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M1 iMac, iPad Pro, Apple TV 4K, Airtags: What we bought and why

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The AppleInsider staff talks about what new gear we purchased from the Apple "Spring Loaded" event, along with our thoughts on Apple's latest offerings.

In April, Apple held its first event of 2021, dubbed "Spring Loaded." The hour-long prerecorded event served to highlight what devices customers would be able to purchase from Apple.

Apple's April releases were different from prior years. Usually, when the company releases something, it's a very short period of time from the event to the pre-order.

This time it was weeks. That's more time to think about what the company released and how it will fit into workflows that vary widely, even across a group like the AppleInsider staff.

Here's everything AppleInsider staffers bought — or didn't buy — at Apple's April event.

Mike Wuerthele

This Apple event is the first one that I did not personally cover in well over a decade. So, instead of processing it all live, I had the luxury of reading the coverage after the fact. That, plus the month it took for Apple to open pre-orders and start shipping, gave me even more time to process what I needed to add to my own setup.

My initial assessment was that I wanted AirTags for my keys and one of my children's wheelchairs. Keys are an obvious reason, and the wheelchair gets "lost" more often than you'd think. In some venues or large hospital mega-chains, the chair gets "parked," and she's either carried to where she needs to go or put on a gurney. The chair is then moved to a holding area, without all the staff being fully aware of where it is — and there are a few chairs that look just like it from a distance.

I also bought two new Apple TV Siri remotes to replace the original one. I don't personally have any problems with them. Still, there are enough complaints in the house about them with existing Apple TVs that it's a good solution to the problem, without sacrificing Siri support with a third-party option.

And then, on Friday, we discovered in an Apple support document that the second-generation Apple TV 4K can use HDMI ARC or eARC to play all of a TV's audio to an original HomePod pair. This solves a problem that I'm personally having in the living room with a pesky Vizio soundbar that's been giving me grief, so it's time for it to go. I already have the original HomePods, so I'm adding the new Apple TV to the mix. The existing one in the living room will cascade down and replace my sole surviving third-generation Apple TV.

As far as the iPad Pro goes — had the 12.9-inch 1TB model with 16GB of RAM been able to run macOS, I'd have thrown money at Apple. It doesn't, and what it brings to the table isn't compelling enough for my Mac-centric workflow otherwise, to pick one up this time around. I'm willing to bet Wes Hilliard disagrees with me on this point, though.

Amber Neely

I only snagged one item from April's event — a yellow 24-inch iMac with 512GB of storage. This didn't come as a shock to me, though, as I had already said that I'd get the next iMac because I had been itching to get back to a desktop computer.

I've always been a desktop computer user at heart, so making the switch wasn't exactly a hard choice. I run my current computer — a 2018 i7 MacBook Pro — entirely in clamshell mode. While it works, it comes with a ton of downsides, including, but not limited to: a disastrous amount of cords on my desk, the need for a docking station, and the continual dissatisfaction with using an external monitor.

The iMac, however, solves most of these issues, and it has the bonus of including the M1 chip. I spend a lot of time using apps like GarageBand and Final Cut Pro, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they perform on Apple Silicon.

As stated above, I didn't purchase any of the other newly debuted items — though I assume I'll eventually wind up with a few AirTags. I feel that slapping one on my bag and one on my keys would be wise, considering I'm somewhat prone to losing anything that isn't physically attached to me.

Neil Hughes

Apple Arcade has a surprisingly decent lineup of games, and I enjoy playing them on my Apple TV with an Xbox controller. I also recently invested in an Intel NUC for Windows PC gaming that lives in my office and streaming it to my Apple TV in my living room via Moonlight works really well.

I also have an extensive HomeKit setup, so future-proofing with Thread for my connected devices is appealing. And I shoot a lot of video on my iPhone 12 Pro, and the ability to view high-frame-rate HDR content is something I intend to take advantage of.

Finally, the new remote looks like a great upgrade — I'm particularly excited about iPod-like clickwheel scrubbing through content, as the old Siri remote was finicky for fast-forwarding and rewinding.

So although the new Apple TV 4K with an A12 processor isn't quite the powerhouse I was hoping for, I was a prime candidate for an upgrade and happily plunked down $199 for the 64-gigabyte model. I would have happily paid even more for a model with a newer processor and more capacity, though.

I'm also in the market for the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro with XDR display. I'm particularly relieved to know that my year-old $350 Magic Keyboard will, in fact, work just fine with the new model and that Apple's initial information about incompatibility was wrong.

I'm still waiting on my iPad Pro with M1 CPU purchase, however, because it's unclear whether the upgrade to 16 gigabytes of RAM is worth it. For now, all eyes are on WWDC.

If Apple announces a next generation of iPadOS that will truly utilize the additional RAM in the higher-end models, I'll consider springing for the 1-terabyte model priced at $1,799. But if the next iPadOS doesn't truly take off the training wheels, I'll happily get a 256-gigabyte model with 8 gigabytes of RAM for $600 cheaper and put the money saved toward a future MacBook Pro with M1X or M2 CPU.

Finally, a word about the new iMacs: I love almost everything about them — they are fun and beautiful. I hope that Apple offers the same colors in the form of a 24-inch standalone display that I can use with my MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and Intel NUC because I am ready to ditch my LG UltraFine 4K.

William Gallagher

I bought an Apple TV 4K and a set of four AirTags, all the instant they were first available to pre-order. The AirTags are the easiest to explain because who didn't buy one? Even as we in the UK are only slowly coming out of lockdown and I'm unlikely to be traveling, I bought two for myself and two for my wife.

We've each got an AirTag on our keyrings, and we have a spare that's ready to be chucked in our luggage the moment we have a use for luggage again.

