The Apple TV is coming for the Raspberry Pi’s retro emulation box crown

watch out, raspberry pi —

Apple’s restrictions will still hold it back, but there’s a lot of possibility.

The RetroArch app installed in tvOS.

Enlarge / The RetroArch app installed in tvOS.

Andrew Cunningham

Apple’s initial pitch for the tvOS and the Apple TV as it currently exists was centered around apps. No longer a mere streaming box, the Apple TV would also be a destination for general-purpose software and games, piggybacking off of the iPhone’s vibrant app and game library.

That never really panned out, and the Apple TV is still mostly a box for streaming TV shows and movies. But the same App Store rule change that recently allowed Delta, PPSSPP, and other retro console emulators onto the iPhone and iPad could also make the Apple TV appeal to people who want a small, efficient, no-fuss console emulator for their TVs.

So far, few of the emulators that have made it to the iPhone have been ported to the Apple TV. But earlier this week, the streaming box got an official port of RetroArch, the sprawling collection of emulators that runs on everything from the PlayStation Portable to the Raspberry Pi. RetroArch could be sideloaded onto iOS and tvOS before this, but only using awkward workarounds that took a lot more work and know-how than downloading an app from the App Store.

Downloading and using RetroArch on the Apple TV is a lot like using it on any other platform it supports, for better or worse. ROM files can be uploaded using a browser connected to the Apple TV’s IP address or hostname, which will pop up the first time you launch the RetroArch app. From there, you’re only really limited by the list of emulators that the Apple TV version of the app supports.

The main benefit of using the Apple TV hardware for emulation is that even older models have substantially better CPU and GPU performance than any Raspberry Pi; the first-gen Apple TV 4K and its Apple A10X chip date back to 2017 and still do better than a Pi 5 released in 2023. Even these older models should be more than fast enough to support advanced video filters, like Run Ahead, to reduce wireless controller latency and higher-than-native-resolution rendering to make 3D games look a bit more modern.

Beyond the hardware, tvOS is also a surprisingly capable gaming platform. Apple has done a good job adding and maintaining support for new Bluetooth gamepads in recent releases, and even Nintendo’s official Switch Online controllers for the NES, SNES, and N64 are all officially supported as of late 2022. Apple may have added this gamepad support primarily to help support its Apple Arcade service, but all of those gamepads work equally well with RetroArch.

At the risk of stating the obvious, another upside of using the Apple TV for retro gaming is that you can also still use it as a modern 4K video streaming box when you’re finished playing your games. It has well-supported apps from just about every streaming provider, and it supports all the DRM that these providers insist on when you’re trying to stream high-quality 4K video with modern codecs. Most Pi gaming distributions offer the Kodi streaming software, but it’s frankly outside the scope of this article to talk about the long list of caveats and add-ons you’d need to use to attempt using the same streaming services the Apple TV can access.

Obviously, there are trade-offs. Pis have been running retro games for a decade, and the Apple TV is just starting to be able to do it now. Even with the loosened App Store restrictions, Apple still has other emulation limitations relative to a Raspberry Pi or a PC.

The biggest one is that emulators on Apple’s platforms can’t use just-in-time (JIT) code compilation, needed for 3D console emulators like Dolphin. These restrictions make the Apple TV a less-than-ideal option for emulating newer consoles—the Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, Sony PlayStation, PlayStation Portable, and Sega Saturn are the newest consoles RetroArch supports on the Apple TV, cutting out newer things like the GameCube and Wii, Dreamcast, and PlayStation 2 that are all well within the capabilities of Apple’s chips. Apple also insists nebulously that emulators must be for “retro” consoles rather than modern ones, which could limit the types of emulators that are available.

With respect to RetroArch specifically, there are other limitations. Though RetroArch describes itself as a front-end for emulators, its user interface is tricky to navigate, and cluttered with tons of overlapping settings that make it easy to break things if you don’t know what you’re doing. Most Raspberry Pi gaming distros use RetroArch, but with a front-end-for-a-front-end like EmulationStation installed to make RetroArch a bit more accessible and easy to learn. A developer could release an app that included RetroArch plus a separate front-end, but Apple’s sandboxing restrictions would likely prevent anyone from releasing an app that just served as a more user-friendly front-end for the RetroArch app.

