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Apple Has A Disaster On Its Hands

Apples rather lackadaisical habit of updating models is about to backfire. The new 8th generation chips developed by Intel are a major broadside against Apple, particularly in the arena of laptops.

Though the lower power 8th generation mobile chips, are actually just a refresh of Kaby Lake, the doubling of cores and threads has so enhanced performance that some of Apple’s products look embarrassingly antiquated.

Consider just these two items:

MacBook Air 13” 7000 Dell Inspiron
CPU

I5-5350U

i7-8550u
Cores/Threads 2C/4T 4C/8T
Frequency 1.8 GHz – Turbo to 2.9 GHz 1.8 GHz – Turbo to 4.0 GHz
RAM 8GB 1600MHz LPDDR3 16GB, DDR4, 2400MHz
Storage

256GB

512GB

Screen

1440 by 900

1920×1080

Touchscreen

No

Touchscreen

Graphics (iGPU)

Intel® HD Graphics 6000

UHD 620 Intel iGPU
Camera

Yes – 720p

Yes
Weight

2.96 lbs

3.09 lbs
Price $1,199.00 $1099 (during a sale)

The only thing the MacBook Air seems to have in its favor is a lesser weight. A savings of 0.13 lbs or roughly 2 ounces. I doubt most people will notice. Sometimes, one has to see a chart with the facts side by side to realize how horrendous the comparison is.

HP and Dell are bringing out laptops with 8th generation chips, while Apple blithely sells the atrocity of a MacBook Air with 5th generation Broadwell CPUs for more money.

According to internet stats, the HD 6000 iGPU (integrated graphics) on the MacBoook Air might perform better than the UHD 620 iGPU, but that depends on the test. Given that the Dell Ispiron 7000 has double the cores and threads, double the RAM, a faster RAM frequency, double the storage (on this model), a faster turbo clock on the processor, and a better screen, I do not see any way that the Dell Inspiron 7000 does not blow the MacBook Air out of the water.

To see the full effect of the 8th generation CPUs, let us compare an upgraded 15” Macbook Air to a comparable HP Spectre.

15” MacBook Pro HP Spectre x360 – 15t
CPU

I7-7700HQ

i7-8550u
Cores/Threads 4C/8T 4C/8T
Freq. 2.8 GHz – Turbo to 3.8 GHz 1.8 GHz – Turbo to 4.0 GHz
RAM

16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3

16 GB DDR4-2400 SDRAM

Storage 256GB 256GB
Screen

2880 x1800

3840 x 2160
Touchscreen Touch Bar Touchscreen
Graphics Radeon Pro 555 with 2GB of GDDR5 NVIDIA GeForce MX150 (2 GB) GDDR5
Camera Yes – 720p Yes – 1080p
Weight 4.02 lbs 4.42 lb
Price $2399 $1549.99

In this case the two power laptops are more comparable. A roughly third of a pound difference in weight will be noticed, but not that much. However, the HP comes with a much better 4K resolution touch screen. Apple does have the clearly better graphics card. If the Spectre CPU has a lower base clock, it also can boost a slight bit faster in theory – though because of the lower base frequency, the i7-8550u is likely to throttle its boost speed a bit more. The HP has slightly faster RAM, though. There is no clear victory for either side.

But HP comes in at over $700 less; and that is a major victory for HP.

The 8th generation refresh of Kaby Lake poses some real problems for Apple laptops. Apple cannot afford to take its good time and wait a few months to catch up. Its product line has become woefully obsolete, even as Apple has maintained its premium prices.

Nor is this confined to Apple laptops.

Apple still sells the antiquated MacMini with 4th generation Haswell processors. It withdrew the quad-core option from its 2014 model. However, the new 8th generation mainstream processors will have quad-core standard, many with hyperthreading, and some with six cores. These newer processors will approximate the punch of processors on recent iMacs, with upgraded CPUs.

Compare the CPU on the 2015 21.5” iMac with an upgraded CPU to that of the newer low-power quad-core 8th generation CPU. The 2015 21.5” iMac did not offer a dedicated graphics card, but went with integrated graphics.

2015 – 21.5” iMac Theoretical CPU
CPU i7-5775R i7-8550u
Freq. 3.3 GHz – Boost to 3.8 GHz 1.8 GHz – Boost to 4.0 GHz
Integrated Graphics Iris Pro Graphics 6200 UHD 620

Now, yes, the 2015 21.5” iMac came with a 4K screen, etc.; and yes, the Iris Pro Graphics are better than the UHD 620, but what is noticeable is that entry level 8th generation chips (low power) can approximate the high end chips from two years ago. Were Apple to offer these chips – or soon-to-come slightly higher TDP, T series chips – with an upgraded MacMini, the MacMini could very well be equalling or outperforming a recent model iMac.

Apple will have the choice of either upgrading the MacMini with CPUs approximating
the power of those found on very recent iMacs, freezing the MacMini line with old Haswell CPUs, or dropping the MacMini altogether.

HP and Dell have thoroughly seized the day. They are not only outdoing Apple, they seem to be humiliating Apple’s product line as well, and for less money.