How Mac Studio will fit into Apple’s desktop Mac lineup

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Apple will host its first special event of the year tomorrow, and it’s becoming clear that the Mac will be an important focus. As first reported by 9to5Mac last week, Apple is developing a new Mac Studio desktop computer with Apple Silicon inside. It might not seem obvious how the Mac Studio will fit into the lineup, but there’s actually a clear place for it.

How the Mac Studio could fit into the lineup

As we reported last week, the Mac Studio could serve as a “pro Mac mini” or “mini Mac Pro.” The machine is developed and tested in two separate configurations. One such configuration is the M1 Max chip – which we’ve seen in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros before. The other configuration, however, is tested with an Apple Silicon chip which is “even more powerful than the current M1 Max”.

Furthermore, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman also reported that Apple is working on a “smaller Mac Pro” with an Apple Silicon chip equipped with 40 CPU cores and 128 GPU cores. Our sources indicate that this smaller Mac Pro is indeed the “Mac Studio” and is designed to replace the high-end Intel-powered Mac mini that Apple still sells.

So how will the Mac Studio fit into the lineup? Important context came this weekend, courtesy of reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. According to Kuo, a new iMac Pro and a new Mac Pro aren’t expected to come out until 2023. Without the Mac Studio, that would leave a pretty big hole at the top of Apple Silicon’s lineup.

With the Mac Studio, here’s what Apple’s desktop Mac lineup could look like this year:

  • M1 Mac mini (updated to an M2 chip at some point)
  • iMac M1 (upgraded to an M2 chip at some point)
  • Mac Studio with an even more powerful M1 Max chip
  • Big-screen iMac of sorts, murky details here
  • Mac Pro with Intel inside, eventually transferred to Apple Silicon

As you can see, there are still some unknowns here, especially when it comes to the larger-screen iMac. Will we get a larger version of the 24-inch iMac this year? It’s possible. It could be that Ming-Chi Kuo is referring exclusively to an “iMac Pro” with his predictions.

The 9to5Mac take

The point of all of this is to say that I can absolutely see how the Mac Studio will fit into the desktop Mac lineup, especially when paired with a more affordable alternative to the Pro Display XDR.

There has always been a big gap between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro in terms of price and performance. While the 27-inch iMac filled that gap for years, not everyone wants a 27-inch all-in-one machine. There’s a clear advantage to the modular nature of the Mac mini (and Mac Studio), where you can bring your own display, whether it’s an Apple display or something from another company.

And if the Apple Silicon upgrade to the Mac Pro is indeed delayed to 2023, the Mac Studio will give Apple more time to complete this transition without neglecting the high-end desktop market.

Finally, buying a Mac mini or Mac Studio also has a financial advantage, because you can upgrade the computer itself without having to upgrade your screen. You don’t need to swap the whole configuration, just the computer.

What do you think of the desktop Mac lineup and everything else in store for 2022? Let us know in the comments.

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