Valve’s new verification program will make it easy to see if a game runs on Steam Deck

Ahead of Steam Deck’s December release, Valve has detailed the compatibility program it will use to let people know if they can play their games on the portable PC. Dubbed Deck Verified, the system groups games into four categories: “Verified,” “Playable,” “Unsupported” and “Unkown.”

If you see a game with the first badge, it means it will work great out of the box. Of the playable category, Valve says you may need to do some tweaking. For example, in a title like Team Fortress 2, you might have to download a community controller configuration before you can use the Steam Deck’s thumbsticks and face buttons to play the game. Valve lists Half-Life: Alyx as an example of an experience that you won’t be able to play on Steam Deck, suggesting the unsupported category will be mostly occupied by VR titles. Lastly, an unknown tag means the company hasn’t had a chance to test that game for compatibility yet.

Deck Verified

To earn verified status, a game must meet four criteria. First, it should include full controller support, and the onscreen keyboard should appear when needed. Second, you shouldn’t see any compatibility warnings. The game should also support the Steam Deck’s native 1,280 by 800 resolution, and text should be easily readable. Lastly, if the title is playable through Proton, everything, including any anti-cheat software, should work through the compatibility layer.

To make things easy, you’ll see the badges appear both in your Steam library and the store. Moreover, each time you go to buy a game, you’ll see a full compatibility report that lists any issues to expect when playing it. Valve says it’s also working on a system that will allow you to see what compatibility category each game in your library falls under before Steam Deck is available in December. 

If nothing else, the system should make it easier to decide if it makes sense to buy a Steam Deck. The last thing anyone wants is to spend $400 on a new gadget and not be able to play their favorite games.  

EPA announces plans to regulate cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’

Showing up in everything from cosmetics and dental floss to product packaging and cleaning supplies. polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are ubiquitous to the modern world. They're also known as "forever chemicals" as they do not break down in nature. What's more, they've been linked to a host of human diseases, from thyroid conditions to certain cancers, which is why, in 2016, the Obama administration enacted a unenforceable recommendation limiting the amount of PFAS in a given product should not exceed 70 parts per trillion. On Monday, the Biden administration announced that it will give Obama's recommendation some teeth.

Today, @EPAMichaelRegan announced EPA’s Strategic Roadmap to confront #PFAS. This roadmap delivers on the agency’s mission to protect public health & the environment and answers the call for action on these persistent & dangerous chemicals. Read more here:

— U.S. EPA (@EPA) October 18, 2021

“This is a really bold set of actions for a big problem,” EPA administrator Michael Regan told The Washington Post. “This strategy really lays out a series of concrete and ambitious actions to protect people. There are concrete steps that we are taking that move this issue forward in a very aggressive way.”

The EPA unveiled its 3-year roadmap towards regulating the class of chemicals on Monday centers on a trio of approaches: "increase investments in research, leverage authorities to take action now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment, and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination," according to the EPA. To that end, the administration plans to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act, designate PFAS as a hazardous substance under CERCLA (which would hold manufacturers financially liable for incinerating the chemical or releasing it into waterways), set timelines for establishing effluent guideline limitations under the Clean Water Act, review rules and guidance under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and expand monitoring, data collection and research of the chemicals. Additionally, the agency announced a new national testing strategy that will require PFAS manufacturers to provide toxicity data on the chemicals they create. 

“Communities contaminated by these toxic forever chemicals have waited decades for action,” Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, said in a press statement. “So, it’s good news that Administrator Regan will fulfill President Biden’s pledge to take quick action to reduce PFOA and PFOS in tap water, to restrict industrial releases of PFAS into the air and water, and to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances to hold polluters accountable. It’s been more than 20 years since EPA and EWG first learned that these toxic forever chemicals were building up in our blood and increasing our likelihood of cancer and other health harms. It’s time for action, not more plans, and that’s what this Administrator will deliver."

A handful of states including New Jersey, Vermont, Michigan, and New York, have already moved to regulate the chemicals on their own — California banned their use in baby and toddler products earlier this year — while the EU has banned many of the chemicals outright. The US Navy has announced that it will ban PFAS from its firefighting foam by October, 2023, as directed by Congress.

