Blog

Apple Powers Mac mini and MacBook Pro with New M2 Chips, Releases New HomePod

With a handful of press releases buttressed by a 19-minute video, Apple pulled back the curtains on its new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips and announced updated Mac mini and MacBook Pro models that rely on the new chips. There are no significant design or feature changes with these updated models, just faster performance, enhanced external display support, and support for the latest wireless connectivity standards. The new Mac mini and MacBook Pro models are available to order now, with units in stores and orders starting to arrive on January 24th.

Then, in another surprise announcement, Apple announced the second-generation HomePod, which updates the full-size smart speaker with a few new features and likely makes it more cost-effective to produce.

New M2 Mac mini and M2 Pro Mac Broaden the Appeal

For many years, the Mac mini has been popular for its small size, low price, and decent performance, bolstered in 2020 by a move from Intel CPUs to Apple’s M1 chip. Apple has now increased the Mac mini’s power even more by letting users choose between the M2 and the new M2 Pro. How much more? It depends greatly on what you’re doing, and Apple offers some comparisons. The improvements will likely be noticeable with the M2 and obvious with the M2 Pro.

The M2 Mac mini starts at $599—$100 less than the starting price for the M1 Mac mini—and provides an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU with unified memory configurations of 8 GB, 16 GB (add $200), or 24 GB ($400). In terms of storage, the base level is 256 GB, but you can increase that to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800). It provides only two Thunderbolt 4 ports.

The M2 Pro Mac mini starts at $1299 for a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, but you can bump that up to an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU for $300. You also get 16 GB of unified memory and 512 GB of storage for that base price. 32 GB of memory costs $400 more, and storage upgrades are 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), and 8 TB ($2400). It offers more connectivity with four Thunderbolt 4 ports. Note that as you configure a powerful M2 Mac mini, you’ll be straying into Mac Studio territory in terms of both price and performance.

Both Mac mini models boast enhanced external display support. Read the tech specs for full details, but in essence, along with multiple monitor support over Thunderbolt, the HDMI port on an M2 Pro Mac mini supports either an 8K display or a 4K display running at a faster refresh rate, which might be a boon in video-focused fields. Other improvements that may be welcome in specific setups include the option to add 10 Gigabit Ethernet for $100, support for Wi-Fi 6E (which can improve throughput over short distances with a new router), and Bluetooth 5.3.

The updated Mac mini replaces both the M1 Mac mini and the Intel-based Mac mini that Apple had left in the lineup until now.

It probably won’t be long before Apple releases an M2 24-inch iMac, too. We know that some are pining for a 27-inch iMac with Apple silicon, and we’ll just have to wait to see if Apple returns to that form factor with either an iMac or iMac Pro. We can also expect M2 versions of the Mac Studio at some point, but we’ll have to wait for Apple to come out with an M2 Ultra chip if it’s to maintain the same lineup as today’s M1 family.

M2 Pro and M2 Max Speed Up 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro

Since their October 2021 release, Apple’s professional laptops, the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro, have provided impressive processing power thanks to their M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Apple has now switched to the new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and the company says that both offer 20% more CPU performance, 30% more GPU performance, and 40% more Neural Engine performance than their predecessors. As with the Mac mini, the updated MacBook Pro models also feature enhanced external display support (see the tech specs for full details), Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. Finally, Apple estimates they’ll have an hour more battery life.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999 for an M2 Pro with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage. Chip upgrades include the 12/19-core (CPU/GPU) M2 Pro ($300), the 12/30 M2 Max ($500), and the 12/38 M2 Max ($700). With memory, the M2 Pro configurations can upgrade to 32 GB ($400), whereas the M2 Max configurations start at 32 GB and let you go to 64 GB ($400) or 96 GB ($800, with the 12/38 M2 Max only).

The 16-inch MacBook Pro costs $2499 for an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage. Chip upgrades include the 12/30 M2 Max ($200) and the 12/38 M2 Max ($400). Memory is the same as with the 14-inch MacBook Pro, so the M2 Pro configuration can upgrade to 32 GB ($400), and the M2 Max configurations start at 32 GB and let you go to 64 GB ($400) or 96 GB ($800, with the 12/38 M2 Max only).

Given that these new MacBook Pro models provide more performance and battery life for the same prices as before, their release is entirely positive. If you were waiting for an M2 Pro or M2 Max laptop, now’s the time to place an order.

Apple Brings Back the Full-Size HomePod

Apple released the original HomePod in 2018, but even after dropping the price from $349 to $299, sales weren’t strong enough thanks to competition from much cheaper smart speakers from Amazon and Google. Apple discontinued the HomePod in 2021 and focused on the $99 HomePod mini. Now Apple has brought the full-size HomePod back, introducing a second-generation HomePod with a few extra features and the same $299 price. You can order it now in white or midnight, which replaces space gray, and it ships on February 3rd.