The Apple TV 4K is harder to explain, and yet, if anything, it was an even easier decision than getting AirTags. Some five years ago or so, I bought an Apple TV HD with 32GB SSD, and it was a bit of an indulgence. I'd been using the previous older one and found it handy for watching all the many iTunes purchases I'd made.

Over those five years, though, the Apple TV HD went from how I would watch purchased movies to how everyone in my household watches everything. One mentioned the other day that she could no longer remember how you watched via anything else.

It's because of that Apple TV HD that I dropped our satellite television subscription after two decades. It's because of that little box that I've got into Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the UK's Britbox.

Throughout the time, I've appreciated just how gorgeous it all looked, too. Even just in HD and even though at some point during the five years, I bought a new TV which supports 4K.

Now I've got the Apple TV 4K set up, there are plenty of times when I don't see the difference from HD — but then suddenly there will be a shot or a scene, and it is utterly beautiful.

I would like to see how the same shows look on the new iPad Pro, but as good as I think they are, my work doesn't need it. When I used to travel more, I would occasionally use two iPads at events, but my mother has nabbed one of those now.

That should be enough excuse to buy now, yet even though my remaining one, a 12.9-inch iPad Pro from 2015, has patches on the screen that won't respond to touch, it's still too good. Unless you'd like to buy a used 2015 iPad Pro with fewer and fewer parts of the screen you can touch...

The one other thing I would have bought from Apple under most circumstances is the new iMac. I'm concerned that a 24-inch screen is too small, but if I were buying a desktop Mac now, that's the one I would go for.

Instead, I bought a desktop Mac about two months ago. My Apple Silicon Mac mini is so good that I'm enjoying spending at least ten hours a day in front of it.

Mike Peterson

I am, typically, slow to purchase new devices. This release cycle was no different. I personally don't have much use for an iPad, though the new M1-equipped models are tempting. An M1 iMac would be on my list were it not for the fact that I upgraded to a 16-inch MacBook Pro with maxed-out specifications in 2020.

I'll probably pick up AirTags sometime in the near future as the pandemic eases, though I haven't had a compelling reason to do so yet. The Apple TV 4K looks nice, but I'm likelier to buy a new PlayStation 5 since I do all of my TV and movie watching on a PS4.

I'm long overdue for an iPhone upgrade, though I'm currently waiting for the 2021 handset launch.

Wes Hilliard

When Apple announced the updated iPad Pro with an M1 processor, I had to have it. I ordered the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with 1TB of storage and 5G cellular in space gray. I also ordered the new Magic Keyboard since there was some question about compatibility issues.

Early reviews show that the M1 processor performs well in the iPad form factor, but this is only a part of the story. Now that Apple openly tells users about the RAM, I believe it will play a bigger role in the future. WWDC is only a few weeks away, and changes to iPadOS and more powerful software are all but certain at this point.

No, I didn't upgrade the machine with the promise of better software in the future. I upgraded because I already get my money's worth from this machine, so improved specs and 5G will make all the difference when I'm working. The idea that it can only get better from here only sweetens the deal.

I also ordered the new Apple TV 4K simply because of its improved processor. The A12 isn't as modern as I'd like, but it is enough of an improvement to make the Apple TV that much better. I like playing Apple Arcade games like "Fantasian" and "The Last Capmpfire," so having an Apple TV that can run those games without lag is important to me.

The 24-inch iMac is an interesting computer that I would buy if money were no object. It is a beautifully crafted piece of hardware, and I want to have those color-matched accessories, but it isn't something I'd use often. The Mac paradigm isn't something I interact with regularly, and when I do, it is to manage home server stuff and back up photos.

I plan on getting an iMac in the future, but I think I'll wait to see what the bigger pro models look like before making a decision. The iPad Pro will more than satiate my desire to try Apple's new silicon since my modular computer is used for everything. So, I am not personally in a hurry to get an M-series desktop just to see it collect dust in the corner of my living room.

Daniel Hipskind

This Apple event was the first one I hadn't covered in about a year and a half. Of course, I still had to sit back, relax, and watch it on my TV. As always, the production quality of this event was outstanding, but the products announced did not impress me. Therefore, I decided not to purchase any of them.

The most convincing one that I may consider purchasing would be the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I can imagine the Liquid Retina XDR display to be stunning with ProMotion and 10,000 mini LEDs. Along with that comes the M1 Processor to give you a smooth-sailing iPadOS experience.

But, with that comes the issue — for me, iPadOS does not bring features to compete with my current needs for a computer, and I'm not going to get anything more out of it than I get from my current 3rd Generation iPad Pro. If Apple were to integrate more macOS features into iPadOS, I would definitely consider it in the future.

The 24-inch iMac was by far the most disappointing for me. The colors were should have included some of Apple's more stereotypical colors — such as Space Grey. On top of that, I already purchased a Mac mini in November 2020 and already have perfected my setup. But I do wish I could buy the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and have it work on my Mac mini.

The Apple TV 4K captured my attention. Admittedly, I have never owned an Apple TV, but I have messed with them several times at various times — so I've always been interested in purchasing one of my own. The new remote intrigued me, and the processor they chose to put in the device didn't bother me. The few reasons I am holding back on buying this Apple TV 4K are the fact that I don't currently have a 4K TV, and my current TV has Roku built-in, and Roku has all the features I need in a TV.

Overall, AirTag was super compelling — but I don't have a reason to purchase any. The only items I routinely carry with me are my iPhone, my Apple Watch, my keys, and my wallet. I can easily track my iPhone and Apple Watch already with Find My, and my wallet would be too bulky with a tracker in it. I am not a person to want bulk on my keys — besides, they never leave my person when I am out of the house.