New FCC rules could force wireless carriers to block spam texts

Under Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the Federal Communications Commission is seeking to create new rules targeting spam text messages. Like another recent proposed rulemaking from the agency, the policy would push wireless carriers and telephone companies to block the spam before it ever gets to your phone.

“We’ve seen a rise in scammers trying to take advantage of our trust of text messages by sending bogus robotexts that try to trick consumers to share sensitive information or click on malicious links,” Rosenworcel said. “It’s time we take steps to confront this latest wave of fraud and identify how mobile carriers can block these automated messages before they have the opportunity to cause any harm.”

Combating spam calls and texts has been a focus of the FCC under Rosenworcel. In addition to recently issuing the largest fine in its history, the agency established a Robocall Response Team to coordinate its efforts against spam callers. The need for action is pressing. In 2020 alone, the FCC received approximately 14,000 complaints about unwanted text messages, representing a 146 percent increase from the year before. As part of the FCC's rulemaking process, the public will have a chance to comment on the proposal before the agency decides whether to implement the policy.

Here’s everything Apple announced at its fall Mac event

On Monday, Apple held its second and likely last hardware event of the fall. “Unleashed” saw the company spend about an hour talking about updates to its Mac and Music product lineups. After the by-the-numbers affair that was the iPhone 13 event, Monday’s presentation was a more exciting thing to watch, thanks in large part to the first significant refresh to the MacBook Pro in five years. Here’s everything the company announced at the event.

MacBook Pro

Macbook Pro 2021 redesign

Unsurprisingly, the redesigned MacBook Pros were the star of the show, and there’s a lot to unpack between the two new 14- and 16-inch models. As expected, both laptops represent a return to form for the MacBook Pro line. Apple has replaced the Touch Bar with a standard set of function keys, as well as added MagSafe, an SD card slot and an HDMI port. New to both computers are 120Hz ProMotion displays. The 14-inch model will run its screen at 3,024 x 1,964, while the 16-inch variant has a 3,456 x 2,234 panel. Each also has an iPhone-style camera notch that is likely to be divisive.

Additionally, you can configure both models with Apple’s new, more powerful M1 Pro and Max chips (more on them in a moment). All those new features come at a cost, with the 14-inch base model and 16-inch base model set to start at $1,999 and $2,499 respectively. You can pre-order both computers today, with general availability to follow on October 26th. In the meantime, macOS Monterey will land the day before on October 25th.

M1 Pro and M1 Max

Apple M1 Pro and M1 Max chip

At the heart of the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros are Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Both feature 5nm 10-core processors made up of eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency units. Where they differ from one another is in terms of potential video and memory performance. The M1 Pro comes with up to 16 GPU cores and can support up to 32GB of RAM with 200 GB/s of bandwidth. The M1 Max, meanwhile, tops out at 32 graphics cores and double the RAM and memory bandwidth. In practice, Apple claims the chips are 70 percent faster than its previous M1 SoC and offer up to 1.7 times faster performance than competing CPUs from Intel and AMD. They should also make short work of the company’s updated Final Cut and Logic suites.



Going into Monday’s event, we were confident Apple would update its “basic” AirPods. But other than an AirPods Pro-like design, we weren’t expecting them to get many new features. So what we saw today was a surprise. While you won’t find ANC on the updated AirPods, they do include support for Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking and Adaptive EQ. The latter allows the AirPods to adjust the low and mid-range frequencies of audio in real-time. Other notable specs include IPX4 sweat and water resistance and up to 30 hours total of battery life with help from the included charging case.

You can pre-order the new AirPods starting today for $179. They’ll begin shipping on October 26th. For those who want to save some money, Apple has discounted the second-generation AirPods to $129.

Apple Music Voice Plan

Apple HomePod Mini

Alongside the third-generation AirPods, the company announced a discounted Apple Music plan. It will only set you back $5 per month but the catch is you can only control the service through Siri. Apple pitched the plan as the ideal complement for the HomePod mini. Speaking of Apple’s diminutive smart speaker, it will be available in three additional colors — yellow, orange and blue — starting in November.

