Mac mini 2014 teardown reveals major letdowns

ifixit-mac-mini-2014

Mac mini 2014 refresh turns out to be a great disappointment to many would-be buyers who waited 2 years for the upgrade. The new Mac mini sports a brand new Haswell processor compared with Ivy Bride processor in the 2012 model. It has better graphics performance with Intel HD 5000 in the low end model and Intel Iris in the mid and high end model. It comes with two Thunderbolt 2 ports compared with a single first-gen Thunderbolt in 2012 model. And it uses faster PCIe for SSD and has a faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The entry model is now at $499, which is $100 dollar cheaper than last-gen. All are attractive offering from Apple until you look further into the details and compare them with 2012 models.

As elaborated by the ifixit.com teardown and thus confirming the fears of many would-be upgraders, the RAM in late 2014 Mac mini is soldered in. That means you have to decide on the amount of RAM required upfront when you order the machine, and Apple RAM is notoriously more expensive than what you can buy elsewhere.

Late 2014 Mac mini models

The entry level model comes with only 4G of RAM for the $499 price. This model is suitable if you intend the Mac mini as a media player for your HDTV, or for light computing usage. For higher 8G or 16G RAM requirement, the mid and high end models are more attractive buys.

Beside the RAM being not upgradeable, any upgrade of the hard drive will also void the warranty. In fact Apple is changing Mac mini to be user-unfriendly by guarding the metal opening with Torx TR6 tamper-proof screws. In previous model you can open the metal cap with just a twist.

Mac mini 2014 comes with a single SATA port for hard drive and an PICe slot for SSD. Compare this with two SATA ports in 2012 model. There is no longer a server model option with dual drive RAID configuration as in 2012 line up. Apple obviously intends the new Mac mini to be just entry level Macs, as hard drive is not user upgradeable and the maximum capacity for build-to-order hard drive is 1 TB. All these pisses many small businesses who rely on running Mac as server, and now there is no obvious lower cost upgrade path.

2014 Mac mini vs 2012 Mac mini multi core performance

To add insult to injury, all models in new Mac mini are dual-core and there is no quad core processor option. A newly released GeekBench benchmark by Primate Labs shows that the high end tier 2012 Mac mini, which has a quad-core Ivy Bridge processors, outperform the 2014 dual-core models by wide margin for multi-core performance. If you intend to run Mac mini as a server, track down the 2012 quad-core model while you can.

Mac mini 2014 is a downgrade in many ways. But if you don’t intend for a quad core processor and a server setup, the improved graphics, single-core CPU performance and Wi-Fi is worth considering.

Does Apple realise there is a void in their line up for a mid-range Mac without a build-in LCD screen?

Summary of Apple’s “It’s been way too long” media event

apple-ipad-air-2

Apple has just concluded its “It’s been way too long” media event in which new iPad Air and iMac with Retina Display are unveiled. Our predictions are too much for Apple to deliver. There is no 3x retina display for new iPad Air and iPad mini, no 12.9 inch iPad, no Retina Thunderbolt Display and no Apple TV refresh. Here are the quick summary of the event:

  • Apple Pay will be launched this Monday Oct 20 for users in the US. Apple has signed up 500 additional banks in the new payment service.
  • WatchKit SDK will be available for developers in November to start making app for Apple Watch. Apple Watch is scheduled to launch in early 2015.
  • iOS 8 adoption rate is now at 48% after just 26 days. iOS 7 is at 46%. The other iOS versions make up the remaining 6%. 
  • iOS 8.1 will be available on Monday Oct 20. It will include Apple Pay for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. iOS 8.1 will bring back the Camera Roll as a result of customer complaints. The update will also include a beta version of iCloud Photo Library.
  • OS X Yosemite will be available today for free on the Mac App Store. 
  • Pages, Keynotes and Numbers are updated for OS X Yosemite and will be available today. There will be update to Pages, Keynotes and Numbers for iOS today.
  • Tim Cook announced 225 millions iPad sold so far. “Apple has sold more iPads in the first four years than any product we’ve sold in our entire history”.
  • Apple announced iPad Air 2, the world’s thinnest tablet at 6.1mm, half as thin as the original iPad. The anti-reflective coating on the display is also the first for a tablet. It has a new A8X chip and M8 coprocessor. iPad Air 2 has 12x faster CPU speed and 180x graphics performance than the original iPad.
  • iPad Air 2 has an 8MP iSight camera with f2.4 aperture and 1.12 micron pixels. For the first time, camera Burst Mode, Time Lapse, Slo-Mo features come to the iPad.
  • iPad Air 2 comes with a fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO and support up to 20 LTE bands.
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor is standard in iPad Air 2.
  • Side switch for rotation lock /mute is gone in iPad Air 2.
  • Apple announced new iPad mini 3 with Touch ID fingerprint sensor. iPad mini 3 however sports last generation A7 CPU and M7 coprocessor. It has a lower 5MP iSight camera and a slower 802.11n with MIMO Wi-Fi. 
  • Both iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 comes with silver, space gray and new gold color option. Preorder starts tomorrow Oct 17 with delivery next week.
  • Apple is keeping iPad Air, iPad mini 2 and iPad mini in the product line up. You now have 5 iPad models to choose from.
  • There is no NFC radio in new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 so you can’t use them for Apple Pay in store. You can however use the Touch ID for online use of Apple Pay at ecommerce sites.
  • Apple announced iMac with Retina Display. It is a high end model at $2499, a 27-inch screen with 5120×2880 Retina 5K Display and Thunderbolt 2 ports. It has 14.7 million pixels which is 7x more pixels than your HDTV. It is available for shipping today.
  • Apple updated Mac mini with 4th-gen Intel Core processor, Intel Iris or HD Graphics 5000, PCIe-based flash storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, two Thunderbolt 2 ports. Entry model starts at $499, which is $100 dollar lower. It is available for shipping today.

What to expect from Apple’s “It’s been way too long” special event

Apple Its Been Way Too Long Special Event

Apple’s second big event this fall is happening this Thursday October, 16th at 10 AM Pacific Time (1 PM Eastern Time). Apple will unveil new iPad and Mac in this media event which will stream live over the web and on Apple TV. Here are the things we’re expecting or predicting Apple to deliver at the event.

iPad Air and iPad mini

Apple will likely announce updates to its iPad Air and iPad mini. One major hardware changes this round will be the addition of Touch ID fingerprint sensor, as a way to increase login security and also to participate in Apple Pay roll out. Touch ID is a much sought after feature for privacy sensitive enterprise who are deploying iPads for their staffs. 

The new iPad Air and iPad mini is expected to have a thinner frame, and according to some reports from Asia’s parts suppliers, a gold color option. We predict Apple will offer new iPads in similar silver, space gray and gold options as iPhone 6.

Both new iPad Air and iPad mini are expected to sport a higher 3x resolution 3072 x 2304 Retina Display similar to iPhone 6 Plus. Apple will also equipped them with an enhanced A8x processor and higher 2G ram in order to drive the higher resolution screen.

Apple is expected to keep the current version of iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display as a lower cost option alongside the new models.

12.9 inch iPad

We expect Apple to announce the much-rumored 12.9 inch iPad at this media event, which will have the same hardware specs with new iPad Air. This larger iPad “Pro” however will not be launched till the end of the year.

Sale growth of iPad has been relatively stagnant compared with that of iPhone, and the iPad Pro is Apple’s attempt to revive the segment. This bigger iPad model is also strategic in Apple’s alliance with IBM to bring more tablet based solution to the enterprise.

Apple Pay and iOS 8

Apple is expected as planned to launch Apple Pay on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus with the release of iOS 8.1. Apple Pay is expected to work with the new iPad Air and iPad mini, and we should see demos during the media event, and announcement of new partners and services compatible with Apple Pay. 

OS X Yosemite

OS X Yosemite

Apple is expected to announce the release of OS X Yosemite, which has been available in preview mode since its announcement in WWDC June this year. OS X Yosemite will be free and made available through the Mac App Store. OS X Yosemite has a refreshed interface and comes with features that work together with iOS 8, such as Handoff and iCloud Drive. Any Macs that is capable of running OS X Mavericks is compatible with OS X Yosemite.

