Apple WWDC23 Summary Hardware Edition Mac’s New Starting Point Vision Pro Sets a New Benchmark

Apple's WWDC23 Hardware Edition summarized Mac's new starting point, Vision Pro sets new benchmark

It’s another year of WWDC.

In the greeting of Apple CEO Tim Cook, WWDC23 met with users on June 6th in Beijing time. Compared with previous years, this year’s WWDC has more highlights, from the Mac family, Apple Vision Pro to comprehensive system updates, we can also understand Apple’s future development trends through WWDC.

In recent years, the pace of Apple’s release conferences has become faster. In this event that lasted for more than two hours, Apple successively released the new 15-inch MacBook Air, the new Mac Studio, the Mac Pro finally updated after four years, as well as systems including iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, and macOS Sonoma. It can be said that the comprehensive update from hardware to software also makes WWDC23 the most noteworthy developer conference in recent years.

At this WWDC23, a variety of Mac products were the first to appear. “15-inch MacBook Air” was the most frequently mentioned product in the previous exposure information, and today, it officially met with us.

15-inch MacBook Air

From the appearance point of view, the 15-inch MacBook Air can be said to be an “enlarged version” of the 13.6-inch version. They are highly consistent in appearance design, both using the “notch screen” design, and both have up to four different colors and a lightweight design. As for the internals, the 15-inch version of the MacBook Air also uses the M2 chip, and while the screen size increases, it still has a battery life of up to 18 hours.

Since the exposure of the 15-inch MacBook Air, discussions about this product on the internet have never stopped. Many users think that since it is positioned as “Air”, why equip it with a larger screen? However, in my opinion, the positioning of the 15-inch MacBook Air is somewhat similar to “iPhone 14 Plus”, and its user group knows their needs better, which is to like large screens, and at the same time hope that the body is as lightweight and portable as possible, with lasting battery life.

MacBook Air

In fact, I am one of these users myself. A few years ago, I was a loyal user of the “big screen MacBook”, and I gave up the “portability” of a laptop for a big screen. And starting from this year’s 15-inch MacBook Air, “big screen” and “portability” finally appear together in one device. If you have a similar need, I believe that the 15-inch MacBook Air is your new choice.

In addition to the MacBook Air, the all-new Mac Studio is the latest stage built by Apple for professional users. With Apple’s self-developed chip, powerful performance can also be integrated into a small box. From the appearance, the design of the new Mac Studio is consistent with the previous generation, but its interior has been comprehensively upgraded. With the M2 Max chip or M2 Ultra chip, the performance of the Mac has been elevated to a new level, especially the M2 Ultra chip, which is the same as the M1 Ultra, still using a dual-core silicon interconnect design, integrating two M2 Max chips into M2 Ultra, its performance and processing power are twice that of M2 Max, making it the highest specification and most powerful SoC chip in Apple history.

All-new Mac Studio

With the appearance of the M2 Ultra chip, Apple’s self-developed chip has also been in existence for four years. At this year’s WWDC23, Apple also brought the last member of the Mac family – the Mac Pro, into the self-developed chip camp.

Mac Pro with Apple’s self-developed chip

Before this, many users speculated that Apple would provide a new design for the Mac Pro, after all, Apple’s self-developed chips have higher energy efficiency and lower heat dissipation. However, in order to fully unleash the potential of the M2 Ultra, the Mac Pro still continues the original efficient heat dissipation design. And thanks to the large amount of internal space, the Mac Pro accommodates up to seven PCIe expansion slots, including six open expansion slots that support the fourth generation of PCIe standard.

What can be seen is that the biggest highlight of the Mac Pro is its “powerful expansion capability”. In addition to more PCIe expansion slots, the connectivity of the Mac Pro is also at the top level of the Mac family. It has a total of 8 built-in Thunderbolt 4 ports, 6 on the back and 2 on the front, as well as 3 USB-A ports, 2 HDMI ports, 2 10Gb Ethernet ports (10 Gigabit Ethernet), and 1 headphone jack that supports high-impedance headphones.

Mac Pro

Starting from today, the layout of the Mac family on both mobile and desktop has been completed. On the mobile side, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro meet the needs of different users for “performance” and “portability” respectively, while on the desktop side, the Mac mini, Mac Studio and Mac Pro correspond to users with different performance needs. And all of this is based on Apple’s self-developed chips.