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

Unannounced Beats Fit Pro earbuds leak in iOS 15.1

Aside from a new pair of AirPods, Apple will also apparently launch a pair of Beats Fit Pro earbuds soon. According to 9to5Mac, the earbuds will be like the Beats Studio Buds which were released earlier this year, albeit with a slightly different design. The outlet found these images of the product in internal iOS 15.1 RC files.

Sources also told 9to5Mac that the Beats Fit Pro will have Active Noise Cancellation, Class 1 Bluetooth and Apple’s H1 chip for fast pairing with Apple products. It’ll apparently also feature a built-in accelerometer that’s designed to reduce external noise. As for battery life, the outlet reports that it’ll have 6 hours with ANC or Transparency Mode enabled or 7 hours with Adaptive EQ. The charging case will supposedly give it a total of around 27 to 30 hours of charge.

9to5Mac reports that Beats Fit Pro is scheduled to be announced the week of November 1st, with shipment occurring later.

Disney delays all of Marvel’s 2022 films

Disney has shaken up its movie release calendar, with several Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks being delayed. The revamped schedule, which Variety reports is due to a production-related snowball effect, affects the slate for 2022 and beyond, and it will have a knock-on effect on Disney+.

All of the MCU films Disney had on the docket for 2022 have been pushed to a later slot. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was penciled in for March 25th, but now it's taking Thor: Love and Thunder's old date of May 6th. The next Thor movie will arrive on July 8th, in turn pushing back Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to November 11th.

The schedule shifts mean there will only be three Marvel movies next year instead of the planned four, as Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels now has a release date of February 17th, 2023. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has moved from that date to July 28th, 2023. On the flip side, Disney brought one mystery Marvel movie (hopefully Guardians of the Galaxy 3) forward by a week from November 10th, 2023.

Elsewhere, the next Indiana Jones movie has been delayed by 11 months. You'll need to wait until June 30th, 2023 for Harrison Ford's fifth stint as the iconic archeologist. Ford sustained an injury while filming this summer, though he's now back in action. A live-action Disney movie, a 20th Century film and two Marvel flicks (all untitled) have been removed from the 2023 schedule. 

Remarkably, given how many times the film has been delayed over the years, Disney hasn't shifted Avatar 2's release date. It's still on the schedule for December 16th, 2022.

It remains to be seen what impact these changes will have on Disney+. For the rest of 2021, Disney has committed to an exclusive theatrical window for its films before they're available to stream, but it hasn't divulged how things will work in 2022 and beyond.

The company adopted a simultaneous release strategy for some of its movies over the last year or so amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with Mulan, Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella and Black Widow requiring a $30 Premier Access pass for early access on Disney+. Disney's decision to let viewers stream Black Widow at home on the same day it hit theaters prompted a now-settled lawsuit from star Scarlett Johansson. Pixar movies Soul and Luca went straight to streaming as part of regular Disney+ subscriptions in some countries.

Elsewhere, some MCU shows on Disney+, such as Loki and Hawkeye, tie into the theatrical movies. As such, the scheduling of future series might be impacted by the overhauled theatrical slate.

Apple updates Final Cut and Logic to take advantage of new M1 Pro and Max chips

Apple made much ado of its redesigned MacBook Pro's creative prowess during its "Unleashed" event, and it's updating its flagship media editing software to take full advantage of the improved hardware. The company has released new versions of Final Cut Pro (10.6) and Logic Pro (10.7) that make the most of the M1 Pro and M1 Max, particularly in video processing and machine learning. FCP editors can play up to seven streams of 8K ProRes at once, and export in the format over five times faster — no mean feat for a laptop, as Apple was keen to point out. You can even color-grade 8K HDR footage using only the MacBook Pro's built-in screen.

