With the recent launch of the powerful new M2 Pro and M2 Max MacBook Pro and Mac mini systems, all eyes are on what’s next from Apple, specifically the long-awaited silicon-powered Mac Pro. Plus, when will we see a new iMac and will Apple upgrade the Mac Studio to an M2?
The Mac Pro is the most anticipated Mac release for professionals, and the final Apple computer to transition from Intel to silicon. Apple confirmed development, but said the discussion was “for another day.” However, rumors have been heating up, and we might see an announcement in the coming weeks or months.
There were early rumors that the revamped Mac Pro would have a completely new M-series SoC (system on a chip) called M2 Extreme, per Mark Gurman of Bloomberg. The Extreme SoCs would have featured a 48-core CPU, 80-core GPU, and up to 192GB of RAM. Extreme, indeed, except the current Mac Pro can handle 1.5TB of RAM. However Apple allegedly scuttled that option due to rumored high prices.
It’s now speculated that it’ll be powered by an M2 Ultra. Gurman said that when the M-series Mac Pro debuts, whatever RAM you order for the desktop is what you’ll be stuck with, and likely no option to upgrade the GPU. That’s the point of a system on a chip: Everything is there, making it very efficient, fast, and low power consumption. But upgrades are impossible.
If you’re like us, the first thing you thought of was, “How can that be? A Mac Pro is all about being able to do major upgrades, even years later!” And you’re right — you can upgrade the processors, GPU, and more on the 2013 'Trash Can' and 2019 Mac Pros. However, as per Gurman's article, you’ll supposedly be able to upgrade the SSDs, which is at least something. Otherwise, it’s just a taller and more powerful Mac Studio.
What could happen is that Apple makes it so the entire SoC can be replaced with a more powerful option. Yes, that gets rid of only upgrading the RAM, CPU, or GPU down the line, but it’s at least something. 9to5mac found ‘ComputeModule’ stated in the iOS 16.4 beta, which could be a reference to Apple’s VR/AR headset or maybe the Mac Pro. It would solve the upgradability issue.
The Mac Pro missed a 2022 launch, likely due in part to all the supply chain issues globally, but we may very well see it announced this summer at WWDC or a standalone event, along with a new 27-inch monitor. Now this is just wishful thinking, but it would be cool to see Apple announce the new Mac Pro and a big update to Final Cut Pro at NAB 2023. We’ll see.
While the overall design factor will stick to the current design, which dates back to the G5 Mac Pro from 2003, you should check out this incredible Mac Pro concept by Cade Lin.
The next iMac may see a much-needed refresh later in 2023 with an M2, but retaining the 24-inch display size and collection of colors. Will the 27-inch iMac or an iMac Pro return? Maybe.
Since late 2021, there has been speculation of a new 27-inch iMac that will debut… at some point. Even as recently as this writing, MacWorld said one could ship later this year. While a powerful iMac with a large display would be welcomed, one has to wonder if the Mac Studio fills that gap in their lineup, even if you have to buy a separate monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.
M2 Max and M2 Ultra Mac Studios?
The Mac Studio was Apple's first completely new computer in years, and turned 1 in March 2023. The M1 Max is a great option for most editors and users, but the M1 Ultra is a true beast, featuring two M1 Max SoC's fused together. Twice the power!
Now having said that, many are already wondering if the Mac Studio will be getting a refresh with an M2 Max and M2 Ultra. In a word, no, and I understand why. Part of it is the rumored imminent debut of the Mac Pro, but the other part of it is the Mac Studio is likely on a two-year refresh cycle.
Some speculate the Mac Studio may be a one-off, a stop-gap for Mac Pro users needing a lot of power, but I disagree. If the Mac Pro price starts at $6000, like the 2019 version, there will be a market for cost-conscious pros looking for power and affordability with the Mac Studio, which starts at $2000 USD. Even with a monitor and mouse, the price is much lower than a comparable 16-inch MacBook Pro.
It's probably safe to bet on an M3 Max and Ultra Mac Studio sometime in 2024.
What about the M3?
Apple is reportedly making its silicon SoCs smaller, 3-nanometer technology vs 5-nanometer, which adds even more power under the hood, yet will be more energy efficient. This is a huge bonus for laptop users.
If history is to be repeated, we'll see the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, 24-inch iMac, and Mac mini receive an M3 (possibly by late 2023); the larger MacBook Pro's and Mac mini get the M3 Pro and M3 Max; and the Mac Pro and Mac Studio receiving the M3 Max and M3 Ultra.
Summing it all up
2023 will be an interesting year for new Macs, with the (hopeful) release of the first silicon-powered Mac Pro, new iMacs, and possible M3 Macs later this year. As always, take the rumors with a grain of salt.
If your system needs an upgrade now, and you can't wait for the M-series Mac Pro, any of the current M2 and M1 Apple computers will be a powerful solution that will last for years to come.