Every now and again it can be a fun exercise to take a contrarian position against the obvious. Here’s an example. Everybody wants more powerful Macs, iPhones, and iPads, right? Why? I ask the question because an interesting change is becoming apparent at Apple.
Yes, our favorite Mac maker, the company that tells technology gadget manufacturers which way the future points, has become a chip maker, and in just a few short years Apple’s own CPUs, those that power the iPhone and iPad, are nearly as powerful as those that power the new line of MacBook Pros that feature Intel’s Core i7 inside.
I bring that up thanks to a good old fashioned benchmark shootout conducted at Bare Feats between the new 2017 iPad Pro models and the recently updated MacBook Pro models. Benchmark testing is not real world usability testing– and I’ll get to that in a moment– but it does tell us Apple has already begun to infringe upon Intel’s dominance as the world’s CPU supplier for PCs. Add a keyboard to an iPad Pro and you’ve got a high quality personal computer that can keep up with, not just the cheap-assed, entry-level, slabs of plastic with Celeron Inside, but hefty mid-range PC notebooks all glammed up with extra RAM and massive storage.
Yes, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is more mid-range than the high end 15-inch MacBook Pro with a quad-core i7 CPU and dedicated graphics, but you get the idea, right? In a very short period of time Apple is pushing devices into the marketplace that are comparable in capability to Intel CPUs in the Mac.
On the surface, it would seem as if we need more powerful Macs because the iPad is catching up.
The contrarian question I ask is obvious. “What good is a more powerful Mac?” Yes, I know, so-called professionals want as many cores and as much RAM as is humanly possible, but the rest of us get by just fine on a few cores and nominal RAM because the applications we use most don’t require anything more.
What good do we, members of the great unwashed masses of Mac customers, derive from all that RAM and all those CPU cores if they’re not really being used by Safari, Mail, Calendar, iTunes, Photos, iMovie, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, FaceTime, and everything else that comes with macOS Sierra?
The answer to my question may be why Apple hasn’t bothered with stuffing more power into a Mac. There’s just no need. Well, except for that tiny, tiny percentage of Mac customers who now drool over the specifications of the upcoming iMac Pro. Hell, the menacing look of a space gray iMac Pro probably guarantees an extra 20-percent in performance alone.
The Bare Feats’ benchmark scores are not usability testing, though. What apps we use and how we use them– with a limited exception to the aforementioned and so-called professional Mac user– tells me that hardware power has outpaced usability power in a big way. A new iPad Pro competes well against a mid-range Mac notebook. In benchmarks. Usability is a different issue, and it’s obvious that more horsepower doesn’t help the productivity of the average Mac user, but might have some impact on the new breed of iPad Pro user who eschews the Mac in favor of mobility.
Don’t get me wrong. I want very much to try out an iMac Pro as even the entry-level version with 8-core Xeons and 32GB of RAM inside should be a screamer. But screaming on what? iTunes? Photos? 4k videos in iMovie? Even an iPad can do all that and more without breaking a sweat.
Instead of more powerful devices, maybe we need more powerful software.