There's also a new Object Tracker you can use to link animated effects to faces and objects. You can easily edit Cinematic Mode video from the iPhone 13 series, too. Motion now renders visual effects work up to two times faster, and can play two 8K video streams at five times the previous frame rate. Compressor, meanwhile, transcodes HEVC video up to twice as fast, and ProRes up to ten times as quickly. And if you live in Canon's world, you can transcode Cinema RAW Light videos to other formats for the first time. There's even a Watch Folders feature that will automatically encode content when it reaches a given folder — helpful for streamlining a workflow, particularly among teams.

The Logic Pro update, meanwhile, is focused on spatial audio creation — just in time for the new AirPods, of course. New mixers, panners and plugins let you author Dolby Atmos tracks, and the new MacBook Pros can use their added performance to create particularly advanced mixes. The music editing tool now comes bundled with the Producer Packs you saw in GarageBand, too, so you can integrate royalty-free beats and samples from the likes of Boys Noize, Mark Ronson and Trakgirl.

Both updates are free for existing users. Final Cut Pro normally costs $300 for new users, with Motion and Compressor costing $50 each. Logic Pro is priced at $200. The upgrades make the most sense if you're deeply invested in ProRes or intend to publish on Apple Music. Still, it's easy to see the appeal, at least for FCP. You could quickly turn around certain video projects using only your MacBook Pro, even if you're working primarily with 8K footage.

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

How to pre-order Apple’s new AirPods and MacBook Pros

Apple's "Unleashed" event today focused on music and the Mac, with the company revealing updated products in each category. We finally got word of the next-generation AirPods, which have a new design and support for spatial audio plus MagSage wireless charging. The company also unveiled new colors for its HomePod mini smart speaker and two new MacBook Pros for the power users among us. The laptops run on the company's new M1 Pro and M1 Max chipsets and sport revamped designs with webcam notches, Liquid Retina XDR displays and extra ports (HDMI and an SD slot!). Here's how to pre-order everything Apple announced today.


Apple AirPods (3rd gen)

Apple kicked off the show by talking about music and revealing new AirPods. The third-generation AirPods bring a new design, wireless charging capabilities and spatial audio support. They're available for pre-order today from Apple's website and cost $179. They'll be available in stores on October 26th.

Buy AirPods (3rd gen) at Apple – $179

The third-gen AirPods have a contoured design that looks similar to the AirPods Pro, but they don't have the interchangeable ear tips of Apple's more advanced earbuds. Inside the buds is a new low-distortion driver that produces powerful bass along with crisp highs. These buds have a few features previously only available on AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, including spatial audio and Adaptive EQ, the latter of which automatically adjusts frequencies in real time based on what you're listening to.

The new AirPods have a sweat and water-resistant design and Apple improved the battery life, too. These should last up to six hours on a charge, and you'll get an hour of listening time after only five minutes of charging. The case is now MagSafe and wireless-charging capable and it holds four additional full charges, so you can enjoy around 30 hours of total listening time.

Apple is keeping the second-generation AirPods around, which will be good for anyone who doesn't want to shell out $179 for the new ones. The second-generation AirPods are now priced at $129, and the AirPods Pro are still listed $250 (although you can often find them for less) and they now come with a MagSafe charging case.

MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Pro 2021

Apple's latest 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros come equipped with the company's new M1 Pro or M1 Max processors, and feature a brand new design with a webcam notch and some much-requested extra ports. Both models are available for pre-order today from Apple's website. The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,999 while the 16-inch version starts at $2,499. They'll be widely available on October 26th.

Buy 14-inch MacBook Pro at Apple starting at $1,999Buy 16-inch MacBook Pro at Apple starting at $2,499

The new MacBook Pros have aluminum enclosures and an advanced thermal system that's built to handle the power that comes with Apple's latest, high-end chipsets. The laptop ushers in several significant design changes, including a new keyboard that's supposed to be more similar to the company's Magic Keyboard for iMac. Also, the TouchBar is gone; it's been replaced with physical Function keys, something that TouchBar skeptics will likely cheer.

These MacBook Pros are thicker than previous models because they actually have a healthy variety of ports. Both have a total of three Thunderbolt 4 ports along with an HDMI socket, an SD card slot, a headphone jack and a MagSafe connector for charging (although you can power up via the Thunderbolt ports as well). This will be a welcome change for power users who have been living the dongle life for years with previous-gen MacBook Pros.

