Apple delivered a curveball earlier today: A new desktop computer called Mac Studio, which is powered by its new custom-designed chip called the M1 Ultra. Essentially two M1 chips bolted together, it packs in 114 billion transistors, the most ever in a PC chip.
The Mac Studio is part of a product-heavy announcement called Peek Performance, a pre-recorded event that was streamed on Apple TV. Other products announced include an updated iPhone SE with 5G, a new version of the iPad Air and a new monitor called the Mac Studio Display.
The announcement also included a new variant of green for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro.
Back to the Mac Studio. It is a big silver cube-shaped block that is akin to a Mac Mini on steroids. Made of 80 per cent recycled aluminium, it has a small footprint being about 4 inches tall and 8 inches wide on each side.
Four Thunderbolt ports, two USB-A slots, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack can be found on the back. And surprise, on the front, it has two USB-C ports and an SD card slot. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built in. The Mac Studio can be connected to four monitors and a 4K TV simultaneously.
Under the hood, this powerful machine supports up to 256GB of unified memory. Apple says that the M1 Ultra is up to 90 per cent faster in CPU performance than a Mac Pro with a 16-core Xeon processor. It is also 80 per cent faster than the fastest Mac graphics card, Apple adds.
The Mac Studio is clearly aimed at creative professionals like musicians, intensive 3D artists, software developers, videographers, artists and game developers. They can buy a Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra or an entry-level model powered by the M1 Max chip which has 64GB of unified memory.
While Apple refreshes its lineup of Mac computers from time to time, it does not often unveil a new one. So the Mac Studio is an unexpected announcement.
In its presentation today, Apple said the transition of its Mac computers from Intel to its homegrown M1 processor is almost done. Only the Mac Pro has not transited to the M1 processor family.
Observers and analysts see the Mac Studio as a push by Apple to seize greater market share in PCs following its split from Intel two years ago.
According to research company Canalys, Apple’s market share of the PC market reached 7.6 per cent in 2020. This puts Apple in fourth position as a PC vendor, after Lenovo, HP and Dell. Its annual growth of 28.3 per cent was also the best among these PC companies.
The Mac Studio is best matched with Apple’s new Studio Display, a 27-inch monitor with 5K resolution. It comes with three USB-C ports and a Thunderbolt port.
It also features a 12-megapixel webcam, with Apple’s Center Stage feature that keeps you centered in the frame on video calls, a six-speaker sound system that supports spatial audio and Dolby Atmos playback, a three-microphone array, and four force-cancelling woofers for the audio low end.
Apple’s A13 Bionic chip powers the video and audio systems in the Studio Display.
Sad news is, the 27-inch iMac which has been frequently updated with new processors and GPUs in the past, is now made obsolete with the arrival of Mac Studio-Studio Display combo. The 27-inch iMac has disappeared from Apple’s online store.
Mac Studio: Price starts at S$2,899
Studio Display: S$2,299
Both products are available for ordering from Mar 14 on Apple’s online store.
To work on the Mac Studio, potential buyers must buy a separate keyboard, mouse and trackpad which can be cost you another S$597.
iPhone SE with 5G
This is the small, least expensive iPhone. Apple refreshed it by including the A15 Bionic processor, the same one found inside the iPhone 13 models. It also has a 4.7-inch LCD screen and IP67 water resistance. Plus, it supports 5G so users can access faster Internet speeds.
It has a 12-megapixel main camera, but no support for MagSafe which means users cannot magnetically attach accessories like wireless chargers, wallets and battery packs to the back of the phone.
It will be available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB models and comes in three colours midnight, starlight, and red.
Prices start at S$699.
Apple has refreshed this tablet a few times, overhauling its design and giving it a cleaner look. This time round, the iPad Air has been given the M1 chip that is in iPad Pros. According to Apple, this boosts performance by up to 60 per cent over the previous model.
Users on video calls will find the new 12-megapixel wide-angle camera useful as its Centre Stage feature keeps people centered in the frame. The new iPad Air, in 64GB and 256GB configurations, comes in space grey, starlight, pink, purple, and blue finishes.
Orders can be placed on on the Aple store from March 11 and availability begins March 18.
Prices: Wi-Fi models of iPad Air start at S$879 and Wi-Fi + Cellular models start at S$1,099.