Apple unveiled the new MacBook M1 Pro and redesigned AirPods this week, here’s what to know

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Apple’s M1 chipset family is the first mainstream 64-bit ARM design used in a full-featured laptop, and while it can’t run 32-bit programs, it’s been a success so far in terms of performance and efficiency.

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Here are nine essential things to know

Another year usually means another big Apple MacBook announcement, and tech enthusiasts are pretty excited about what this year’s redesigned premium earbuds and professional-grade laptops have in store. There are a few important changes to the latest Apple headphones and notebooks, and once you learn about them, nobody will blame you if you’re ready to head to the Apple store to reserve your model today.

The new Apple MacBook Pro

In truth, every generation of MacBook has been a hit. Some offer groundbreaking features while others deliver refinements on already successful designs. This year’s MacBook Pro announcement has some important things to pay attention to in order to get the full story on just how great these laptops are.

The new Apple M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are seriously impressive

The M1 chipset powering the 2020 MacBooks was groundbreaking because of its ARM instruction set, which is significantly different from the instruction sets that other laptop central processing units use. The M1 Pro and M1 Max APUs (accelerated processing units) are notable because they take that same architecture and pump it up to a remarkable level of power. Keeping in mind that the entire M1 family consists of combined CPU and GPU (graphics processing unit) designs, some researchers are even claiming that the M1 Max chipset is as powerful as a mid-range to high-end desktop gaming PC, which is quite the feat. While consumers and journalists both expected powerful components, it looks like those expectations will actually be surpassed.

Apple listened to consumers and added more ports

USB-C is clearly the future of connectivity for computing accessories, but last year when Apple banked on it being the only connector anybody will ever need again, users were understandably upset. Unlike the 2020 models that have USB-C connectivity and that’s just about it, the new MacBook Pro sees the welcome return of USB Type-A and HDMI ports as well as an SD card slot. No longer will you have to bust out the dongle to connect devices that don’t have Type-C plugs.

The headphone jack is built for audiophiles

Apple may have been the first to remove the headphone jack on its flagship smartphones, but the MacBook Pro is actually designed to satisfy highly demanding lovers of lossless audio. The 3.5-millimeter audio jack supports high-impedance headphones — the first-ever laptop headphone jack to do so. If you’ve spent a few hundred dollars on some premium cans and want to use them with your laptop, the MacBook Pro will let you do that.

The speakers are no joke

Most laptop speakers are, in a word, bad. You can find great-sounding laptop speakers in the same price range as the MacBook Pro, but they’re rare and likely won’t sound as good as Apple’s newest design. That design, by the way, has six individual speakers, including a pair of miniature subwoofers designed to simulate much larger speakers. Don’t be surprised if the new MacBook Pro offers better sound quality than anything else on the market.

MagSafe charging is back

Longtime diehard Apple fans loudly lamented the loss of the legendary MagSafe charger connection. Apple listened and has returned the prized feature to the newest MacBook Pro. In addition, the MagSafe cable itself is detachable from the charger, so you won’t have to get an expensive new charger if you should happen to damage the cable. In the past, the two components were permanently joined.

What’s different with the new AirPods 3

The original AirPods and their second-gen upgrades were incredibly trendy, leading many manufacturers to basically copy the design with great success. Apple countered by releasing the AirPods Pro, which were and still are excellent earbuds with active noise canceling. The latest version of the AirPods combines some features of both, and you’ll need to know the details before deciding to upgrade.

The third-generation AirPods are less expensive

Realistically, the AirPods Pro were prohibitively expensive for most users. The newest AirPods cost about 25% less while delivering very similar sound quality. It’s not a ton cheaper and, as such, makes it pretty clear that most people won’t want to upgrade from the AirPods Pro to the AirPods 3. If you don’t currently own any AirPods and want to join the party, though, the lower cost of entry makes the third-gen model much more attractive.

They have improved battery life

Including the charging case, the AirPods 3 do offer a couple more hours of overall listening time. The big story here, though, is that the third-gen offering delivers an additional hour of battery life per listen, significantly lengthening the time you can use them before you break out the charging case. The battery in the AirPods 3 is robust enough to last most of the workday without needing a recharge.

There’s no active noise-canceling

Here is where Apple makes it clear that these are not replacements for the AirPods Pro. The AirPods 3 don’t have active noise-canceling (ANC), which by extension means they don’t have an ambient listening mode. Not everyone enjoys or is even comfortable using ANC, especially with earbuds, so many users won’t find this to be a problem.

They don’t have replaceable ear tips

One thing that made the AirPods Pro really stand out versus the base-model AirPods was their removable ear tips. They came with a few sets, but you could also replace them with the brand of your choice. This is yet another sign that the AirPods 3 are meant to supplant the baseline AirPods and not the Pro version.

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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