The Best Mac Accessories and Upgrades

Over the past six months, I’ve published quite a few tutorials to help Mac users improve the performance of older computers, as well as some great guides to the best Mac accessories across a variety of categories. Today, I’m tying them all together in this handy, one-stop roundup of the best Mac accessories and upgrades.

This guide walks you through everything: in one place, you can learn about the best Mac hard drives, RAM upgrades, docks, keyboards, trackpads, stands, bags, and travel accessories out there. And you can also get free apps to improve your Mac’s storage and responsiveness, find plain English explanations of your Mac’s technical specs, and learn about the little security screws Apple uses to tamper-proof its machines. There’s a lot inside, so you may want to bookmark this piece for future reference!…

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How-To: Decode Apple’s Tech Specs pages before buying a new Mac (Part 1)

techspecs

Buying a Mac is designed to be easy. Apple has a handful of different models, each generally available in good, better, and best configurations. You’re supposed to start with the specific Mac model that fits your needs, pick a configuration that has the price and features you want, and walk away happy with your purchase. (Better yet, do your research online and save money after ordering from Amazon, or use the product guides off to the bottom right of this page.)

One thing Apple tends to downplay are tech specs — important numbers and acronyms that nonetheless confuse many people. Look carefully on Apple’s web site and you’ll find that there’s a Tech Specs page for every Mac Apple sells; they’re the keys to making an informed Mac purchase that will be right for your current and future needs. My latest How-To is here to walk you through each of Apple’s specs with clear explanations, so you can understand what you’re about to buy. This Part 1 discusses the “big 5″ Mac specs you need to know about, and Part 2 tackles the rest

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How-To: Boost your Mac’s speed and prolong its useful life with easy RAM upgrades

imacram

As I’ve spotlighted over the past month, the best way to dramatically speed up an older Mac is to replace its old hard drive with a new solid state drive (SSD). The process is super-easy on MacBooks and Mac Pros, surprisingly manageable on iMacs, and challenging on Mac minis, yielding 3X to 5X speed boosts. But there’s another option that can speed things up with relatively little effort or expertise: upgrading your Mac’s RAM.

RAM upgrades are easy and cheap. You can expect to pay $90 or less for enough (Mac-safe) RAM to run OS X Yosemite without hiccups, or $180 for enough RAM to guarantee you won’t need more for years. Installing RAM generally doesn’t void your Mac’s warranty, and except for several models, the only tool you’ll need is a small screwdriver. Below, I’ll walk you through your best options.

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Next iPhone rumored to (unsurprisingly) feature 2 GB of RAM, Force Touch, Apple SIM

iphone-6-plus

AppleInsider is reporting that it has received information about the next-generation iPhone hardware. It claims that the next iPhone, generally expected to be a ‘6s’ style device (meaning that it will feature internal changes but the external chassis will be the same as the 6), will feature 2 GB of RAM, just like the A8X in the iPad Air 2. It also says that Apple is considering inclusion of an Apple SIM as standard, just like the cellular iPads.

For some context, the iPhone first shipped with 1 GB of RAM in 2012 with the iPhone 5. This means a RAM jump is now about ‘due’, with many expecting an increase last year to help accommodate the increased asset size required by the Retina HD iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Although 9to5Mac cannot directly backup the claims, the advancements feel like an obvious progression for the device given Apple’s inclusion of 2 GB of RAM in the iPad Air 2 as well as the introduction of the Apple SIM last fall. Note also that Apple has doubled RAM every few generations of iPhone, and given that many were expecting an increase last cycle, it is not surprising to see it rumored for the ‘iPhone 6s’, which is likely to feature new and improved internals like other ‘tock’ years.

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Should Apple double the RAM in next year’s iPhones and iPads? [Poll]

ram

2 x 1GB RAM in iPad Air 2 shown in orange (ifixit.com)

A Taiwanese financial news site cited by Apple Toolbox claims that Apple plans to double the RAM in next year’s iPhones from 1GB to 2GB, and the iPad Air from 2GB to 4GB.

