mac Pro’s memory after the fact, and benchmarks don’t put it too far ahead of the much smaller, and much more affordable, Mac Studio.

Still, as I alluded to earlier, Apple finished the year strongly with the M3 reveal. Alongside the aforementioned MacBook Pro models, there was a new M3 iMac, and while it’s not changed anything from the M1 version other than the new chip, Apple did confirm there are no plans for anything larger. Pour one out for the dream of a 27-inch iMac, I guess.

The ‘Scary Fast’ event also saw the Grim Reaper come for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, finally removing the Touch Bar from the Mac lineup. RIP.

Widgets, widgets everywhere

MacBook macOS Sonoma widgets on desk

(Image credit: Future)

On the software side, it feels strange that the macOS Sonoma feature I’ve enjoyed the most since the update arrived is its screensavers — but they look beautiful.

Elsewhere, Apple reeled off a list of solid features that aren’t exactly headliners. Features such as the ability to have multiple Safari users, being able to add web apps to the dock, and improved search within Messages are welcome, but they’re unlikely to convince a Windows user to jump the fence.

Game Mode, combined with the M3’s focus on ray tracing, could be a sizeable step towards making the Mac a gaming platform to be reckoned with, but that remains to be seen.

Speaking of things to look forward to, Apple rolled out Sonoma 14.2 in early December, which added the new PDF autofill feature. Whether it’ll rival third-party options like PDF Expert it’s hard to say, but as someone that signs a fair amount of NDAs in the Preview app, I’m excited to see if it stacks up.

One of the features I was most looking forward to with macOS Sonoma was the new Desktop Widgets tool, but the feature still doesn’t feel ready. It’s not always clear which apps are from your phone, which apps are native, and which are interactive. Here’s hoping this gets better in time.

I’m much more positive about the video conferencing features that stack nicely onto the Continuity Camera so I can use my iPhone’s excellent camera instead of the MacBook’s built-in one. While triggering fireworks with two thumbs up is a novelty the first few times and is quickly forgotten about, the presenter mode for screen-sharing is a delight.


A strong year for Mac

macOS Sonoma screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

It was not only a good year for the Mac platform, but a busy one. While the Mac Pro was underwhelming, the arrival of new M2 and M3 devices, including the fantastic 15-inch M2 MacBook Air certainly made up for it.

And while macOS Sonoma isn’t the most exciting update we’ve seen in years, it further evolves the Mac ecosystem in small but welcome ways.

Lloyd Coombes
Contributor

Lloyd Coombes is a freelance writer with a specialism in Apple tech. From his first, hand-me-down iMac, he’s been working with Apple products for over a decade, and while he loves his iPhone and Mac, the iPad will always have his heart for reasons he still can’t quite fathom.

Since moving from blogging to writing professionally, Lloyd’s work can be found at TechRadar, Macworld, TechAdvisor and plenty more.

He’s also the Editor in Chief at GGRecon.com, and on the rare occasion he’s not writing you’ll find him spending time with his son, or working hard at the gym (while wearing an Apple Watch, naturally). You can find him on Twitter @lloydcoombes.