Mac Studio and M1 Ultra what tell us about the Mac Pro

It's going to be amazing, expensive, and even more powerful than the Mac Studio.

Mac Studio and M1 Ultra what tell us about the Mac Pro
Mac Studio

In yesterday's Apple event, there was a blink-and-you-missed-it moment when the Mac Pro was mentioned as "just one more product to go" in the transition from Intel to Apple silicon, but "that's for another day." Both the current Mac Pro and the iMac Pro appeared, but only in benchmarks that demonstrated how much faster and more powerful the new Mac Studio is.

There's no denying that the Mac Studio is an incredibly powerful Mac. However, it is not intended to be the most powerful Mac. That's the job of the Mac Pro, and the Mac Studio and its most powerful system on a chip, the M1 Ultra, can teach us a few things about the 2022 Mac Pro.

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The new M1 Ultra system on a chip is the most powerful spec of the Mac Studio (SoC). It uses a high-performance interconnect to combine two M1 Max chips into a single super-SoC with 20 CPU cores, 64 GPU cores, and up to 128GB of integrated/shared memory.

That's impressive, but in October, well-connected Apple reporter Mark Gurman predicted that the 2022 Mac Pro would have "up to 40 CPU cores and 128 GPU cores on the high end." I don't have any inside information on Apple's silicon plans, but when you look at the numbers above, the path to Gurman's prediction seems pretty clear: will Apple make a Mac Pro with twin M1 Ultras combined into one even more powerful chip using the same interconnect technology that made the M1 Ultra possible in the first place?

However, the difference between the Mac Studio and the Mac Pro is unlikely to be solely in processing power. As beautiful as its upgraded Mac Mini design is, it's being sold as a closed box: you specify it when you buy it, and then you don't touch it again.

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The Mac Pro is marketed not only for its raw power but also for its excellent expandability and "vast configuration" via PCI Express cards and up to 1.5TB of memory. The message is repeated throughout Apple's marketing copy: the Mac Pro is extremely customizable and expandable. The Mac Studio, on the other hand, is not.

So that's the other thing Apple needs to work on. Adding PCIe connectivity for storage and possibly some other customized cards (such as the video acceleration cards for the current Mac Pro) appears to be the simplest option. The big question is whether Apple can offer expandable memory or a way to add more GPU power to the Mac Pro if needed. At the moment, no M1 Mac offers these options.

However, it's possible that Apple is concealing some additional features in the same way that it didn't reveal its Ultra Fusion interconnect technology until the M1 Ultra was revealed.

I think it's all very exciting. The Mac Studio is an incredible achievement, so if this is Apple's mid-range Pro desktop, I can't wait to see what the 2022 Mac Pro can do. Who can say? Perhaps we'll see it at WWDC 2022 this summer.