Regardless, it’s still pretty cool to be able to play retro games on an Apple TV’s more advanced hardware. As more emulators make their way to the App Store, the Apple TV’s less-fussy software and the power of its hardware could make it a compelling alternative to a more effort-intensive Raspberry Pi setup.

The Apple TV is coming for the Raspberry Pi’s retro emulation box crown Read More »


Apple, SpaceX, Microsoft return-to-office mandates drove senior talent away

The risk of RTO —

“It’s easier to manage a team that’s happy.”

Someone holding a box with their belonging in an office

A study analyzing Apple, Microsoft, and SpaceX suggests that return to office (RTO) mandates can lead to a higher rate of employees, especially senior-level ones, leaving the company, often to work at competitors.

The study (PDF), published this month by University of Chicago and University of Michigan researchers and reported by The Washington Post on Sunday, says:

In this paper, we provide causal evidence that RTO mandates at three large tech companies—Microsoft, SpaceX, and Apple—had a negative effect on the tenure and seniority of their respective workforce. In particular, we find the strongest negative effects at the top of the respective distributions, implying a more pronounced exodus of relatively senior personnel.

The study looked at résumé data from People Data Labs and used “260 million résumés matched to company data.” It only examined three companies, but the report’s authors noted that Apple, Microsoft, and SpaceX represent 30 percent of the tech industry’s revenue and over 2 percent of the technology industry’s workforce. The three companies have also been influential in setting RTO standards beyond their own companies. Robert Ployhart, a professor of business administration and management at the University of South Carolina and scholar at the Academy of Management, told the Post that despite the study being limited to three companies, its conclusions are a broader reflection of the effects of RTO policies in the US.

“Taken together, our findings imply that return to office mandates can imply significant human capital costs in terms of output, productivity, innovation, and competitiveness for the companies that implement them,” the report reads.

For example, after Apple enacted its RTO mandate, which lets employees work at home part-time, the portion of its employee base considered senior-level decreased by 5 percentage points, according to the paper. Microsoft, which also enacted a hybrid RTO approach, saw a decline of 5 percentage points. SpaceX’s RTO mandate, meanwhile, requires workers to be in an office full time. Its share of senior-level employees fell 15 percentage points after the mandate, the study found.

“We find experienced employees impacted by these policies at major tech companies seek work elsewhere, taking some of the most valuable human capital investments and tools of productivity with them,” one of the report’s authors, Austin Wright, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Chicago, told the Post.

Christopher Myers, associate professor of management and organization health at Johns Hopkins University, suggested to the Post that the departure of senior-level workers could be tied to the hurt morale that comes from RTO mandates, noting that “it’s easier to manage a team that’s happy.”

Debated topic

Since the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, whether having employees return to work in an office is necessary or beneficial to companies is up for debate. An estimated 75 percent of tech companies in the US are considered “fully flexible,” per a 2023 report from Scoop. As noted by the Post, however, the US’s biggest metro areas have, on average, 51 percent office occupancy, per data from managed security services firm Kastle Systems, which says it analyzes “keycard, fob and KastlePresence app access data across 2,600 buildings and 41,000 businesses.”

Microsoft declined to comment on the report from University of Chicago and University of Michigan researchers, while SpaceX didn’t respond. Apple representative Josh Rosenstock told The Washington Post that the report drew “inaccurate conclusions” and “does not reflect the realities of our business.” He claimed that “attrition is at historically low levels.”

Yet some companies have struggled to make employees who have spent months successfully doing their jobs at home eager to return to the office. Dell, Amazon, Google, Meta, and JPMorgan Chase have tracked employee badge swipes to ensure employees are coming into the office as often as expected. Dell also started tracking VPN usage this week and has told workers who work remotely full time that they can’t get a promotion.

Some company leaders are adamant that remote work can disrupt a company’s ability to innovate. However, there’s research suggesting that RTO mandates aren’t beneficial to companies. A survey of 18,000 Americans released in March pointed to flexible work schedules helping mental health. And an analysis of 457 S&P 500 companies in February found RTO policies hurt employee morale and don’t increase company value.

Apple, SpaceX, Microsoft return-to-office mandates drove senior talent away Read More »


Apple releases iOS 17.5, macOS 14.5, and other updates as new iPads launch

start your updaters —

Latest updates launch in the shadow of WWDC keynote on June 10.

Apple releases iOS 17.5, macOS 14.5, and other updates as new iPads launch


Apple has released the latest updates for virtually all of its actively supported devices today. Most include a couple handfuls of security updates, some new features for Apple News+ subscribers, and something called Cross-Platform Tracking Protection for Bluetooth devices.

The iOS 17.5, iPadOS 17.5, macOS 4.5, watchOS 10.5, tvOS 17.5, and HomePod Software 17.5 updates are all available to download now.

Cross-Platform Tracking Protection notifications alert users “if a compatible Bluetooth tracker they do not own is moving with them, regardless of what operating system the device is paired with.” Apple has already implemented protections to prevent AirTag stalking, and Cross-Platform Tracking Protection implements some of those same safeguards for devices paired to non-Apple phones.

Apple News+ picks up a new word game called Quartiles, part of the wider trend of news organizations embracing games as growth drivers. Quartiles, Crossword, and Mini Crossword also track player stats and win streams, and the Today+ and News+ tabs will also load without an Internet connection.

Some of Apple’s older operating systems also received security-only updates to keep them current. The iOS 16.7.8 and iPadOS 16.7.8 updates are available for older iDevices that can’t update to iOS 17, and macOS Venture 13.6.7 and Monterey 12.7.5 support all Macs still running those OS versions regardless of whether they can install macOS Sonoma. There’s no update available for iOS or iPadOS 15.

These are likely to be the last major updates that Apple’s current operating systems receive before this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 10, where Apple usually unveils its next major operating systems for the fall. Once those updates—iOS 18, macOS 15, and others—are announced, updates for current versions usually shift focus to security updates and bugs rather than adding major new features. Apple’s updates this year are widely expected to focus on generative AI features, including some ChatGPT-powered features and a more capable Siri assistant.

Apple releases iOS 17.5, macOS 14.5, and other updates as new iPads launch Read More »


M4 iPad Pro review: Well, now you’re just showing off

The back of an iPad with its Apple logo centered

Enlarge / The 2024, M4-equipped 13-inch iPad Pro.

Samuel Axon

The new iPad Pro is a technical marvel, with one of the best screens I’ve ever seen, performance that few other machines can touch, and a new, thinner design that no one expected.

It’s a prime example of Apple flexing its engineering and design muscles for all to see. Since it marks the company’s first foray into OLED beyond the iPhone or Watch, and the first time a new M-series chip has debuted on something other than a Mac, it comes across as a tech demo for where the company is headed beyond just tablets.

Still, it remains unclear why most people would spend one, two, or even three thousand dollars on a tablet that, despite its amazing hardware, does less than a comparably priced laptop—or at least does it a little more awkwardly, even if it’s impressively quick and has a gorgeous screen.


There are some notable design changes in the 2024 iPad Pro, but really, it’s all about the specs—and it’s a more notable specs jump than usual in a couple of areas.


First up, there’s the M4 chip. The previous iPad Pro had an M2 chip, and the latest Mac chip is the M3, so not only did the iPad Pro jump two whole generations, but this is the first time it has debuted the newest iteration of Apple Silicon. (Previously, new M-series chips launched on the Mac first and came to the iPad Pro a few months later.)

Using second-generation 3 nm tech, the M4’s top configuration has a 10-core CPU, a 10-core GPU, and a 16-core NPU. In that configuration, the 10-core CPU has four performance cores and six efficiency cores.

A lower configuration of the M4 has just nine CPU cores—three performance and six efficiency. Which one you get is tied to how much storage you buy. 256GB and 512GB models get nine CPU cores, while 1TB and 2TB get 10. Additionally, the two smaller storage sizes have 8GB of RAM to the larger ones’ 16GB.

This isn’t the first time Apple has tied RAM to storage configurations, but doing that with CPU cores is new for the iPad. Fortunately, the company is upfront about all this in its specs sheet, whereas the RAM differentiation wasn’t always clear to buyers in the past. (Both configurations claim 120GB/s memory bandwidth, though.)

Can the M4 help the iPad Pro bridge the gap between laptop and tablet? Mostly, it made me excited to see the M4 in a laptop.

Enlarge / Can the M4 help the iPad Pro bridge the gap between laptop and tablet? Mostly, it made me excited to see the M4 in a laptop.

Samuel Axon

Regardless of the specific configuration, the M4 promises substantially better CPU and GPU performance than the M2, and it supports hardware-accelerated ray-tracing via Metal, which some games and applications can take advantage of if developers put in the work to make it happen. (It looked great in a demo of Diablo Immortal I saw, but it’s unclear how often we’ll actually see it in the wild.)

Apple claims 1.5x faster CPU performance than the M2 and up to 4x faster graphics performance specifically on applications that involve new features like ray-tracing or hardware-accelerated mesh shading. It hasn’t made any specific GPU performance claims beyond those narrow cases.

A lot of both Apple’s attention and that of the media is focused on the Neural Engine, which is what Apple calls the NPU in the M-series chips. That’s because the company is expected to announce several large language model-based AI features in iOS, macOS, and iPadOS at its developer conference next month, and this is the chip that will power some of that on the iPad and Mac.

Some neat machine-learning features are already possible on the M4—you can generate audio tracks using certain instruments in your Logic Pro projects, apply tons of image optimizations to photos with just a click or two, and so on.

M4 iPad Pro review: Well, now you’re just showing off Read More »


M2 iPad Air review: The everything iPad

breath of fresh air —

M2 Air won’t draw new buyers in, but if you like iPads, these do all you need.

  • The new 13-inch iPad Air with the Apple M2 processor inside.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • In portrait mode. The 13-inch model is a little large for dedicated tablet use, but if you do want a gigantic tablet, the $799 price is appealing.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • The Apple Pencil Pro attaches, pairs, and charges via a magnetic connection on the edge of the iPad.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • In the Magic Keyboard. This kickstand-less case is still probably the best way to make the iPad into a true laptop replacement, though it’s expensive and iPadOS is still a problem.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • The tablet’s USB-C port, used for charging and connecting to external accessories.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • Apple’s Smart Folio case. The magnets on the cover will scoot up and down the back of the iPad, allowing you a bit of flexibility when angling the screen.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • The Air’s single-lens, flash-free camera, seen here peeking through the Smart Folio case.

    Andrew Cunningham

The iPad Air has been a lot of things in the last decade-plus. In 2013 and 2014, the first iPad Airs were just The iPad, and the “Air” label simply denoted how much lighter and more streamlined they were than the initial 2010 iPad and 2011’s long-lived iPad 2. After that, the iPad Air 2 survived for years as an entry-level model, as Apple focused on introducing and building out the iPad Pro.

The Air disappeared for a while after that, but it returned in 2019 as an in-betweener model to bridge the gap between the $329 iPad (no longer called “Air,” despite reusing the first-gen Air design) and more-expensive and increasingly powerful iPad Pros. It definitely made sense to have a hardware offering to span the gap between the basic no-frills iPad and the iPad Pro, but pricing and specs could make things complicated. The main issue for the last couple of years has been the base Air’s 64GB of storage—scanty enough that memory swapping doesn’t even work on it— and the fact that stepping up to 256GB brought the Air too close to the price of the 11-inch iPad Pro.

Which brings us to the 2024 M2 iPad Air, now available in 11-inch and 13-inch models for $599 and $799, respectively. Apple solved the overlap problem this year partly by bumping the Air’s base storage to a more usable 128GB and partly by making the 11-inch iPad Pro so much more expensive that it almost entirely eliminates any pricing overlap (only the 1TB 11-inch Air, at $1,099, is more expensive than the cheapest 11-inch iPad Pro).

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call the new Airs the “default” iPad for most buyers—the now-$349 10th-gen iPad still does everything the iPad is best at for less money, and it’s still all you really need if you just want a casual gaming, video streaming, and browsing tablet (or a tablet for a kid). But the M2 Air is the iPad that best covers the totality of everything the iPad can do from its awkward perch, stuck halfway between the form and function of the iPhone and the Mac.

Not quite a last-gen iPad Pro

The new iPad Airs have a lot in common with the M2 iPad Pro from 2022. They have the same screen sizes and resolutions, the same basic design, they work with the same older Magic Keyboard accessories (not the new ones with the function rows, metal palm rests, and larger trackpads, which are reserved for the iPad Pro), and they obviously have the same Apple M2 chip.

Performance-wise, nothing we saw in the benchmarks we ran was surprising; the M2’s CPU and (especially) its GPU are a solid generational jump up from the M1, and the M1 is already generally overkill for the vast majority of iPad apps. The M3 and M4 are both significantly faster than the M2, but the M2 is still unquestionably powerful enough to do everything people currently use iPads to do.

That said, Apple’s decision to use an older chip rather than the M3 or M4 does mean the new Airs come into the world missing some capabilities that have come to other Apple products announced in the last six months or so. That list includes hardware-accelerated ray-tracing on the GPU, hardware-accelerated AV1 video codec decoding, and, most importantly, a faster Neural Engine to help power whatever AI stuff Apple’s products pick up in this fall’s big software updates.

The 13-inch Air’s screen has the same resolution and pixel density (2732×2048, 264 PPI) as the last-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. And unlike the 13-inch Pro, which truly is a 13-inch screen, Apple’s tech specs page says the 13-inch Air is still using a 12.9-inch screen, and Apple is just rounding up to get to 13.

The 13-inch Air display does share some other things with the last-generation iPad Pro screen, including P3 color, a 600-nit peak brightness. Its display panel has been laminated to the front glass, and it has an anti-reflective coating (two of the subtle but important quality improvements the Air has that the $349 10th-gen iPad doesn’t). But otherwise it’s not the same panel as the M2 Pro; there’s no mini LED, no HDR support, and no 120 Hz ProMotion support.

M2 iPad Air review: The everything iPad Read More »


Apple apologizes for ad that crushes the sum total of human artistic endeavor

crushed —

An ad that isn’t about generative AI but somehow manages to be about AI anyway.

One of many human-created objects destroyed in Apple's

Enlarge / One of many human-created objects destroyed in Apple’s “Crush!” ad for the iPad Pro.


Earlier this week, Apple took the wraps off of a thoroughly leaked iPad Pro refresh with a 1 minute and 8 second ad spot wherein a gigantic hydraulic press comprehensively smushes a trumpet, an arcade cabinet, a record player, paint cans, a piano, a TV, sculptures, a bunch of emoji, and plenty of other tools that one might loosely categorize as “artistic implements.”

At the end of the ad, the press lifts away to reveal a somewhat thinner, somewhat faster version of Apple’s iPad Pro. The message of the ad, titled “Crush!” and still available via Apple’s YouTube channel and CEO Tim Cook’s Twitter account, is obvious: look at all of the things we’ve squeezed into this tablet!

“Just imagine all the things it’ll be used to create,” wrote Cook.

But it’s the apparently unintended subtext of the ad that has caused problems. Yesterday afternoon, the company issued a rare public apology for the ad following a social media uproar. Critics were upset both about the destruction of the objects themselves (whether those objects were physical or computer-generated or some mix of the two isn’t clear), and about the symbolism of a Big Tech company destroying art and the things used to create and consume art.

“Creativity is in our DNA at Apple, and it’s incredibly important to us to design products that empower creatives all over the world,” said Apple marketing communications VP Tor Myhren to Ad Age. “Our goal is to always celebrate the myriad of ways users express themselves and bring their ideas to life through iPad. We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry.”

Apple won’t be taking the ad down, but the company has apparently canceled plans to run it on TV.

The Crush ad never once mentions or shows any kind of generative AI technology, something Apple has been mostly quiet about ahead of AI-focused iOS and iPadOS 18 updates later this month. But it still feels like the backlash to the ad is being driven by generative AI anyway.

The generative AI push of the last two years has largely been defined by two kinds of stories: tech companies’ unrelenting sprint to cram as many AI features into as many of their products as possible as quickly as possible and backlash from artists, authors, programmers, and any other human whose efforts have been used to train these AI models. When people already feel that tech companies and executives are trying to replace them with generic machine-made sludge, it’s tone deaf at best to introduce a new product with an ad where a colorful, messy, tactile tower of art, instruments, and other creative tools is literally flattened to make way for a shiny, featureless slab of metal and glass. 

I understand why people at Apple thought the Crush ad was effective. Phones, tablets, and computers are useful precisely because they can stand in for so many other things. But what Apple should keep in mind, both in its future hardware introductions and as it adds generative AI capabilities to its software in the coming months, is to keep its focus on the people using the tools rather than the tools themselves. 

Apple apologizes for ad that crushes the sum total of human artistic endeavor Read More »


A crushing backlash to Apple’s new iPad ad

1984 called and would like to have a word —

Hydraulic press destroying “symbols of creativity” has folks hopping mad.

A screenshot of the Apple iPad ad

Enlarge / A screenshot of the Apple iPad ad.

Apple via YouTube

An advert by Apple for its new iPad tablet showing musical instruments, artistic tools, and games being crushed by a giant hydraulic press has been attacked for cultural insensitivity in an online backlash.

The one-minute video was launched by Apple chief executive Tim Cook to support its new range of iPads, the first time that the US tech giant has overhauled the range for two years as it seeks to reverse faltering sales.

The campaign—soundtracked by Sonny and Cher’s 1971 hit All I Ever Need Is You—is designed to show how much Apple has been able to squeeze into the thinner tablet. The ad was produced in-house by Apple’s creative team, according to trade press reports.

The campaign has been hit by a wave of outrage, with responses on social media reacting to Cook’s X post accusing Apple of crushing “beautiful creative tools” and the “symbols of human creativity and cultural achievements.”

Advertising industry executives argued the ad represented a mis-step for the Silicon Valley giant, which under late co-founder Steve Jobs was lauded for its ability to capture consumer attention through past campaigns.

Christopher Slevin, creative director for marketing agency Inkling Culture, compared the iPad ad unfavorably to a famous Apple campaign directed by Ridley Scott called “1984” for the original Macintosh computer, which positioned Apple as liberating a dystopian, monochrome world.

“Apple’s new iPad spot is essentially them turning into the thing they said they were out to destroy in the 1984 ad,” said Slevin.

Actor Hugh Grant accused Apple of “the destruction of the human experience courtesy of Silicon Valley” on X.

However, Richard Exon, founder of marketing agency Joint, said: “A more important question is: does the ad do its job? It’s memorable, distinctive, and I now know the new iPad has even more in it yet is thinner than ever.”

Consumer insights platform Zappi conducted consumer research on the ad that suggested that the idea of the hydraulic press crushing art was divisive.

It said that the ad underperformed benchmarks in typically sought-after emotions such as happiness and laughter and overperformed in traditionally negative emotions like shock and confusion, with older people more likely to have a negative response than younger consumers.

Nataly Kelly, chief marketing officer at Zappi, said: “Is the Apple iPad ad a work of genius or the sign of the dystopian times? It really depends on how old you are. The shock value is the power of this advert, which is controversial by design, so the fact that people are talking about it at all is a win.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

© 2024 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved. Not to be redistributed, copied, or modified in any way.

A crushing backlash to Apple’s new iPad ad Read More »


Logic Pro gets some serious AI—and a version bump—for Mac and iPad

The new Chord Track feature.

Enlarge / The new Chord Track feature.


If you watched yesterday’s iPad-a-palooza event from Apple, then you probably saw the segment about cool new features coming to the iPad version of Logic Pro, Apple’s professional audio recording software. But what the event did not make clear was that all the same features are coming to the Mac version of Logic Pro—and both the Mac and iPad versions will get newly numbered. After many years, the Mac version of Logic Pro will upgrade from X (ten) to 11, while the much more recent iPad version increments to 2.

Both versions will be released on May 13, and both are free upgrades for existing users. (Sort of—iPad users have to pay a subscription fee to access Logic Pro, but if you already pay, you’ll get the upgrade. This led many people to speculate online that Apple would move the Mac version of Logic to a similar subscription model; thankfully, that is not the case. Yet.)

Both versions will gain an identical set of new features, which were touched on briefly in Apple’s event video. But thanks to a lengthy press release that Apple posted after the event, along with updates to Apple’s main Logic page, we now have a better sense of what these features are, what systems they require, and just how much Apple has gone all-in on AI. Also, we get some pictures.

The new ChromaGlow plugin. It saturates!

Enlarge / The new ChromaGlow plugin. It saturates!

AI everywhere

One of Logic’s neat features is Drummer, a generative performer that can play in many different styles, can follow along with recorded tracks, and can throw in plenty of fills and other humanizing variations. For a tool that comes free with your digital audio workstation, it’s an amazing product, and it has received various quality-of-life improvements over the last decade, including producer kits that let you break out and control each individual percussion element. But what we haven’t seen in 10 years is new generative session players, especially for bass and keys.

The wait is over, though, because Apple is adding a bass and a keyboard player to Logic. The new Bass Player was “trained in collaboration with today’s best bass players, using advanced AI and sampling technologies,” Apple says. Logic will also come with Studio Bass, a set of six new instruments.

The Keyboard Player works similarly and gets a new Studio Piano plugin that provides features commonly found in paid virtual instruments (multiple mic positions, control over pedal and key noise, sympathetic resonance, and release samples). Apple says that Keyboard Player can handle everything from “simple block cords to chord voicing with extended harmony—with nearly endless variations.”

  • The new Drummer.

  • Keyboard Player.

Drummer’s secret to success is in just how easy it makes dialing in a basic drum pattern. Select the drummer who plays your style, pick a kit you like, and then pick a variation; after that, simply place a dot on a big trackpad-style display that balances complexity with volume, and you have something usable, complete with fills. Bass and Keyboard Players can’t work that way, of course, but Apple is bringing a feature seen in some other DAWs to Logic in order to power both new session players: Chord Track.

Logic Pro gets some serious AI—and a version bump—for Mac and iPad Read More »


Hands-on with the new iPad Pros and Airs: A surprisingly refreshing refresh

Apple's latest iPad Air, now in two sizes. The Magic Keyboard accessory is the same one that you use with older iPad Airs and Pros, though they can use the new Apple Pencil Pro.

Enlarge / Apple’s latest iPad Air, now in two sizes. The Magic Keyboard accessory is the same one that you use with older iPad Airs and Pros, though they can use the new Apple Pencil Pro.

Andrew Cunningham

Apple has a new lineup of iPad Pro and Air models for the first time in well over a year. Most people would probably be hard-pressed to tell the new ones from the old ones just by looking at them, but after hands-on sessions with both sizes of both tablets, the small details (especially for the Pros) all add up to a noticeably refined iPad experience.

iPad Airs: Bigger is better

But let’s begin with the new Airs since there’s a bit less to talk about. The 11-inch iPad Air (technically the sixth-generation model) is mostly the same as the previous-generation A14 and M1 models, design-wise, with identical physical dimensions and weight. It’s still the same slim-bezel design Apple introduced with the 2018 iPad Pro, just with a 60 Hz LCD display panel and Touch ID on the power button rather than Face ID.

So when Apple says the device has been “redesigned,” the company is mainly referring to the fact that the webcam is now mounted on the long edge of the tablet rather than the short edge. This makes its positioning more laptop-y when it’s docked to the Magic Keyboard or some other keyboard.

The most welcome change to the Air is the introduction of a 13-inch model (blessedly, no longer “12.9 inches”). It looks like the old 12.9-inch iPad Pro design from circa 2018 but with the simpler single-lens 12 MP camera and the Touch ID button rather than the Face ID sensor.

The new iPad Air.

Enlarge / The new iPad Air.

Andrew Cunningham

With the iPad Pro and the Air next to each other, it’s clear which has the superior screen—the 120 Hz refresh rate of ProMotion and the infinite contrast of OLED are definitely major points in the Pro’s favor. But if you’re just looking for a big screen for watching videos, reading books, or playing games, or if you’re just looking for a general-use laptop replacement tablet, Apple is still using a great 60 Hz LCD panel here. And the $799 price tag is considerably lower than any of Apple’s past 12.9-inch iPad Pros.

Like the 15-inch MacBook Air, it’s a way for people to get a bigger screen without paying for advanced screen technologies or faster processors if they don’t want or need them. It’s hard to find a downside to that, as long as you’re OK with iPadOS’ differences and restrictions relative to macOS.

Hands-on with the new iPad Pros and Airs: A surprisingly refreshing refresh Read More »


New “Apple Pencil Pro” can do a barrel roll

It’s thinner —

New Magic Keyboard promises a Macbook-like experience, while the Pencil gets new tricks.

  • The Apple Pencil Pro


  • You can squeeze the pencil to bring up a menu.


  • The new features.


  • Pencil pricing.


  • The new Magic Keyboard. It’s bascially the bottom half of a Macbook.


  • The Magic Keyboard trackpad is bigger and has haptic feedback.


  • It’s still floaty.


  • Keyboard pricing.


With new iPads come new keyboards and pencils, and the big news today is the “Apple Pencil Pro,” a souped-up version of Apple’s iPad stylus. The Pencil Pro is $129 and works with the new iPad Pro and iPad Air.

How much can you improve a stylus? How about rotation detection via a new gyroscope embedded in the pencil? Apple calls this a “barrel roll,” which provides rotation input in your iPad apps. If you’re drawing and are using a brush that isn’t symmetrical, a barrel roll will change the rotation of the brush. If you have a 3D item out in Procreate, a pencil rotation will rotate the 3D item. Devs can cook up whatever app interactions they can think of with this new feature.

The Pencil is also squeezable now, which can bring up a context menu. It also has haptics embedded in it, so you’ll get feedback whenever you squeeze or rotate an item. The Pencil magnetically clips on the side of the iPad for charging, but if you happen to lose it, it will also show up in the Find My app next to all your other Apple things.

Also in the “new iPad accessory” category is an “all-new” Magic keyboard. Just like the iPad Pro it’s compatible with, it’s “much thinner and even lighter” than the previous version. The keyboard now has a function row with screen brightness, media, and volume controls. Basically, it’s closer than ever to a Macbook keyboard. The deck is aluminum, of course, and features a new, larger trackpad with haptic feedback.

The new keyboard is $299 for the 11-inch and $349 for the 13-inch iPad Pro.

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Apple kills $329 iPad with home button, Lightning port

12.5 percent cheaper —

No more home button.

Apple kills $329 iPad with home button, Lightning port

Apple is lowering the price of its 10th-generation iPad from $399 to $349, the company announced at its Let Loose event today.

The 10th-generation iPad did away with the top and bottom bezels that previous iPads carried. The 10.9-inch tablet also doesn’t have a home button, showing Apple, under pressure from European Union regulations, moving from a Lightning port to USB-C.

However, Apple is also doing away with the $329 9th-generation iPad, effectively increasing the price of entry for an iPad.

You won't be able to buy this 9th-generation iPad from Apple anymore.

Enlarge / You won’t be able to buy this 9th-generation iPad from Apple anymore.


The $329 iPad had an old-school home button and a Lightning port. The cheaper iPad also supported the 1st-generation Apple Pencil that had a round barrel shape and glossy finish and also used a Lightning port. Meanwhile, Apple’s Pencil lineup has moved toward magnetic charging and other new features.

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Apple announces M4 with more CPU cores and AI focus, just months after M3

it’s one more —

Aggressive update schedule is a major departure for Apple Silicon.

Apple's M4 chip in the new iPad Pro. It follows the M3 by just a few months.

Enlarge / Apple’s M4 chip in the new iPad Pro. It follows the M3 by just a few months.


In a major shake-up of its chip roadmap, Apple has announced a new M4 processor for today’s iPad Pro refresh, barely six months after releasing the first MacBook Pros with the M3 and not even two months after updating the MacBook Air with the M3.

Apple says the M4 includes “up to” four high-performance CPU cores, six high-efficiency cores, and a 10-core GPU. Apple’s high-level performance estimates say that the M4 has 50 percent faster CPU performance and four times as much graphics performance. Like the GPU in the M3, the M4 also supports hardware-accelerated ray-tracing to enable more advanced lighting effects in games and other apps. Due partly to its “second-generation” 3 nm manufacturing process, Apple says the M4 can match the performance of the M2 while using just half the power.

As with so much else in the tech industry right now, the M4 also has an AI focus; Apple says it’s beefing up the 16-core Neural Engine (Apple’s equivalent of the Neural Processing Unit that companies like Qualcomm, Intel, AMD, and Microsoft have been pushing lately). Apple says the M4 runs up to 38 trillion operations per second (TOPS), considerably ahead of Intel’s Meteor Lake platform, though a bit short of the 45 TOPS that Qualcomm is promising with the Snapdragon X Elite and Plus series. The M3’s Neural Engine is only capable of 18 TOPS, so that’s a major step up for Apple’s hardware.

Apple’s chips since 2017 have included some version of the Neural Engine, though to date, those have mostly been used to enhance and categorize photos, perform optical character recognition, enable offline dictation, and do other oddities. But it may be that Apple needs something faster for the kinds of on-device large language model-backed generative AI that it’s expected to introduce in iOS and iPadOS 18 at WWDC next month.

The wait between the M1 and M2 and the wait between the M2 and M3 were each about a year and a half. With as few technical details as Apple has announced, it’s tough to know what to make of the faster turnaround between the M3 and M4. It could be that the M3 was behind schedule and the M4 was on time or ahead; it could also be that the M4 is a relatively modest architectural update to the M3. We’ll need to test the hardware ourselves to determine exactly how the M3 and M4 stack up to each other.

The fast introduction of the M4 makes it a little clearer why Apple might choose not to update devices like the Mac mini with an M3 chip. Either the M3 processor generation will be uncommonly short, or Apple plans to sell a mix of M3 and M4 devices this year.

Apple announces M4 with more CPU cores and AI focus, just months after M3 Read More »