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Is Apple’s Mac Studio the Desktop answer to Air?

Tomorrow’s event is shaping up to be way less certain that we’d all thought, and now, we hear about Mac Studio – in this episode we’ll break down what that could be and run down what WE expect to see tomorrow.

So Tuesday at 1800 UTC we’ll be getting our look at what’s next for Apple in the Peek Performance event. We’ll dig a little deeper into the name as we go along, but just bear in mind it’s spelled Peek with two E’s, not Peak as in Pinnacle. Then we’ll try to pick apart the Studio rumours around the Mac Studio and the Studio display, which is resurrecting another name from Apple’s past.

So close as confirmed for tomorrow, we should be seeing the new iPhone SE and iPad Air 5th Generation. Neither of these are particularly exciting, with the iPad Air basically playing catch up to it’s annoying little brother, the iPad mini, getting the same A15 chip, 5G wireless option and the centerstage camera that even its poor cousin the 9th Gen iPad with A13 inside already has too. 

The iPhone SE 3rd generation also gets basically the same updates, 5G support and an A15 chip, and there have been mixed reports about a camera improvement too although that is unconfirmed. It will be interesting to see if the A15 gives the SE access to cinematic mode and camera filters, features that the iPhone 13 introduced but are clearly too premium for poor iPhone 12 Pro Max users like me. Peasants.

There have also been reports that the SE could see a price drop to make it even more competitive, though recent rumours suggest the current A13 powered SE may stay around at a very competitive $199, if only in some limited and emerging markets. That would be super cool from a price fighter point of view, but kind of boring from a “what’s the new coolest thing” point of view

There’s also another, presumably iPad device that’s been registered along with these two, and there were reports that we’d see an update to Apple’s cheapest iPad as well, possibly bringing A14 into the mix. There’s a possibility that the extra model numbers we saw are simply regional variants of the iPad Air with different cellular bands, but there’s also an outside chance that M2 makes its debut at the event and iPad Pro gets an update, though I’m skeptical on that one.

Then we get to what I care most about, what’s interesting to me and most of my audience, the Mac. Even though the iPhone SE will outsell the Mac in all its forms handily, it’s also not that much fun.

From the registrations that we’ve talked about before, we have 2 desktop Mac slots to fill and a single laptop form factor. We’ve also heard from so far 100% accurate analyst Ross Displayman Young that the panels for larger iMacs won’t be ready until around the summer, potentially for a June release which would line up perfectly with WWDC, Apple’s developer conference. So let’s workshop what could be filling those three slots that are potentially ready to launch at this event, and then we’ll get to what on earth Mac Studio could be.

Starting with the laptop as we only have one slot here, Apple’s MacBook lineup for M1 generation chips seems to be complete. We have the entry point M1 Air at $999, MacBook Pro M1 at $1299, $1799 M1 Pro 14” MacBook Pro and 16” starting at $2499. We also heard that the 13” MacBook Pro model was being produced through the Lunar new year where the factory would have normally been shut down. Specifically to have something ready for this event.

So I’m pretty convinced we’ll see M2 make its debut here, but I also don’t think it would be called MacBook Pro If that’s the case. I’ve covered it before but we’ve heard that the Air will get a price bump up when they get redesigned and gain the MiniLED displays, so it just makes sense that since MiniLED is being pushed as the premium display AND that Apple is struggling with supply on them, that this older design with the older display would come out as the new entry point, the MacBook M2. You get a fan, you get great battery, but probably not all the fun colours, though I’d love if Apple went with a white anodised finish on these. That would please my retro head so much.

I’d guess the M1 Air could hand around a bit longer too, may be at $849 or $899 to make Mac even more accessible. 

And onto Desktops. We thought originally that we’d be likely to get a pair of Mac minis, and I still think that is most likely. We’ve seen what we expect to be the Mac mini redesign, and this body could easily contain the M2 or the M1 Pro and Max options. A few people messaged wondering if the Mac mini would have the thermal capacity for the higher end chips to which I say 1000 times yes. The redesign seems to have the same magnetic power connector as iMac, which 100% means the power supply is moving out of the body and into an external power brick. That means way more space inside for cooling systems as well as less heat to dissipate in the first place at the cost of a slightly less elegant cable. I’ll take it.

So that’s what I THINK we’ll see, but there are other possibilities.

iMac. Not the 27” that we’ve been hoping for, but could Apple put an M1 Max in the 24” we have now? I don’t see why not, its a brand new enclosure and I’d be shocked if Apple’s engineers designed it for only as much heat as the current M1 puts out. That would be very short sighted. So there could be an option there, and there’s no real reason we’d have heard many rumours as it would be the current production line with a different board inside. Simples.

Bigger iMac?  As mentioned, it seems that the displays aren’t ready, so unlikely which is sad. Would we love that? Of course. But unlikely.

Mac Studio? What does that even mean? Well we don’t really know, but it could well be the mid point for Apple between a Mac mini and the Mac Pro, with more power than we’ve seen in a smaller form factor before. And you bet your bum we got Apple Tomorrow on the job. Think Apple G4 Cube for the 21st Century, and given the amount of retro Apple product vibes on show at the Unleashed event last year, with that Palo Alto garage filled with nostalgia and music, we could even see a G4 cube in the event intro. If so get excited.

This Mac Studio could be our M1 Max Duo chip. We’ve seen on the die for the M1 Max chips the there’s what seems to be an interconnect at the bottom of the chip where another could be attached. Perhaps that’s how they’re all built, as duos and cut there, with those that have the full dual die working being set aside for this, those with one full Max fully working used for those and the M1 Pro (and Binned pro) being the less and less perfect chips. The plot thickens.

If we are truly getting M1 Duo in the Mac Studio, we’ll be overtaking some bigger Mac Pros in performance numbers and that’s very exciting.

We’re also hearing about the Mac Studio Display – and it sounds like this could be our replacement to the Pro Display XDR. Reportedly 36” in size, 7K resolution and with that A13 inside to assist with the workload that it would place on the Mac, possibly with Apple’s own version of something like DLSS to dynamically Up-Res content in the display itself. That would be a pretty good use of that chip.

Studio display is the name that Apple used for multiple displays in the past, typically their 4:3 displays while the widescreen versions got the Cinema Display name, which makes sense. Now I don’t expect we’ll see the Studio Display or Mac Studio released at the event, but, lets think again about the event name – Peek Performance. Perhaps we’ll be getting a sneak peek at what’s coming later, maybe this summer for Apple’s Performance version of Apple Silicon? Normally Apple doesn’t do much of this, but it is a product unlikely to cannibalise current sales of the rest of their line, so it makes sense. Just like when Apple Watch was revealed way before launch, because it doesn’t step on the toes of other products, it still makes sense.

But let me know your thoughts on all of this down in the comments, and if you have any questions, use hashtag iCaveAnswers and we’ll get to them in the next show.

Before we finish I have to give a huge thank you for the incredibly generous donations to Ted’s Pocket money, my wife was blown away so thank you. There are a couple of our viewers who gave huge donations and you know who you are, I don’t know how public you wanted to make it but please know that they are so appreciated.

Thanks too to our patrons, and we’ll see you in the next one!

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