Apple held its 'Peek Performance' virtual event on Tuesday, and quite honestly, it dropped a lot of nice surprises in a single hour. We got a spec bump for the iPhone SE 3, a generous update for the iPad Air 5, and jaw-dropping reveals of the M1 Ultra in a new Mac Studio and Studio Display with A13 Bionic. Oh, and don't forget those incredibly good looking green iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro devices.
No matter who you are or what you were really expecting, Apple gave everybody something to drool over today.
M1 Ultra blows the competition out of the water
Pretty much everybody was expecting Apple to reveal new silicon, but in the form of a new M2 chip. Apple didn't go this route, but it did introduce the M1 Ultra chip, which is built upon the existing M1 Max chip.
Basically, the M1 Max had a hidden feature: a die-to-die interconnect, which allowed two M1 Max chips to be connected together. That is essentially what the M1 Ultra is, and boy, this thing is a supercharged powerhouse. With M1 Ultra, you get 20 cores, with 16 of them for high performance. For GPU, there are 60 cores with 32 Neural Engine cores.
I don't think anybody was expecting the M1 Ultra because the red herring in the rumor mill was M2 for a 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the focus here was on desktop machines. While I personally have no need for such immense power in my daily work machine, this is fantastic for those who do. Currently, there is nothing that comes close to what Apple has done with the M1 family of chips, despite what Intel thinks. Recent reports indicate that Intel plans to rival the 14-inch MacBook Pro by 2023, but with the M1 Ultra now, it seems that Intel will forever be trying to play catchup.
Mac Studio and Studio Display were great last-minute surprises
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of us were expecting a new MacBook to drop today. We didn't get any portables, but we did learn about the Mac Studio and Studio Display, two powerful desktop machines.
The Mac Studio is a completely new Mac desktop computer. It's not a replacement for the Mac mini, since that's still available for purchase, but it's not an all-in-one machine like the iMac either. It's modular, so you will need your own display, like the Apple Studio Display that was also announced. The Mac Studio starts with the M1 Max for just $1,999, but you can opt for the M1 Ultra, though that starts at a whopping $3,999.
Again, the Mac Studio is not a desktop Mac for everyone. It's for those who require the power for super resource-intensive work, rather than just answering emails and browsing the web. I'm not the target audience for this machine, but those who need it should definitely invest.
The Studio Display is also a nice surprise. While it isn't as big as the Pro Display XDR, it's still a fantastic display that will be much more affordable for many people. And with the 27-inch Studio Display, the 27-inch iMac seems to have disappeared, unfortunately, with no sign of an M1 replacement.
The new iPhone SE 3 and green iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone SE 3 is a new and improved iPhone SE 2. As much as I was hoping for a new design, the new iPhone SE still retains the same look as its previous iteration but with some upgraded internals, like the A15 Bionic and 5G connectivity.
I was surprised that Apple put the A15 in the iPhone SE 3, as I was thinking it would go with an A14. However, thanks to the A15, not only is it faster but it also gains some new camera capabilities. So while there were no physical changes made to the single lens 12MP camera system, because of A15, it can now do Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4, and Photographic Styles with iOS 15.
Again, the iPhone SE 3 is not for power users like myself, but for those who want an affordable iPhone, their first iPhone, or just want to retain the Home button. Even though it's not for me, I still think it's a great device for the right people.
However, I absolutely adore the green iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. This is the kind of green I've dreamed about, and if you're looking to buy an iPhone 13 device right now, this is the color to go with. To be honest, I'm annoyed that Apple did not launch this color from the start — if the Alpine Green was available on launch for the iPhone 13 Pro, I would have snatched that up so fast! But alas, it looks like I'm stuck with my Sierra Blue iPhone 13 Pro now. Seriously, why punish us early adopters in terms of color, Apple?
iPad Air 5 is once again the best iPad for most
When the iPad Air 4 launched in 2020, it brought many pro-level features to the masses at an affordable price point. And while we've still been recommending it as the best iPad for most folks, it was getting a little long in the tooth. But today's announcement of the iPad Air 5 makes it once again king.
There is little to differentiate the iPad Air 5 from the iPad Pros now. The iPad Air 5 now comes with the M1 chip, which debuted in the iPad Pro last year. Now that iPad Air has the M1, you can expect a 60% increase in CPU power and twice the graphics performance. It also has Center Stage to bring it in line with pretty much all of the other iPad models, including the iPad mini 6 and entry level iPad. And like the mini and the Pro, there is now 5G connectivity as well. The USB-C port is twice as fast as the previous generation, making this even better for those who rely on workflows involving data transfer. Honestly, the only thing that the Pros still have over the Air is ProMotion, storage capacity, ultra wide cameras, and Face ID.
I'm not surprised by all of the new features that Apple gave the iPad Air 5. To be frank, it was in dire need of a refresh, and today just made it once again the best iPad for the average consumer. But now that is pretty much almost like an iPad Pro, it seems the fate of the 11-inch iPad Pro is uncertain, as the iPad Air has a 10.9-inch display.
One more thing…
The biggest surprise was the Mac Pro tease at the end. Apple never does that, so it caught so many off guard. But honestly, with what the company gave us with the Mac Studio, one thing is for certain: A Mac Pro with M1 will be an absolute monster. Can't wait to see what that will end up being like! Perhaps we'll see it during WWDC 2022.
Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.
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