I’ve never had a desire to buy a Mac Studio – even for review purposes.
That’s why, when I realised that I had no choice but to cover it on my channel, I drafted in the opinion of my mate Andy Wood from Pulse8, who bought one immediately for his video production business.
My lack of desire to own a Mac Studio isn’t because I think it’s a bad machine. Far from it, in fact – I really admire what Apple has done with that computer. They’ve made Mac Pro performance available for a much wider audience, and that’s to be commended.
It does present a problem, though.
We know that a new Apple silicon-based Mac Pro is on the way this year. We’ve also just witnessed the launch of what looks like an epic Mac mini running an M2 Pro chip.
But all is quiet on the western front for the Mac Studio. It didn’t receive an M2 Max or – as yet unavailable – Ultra upgrade last week, and there haven’t been any rumours to suggest that one is on the way.
Does this mean it’s curtains for the Mac Studio in 2023?
What do we know so far about the Apple silicon Mac Pro?
The next-generation Mac Pro is late. It is the only Mac to have broken Apple’s desire to transition all of its computers to M-based chips within a two-year timeframe.
Apple’s Vice President of Hardware Engineering, John Turnas, noted that the new Mac Pro was “for another day” during the unveiling of the Mac Studio last March. Since then, Apple hasn’t uttered a word about their top-end Mac and has continued to sell the Intel version for the same price since it was launched in 2019.
Details about the next Mac Pro are fairly thin on the ground, but the rumour mill appears to be settling on something that will look identical to what we have now. Inside, we’re expecting to see the successor to the M1 Ultra, which, one would assume, will be called the ‘M2 Ultra’.
It could offer as many as 24 CPU cores, 76 GPU cores, and support for at least 192 gigabytes of unified memory. On the subject of memory, that is unlikely to be upgradeable as it is in the current Mac Pro, but the ability to swap out internal SSDs and add graphics cards may remain.
Apple apparently had plans for an even more powerful M2 chip (nicknamed ‘M2 Extreme’ by Apple leaker Mark Gurman). This would have essentially doubled the capabilities of the M2 Ultra, offering a 48-core CPU and a monstrous 152-core GPU. However, that has allegedly been scrapped due to the cost of manufacturing and the resources needed to get the thing out of the door in predictably low quantities.
The problem with the Mac Studio
The Mac Studio is too powerful.
That might sound odd, but when you consider that, as noted earlier, Apple is apparently scaling back its plans for a super-specced Mac Pro, there’s only a certain amount of headroom above the Mac Studio’s current top-spec before we enter Sillysville.
If I max out the Mac Studio on Apple’s website, I end up with a computer that has a 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU, 128GB of unified memory, and 8TB of SSD storage. All for the princely sum of £7,999.
That is Mac Pro territory. It is a ridiculously capable Mac that only a select group of users would know how to put to work. I certainly have no idea what I’d do with that machine.
Where do you go from there? How many people would need performance above and beyond that trouser-destroying specification? Answers in the comments section, please!
There is, quite simply, barely anywhere to go beyond what you can do with the current M1-based Mac Studio.
What are Apple’s plans with the Mac Studio in 2023?
As noted earlier, there have been no reliable indications about Apple’s plans for the Mac Studio in 2023 and it didn’t make an appearance in last week’s press release.
This means one of two things. Either Apple will update it later this year (perhaps in March, which would be a full year after the launch of the first-generation Mac Studio) or it’s going to quietly sidle out, stage-left, once the new Mac Pro arrives (again, possibly in March).
Neither option is palatable. If the Mac Studio gets updated with M2 silicon, we’re still in Planet Confusion Pro Max when it comes to choosing a high-end Mac – particularly when the new Mac Pro enters the fray.
If the Mac Studio is dropped entirely, what does that say about a computer that was launched with much fanfare in 2022? What about the people who bought one? Will they have to concede that their next upgrade will be a far more expensive Mac Pro?
There’s another problem for the Mac Studio, though.
Is the M2 Pro Mac mini better than the Mac Studio?
Apple launched a new Mac mini last week, and it looks mightily tempting for anyone who wants a super powerful desktop Mac.
The M2 Mac mini remains the most cost-effective way to get into macOS, and there has even been a price reduction this time around. But the M2 Pro version of the Mac mini is what has caught most people’s attention.
Spec one of those bad boys up, and you end up with a desktop Mac boasting a 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, 32GB of unified memory and an 8TB SSD, all for £4,499. Sure, it’s some way south of those aforementioned top-end Mac Studio specs, but for most ‘everyday’ power users, the M2 Pro Mac mini is an absolute steal.
This new entrant to the Mac lineup puts further pressure on the Mac Studio. It creeps dangerously close to the current flagship Apple silicon Mac’s capabilities – minus a few cores, several gigabytes, and an SD card slot.
I don’t want the Mac Studio to die. It’s too good for that. But, equally, I don’t want a Mac lineup that is any more confusing than it is already.
Whatever Apple does next with its high-end lineup is going to be crucial.
A beast of a Mac Pro is on the way.
A beast of a Mac mini hits the shelves this week.
The Mac Studio is in a perilous position.