Apple unveiled yesterday a new M2 Ultra chip that is coming to its desktop workstations, the Mac Studio and the Mac Pro. The latter was also the last Mac model that had yet to make the transition from Intel chips to Apple Silicon, and this is finally happening almost three years after the introduction of Apple’s first M1 chip in the fall of 2020.
Even though Apple’s PC market share dropped from 8.6% to 7.2% between Q1 2022 and Q2 20233 according to IDC, Apple’s M-series chips continue to deliver an unmatched level of performance per watt. And even though Apple isn’t going as hard on AI as its competitors these days, M-Series chips also come with a powerful neural engine for running complex AI workloads.
The original Mac Studio that Apple launched last year was the most powerful Mac ever with its M1 Max and M1 Ultra chips. The base model is now being upgraded with the same M2 Max chip that first launched on the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros earlier this year.
The M2 Max offers 12 CPU cores, up to 38 GPU cores, and up to 96GB of unified memory with 400GB/s of memory bandwidth. Overall, Apple promises up to 50 percent faster performance compared to the previous Mac Studio model with M1 Max.
The Mac Studio can also be configured with Apple’s brand new M2 Ultra chip, which combines two M2 Max chips together to deliver even more performance. The M2 Ultra includes 24 CPU cores, up to 76 GPU cores, and up to 192 GB of unified memory with 800GB/s bandwidth. Apple says that the M2 Ultra Mac Studio is up to 3x faster than the previous model with an M1 Ultra chip.
With a total of six Thunderbolt 4 ports that support native DisplayPort output over USB-C, the M2 Max Mac Studio can connect to up to five displays at once, while the M2 Ultra model can support up to eight displays simultaneously. The Mac Studio with M2 M comes with an HDMI 2.1 port. The Mac Studio also comes with a 10 GB Ethernet port, and it supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.
The Mac Studio with an M2 Max chip starts at $1999, while the M2 Ultra model starts at $3999. Both models are available to pre-order and will start shipping next week.
Apple Silicon finally comes to the Mac Pro as the new model now comes with the same M2 Ultra chip Apple offers on the high-end Mac Studio. Again, this chip offers 24 CPU cores, up to 76 GPU cores, and up to 192GB of unified memory with 800GB/s bandwidth. “This is far more memory than the most advanced workstation graphics cards,” Apple emphasized yesterday.
The Mac Pro is also the first Apple Silicon Mac to offer expansion capabilities with six open PCIe Gen 4 expansion slots. There are also eight Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, two HDMI 2.1 ports, and two 10Gb Ethernet ports.
“From audio pros who need digital signal processing (DSP) cards, to video pros who need serial digital interface (SDI) I/O cards for connecting to professional cameras and monitors, to users who need additional networking and storage, Mac Pro lets professionals customize and expand their systems, pushing the limits of their most demanding workflows,” Apple said yesterday.
The M2 Mac Pro starts at $6999, and there’s also a rack-mounted version that starts at $7499. Yes, that remains very expensive, but this finally completes the Mac transition to Apple Silicon.
Until now, Apple enthusiasts looking for a MacBook with a bigger display had to opt for the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pros, which start at $1999. That finally changes with the new 15-inch MacBook Air Apple announced yesterday.
This new 15-inch MacBook uses the same M2 chip as the 13-inch model that launched last fall, and this chip includes an 8-core CPU, a 10-core GPU, and up to 24GB of unified memory. Apple also promises up to 18 hours of battery life, the same as on the 13-inch MacBook Air.
The 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display on the new 15” MacBook Air offers a 2880×1864 resolution and up to 500 nits of brightness. However, it doesn’t support the adaptive refresh rate technology that’s available on the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros.
Apple says that its new 15-inch MacBook Air is the thinnest 15-inch laptop with a 0.45 inch (1.15 cm) height, and it also weighs just 3.3 pounds (1.51 kg). However, the port selection is quite limited with just two Thunderbolt/USB4 ports, one MagSafe port for charging, and a headphone jack.
This new 15-inch MacBook Air starts at $1299, and the 13-inch model has seen its price cut to $1099. The M1 model from 2020 also remains available at $999.
Overall, Apple’s Mac lineup in 2023 is pretty solid, and Apple Silicon Macs have become good Windows machines now that Microsoft recognizes Parallels Desktop for Mac as a supported scenario for running Windows 11. You can actually get better Windows performance with an Apple Silicon Mac than you would with a Windows on ARM workstation powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chip.