Here comes the hardware: Apple debuts 5G-enabled iPhone SE, M1 Ultra chip & new Mac

Apple's new Mac Studio is the most powerful Mac to date / Apple

At its first event of the year, tech giant Apple introduced a deluge of new products, including the third-generation, 5G-enabled iPhone SE, an updated iPad Air, a powerful new chip for desktop Macs and Mac Studio and Studio Display, computer offerings promising to transform the “studio experience” of creators, engineers and more.

At Apple’s ‘Peek Performance’ event today chief executive Tim Cook and his team introduced key updates to the iPhone SE and iPad Air, including 5G capabilities, improved graphics performance, speed and recycled materials. The company also rolled out its new M1 Ultra chip — its high-efficiency answer to dual-chip systems. Finally, the company introduced a new computer, Mac Studio, created to supercharge performance for users who need higher levels of storage, bandwidth and speed. Despite some rumors circulating on Twitter, the event featured no mention of a metaverse play.

Here are the key announcements made at today’s event:

5G comes to iPhone SE

Cook today introduced the third-generation iPhone SE. The company is especially invested in the development of its entry-level-priced model because its financial accessibility has helped Apple expand its user base.

The new phone will be equipped with the much-hyped A15 bionic chip, which extends battery life, improves display and powers a new, higher-quality camera. The custom-built chip includes a 6-core central processing unit (CPU), a 4-core graphics processing unit (GPU) and a 16-core neural engine, which makes the new SE 26 times faster than iPhone 8. The 5G-enabled device comes in three colors: red, silver and a charcoal black. Its front and back sides are outfitted with the same super-strong water- and dust-resistant glass found on the iPhone 13 lineup.

iPhone 13 goes green

Apple unveiled two new finishes on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro: two bold green options. Like the SE line, the iPhone 13 models have helped to significantly bolster growth for the company. “This past fall, we’ve added more new users to the iPhone 13 lineup than in each of the previous five launches,” Cook said at today’s event.

iPad Air gets a makeover

Apple today debuted its new iPad Air, which comes with the 8-core CPU M1 chip — an upgrade that the company says improves graphics performance and makes the device two times faster than the best-selling Windows laptop in the same price range. The M1’s neural core powers an improved display on the iPad Air’s anti-reflective screen. Apple’s machine learning-powered Center Stage feature — which automatically adjusts the front-facing camera for video calls — is elevated with the device’s new 12 megapixel ultra-wide camera.

Like the new iPhone SE, the device will also be 5G-enabled. It will be available in a range of colors, including deep gray, silver, pale pink, lavender and a new light blue shade. The tech company is also rolling out a couple new accessory options for iPad keyboards and navigation.

The new M1 Ultra chip supercharges performance

One of the biggest announcements of the day came with the news of what the company called the “next giant leap” in Mac development: the new M1 Ultra desktop processor, the fourth and most powerful semiconductor in the M1 lineup. The new M1 Ultra chip is designed to improve device performance, extend battery life and offer greater overall energy efficiency.

As it stands, the standard approach to elevating power in the industry involves using two chips and connecting them via the motherboard. Unfortunately, such an approach consumes a lot of energy, requires high bandwidths and can lead to high latency. So instead of relying on two chips to bring users more power, Apple built a new kind of chip by uniting two M1 Max chips via a proprietary architecture called UltraFusion, thereby creating the M1 Ultra.

The new chip features 800 gigabytes (GB) per second worth of memory bandwidth, more than ten times that of the industry’s leading PC desktop chip. It supports up to 128GB of unified memory for what the company called “huge workloads.” Its 20-core CPU and 64-core GPU offer performance speeds up to eight times faster than the standard M1 chip. And thanks to the M1 Ultra’s 32-core neural engine, it promises enhanced graphics, acoustics, speed and performance — all while using what Apple claims is 65% less power than the leading 16-core PC desktop chip. Plus, the M1 Ultra operates hand-in-hand with Mac operating systems, meaning that updates happen seamlessly and in tandem.

Apple said that it has transitioned nearly all of its Mac models to the new Apple silicon chips.

The Mac lineup sees a hot newcomer

Another key update announced today is the rollout of Mac Studio, a new computer designed for creatives and professionals with major computational needs — from musicians and designers to engineers and video editors — that promises greater “performance, connectivity and modularity.” Manifested in a small silver cube outfitted either an M1 Max chip or the more-powerful M1 Ultra, Mac Studio can support up to four Macs plus a 4K TV at once and is billed as being faster than the Mac Pro.

In fact, per today’s announcement, Mac Studio is up to 50% faster than a Mac Pro with a 16-core Xeon processor and offers up to three-and-a-half times faster graphics than the 27-inch Mac. Users can access up to 128GB of unified memory with the new M1 Ultra chip. All in all, Mac Studio is up to 80% faster than the fastest Mac Pro on the market today.

At the same time, the new device offers greater energy efficiency than competing models. The company said that, over the course of a year, it will use 1000 kilowatts less than a high-end PC desktop.

Rolling out alongside Mac Studio is Studio Display, the new 27-inch monitor with 5K retina display includes the same A15 chip as iPad, bringing Apple’s signature ultra-wide high-quality camera to desktop. The 6-speaker sound system supports spatial audio — what Apple called “the highest-fidelity speakers we’ve ever created for the Mac.”

The desktop also features a new adjustable display stand that can swivel to greater angles. Per today’s announcement, Mac Studio with an M1 Max chip will start at $1,999, while M1 Ultra models start at $3,999. The Studio Display rings up for $1,599. The new iPhone SE, iPad Air and Mac Studio and Studio Display will all be available for purchase starting this Friday, March 11.

Apple TV+ to host new original movies and Friday Night Baseball

Finally, Cook announced that the lineup of Apple TV+ original films is expanding; new and forthcoming titles will star A-listers ranging from Denzel Washington and Will Ferrell to Zac Efron. Friday Night Baseball will now be broadcast exclusively by Apple TV+. Launching at the start of Major League Baseball’s season, regular season Friday night games will air on Apple TV+ alongside pre- and post-game programming. It will be made available to users in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Japan and South Korea. Plus, as part of the deal, a new live show called MLB Big Inning, slated to air on weeknights during the MLB’s regular season, will show league highlights. “Baseball has a special place in the heart of so many Apple customers — not just in the United States, but in many countries around the world,” said the company’s vice-president of services Peter Stern in a statement today. “We’re proud to make Apple TV+ the home for great baseball moments throughout the season.”

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