Notes From A Wartime Apple Event

I’m actually not sure Tim was wearing Ukranian colors, but for an Apple event scheduled for International Women’s day, I’d say diversity was completely on point.

But the big news was, of course, the M1 Ultra–the M1 Max die and now we know that it was also designed to have an inter-die connection… And it is here, sooner than many people expected. That had to be a shock for Intel.

The Mac Studio

In summary, Apple finally did exactly what I’ve always wanted in a desktop Mac: small, compact, quiet and almost absurdly powerful for its (rather chunky) size. The flip side, of course, is its price tag, which at the high end rivals the (apparently yet to come) Mac Pro while de facto replacing it.

The design does seems a bit lazy, though, and the massive air cooling (that, again, sits on top of a chip that spends massively less power than your typical Ryzen/NVIDIA combo) hints at the kind of power it’s packing–the throughput figures alone are staggering.

On the other hand, I think this signals a few things:

  • That the Mac mini is going to keep looking pretty much the same for the foreseeable future. I’d say that is a good thing, honestly–plenty of room for internal redesigns.
  • That we’re likely to see a new 27” iMac modeled on the Studio Display, either as a direct upgrade of the 24” when the M2 is actually a thing, or as a Pro machine.
  • That the Mac Pro may well be either a dual M1 Ultra affair or something even more complex (although I’m curious as to whether/how they’re going to tackle expandable RAM on that).

And at least judging from my experience with the M1 Pro, these machines are going to be almost insanely powerful.

Studio Display

Oh, yeah, great, we now have (again) official Apple monitors that don’t cost most of your limbs and sensory organs, but which I can’t use with a PC.

Hard pass, sorry.

I know there are a bazillion people out there who have been pining for an Apple monitor (and I did love my 27” iMac panel, to the extent where I might turn it into a standalone display if the machine can’t be recovered), but I really need to plug more things into monitors than Macs – and I learned that lesson with the standalone LG Ultrafine display, which is still useful as a “hot-desking” and charger station for my family but can’t be used by any of my other machines.

Looking Back

In a way, the price tag for the Studio gear is a relief, since it actually fits with the rest of their pricing range and doesn’t directly call into question my purchase of the and my .

I don’t regret having bought either because my 2016 MacBook was getting a little bit long in the tooth (and only had an i5) and, most importantly, my iMac was dying (and I’ve actually yet to find the time to have it repaired, or at least evaluated and budgeted for). Plus I really like using a ultra-wide instead of a 16:10 27” monitor.

The only thing that bugs me with my current setup is that I’m acutely aware it isn’t healthy for my MacBook’s battery to use it as a desktop (I have gone through quite a few Surfaces whose battery deteriorated quickly with that kind of usage pattern), so I actually use the MacBook away from the desk every few days (which also takes away some of the annoyance of being stuck in the same room 5 days a week).

But if I had been 100% sure this was coming six months ago, there is a scenario where I would quite likely have waited and gotten a Studio with the M1 Max (which should be marginally cheaper than my M1 Pro config, although I did spec this machine to last me a few good years).

As it is, though, I can’t complain. The “one monitor, many laptops” lifestyle is working out OK with my and my , so for the moment I can file away the Studio as a “nice to have” if we survive the war and I win some sort of lottery too.

But hey, thanks Apple, this is pretty much what every single Mac mini owner has always wanted–a Pro machine (in anything but name) with a compact, desk-friendly form factor.

Footnote: The iPad Air Refresh

An intriguing thing for me, though, is that I can get a brand new iPad Air with an M1, landscape orientation stereo speakers (which are essential for music editing) and 5G for roughly €1000, so the only real difference to the iPad Pro is TouchID (which I prefer), the screen and Thunderbolt… I think, since I assume they’re using the exact same RAM dies.

This also signals the Pros are almost certainly going to be the first iPads with an M2 chip, sometime next year… So that’s something to take in mind, although not being able to use all of that computing power for local development on a tablet is just… ridiculous.

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