The new HomePod supports spatial audio with Dolby Atmos for music and video, which should enhance the listening experience. For those getting into home automation, it includes a sensor for temperature and humidity, and you’ll be able to use the Home app to create automations to control blinds, fans, and thermostats. It also supports the new Matter home automation standard. Finally, Apple says that a software update in a few months will add Sound Recognition, which will let the HomePod alert you if it hears smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. Wouldn’t you like to know if an alarm is going off while you’re away from home?

One note. You can use two HomePods to create a stereo pair, but both HomePods must be the same model. So you can’t pair an original HomePod with a second-generation HomePod or mix an HomePod mini with either one.

The main question, which we won’t be able to answer until the second-generation HomePod ships, is if it sounds as good as the original HomePod and hears Siri commands as well. That’s a question because Apple redesigned the HomePod’s audio hardware to use fewer tweeters and microphones. Plus, it relies on the S7 chip that powers the Apple Watch Series 7, as opposed to the A8 that first appeared in the iPhone 6. In short, it seems that Apple has worked to cut costs to enable the necessary profit margins. Given that Amazon’s hardware division reportedly lost $10 billion in 2022 by selling Echo smart speakers at cost, Apple’s move seems sensible, at least as long as it doesn’t hurt the HomePod user experience.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple has unveiled the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips and announced the M2 Mac mini and M2 Pro Mac mini, plus the M2 Pro and M2 Max models of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Oh, and a new HomePod! Read all about it at:

Upgrade Past macOS 10.15 Catalina to Keep Getting Microsoft Office Updates

We aren’t quite ready to recommend that everyone upgrade to macOS 13 Ventura, but if you use Microsoft Office with macOS 10.15 Catalina, you should start planning for an upgrade. Microsoft has announced that current versions of its productivity suite—Office for Mac 2019, Office for Mac 2021, and Microsoft 365—will receive updates only if your Mac is running macOS 11 Big Sur, macOS 12 Monterey, or macOS 13 Ventura. If you keep using Catalina, your Office apps will continue to work, but they won’t receive enhancements, bug fixes, or security updates past October’s 16.66 updates. Contact us if you have questions—Catalina was the last version of macOS to support 32-bit apps, so if you rely on old apps that were never upgraded to 64-bit, we can discuss your options for upgrading while retaining the capabilities you need.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/jewhyte)

AutoFill in Safari Not Working? Set “My Card” in Contacts

We heard from a client that AutoFill in Safari suddenly stopped entering her name and address in Web forms when she chose Edit > AutoFill Form or pressed Command-Shift-A, forcing her to enter her contact information manually, like an animal. (And yes, the “Using information from my contacts” checkbox was selected in Safari’s AutoFill preferences.) Although we have no idea what caused the problem, the solution turned out to be simple. She went into Contacts, found her personal contact card, and chose Card > Make This My Card. Give this a try if you’re having trouble with AutoFill or haven’t yet started using it in Safari.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Protect Your Hidden and Recently Deleted Albums in Photos

Photos has long provided a hidden album you could use to hold images you wanted to keep a little more private. Until this year, however, it was security through obscurity: anyone who knew to reveal the album in Settings > Photos on an iPhone or iPad or by choosing View > Show Hidden Album on the Mac could see its contents. Now you can protect it—and the Recently Deleted album—with Face ID or Touch ID on an iPhone or iPad, or Touch ID or your password on a Mac. You can enable this feature in iOS 16 or iPadOS 16 using Settings > Photos > Use Face ID/Touch ID; in macOS 13 Ventura, choose Photos > Settings > General and select “Use Touch ID or password.” From then on, opening those albums will require authentication.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Kenishirotie)

If Your Holiday Gift Was a Tech Device, It’s Time to Change the Password!

Whatever consumer electronics product you can name, there’s probably a “smart” version that you configure via an app or Internet-connected interface once you’ve connected it to your Wi-Fi network. For ease of setup and to keep costs down, many such devices come pre-configured with not just a default username and password, but the same default username and password as all other units. That’s bad enough, but worse, most people never change those defaults, which is just asking hackers and malicious bots to break in and take over. This risk is real—it has happened to security cameras, baby monitors, light bulbs, DVRs, toasters, refrigerators, and even fish tanks. So, if you received any so-called “Internet of Things” devices for the holidays—or have one or more already installed on your home network—immediately change the usernames (if possible) and passwords to something more secure. Store the new usernames and passwords in your password manager for future reference.