XR is undoubtedly one of the most watched areas in recent years. From headsets to AR glasses, various categories of devices continue to emerge, constantly refreshing our vision. However, XR is also a track that tests product power quite a bit, especially when there is a gap between user expectations and the actual experience of using the product, which will inevitably affect the development of the XR industry.

Apple Vision Pro

From several years ago in the AR field to frequent hardware leaks, Apple’s first augmented reality platform, Apple Vision Pro, has been officially released. Certainly, this is a product that will not meet the majority of consumers until next year, but it can be seen from the official demonstration that the XR industry finally has a new benchmark starting today.

Apple Vision Pro

Apple’s definition of Apple Vision Pro is “spatial computing device”, which seamlessly integrates digital content with the physical world and extends content beyond the screen. If you are familiar with the Apple ecosystem, you can see many shadows of other Apple devices in Vision Pro, and even say that Apple Vision Pro is the culmination of the Apple ecosystem.

The first step in XR devices is to provide a more immersive image as much as possible. Inside Apple Vision Pro, Apple uses two MicroLED screens, which integrate 23 million pixels, surpassing 4K resolution. Therefore, in terms of parameters, Apple Vision Pro is undoubtedly at the top level in screen display.

Apple Vision Pro supports environmental spatial audio

On the audio side, Apple has been deeply cultivating spatial audio for several years, and it is also displayed on Apple Vision Pro. There are dual-unit speakers on both sides of the headset, and it also supports environmental spatial audio originating from HomePod. By analyzing the acoustic characteristics of the room through audio ray tracing, the most suitable sound can be matched.

In order to meet the “easy-to-use” characteristics of the headset, using eye, hand and voice control has become the best solution. So how does Apple Vision Pro understand these operations?

Inside Apple Vision Pro, there is a set of complex sensors. Among them, the high-performance eye-tracking system composed of LED and infrared cameras inside can project invisible light patterns onto each eye and accurately perceive the position of the glasses being observed. The large number of lenses at the bottom are responsible for displaying the external world, recognizing hand tracking, 3D mapping and other functions.

A eye tracking system composed of LED and infrared cameras

A sensor array that can sense hand movements

Of course, these sensors are also derived from the LiDAR first launched on the iPad Pro and the 3D structured light module first appeared on the iPhone X.

Driven by M2 and R1 chips

When all these powerful hardware are integrated on one device, strong computational power is naturally needed to support it. Therefore, Apple chose the latest M2 chip, which has powerful performance to quickly execute visual and graphics algorithms required by XR devices, ensuring a smooth experience. In order to further enhance the computational power of the headset, Apple also provides an additional R1 chip, which is a co-processor specifically used to process camera, sensor and microphone information, and transmit images to the screen within 12 milliseconds, thus achieving almost zero latency experience.

“Stacking” is not difficult for all major manufacturers, but the difficulty is to fully utilize these hardware and minimize the “drop feeling” in the user experience. Apple has specially prepared a new “visionOS” for Apple Vision Pro. It is a brand-new operating system based on macOS, iOS and iPadOS, and is designed specifically for spatial computing.

visionOS

In a sense, visionOS is the culmination of Apple’s ecosystem, and can even be called “AppleOS”. This system is completely controlled by human eyes, hands and voice. Simply gaze at the application, tap your finger to make a selection, swipe your wrist to scroll, or use voice commands to browse the application.

Controlling with eyes, hands and mouth is very intuitive, but this requires a series of optimizations and improvements from spatial positioning to computing power. To what extent Apple can achieve this “intuitive” experience is also something to look forward to.

Unlike previous developer conferences where software dominated, hardware became the highlight of this year’s WWDC23. For Mac users, with the Mac Pro switching to Apple’s self-developed chips, the last piece of the puzzle for the “full transition of the Mac family to Apple chips” has finally been completed. From now on, Apple can completely unleash its potential and use self-developed chips to reshape the Mac product line, and match different products for different needs.

As for the Apple Vision Pro, it is no surprise that it became the most anticipated hardware at this release event, and it certainly deserves the title of “One More Thing”. In it, we can see shadows of every Apple product line. Everyone has brought their core technology to the Apple Vision Pro, and this device, which is priced as high as $3,499, will drive the industry forward as the new benchmark for the XR industry.

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