Saturday, December 9, 2023

The M1 iMac’s power supply sports magnetic connector, Ethernet port


Apple just announced the new iMac powered by Apple’s own M1 silicon. Among the numerous updates and upgrades is a new power brick that sports something special to Apple’s lineup: an Ethernet port. On the surface, this seems like a silly placement of a critical I/O port, but there’s a good chance this feature could hit future Apple laptops where it makes much more sense.

The M1 iMac sports a new design that’s much thinner than the last generation and Apple likely didn’t want to make room for the Ethernet port. The only I/O ports appear to be a 3.5mm jack and several USB-C ports. The power adapter itself has a new magnetic connector and doesn’t use one of the computer’s USB-C ports. The Ethernet port was relegated to the power supply.

There are several advantages for this placement. It reduces clutter on the back of the computer and streamlines connectivity — items that are even more critical in a portable computer.

Apple famously shares components and accessories across its product line, making it very likely this power brick will come to other products. Apple started removing the magnetic MagSafe power connector when its laptops adopted USB-C in 2016, and it would be fantastic to see a similar product return to the product line. Apple removed the Ethernet port on the MacBook Pro in 2012.

Several companies offer add-ons for Apple power adapters. These, like the Twelve South PlugBug Duo, add USB ports to the adapters, but none have yet to offer Ethernet.

Apple introduced new iMacs at its event on Tuesday, outfitted with its M1 processor and redesigned inside and out from the ground up. The hardware is impressive, but one of the biggest improvements for everyone’s Zoom-heavy life might be the webcam. Apple said it’s the “best camera ever in a Mac,” which honestly wouldn’t take much, but its specs suggest it actually is a big upgrade.

The camera finally achieves 1080p video capabilities, and Apple has also equipped it with a larger sensor that should provide greatly improved low-light performance. The M1 chip has better image signal processing capabilities, and uses computational video powers to correct and improve the image on the fly, which has brought benefits to the image quality even on existing MacBook Air and MacBook Pro hardware with the same old, bad webcam equipment.

That should mean this iMac actually has really good image quality — or at least not image quality you need to be embarrassed about. The on-board machine learning processor in the M1, which Apple calls the Neural Engine, will be working in real-time to optimize lighting and do noise reduction, too.

On top of the camera, Apple touts new beam forming mics in a three-mic array that will optimize audio, focusing on your voice and eliminating background noise. All told, this should finally be a Mac that provides a videoconferencing experience that doesn’t feel like it’s stuck in the early 2000s.


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