Additionally, the new laptops have Liquid Retina XDR displays that reach almost to the end of the machines' lids, interrupted by a notch that holds the 1080p webcam. The 14-inch model has a 14.2-inch 3,024 x 1,964 resolution screen, to be precise, while the 16-inch model has a 16.2-inch 3,456 x 2,234 panel. Both support ProMotion with refresh rates up to 120Hz. Apple is promising up to 17 hours of video playback on the 14-inch model and up to 21 hours of video playback on the larger version. As for other specs, you can customize the laptops with up to 32GB of RAM and up to a whopping 8TB of storage.

HomePod mini

Apple HomePod mini

Lastly, Apple announced new colors of the HomePod mini: yellow, orange and blue. Those join the existing space gray and white color options and will be available to order from Apple's website in November for $99.

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

Apple’s macOS Monterey update is coming October 25th

The next version of macOS will be available to download beginning October 25th. Apple shared the release date at its "Unleashed" event today alongside the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips and a redesigned MacBook Pro.

The macOS Monterey update comes with notable improvements to FaceTime, including support for Spatial Audio, and the ability to use SharePlay to listen to music and watch videos with your friends. One of the biggest changes is the addition of Universal Control, which allows users to seamlessly move back and forth between an iPad and a Mac. The feature, which builds one earlier Continuity updates, allows users to drag and drop files between multiple devices and type on an iPad from a MacBook keyboard. 

But both SharePlay and Universal Control, which wasn’t available in initial betas of macOS Monterey, will be arriving after the initial update "later this fall," according to Apple.

The release also comes with a major update to Safari that’s at times been controversial due to significant changes to the tab bar and other key features. (The most recent beta brought back the tab bar by default after earlier versions of the update removed it.) Other improvements to look forward to include Live Text, a Google Lens-like feature that allows you to select text within photos, and the addition of Quick Notes. MacOS is also getting some updates that first appeared in iOS 15, including Focus Modes, and support for "Shared with You," which keeps track of content shared within the Messages app.

Apple is bringing two other important iOS features to the Mac with the Shortcuts app and support for AirPlay, as Macs running macOS Monterey will be able to use their devices as an AirPlay speaker.

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

Apple cuts the price of the second-gen AirPods to $129

Apple revealed an all-new set of AirPods today, but the current model isn't going away just yet. The company also announced that it's cutting the price on the 2019 model from $159 to $129. That price doesn't include the wireless charging case that works with Qi-certified accessories. 

Either way, you can expect to pay less for the previous-gen version. That could still be a smart purchase if you can live without features like Spatial Audio and Adaptive EQ, among other things. The 2019 model does still offer hands-free Siri, which is quite handy in its own right. For comparison, the second-generation model is currently $119 on Amazon, or $160 with wireless charging case

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

Update 4:25PM ET: This post has been updated to reflect a change on Apple's product page for the discounted second-gen model concerning the wireless charging case.

Apple’s latest MacBook Pros have MagSafe, SD card slots and camera notches

It’s been five years since Apple released a totally redesigned version of the MacBook Pro, a laptop that opened the company up to years of criticism for everything from its flawed keyboard design and the Touch Bar to its lack of any ports besides USB-C. But, as expected, Apple is giving the MacBook Pro a complete do-over, and it sounds an improvement in several areas.

The laptops come in 14.2- and 16.2-inch models, with increased resolutions over the earlier models. The 14-inch model runs at 3,024 x 1,964 resolution, while the 16-inch models has 3,456 x 2,234 resolution. ProMotion high refresh rate is on board, too, with up to a 120Hz option. But, the laptops also have a camera notch, just like the iPhone, something that was rumored in the lead-up to today's "Unleashed" press event. The notch is about the size of the menu bar, so while it's a bit strange it still offers way more screen real estate than before. And, both laptops are using mini LED technology, similar to what’s in the current 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Naturally, Apple’s latest laptops are using the company’s own custom silicon. This time, it’s the M1 Pro. As the rumors predicted, it’s a 5-nanometer, 10-core chip with eight high-performance cores and two efficiency cores. It's 70 percent faster than the M1, and has one 16 graphics cores. Apple also announced an M1 Max, which has twice the memory bandwidth as the M1 Pro (400GB/s), and it also has 32 graphics cores. The M1 Max also supports up to 64GB memory, a huge improvement over the 16GB of memory that was supported by the M1.