Retina iMac

Apple Retina iMac

We might finally see the debut of Retina iMac, which is a dream machine for graphic professionals. Spec wise, the Retina iMac is expected to have a resolution of 5120×2880, double that of the current 27-inch iMac. We predict Apple will use a 28-inch panel for the Retina iMac model.

Retina display is likely to be offered in one high end iMac configuration, as the higher resolution requires a  beefy GPU to drive the display. We expect this initial offering of a Retina Display in iMac to be pricey. The iMac range is also expected to upgrade to the higher bandwidth Thunderbolt 2 port.

Thunderbolt Display

“It’s been way too long” is aptly named especially for Apple’s Thunderbolt Display, which was introduced in 2011. Currently there is only one 27 inch model for sale with a native 2560×1440 resolution. We expect Apple to upgrade this model to use Thunderbolt 2 technology. 

We predict Apple will release a second Thunderbolt Display model using the same 28 inch panel as Retina iMac with a 5120×2880 resolution. It might even be named Retina Thunderbolt Display.

Mac mini

“It’s been way too long” applies equally well to Mac mini, which was last updated in 2012. We predict few possibilities to this Mac line. Apple might just upgrade the Mac mini with newer processor and faster GPU. Due to a year’s gap in release cycle, we predict a new design and form factor for Mac mini, and one that is Made in USA similar to Mac Pro. How about a cube shape Mac?

Some have suggested that Apple might discontinue the Mac mini. Mac mini is still a strategic line up as Apple needs an entry to mid-range level desktop Mac. There is a demand to run Mac as a server for small business, and also for developers who relies on Xcode’s server feature.

Apple TV

Apple TV is the third product in the “It’s been way too long” group that needs an upgrade. Current third generation Apple TV is released in 2012. 

We expect a 4th generation Apple TV with a faster processor and GPU, and an upgrade to 1G RAM from current 512MB. It is likely to have A7 processor as its core to finally enable gaming on Apple TV. Couple with Apple Metal API, this will enable console-like gaming on Apple TV.

Quickly send your current location in Messages app in iOS 8

Messages app in iOS 8 is greatly overhauled with new features that make it much more pleasant to use. One convenient  shortcut is the ability to quickly send your current location to your contact in Messages.

On the chat window, tap on the “Detail” button located at right top corner. Then tap “Send my Current Location”.

Quickly send your current location in Messages app in iOS 8

This will immediately send the recipient a map with a pin of your current location. Quick and simple.

How to hide or disable the QuickType predictive text bar in iOS 8

iOS 8 comes with an all-new predictive text engine called QuickType for the built-in system keyboard. It predicts what you’ll likely to key in based your past patterns, and presents choices of words or phrases in a tappable bar directly on top of the virtual keyboard. If you find QuickType not as useful or the bar is taking up much valuable screen space, you can hide the bar or disable the feature completely.

Hide the QuickType bar

To quickly hide the QuickType bar on the virtual keyboard, tap and hold anywhere on the bar, and drag down to hide the bar. The bar will collapsed into a thin line with a tiny handlebar indicator in the middle.

How to hide the QuickType predictive text bar in iOS 8

To unhide the QuickType bar, tap and hold on the handlebar and drag it up. 

Disable the QuickType bar

To disable the QuickType bar completely, go to the Settings app under Settings > General > Keyboard. Under your keyboard’s language section, tap to turn off the “Predictive” option.

How to disable the QuickType predictive text bar in iOS 8

Switching off “Predictive” will turn off the predictive text engine, thus will disable the QuickType bar from appearing on the virtual keyboard.

How does FireChat work without an Internet connection

How does FireChat work without an Internet connection Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protestors

FireChat is a messaging app that lets iOS and Android smartphone users chat without a cellular or Internet connection. Th app once again was in the limelight as Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors were using the app fearing the government would shut down cellphone networks in the protest area. 

How does FireChat work without an Internet connection

Developed by San Francisco based company called Open Garden, FireChat in its default “Everyone” mode works just like any other messaging apps with chatting over the Internet. When in the “Nearby” mode, the app uses Bluetooth to connect nearby phones to form a wireless mesh network that enables chat messages to pass from phone to phone without going through the Internet.

