Apple held another product launch earlier this year that took a number of new Macs designed for the custom M1 processor out of circulation. Like the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, Apple is now developing its own chipsets to power its laptops and desktop computers. This has allowed the Californian company to sever ties with Intel, which provided the chipsets for almost every macOS and Windows 10 computer made in the past decade, and to design processors to make them their own Correspond to priorities. It also means Intel no longer has to meet its own deadlines for introducing the latest Mac models.
But while the Apple M1 processor signals some pretty drastic changes … the outside of the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini that were announced at the event didn’t show it.
All three models – the first to come onto the market with the specially built-in processors – look identical to their predecessors. Apple has promised some huge performance and battery gains on these machines thanks to Intel switching to its own custom M1 chipset, but there is no difference in terms of screen size, colors, ports, or anything else. At least we thought.
Following the announcement, eagle-eyed Apple expert Mark Gurman noted that Apple had subtly tweaked the keyboard on the new MacBook Air.
But don’t worry – Apple hasn’t reverted to the hugely controversial butterfly-mechanism keyboard, which had to be phased out earlier this year. Instead, the California-based company has switched some of the function keys that run on top of the number keys. These serve as shortcuts to frequently used system functions such as adjusting the screen brightness and volume.
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Apple added shortcuts for Spotlight (the universal search bar that searches for documents, apps, contacts, searches the web and does simple math problems), Do Not Disturb, and Dictation.
These new buttons replace the shortcut for the Launchpad, referred to by Apple as an iOS-like grid of app icons, which provides a visual way to launch new software and adjust keyboard brightness. By default, macOS automatically changes the brightness of the backlight behind the keyboard based on the amount of ambient light sensed by a small sensor on the laptop.
Depending on how you use your Mac, these new enhancements will provide a faster way to access some of your most frequently used features. You may have made it a lot harder to get to your preferred role.
While the 13-inch MacBook Pro was also updated with an M1 chip, Apple didn’t make any similar changes to the keyboard on this model, as it comes with a touch bar. This sleek OLED touchscreen replaces the physical function keys and adapts the on-screen shortcuts to your work.
While Spotlight is quick to access in the Finder, this can be replaced with a shortcut to launch a new tab if you load your favorite web browser instead. If you turn off this automatic switching, the MacBook Pro should now have an identical layout to the physical buttons on the new MacBook Air.
The new Apple MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini will launch this week at the same price as their Intel predecessors.