Mac Studio FUD. Courtesy of Bloomberg.
Michael Simon over at MacWorld has cited Mark Gurman’s PowerOn newsletter as a source for spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt pertaining to the prospects of future refreshes of the Mac Studio. While the rationale of differentiating between a potential, incoming Mac Pro replacement (for the last Intel-based Mac in Apple’s current compute portfolio) and the fixed computing platform offered by the Mac Studio is sound, the reality of the situation involves recognizing that the Studio is already incredibly powerful as it stands. Just because the M2 Max is a known quantity with improved performance over the M1 Max doesn’t necessarily warrant an upgrade for many use cases. In a professional setting where time is money, the uplifts offered by the M2 Max aren’t enough to justify scrapping an M1 Max-based MacBook Pro or Mac Studio. Trade-in values being offered by Apple are suboptimal at best and insulting at worst. The continuous discounts on the base M1 Pro laptops, which will be more than serviceable for many years to come, doesn’t help matters if the secondhand market is flooded with M1-series offerings.
Historically, the MacBook Pros see the most frequent updates and all other form factors may have two or more years in between refreshes. Prior to the cutover to Apple Silicon, the Mac mini had periods of two or more years between releases. The market was stuck with the trashcan Mac Pro for six years before Apple corrected course and provided high-end Mac users with the system they truly needed. Refreshing the Mac Studio a year after release is completely unnecessary. Once you kit out the new M2 Pro Mac mini with 10 Gb networking, additional memory, and a bit more storage, it ends up being $400 more expensive than the M1 Max Mac Studio. As there are still many unknowns related to how Apple may need to break from the benefits and controls that they maintain with an SoC-based design, nobody can say for certain whether the first Apple Silicon Mac Pro will successfully fulfill its historical place and use cases within the ecosystem. If configuration limits hinder the Pro model from reaching comparable levels of graphical, storage, and memory expandability when compared to the outgoing 2019 Mac Pro, the long-term need and value of this halo product may come into question.
We may be pleasantly surprised by future iterations that draw the Studio and the Pro closer together into an eventual, unified unit that’s compact yet expandable both internally and externally. While liquid cooling is most likely off the table, there is plenty of room in between price points which would allow the Mac Pro and Mac Studio to co-exist with alternating refreshes or roadmaps until they can be blended into a unified product. Things will probably become more clear for proponents and FUD spreaders once the M2-based Mac Pro is officially announced. In the meantime, if a Mac Studio model is on your radar, this would still be a year to make a purchase with minimal risk of regret.