The ability to work off-the-grid makes FireChat particularly useful in areas where the Internet is restricted. It is also harder for government to monitor the chat messages by nature of the app’s peer-to-peer connectivity. FireChat had previously been used during the Internet blackouts in Iran and Iraq earlier this year.

How to customize the contacts section in multitasking in iOS 8

Multitasking interface, which you invoke by double pressing on the home button, now adds a new contact section at the top in iOS 8. The contacts that you last spoken, text or FaceTime will appear in the “Recents” list. Swipe the section to the right, and you get your “Favorites” contact list.

How to customize the contacts section in multitasking in iOS 8

Tapping on an individual icon will toggle additional options for you to initiate a phone call, send a text message or start a FaceTime call.

The “Favorites” list on the multitasking interface is taken from the contacts that you designated as Favorites in the Phone app. To edit the favorite list, open the Phone app and select the Favorites tab.

How to customize the contacts section in multitasking in iOS 8 Manage Favorites

Tap the “+” icon to add a contact to the favourite, and swipe left on existing contact in the list for the option to remove it from your Favorites.

If you do not like either “Recents” or “Favorites” list to appear in the multitasking screen, you can choose to disable them. Open Settings app and navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars.

How to customize the contacts section in multitasking in iOS 8 Settings

Navigate to the bottom “Contacts” section and tap on “Show in App Switcher”.  Turn off both “Phone Favorites” and “Recents” switches, or just turn off one of them.

Check your new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus for dead pixel

Dead or stuck pixels are a reality of LCD technology. It is a rare occurrence on iPhone probably due to Apple’s stricter quality demand, but it is better safe than sorry to check for dead pixel when you receive your new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus.

To do a quick check, we’ve put up below a black and a white image of size 1080×1920 big enough to fit the full screen of iPhone 6 Plus.

Pixel test whitePixel test black

Visit this page on your new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Tap and hold the above images and select “Save Image”. This will save the images into Photos app.

Open the images in Photos app and view them full screen. Carefully check through the screen for any dead or stuck pixel. Contact AppleCare as soon as you found any. Apple has no definitive guidelines and return policy on dead pixels. What we heard is Apple has traditionally been very balanced and accommodating when it comes to warranty exchange due to customer complaints about dead or stuck pixels. 

How to request the desktop version of a website in iOS 8

Many websites come with a mobile-optimized version which would be automatically served to you when it is detected that you’re using a mobile device. These mobile version of webpages are usually easier to view and navigate on smaller screens, but can occasionally offer fewer functionality compared to the desktop version.

Some sites offer link (normally at site’s footer) to allow you to switch between mobile and desktop version, but this practice is not consistently adopted by every sites. Safari in iOS 8 now comes with a new “Request Desktop Site” feature to allow you to view the desktop version of a mobile site. 

When you’re viewing a site with a mobile layout in Safari, tap on Safari’s address bar. This by default will display the list of bookmarks in your Favorites Bar.

How to request the desktop version of a website in iOS 8

Swipe down the list to reveal two new options: “Add to Favorites” and “Request Desktop Site”.

How to request the desktop version of a website in Safari

Simply tap on “Request Desktop Site” option and Safari will reload the site with a desktop layout.

Think twice before you upgrade to iCloud Drive

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iCloud Drive is a brand new feature in iOS 8 that changes iCloud from an invisible storage system into something similar to Dropbox or Google Drive. When you upgrade to iOS 8, you’re asked if you want to activate iCloud Drive. You might want to think twice before tapping the “Upgrade to iCloud Drive” button.

Before iCloud Drive, apps are using the “Documents & Data” framework for documents in iCloud.  When you upgrade to iCloud Drive, documents managed under “Documents & Data” will be migrated to use iCloud Drive, and it is not backward compatible.

iCloud Drive is available only in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. In order for documents to sync under iCloud Drive, all your iDevices and Macs needs to be running iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.

If you’re using only one device, if all you devices have been upgraded to iOS 8 and you do not have a Mac, it is safe to pull the trigger to upgrade to iCloud Drive. For Mac users, hold off a few weeks until the release of OS X Yosemite which is expected end October.