As for ports, those of us out there who miss the plentiful options on older MacBooks should be pretty happy here. The new MacBook Pro unsurprisingly features three USB-C / Thunderbolt ports, but it also brings back an HDMI socket and SD card slot, two features fans have long been demanding be re-added. There aren’t any USB-A ports here, but the SD card slot and HDMI port should definitely reduce people's reliance on dongles.

Another old friend from MacBooks past has made a return here. Apple has implemented a new version of its MagSafe connector, which it used on its laptops for years prior to 2016. It’s different from the old connector, so you won’t be able to bust out a charger from years past and expect it to work, unfortunately. That said, you can still charge via USB-C if that's your jam.

The camera system has been improved here as well, with computational video and a 1080p resolution with an f/2.0 four-element lens. And the 16-inch laptop has a six-speaker system, with tweeters nearly two times larger than before. The keyboard, meanwhile, keeps the redesigned scissor switch mechanism, but the Touch Bar is gone, replaced with a standard function key row.

Battery life for these laptops should be pretty excellent. Apple says that the 14-inch model will run for 17 hours while playing video, while the 16-inch can last up to 21 hours. And they have fast charging, so you can get 50 percent of your battery life refilled in about 30 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, these laptops are also expensive. The 14-inch model starts at $1,999, while the 16-inch version starts at $2,499. Apple is also keeping the old-design 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 chip around for those who can't justify spending two grand or more on their next laptop. 

The entry-level $1,999 14-inch configuration comes with the M1 Pro with eight CPU cores, 14 graphics cores, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. That's less performance than Apple promised out of the M1 Pro; to get the full 10-core CPU and 16-core graphics, you'll need to spend $2,499. That price bump also gets you 1TB of storage. 

The base 16-inch MacBook Pro ($2,499) has almost the same specs as the $2,499 14-inch model: an M1 Pro with 10 CPU cores, 16 graphics cores, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of memory. Spending an extra $200 doubles the storage, bringing it to 1TB. If you want the M1 Max, you're looking to spend $3,499, with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. You can pre-order now, and they'll be available on October 26th.

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

M1 Pro and M1 Max are Apple’s high-end Mac chips

It's been almost a year since Apple unveiled its first custom chip for Macs, the ARM-based M1. As we saw in our review of the latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and colorful iMac, the M1 was a marvel, proving to be both faster than Intel and AMD's x86 processors, while also drawing far less power. Now, in a follow-up move, Apple is taking a two-pronged approach with M1 Pro and M1 Max, the two chips underpinning the company's new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros.

Apple M1 Pro

Both chips have 5nm 10-core processors, comprised of eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency units. What separates them are their GPU and memory capabilities: the M1 Pro has up to a 16-core GPU while the Max has tops out at 32 graphics cores. In comparison, last year's M1 was an eight-core chip that maxed out with eight GPU cores. The M1 Pro comes with up to 32GB of RAM with 200 GB/s of bandwidth, while the M1 Max doubles both of those figures, supporting up to 64GB of RAM.

Apple M1 Max

Based on these specs, power users will see a much bigger performance upgrade by going for a MacBook Pro. Last year's M1-equipped 13-inch MacBook Pro wasn't much faster than the M1 Air; the Pro basically added a fan for more sustained workloads, whereas the Air was miraculously fanless. That was an odd situation for Apple: It was both a testament to the power of Apple silicon, and a sign that the company needed to devote more time to its powerful machines.

