TL;DR Apple released exactly what I wanted, but I’m not buying it yet, as the MacBook Pro with M1 Max is still amazing.
Last year I wrote about my plan to transition from the behemoth Intel Mac Pro to something based on Apple silicon, but it depended on Apple releasing the right products in the right sequence. This worked out wonderfully: I bought a MacBook Pro 14″ with M1 Max last year as soon as it was released, and sold the Mac Pro to pay for it. The laptop was faster and 10x lighter. And came with a gorgeous screen.
The next step I was looking for was Apple releasing a standalone display, and that finally happened. And while we’re still waiting for the Mac Pro, they released a faster desktop, the Mac Studio. Apple delivered exactly what I wanted: a display I can use for many years, and a fast, quiet computer I can upgrade every few years.
However, I’m not buying yet. For now, the M1 Max in my laptop is fast enough, and the LG 5K screen I’m using is okay, so I’ll just keep using these. It’s great to know that if the screen fails, I can get a good monitor from Apple. And there’s a faster Mac available when I need it. In the past, if you wanted quiet performance, the Mac Pro (and iMac Pro for a brief time) was the only choice; now Apple is delivering amazing performance in both laptops and desktops.
And while I wait, there are rumors of upgrades: the Apple Studio Display might be upgraded with HDR and faster refresh? Or larger – 6K? 7K? The Mac Studio will likely be upgraded with an M2 next year, providing faster single-core speed. And the Mac Pro is still on the horizon. Lots of good choices ahead.
I wrote about my new Mac Pro a year ago. It’s still rock-solid, and it’s done everything I asked of it. But the writing is on the wall: Apple’s new $1,000 MacBook Air is now comparable in speed to my year-old $10,000 Mac Pro. This year, Apple will likely release updated MacBooks Pro with more cores and memory and blow right past the performance of my Mac Pro. Next year, an updated Mac Pro will do the same again.
I had hoped to get seven years out of it? That was before Apple announced the switch to their own chips, and before they blew Intel chips away with the performance of the M1. My expectation was based on the incremental performance gains we’ve seen from Intel over the last decade, not the paradigm shift ushered in by Apple’s M1. The Intel-based Mac Pro is rapidly losing value, and it’s clear I’ll want to replace it as soon as I can.
Here’s my current plan; we’ll see if Apple releases the right products in the right order for this to work out.
Mid 2021: Buy the rumored 14-inch MacBook Pro. I expect it to be faster than my Mac Pro for all practical purposes. Hook it up to my existing two monitors and use as my main machine. Sell or trade in the Mac Pro before it loses too much of its value.
Mid 2022: Evaluate the new Mac Pro, and possibly upgrade to that one.
I’m glad there are finally some rumors about cheaper external displays. I think Apple was waiting to release monitors until they redesigned the iMac, so the monitors could match the look of the iMac (ideally using the same enclosure with simpler innards). And they were waiting with the iMac redesign until they could use their own chips, both for lower thermal requirements and to be able to include Face ID. Now their ducks are finally all lined up.
It makes too much sense for Apple to plug this hole in their lineup. And the work Apple has put into making resolution switching seamless also makes more sense if monitors are on the horizon. Here’s hoping — I’d love to replace the LG 5K with an Apple monitor with Face ID.
So while my Mac Pro didn’t turn out to be the long-term investment I had hoped for, I’m stoked about Apple’s M1, and very excited about what they’ll announce this year and next.