Peek Performance impressions

Thu Mar 24, 2022

Thank you, Apple, for giving me something to write about besides from today’s unholy trinity of war, disease, and inflation.

Perhaps not as flashy as last year’s Spring Loaded digital event, Peek Performance was nonetheless a nice, mellow start to the 2022 Apple news cycle. And was also another opportunity for Apple’s chip team to flex hard.

This presentation was a no-nonsense, all-business affair. Given the complete lack of levity, especially from a dead-eyed Tim Cook, you get the feeling Apple is ready to move on from pre-recorded video and return to in-person events.

I have to give Apple inclusivity credit though - most of the presenters were women this time and they were all lively and engaging.

So, I’m going to continue a tradition here and give my “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” impressions of each announcement as I did in last year’s Spring event.

Here we go.

Friday Night Baseball

Apple is bringing live Baseball games to Apple TV+ “free from local broadcast restrictions”.

Dipping a pinky toe into live streaming could be the start of exciting developments for sports-loving cord cutters. Cable-network executives have another reason to lose sleep - assuming they aren’t blind to the writing on the wall. Live sports and news - the last bastion of traditional cable.

I’m not into Baseball, so maybe the yawns for this announcement are solely my own. Even so, a minor announcement like this belongs in a Press Release rather than in a tech event.

Green iPhone 13 colours

The iPhone 13 gets a new “green” finish (yes, just “green”) and the iPhone 13 Pro gets the more sophisticated-sounding “alpine green” (as it is obviously more fancy).

Well, more colour choices are always nice for the Spring. And I think having both blue and green in the lineup is a good balance of natural colours inspired by nature. I’m reaching here, I know.

For some reason, green-painted technology looks disgusting. There’s a reason, after all, that green is one of the least-popular car colours. Maybe there are a few who actually dig it, but I couldn’t imagine a green option sparking a resurgence in iPhone sales.

New iPhone SE

The new iPhone SE features the A15 chip, 5G, a slightly better battery life, and stronger glass - all in the body of an iPhone 8.

Notch haters and home-button lovers are going to be very happy this form factor is still around. Compact, capable, and long lasting are good words to describe the SE. I’m more than familiar with the “iconic” design, having only recently moved on from my iPhone 6S. This entry-level iPhone, however, is three times faster than the 6S.

Maybe kids and grandparents won’t complain when they’re handed the SE, but there’s a reason anyone who is employed has moved on (myself included) to the newer iPhone X-era design. The tiny display, small battery, and single camera in the SE add up to a tired old form factor that is not worth $650 CAD you’ll be paying (after tax).

If Apple supports this SE as long as they supported the 6S, you’ll still be pulling this retro tech out of your pocket in 2029. Just think of the looks you’ll get from all the cool kids wearing their AR glasses.

iPad Air 5

Iterating on the excellent iPad Air 4 re-design introduced in 2020, this year’s model includes the blazing-fast M1 chip, a 12MP front camera, and a fetching new blue colour.

When the iPad Air 4 came out, I was sorely tempted to snap one up and toss my OG 2013 iPad Air away. The iPad Air 5 tempts me even more. There’s no doubt that the iPad Air 5’s real value proposition here is Apple’s delicious homemade M1 chip. Ironically, you don’t even need that much power for an iPad. But what the M1 gives you is longevity - if you invest in one of these, you’ll probably be good for the next decade.

The frustrating thing for people my age is the expectation that the iPad should do more. But maybe it will never be a “traditional” computer where you can run software outside of the App Store or hook up a keyboard and mouse and expect next-level multitasking. But kids love the iPad. A touch interface is probably going to surpass older interaction models at some point in the future.

Personally, I’m convinced that the iPad is a great casual device for watching YouTube, scrolling on Twitter, or shopping on Amazon. But you can do all these things on an iPhone too. The overlap doesn’t quite justify the new iPad Air’s cost for me, as lovely as it is.

So, I guess I’ll keep my decade-old iPad Air until the day that the YouTube and Netflix apps are no longer supported. Or until I have so much money that I don’t know what else to spend it on, which doesn’t seem likely (see third member of unholy trinity: inflation).

Also, rumours have it that Apple was planning on bringing OLED to the iPad Air 5, but this upgrade got pushed to another year, which is a bummer. I do have a thing for OLED, so maybe next year the temptation will become too hard to bear…

Mac Studio

So, the Mac Studio is a brand new product, but is basically a taller Mac mini with beefed-up internals and extra ports.

The neat trick in this product is that Apple’s chip team connected two M1 Maxes together to form the “M1 Ultra”. With a smoking-fast bandwidth of 2.5 terabytes between the chips, the two chips appear to the system as one super-powered chip. So, double the speed, double the memory, and double the performance. Really nice, especially if you’ve always wanted 128GB of RAM for some insane reason.

Apple’s marketing team is having a field day with their chip names, which are, quite frankly, getting out of control. But, that’s a minor complaint. These are impressive, compact machines. But the Mac Studio is such a niche product that it won’t have a broad impact until the chip improvements trickle down to the consumer landscape. Starting at $2500 CAD, these aren’t exactly a bargain, especially considering they are nowhere near as modular as PC builds.

Studio Display

Apple is positioning this new 27-inch 5K display as a companion to the Mac Studio.

Nobody does a 5K display like Apple does. To be fair, nobody does a 5K display period (except for LG). With great built-in speakers, a webcam, terrific build quality, and a lower price than Apple’s $6,000+ Pro Display XDR, you’d think that Apple has a winner on their hands.

Apple does not have a winner on their hands. Leaving aside reports of a bad, blotchy webcam (Apple claims they can fix it in a software update), this display has a lacklustre spec sheet for the two-grand asking price. These days $2,000 CAD will get you a cutting-edge OLED with HDR, local dimming zones, and a high-refresh rate. The Studio Display has none of these things.

So, what exactly is the Studio Display? The short answer is that it’s a rip off. Apple recycled the 2014 Retina iMac, kept the display, tore the computer out the back, and charged more for it. I’ll gladly pay for great engineering. The iPhone is a delightful fusion of hardware and software that is worth a thousand bucks. But you’d have to be unthinkably brand loyal to buy this Apple display. My advice? If you’re a hip professional, hold out for the Samsung Odyssey Ark.

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