Given that the 16-inch MacBook Pro was practically forgotten over the past year, the M1 Pro and M1 Max are exactly what creative professionals have been waiting for. And that's before you get to all of the other updates coming to the new notebooks (More ports! An SD card slot!). Apple says the chips offer up to 1.7X faster performance than competing eight-core PC chips, which makes them particularly compelling for people doing heavy-duty 3D and video rendering. 

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

Apple’s redesigned AirPods bring Spatial Audio and Adaptive EQ for $179

There's no denying the popularity of Apple's AirPods, but the regular model has been overdue for a refresh. Announced in spring 2019, the second generation of the company's true wireless earbuds brought improvements like faster pairing, hands-free Siri and wireless charging. While some companies are cranking out multiple models a year, Apple hasn't needed to do that, hence the two-year gap between new models. Today, the company finally debuted the third-iteration AirPods with an updated design, Spatial Audio, Adaptive EQ and one-touch setup. 

Apple says the newest AirPods are safe for workouts thanks to IPX4 sweat and water resistance. Hands-free Siri is back, while a skin sensor detects when you're wearing the earbuds, automatically pausing when one is removed. As for battery life, you can expect up to six hours of listening and 30 hours of total usage with the charging case. Speaking of the case, it supports MagSafe charging. Additionally, a new one-touch setup quickly pairs the buds with Apple products. 

With the third-gen AirPods, Apple is bringing Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking to its regular model. Head tracking also works with Group FaceTime calls so that voices sound like they're coming from the direction they're positioned on screen. Apple says this makes for a more immersive setup, so it sounds more like you're in the same room with other attendees. The company claims that support for the AAC-ELD codec enables improved speech quality and says its microphones are covered with "acoustic mesh" to help reduce wind noise.

Apple also equipped its new AirPods with Adaptive EQ. This technology tunes the audio in real time according to inward-facing mics that monitor sound. Computational audio adjusts low and mid-range frequencies as any variances occur. This works like Adaptive EQ on AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, so Apple is extending much of the tech-heavy features from its pricier models to the base AirPods. 

The third-generation AirPods are up for pre-order today for $179 and will begin shipping on October 26th.

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

Apple’s HomePod mini lineup adds three new colors

Apple will soon offer the HomePod mini in three new colors. Announced during the company's Unleased event on Monday, the new yellow, orange and blue colorways will join the existing white and space gray models in November. The price will remain unchanged at $99 in the US.

Apple first announced the HomePod mini last fall. As you'd expect, the speaker comes with deep integration with the company's other products. In addition to Siri support, its built-in U1 ultra-wideband chip allows you to quickly and easily hand off audio from your iPhone to the speaker. It's also possible to pair two HomePod minis for stereo sound. Another option is to play the same audio on different HomePod minis in multiple rooms. All of that makes for a compelling smart speaker, especially if you've already invested in other Apple hardware. That said, it's not the equal of devices like the Amazon Echo, which offers better value for the same amount of money.          

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.

Apple Music’s new $5 plan only works with Siri

Apple thinks it has a simple way to boost Apple Music adoption: limit control in return for a lower fee. The company has introduced an Apple Music Voice Plan that offers access to the full song catalog for just $5 per month, so long as you're willing to rely solely on Siri control. It's pitched as ideal for HomePod and AirPod owners and others who are more likely to use a voice assistant than tap their phone.

The new tier will be available later in the fall in 17 countries, including the US, UK and Canada. You can start a trial by asking Siri to "start my Apple Music Voice trial."

Discounted tiers certainly aren't new to music streaming. However, they tend to be student plans available to a relatively small slice of the population. Apple is clearly betting that the Music Voice Plan will not only reach a wider audience, but strike an appealing balance between ad-supported free offerings like Spotify and the $10-plus you'd pay per month for conventional services.

There are catches, of course. Siri control means investing in the Apple ecosystem — you'll have to pay the regular rate if you use platforms like Android. And this only really works if your favorite music is easy to play using voice control. The Voice Plan won't be ideal if you like classical or certain forms of electronic music, for example. If you tend to stick to popular genres or rely more on playlists, though, you might not mind the compromise.

Follow all of the news from Apple’s Mac event right here.