(Featured image by iStock.com/EvgeniyShkolenko)

Copy Gigabytes of Data Between Macs with Target Disk Mode

Apple makes it easy to move data between Macs. You can send files via AirDrop, attach them to an email message, put them in a Messages conversation, turn on and connect via File Sharing, or use a file-sharing service like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or Google Drive as an intermediary, to name just a few of the more obvious approaches.

But what if you have a lot of data—say tens or even hundreds of gigabytes—to transfer from one Mac to another? The techniques listed above might work, but we wouldn’t bet on it. If you had an external drive with sufficient free space handy, you could copy all the data to it from one Mac and then copy the data from it to another Mac. To cut the copy time in half, try Target Disk Mode instead. You may even be able to use Target Disk Mode on an older Mac to transfer an account with Migration Assistant when setting up a new Mac.

What Is Target Disk Mode?

Target Disk Mode is a special boot mode for Intel-based Macs and an option in macOS Recovery on Macs with Apple silicon that enables one Mac to behave like an external drive for another Mac. Target Disk Mode is nearly universal, easy to set up, and one of the fastest methods of moving files between Macs. Let’s unpack that statement:

  • Nearly universal: Every Mac sold in the last decade supports Target Disk Mode, so you can be sure it will work with any modern Mac. That’s true of both Intel-based Macs and Macs with Apple silicon.
  • Easy setup: Because Apple has baked Target Disk Mode into the Mac firmware, the version of macOS is irrelevant beyond the Thunderbolt cable requirement discussed below. There’s no software to configure nor any permissions to worry about. Putting a Mac into Target Disk Mode is particularly simple on Intel-based Macs, but it’s also easy on Macs with Apple silicon.
  • Speed: Because you’re connecting one Mac directly to another using Thunderbolt, you’ll get the fastest transfer speeds available.

If either Mac has macOS 11 Big Sur or later installed, you’ll need to connect them with a Thunderbolt cable—it’s fine to use Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter for connecting newer and older Thunderbolt-capable Macs. If both Macs are running an earlier version of macOS, you can use Thunderbolt, USB, or FireWire, depending on the available ports. (Note that the Apple USB-C Charge Cable that comes with the Apple power adapter doesn’t support Target Disk Mode, so if that’s the cable you were planning to use, sorry, but you’ll need to buy a real Thunderbolt cable.)

Step-by-Step Instructions for Intel-based Macs

To put an Intel-based Mac into Target Disk Mode for copying data, follow these steps:

  1. Connect the source Mac to the destination Mac with an appropriate cable.
  2. On the source Mac, either:
    • Restart the Mac, and once it starts booting, hold down the T key until you see the Target Disk Mode screen with a bouncing Thunderbolt logo.
    • Open System Settings/Preferences > Startup Disk, click Target Disk Mode, and then click Restart.
  3. The source Mac’s data and applications volume appears on the destination Mac’s Desktop like an external drive; if the source Mac is encrypted with FileVault, give it a minute to appear on the destination Mac, after which you’ll need to enter its password.
  4. Transfer the files as you would normally.
  5. When you’re done, unmount the source Mac’s drive by dragging it to the Trash in the Dock. Then press and hold the power button on the source Mac for a few seconds to shut it down.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Macs with Apple Silicon

The process is somewhat more involved for Macs with Apple silicon, where the shared drive or volume appears like a network volume:

  1. Connect the source Mac to the destination Mac with an appropriate cable.
  2. On the Mac with Apple silicon, choose Shut Down from the Apple menu to turn it off.
  3. Press and hold the power button until “Loading startup options” appears.
  4. Click Options, and then click Continue to enter macOS Recovery.
  5. Select a user, click Next, enter the user’s password, and click Continue.
  6. Choose Utilities > Share Disk.
  7. Select the drive or volume you want to share, and click Start Sharing. (If the drive is encrypted using FileVault, click Unlock and enter the FileVault password first.)
  8. On the destination Mac, open a Finder window and click Network (under Locations) at the bottom of the sidebar.
  9. In the Network window, double-click the Mac with the shared drive or volume, click Connect As, select Guest in the Connect As window, and then click Connect. The shared drive or volume becomes available like any other external hard drive.
  10. Transfer the files as you would normally.
  11. When you’re done, unmount the shared drive or volume by dragging it to the Trash, then click Stop Sharing on the source Mac.

Although it’s not something you’ll use every day, Target Disk Mode is one of the unsung innovations that has made Macs easier to use for decades, and it’s well worth keeping in mind whenever you need to move lots of data between machines.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)


Social Media: If you have to move tens or hundreds of gigabytes of data between Macs, give Target Disk Mode a try. It’s fast, easy, and reliable. Details here: