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  • OS X El Capitan

     

    Apple yesterday released OS X 10.11 El Capitan, the newest Mac operating system available for free to all Mac users via the Mac App Store.

    Building on the features introduced in OS X Yosemite (as the name suggests), OS X El Capitan focuses on refining the user experience and improving performance.

    Experience enhancements make the things you do most with your Mac simpler and smarter. The new Split View makes working in multiple at the same time easier, allowing you to run two full-screen apps side by side automatically. The built in search facility Spotlight is improved, now understanding your natural language and delivering results from the weather to sports updates. Several new app features have also been introduced with improvements to Safari, Mail, Notes, Maps and Photos.

    Performance improvements under the hood make your Mac snappier in all kinds of everyday tasks from launching apps, opening PDFs to accessing your email. And Metal, the new graphics core technology speeds system-level graphics rendering by up to 50 per cent boosting the experience of games and apps.

    Upgrading to OS X El Capitan is free and easy. If your Mac is running OS X Yosemite you can upgrade directly via the Mac App Store.

  • The new MacBook, how does it shape up?

    The new MacBook was announced in March of this year and has just started shipping to the lucky customers who eagerly placed their pre-orders. Two models are available; 1.1GHz dual-core Core M with 8GB RAM and 256GB Flash at £1049 and 1.2GHz dual-core Core M with 8GB RAM and 512GB Flash at £1299, the Built To Order option offers a further upgraded 1.3GHz dual-core Core M processor. It revives the MacBook model that was discontinued in 2011, made redundant by the equally powerful MacBook Pro and similarly priced MacBook Air of the time. The new MacBook differentiates itself from the current MacBook Air and MacBook Pro by offering some interesting new features and a whole new form factor.

     

    CPU


    For us the most interesting part of the new MacBook’s specification was the use of the Broadwell Core M processor. The Core M processors are designed to be as power efficient as possible using as little as a third of the energy of the current generation MacBook Air’s Core i5/i7 processors. The Core M’s lower power consumption allows for a smaller battery, allowing Apple’s engineers to make this the thinnest Apple notebook yet, while still maintaining a battery life of up to 10 hours. The Core M’s low power consumption means that little energy is expended as heat, allowing the MacBook to be a completely fanless notebook, making this Apple’s first notebook that has no moving parts. No more dust and fluff clogging up vents and fans is quite an exciting prospect! These advantages do however come at a pretty surprising cost, the Core M processors are slower than their Core i5/i7 counterparts in the MacBook Airs and Pro by some margin.

     

    Some readers may be shocked in seeing that the new MacBook’s processor is actually slightly slower than that found in the Mid 2011 MacBook Air! While it is comforting to know that OS X can comfortably run on such hardware, it shows Apple has made this notebook squarely aimed at the casual user. Running the Adobe suite or Parallels on one of these machines is going to be very taxing for the processor.

     

     

    Graphics & Display

    As expected Apple have used an integrated graphics solution on the MacBook, the Intel HD Graphics 5300. While this offers minimal oomph, it follows in the same vein as the processor choice, ultra efficiency and very low power consumption. It is on par in performance with the HD 4000 found in the Mid 2012 MacBook Air and Mid 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro, but uses much less energy.

    This isn’t going to allow for any sort of serious gaming, with early reports of games such as Sims 4 and Dota 2 only being able to run fluently at low settings.

    Graphics Benchmark provided by 3DMark 2013 Ice Storm Standard

     


    The MacBook comes with a 12-inch display, blessed with Apple’s Retina display technology, giving a maximum resolution of 2304 by 1440. This slots it straight in between the 11 and 13-inch MacBook Air offerings, but with a significantly higher resolution display. According to Apple the display also has redesigned pixels with a larger aperture, allowing more light to pass through, again saving on energy usage.

     

     

    Battery Life

    The battery life has been an integral part of the new MacBook’s design, being a determining factor in the form factor and the choice of components used. Due to the MacBook’s ultra thin body the battery takes up the majority of the internal space and in an industry first is tapered to fit the body as precisely as possible to maximise usage of space. The result is a battery life of up to 9 hours wireless web or up to 10 hours of iTunes movie playback.

     

    This gives comparable battery life to the MacBook Air which is impressive considering the MacBook’s battery is 39.7-watt-hours when compared to the 38-watt-hour and 54-watt-hour batteries found in the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs, especially considering that the MacBook has to power a screen with a much higher resolution.

     

     

    Connectivity


    One of the most controversial features of the MacBook is the complete obliteration of all external ports, except one, the new 3.1 USB-C port. Every wired connection; charging, external devices and displays must use this multifunction port. While we are impressed that this little reversible port can handle two-way power, very fast data transfer and external displays it feels like a scary proposition having to use an adapter to charge your iPhone and MacBook at the same time. 

     

    Apple have always been at the forefront of connectivity, famously being the first to eliminate floppy disc drives and optical drives from their computers so we are going to trust them on this one.

     


    Form Factor


    Weighing in at just over 900g and 13.1mm thick makes it the lightest and thinnest Apple notebook yet, beating the 11-inch despite having a larger display. This new form factor was the main reason as to why Apple dropped the usual connectivity in favour of the USB-C port, the normal ports simply wouldn’t fit! The full sized keyboard sits perfectly between the edges of the body, and a new Apple designed butterfly mechanism allows each key to use less vertical space whilst improving the precision of key presses.

     

     

    Price


    At £1049 for the base level model, the MacBook is no longer priced to be Apple’s entry level notebook, despite the limitation on its performance. A refurbished 13-inch Mid 2012 MacBook Air (see here) will offer better performance at a lower price point if you do not mind going without the Retina display and slightly thinner form factor.

  • New Retina iMac and 15-inch MacBook Pro with Force Touch

    Today Apple have introduced a new entry level iMac with Retina 5K display starting at £1599, and dropped the price of the current model by £150 to £1849. Whilst the specification of the current model stays the same, the entry level model comes with a slightly less powerful 3.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and a 1TB hard drive (as opposed to the 1TB Fusion Drive). Whilst we can understand Apple needs to offer some product differentiation we find it quite hard to stomach seeing the entry level model at £1599 and without a Fusion Drive!

     

    The 15-inch MacBook Pro was also shown some love, with a refresh to include the new Force Touch Trackpad and AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics for the range topping model. Interestingly the processors have remained unchanged, leaving the machines with the 4th generation Haswell chips. It now appears Apple will be skipping the Broadwell chips for the 15-inch range, favouring a longer wait for the 6th generation Skylake processors. With an expected release of late 2015, we might not see these chips inside an Apple product until Christmas or even early 2016.

     

  • 13-inch MacBook Air - what's the difference?

     


    In the second part of our What’s the difference? series we are going to cover the MacBook Air. The most difficult question we get asked on a regular basis is what is the difference between the processors in different model years, for example how different are the Mid 2011 and Mid 2012 MacBook Air, or what is the difference between Sandy Bridge and Haswell chips? If you have no idea what on earth a sand covered bridge has to do with a small town in Colorado fear not, we will try and make things clear in the following post.

    This post will show the differences in the 13-inch MacBook Air since 2011, if you want to check out the differences between the 13-inch MacBook Pro check out this post, comparisons of the 15-inch MacBook Pro and iMacs will be coming soon! 



    Comparing Processors Through Model Years

    Since the introduction of the Mid 2011 13-inch MacBook Air, Apple has incorporated Intel’s low power dual-core Core i5 and i7 processors, a significant upgrade over the older Core 2 Duo models. Approximately each year Intel releases a new generation of these Core i5 and i7 processors, with upgraded microarchitecture, that have codenames designated to them. As we saw previously with the 13-inch MacBook Pro, there is not a huge increase in processor performance between the Mid 2011 and the latest Early 2015 Air, 27% for the Core i5 model and 38% for the Core i7 model.



    The difference between the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge benchmarks are quite minimal, the main increases are found between the Core i7 models. Interestingly the Core i5 Haswell benchmarks are actually marginally lower than the Core i5 Ivy Bridge benchmarks, it looks like Apple sacrificed processor performance in favour of lower power chips to maximise battery life in these models. The small speed bump provided to the Early 2014 Core i5 model only gave a minuscule performance gain over the Mid 2013 Core i5 model, the Core i7 chips are actually identical. 



    Graphics Performance

    Processor performance aside there are some very significant increases in graphics performance, between the same models there is a 128% improvement in the 3DMark scores. If you run graphics intensive programs it may well be worthwhile investing in a newer model, however for less processor focused use it may not be worth the additional cost.

    Benchmarks provided by 3DMark 2013 Ice Storm


    Apple MacBook Air Processor and Graphics benchmark comparison 


    Battery Life

    Another factor to take into account when comparing MacBook Airs is that the battery life had a great improvement from the release of the Mid 2013 models. This is mainly due to the Haswell and Broadwell processors having a more efficient design that allows for lower power consumption. These figures are according to Apple's own stats, actual results may vary. 

    MacBook Air Battery life comparison

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro's - what's the difference?

    13-inch MacBook Pro - What's the difference

     

    The most difficult question we get asked on a regular basis is what is the difference between the processors in different model years, for example how different are the Early 2011 and Late 2011 MacBook Pro's, or what is the difference between Sandy Bridge and Haswell? If you have no idea what on earth a sand covered bridge has to do with a small town in Colorado fear not, we will try and make things clear in the following post. This post will show the differences in the 13-inch MacBook Pro since 2011, we shall save the 15-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Airs and iMacs for subsequent blog posts.

     

     

    Comparing Processors Through Model Years

    Since the introduction of the Early 2011 13-inch MacBook Pro, Apple has incorporated Intel’s dual-core Core i5 and i7 processors, a significant upgrade over the older Core 2 Duo models. Approximately each year Intel releases a new generation of these Core i5 and i7 processors with upgraded micro-architecture that have codenames designated to them (Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell etc.). In between these revisions Apple have also implemented a small bump in performance by increasing the clock speed (from 2.3GHz to 2.4GHz between the Early 2011 and Late 2011 for example).

    As you can see from the chart below these speed bumps in clock speed (GHz) do not have a great effect on the performance of the processor. The performance increase between revisions is noticeable, however maybe not as much as you may expect! Something else that also surprises some of our clients is that the difference between an i5 and i7 processor isn't as significant as people believe, and might not be worthwhile when you factor in the price Apple charge for this upgrade.

     Apple MacBook Pro Processor benchmark comparison graph.

     

    Something to note is that comparison of the processors clock speed between generations will not give an accurate measurement, for example the Ivy Bridge Early 2013 3.0GHz i7 processor is not as powerful as the later generation Haswell Late 2013 2.8GHz i7 processor.

     

    MacBook Pro 13 inch Processor Graphics Chip benchmark comparison

    What About The Graphics Chip?

    Alas, this isn’t the end of the story. These processors have their own graphics chip built in that increase in performance with each generation. The difference here is much more profound than that of the processors.

    Benchmark Scores Provided by 3DMark06.

      

    Hard Drives, Solid State Drives and RAM

    RAM, Solid State Drive, Hard Drive

    The processor isn’t the be-all and end-all of performance, we find often that the amount of RAM or using a Solid State Drive (SSD) will provide you with a greater performance boost than the difference between an Ivy Bridge and Haswell processor for the majority of scenarios. The Solid State Drives introduced as standard in the Retina in Late 2012 models are the main reason why they feel faster than their hard drive equipped predecessors. Luckily we can upgrade the non-Retina models to have Solid State Drives at your request to put them on par with the current lineup.

     

     

  • How much RAM does my Mac need?

    We get asked this question more than any other at Hoxton Macs and it can be a tricky one to answer. 

    First of all what is RAM for? In simple terms RAM is the memory available to your programs, so more RAM allows you to do more things at once. This shouldn't be confused with your storage space (hard drive or SSD) which is where all your files are saved; documents, movies and music etc. 

    Macs can have three different RAM configurations 4GB, 8GB and 16GB (The 27-inch iMac can have 32GB and the Mac Pro can have insane amounts, but I will save that for another post). With fairly significant price differences between these configurations it is important to make sure you choose the right one to balance performance with value. It should be noted that unlike Apple we here at Hoxton Macs don't make a margin on Memory and Storage upgrades where available. 

    Here is a basic rule of thumb:

    4GB 8GB 16GB

    Web browsing; word editing; email

    Moderate photo and video editing; CAD; DJ software; sound recording

     Heavy photo or video editing; virtualization (running Windows inside Mac OS)

     

    If you already own a Mac and it is starting to feel a bit sluggish then there is an easy way to tell if you would benefit from having more RAM.

    1. Go to Applications > Utilities and open Activity Monitor
    2. Click on the Memory tab
    3. At the bottom of the window there is a section called Memory Pressure with a colour coded graph
    • Green - RAM memory resources are available
    • Amber - RAM memory resources are being tasked
    • Red - RAM memory resources are depleted

    Activity Monitor - Memory

    If your RAM resources are often depleted during your everyday workload then it maybe time to upgrade. We consistently find that FlexxMemory offers the best deals on quality, branded RAM modules, excellent customer service and even have a handy tool to find what type of RAM you Mac requires. Newer Retina MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs do not have the ability to upgrade the RAM and if you find yourself struggling to cope with the amount of RAM you have, it will require you to upgrade the machine. We can offer great trade in rates for these machine so feel free to drop us a line at info@hoxtonmacs.co.uk for a quote!

  • I think it's about time we introduce ourselves!

    Dev Patel
    Dev Patel
    Ben Higgs

    Macs can be frighteningly expensive, with the most basic 15-inch MacBook Pro now retailing for £1699 a brand new Mac is out of reach for us mere mortals. That is where Hoxton Macs enters the stage. 15-inch MacBook Pro with top spec for under £1000? We got it. Latest iMacs with 30% off RRP? We got your back.

    I know what you're thinking, I can feel the rolling of your eyes from here; "What's the catch?". Well, we operate out of an office in London where we procure and refurbish our Macs, without the cost and fuss of having a retail store or tons of staff. This keeps us lean with the ability to pass these savings onto the customer. By no means does this mean we skimp on the checking of our machines, even the latest models that come to us still sealed in the box get the full Hoxton Macs treatment, going through a meticulous refurb process to ensure every aspect of the machine works as intended.

    We will be using this blog over the coming months to update everyone with what Macs we have coming in, and providing some helpful guides on how to upgrade your Mac, choose a new Mac and inevitably fuelling some rumours of new Apple products (*cough* iWatch *cough*), so stick us in your bookmarks.

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