As sources of Apple-related news goes, the citation has to rank somewhere in the Digitimes arena, but it was a Taiwanese supply-chain rumor (dart throwing?) that correctly predicted the previous RAM doubling from 1GB in the original iPad Air to 2GB in the iPad Air 2 – albeit a prediction made rather closer to launch …  Read more

Zac’s holiday gift guide – a little something for everyone’s iPhone, iPad, & Mac

Holiday Gift Guide 3

Most of my favorite gift picks this year fall into the category of using the iPhone and iPad on the road so I already shared my favorite gift items for road warriors including CarPlay in-dash receivers and more. The Mac, though, is less transit-friendly when it comes to gifts unless you’re looking for a power adapter for charging in the car, so below I’ve collected some more Mac-friendly gift picks as well as a few analog options and more. Catch up with the rest of 9to5Mac’s holiday gift guides for more ideas and follow 9to5Toys.com for the latest deals.  Read more

Latest iPad Air 2 component leak shows A8X chip & 2GB RAM

A8X iPad

Following component leaks over the weekend purporting to show an A8X chip and Touch ID button destined for new iPads, additional photos re-published by blog apple.club.tw point to a closer look at the modified system-on-a-chip as well as what appears to be 2GB of RAM for application memory. The purported increase in RAM on the updated tablet would double that of the current generation iPad Air (and iPhone 6 for that matter) and make more more powerful multitasking on the device. Read more

Early reviews confirm the iPhone 6 Plus has the same 1GB RAM as the 4.7-inch model (Updated)

RAM

Early reviews confirm that the iPhone 6 Plus has the same 1GB RAM as the iPhone 6. It had been suggested by some that the 5.5-inch model might have a higher spec, with 2GB RAM.

They reveal that both models of the iPhone 6 have identical specs bar the display, battery and optical stabilisation in the camera of the larger model (the 4.7-inch model having only electronic stabilisation) …  Read more

Report claims next-gen iPad Air will double RAM amount to 2GB

iPad Air

A new report from Asian site TechNews.tw claims information from the Apply supply chain points to the next generation iPad Air doubling up on RAM from 1GB to 2GB. The additional memory would benefit system performance, especially during multitasking, when more memory-intesive tasks like browsing multiple websites in Safari and using other apps requires more RAM to function smoothly.

While most of the parts and component leaks out of the supply chain have centered around the next generation iPhone, which is expected to debut at an Apple event next month, the new report that the next generation iPad Air will double its memory follows a Bloomberg report earlier this month that new iPads with an anti-reflective coating over the display have entered production. Read more

Apple announces 9 new CarPlay partners including Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Fiat

Apple-CarPlay-dash

Apple today announced nine additional partners committed to shipping CarPlay integration in future vehicles marking the first expansion to that list since the feature was officially introduced in March. Joining the list of existing CarPlay partners for 2014 and beyond is Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Mazda, and Ram. Each new auto manufacturer is committed to integrating CarPlay in models planned to be announced and released in the future.

Audi, as you may recall, first mentioned its plans to introduce CarPlay in an announcement last week, and yesterday the luxury car maker expanded on those plans saying support will roll out in Europe in 2015 and the United States during the following year. Read more

OWC processor/memory upgrades available for the Mac Pro you’re still waiting to receive

intel_xeon_e5_2600_v2

You may still be waiting for your Mac Pro to arrive, but OWC is ready to sell you a CPU upgrade once it does. The company offers a choice of four E5 2600-series processors, ranging from an 8-core 2.6GHz chip with 20MB cache for $950, to a 12-core 2.7GHz processor for $1480.

We first confirmed that CPU upgrades were possible last December. The company says the upgraded processors offer speed gains ranging from 25 percent to 46 percent over Apple’s base model 4-core 1600-series processor. You can get rebates of between $100 and $750 for trading in the processor supplied with your Mac Pro, and also have the option of boosting the RAM from Apple’s maximum of 64GB to 128GB …  Read more

New Mac minis get first tear down and Geekbench scores

Apple’s refreshed Mac mini lineup already received some nice RAM upgrade options from OWC this morning, but now we get a look at the insides of the updated Macs courtesy of a tear down from Mac Mini Vault. The website also published Geekbench scores for the device, showing some impressive performance increases over the 2011 models.

First off, it found minimal changes to packaging and the positioning of the new Mac mini’s internals:

The overall packaging size was unchanged, however marketing specs have been updated and the inside organization has been optimized… Under the hood only minor differences are visible. Most notable are the fan design, Hitachi hard drive, and connections for the antennas. (2012 on left – 2011 on right)

As for Geekbench, the new stock Mac minis were able to record a score of 7433 running 10.8.1 out of the box. In comparison, Mac Mini Vault had a 2011 Mac mini running 10.8.2 clocked at 6583. Mac Mini Vault also noted it will begin testing alternative OS options for the new Mac mini server edition next week:

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