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Peek Performance was a great event – the 1st of the year…but

Is there anything there for you?

Peek Performance

Nearly 24 hours ago, the Peek Performance event, Apple’s first of the year, was streamed. All the months and weeks of speculation laid to rest. This was it; the facts. And, they certainly did not disappoint, either. But now the dust has settled, as I reflect, I realise that very little of it is actually for me, and quite likely not for you either. Let’s quickly recap what we actually got, shall we, before looking at the main attraction of the show — the Studio Mac.

As a sidebar, before looking at the offerings though, did anyone else notice the mix was not good? The music versus audio was way off. I had to turn the dialogue up and music down at every transition. Come on, Apple, I expect better.

What we got

  • Live Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+
  • iPhone 5 SE with 5G and the A15 Bionic Chip
  • Two new shades of green on the iPhone 13’s. Alpine Green on the Pro range and plain old green for the 13’s.
  • iPad Air now with the M1 chip, and new 12 megapixel camera and Centre Stage
  • A new version of iMovie coming in April with a bag of new features

As sat and witnessed these announcements, we all knew more was to come. A little bored, we waited, and then BOOM! The big guns came out. The day before the event, Luke Miani had leaked, pretty much to the last detail, what we were to get. At least externally. What none of us knew, was what was going to run and power the new Studio Mac. Turns out, it was either the existing M1 Max or the brand-new M1 Ultra. Think of the Ultra as two M1 Max chips strapped up together. Essentially, that is what the Ultra chip is. And it delivers stonking amounts of power! Claiming to have up to 3.8x faster CPU, 4.5x GPU and 3x faster machine learning than its predecessors, this thing is a beast. Apparently, it can handle up to 18 streams of 8K ProRes 422 playback. Useful to know, I am certain!

Then, alongside the Studio Mac, we were also treated to the Studio Monitor. Equipped with an A13 chip inside, for the first time on a Mac, we have Centre Stage due to the 12 megapixel camera this display boasts. It has three microphones to complete your online conference call demands, and also sports a six speaker sound system too. It has 27 inches diagonally of working space and a 5K resolution. Think of it as the M1 iMac 24 inch as a panel with speakers and a camera, then pumped up in size. That’s what you get.

Prices, inevitably, can get scary. The monitor, I believe, is great value, as it starts at £1599. There are a couple of extras you can bolt on such as a height adjustable stand or Nano-texture glass, but basically, for £1599 you get what you need. The Studio Mac, on the other hand, well, that is a whole other ball game.

Starting at £3999, if you choose to beef it up some, it will pretty quickly run you £7999. You’d have to be one very busy (and profitable) creative, to explain those figures away to the accountant! And this is my point — who are these Macs for? Is there a need for them?

Is it Apple just flexing?

From the first Apple Silicon Macs, we knew we stood on the era of a new dawn in personal computing. The small footprint required to house and cool such powerful chips was alarming. In one very short year, we have gone from M1, to M1 Max, M1 Pro and now, M1 Ultra.

I consider myself a creative. I run a YouTube channel which entails my editing 4K video. Not only that, but I produce podcasts and am also a graphic designer. All of that means, I ask a fair bit from my Macs.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for a new gadget, and in particular, I have a weakness for new Mac’s. But, last night, as I was editing my video, I was set to wondering, are we now at a point, where Apple can deliver power that pretty much, no one will ever require? Is it all now superfluous overkill?

I am confident, at some point this year, I will buy a new Mac. My best machine is creaking a little now at what I demand from it. But, will I buy the M1 Ultra Studio Mac? I doubt it. As just described, I probably require more from my machines than many, but in no way do I need a 64 core GPU Mac with 128 GB of unified memory. I am a professional, and a creative, so this new Studio Mac should be aimed directly at me. But, it is too much. Way too much.

Have we forgotten the Mac Pros?

Then, I got to thinking, what is the future to be? We have, over the years, been used to consumer level Macs and then, ‘pro-sumer’ level machines. I noticed during the keynote, that most of the comparisons made for the M1 Ultra, were to the existing Intel machines which remain in the Mac lineup. Is it possible that the pro level machines are now a thing of the past? If this new Studio Mac is up to eight times faster than its big brother, The Mac Pro, which is also three times more expensive, then really, has the pro moniker got a valid place any longer?

Can you be any more pro than having a machine, small enough to sit on your desk, which can run up to 18 streams of 8K video footage? If you know of any professional who could ever demand more from a desktop than that, I am all ears.

Although John Ternus teased us right at the end of his piece to camera, saying “the Mac Pro was for another day”, has that day come and gone? As a consumer, you have the M1 Mac Mini, MacBook Air and M1 iMac, all of which, I assume, will have the M2 chip later this year. Then, we already have a great portable lineup with the MacBook Pros with either the M1 Pro or Max chips inside. And now, the super powerful M1 Ultra Studio Mac. Are we not at the tipping point, where we now have all the power we could ever need, covering all types of user?

Anything beyond this, would be like watching in awe a car that can get to 60mph a few milliseconds quicker. We know it’s fantastic engineering, but what’s the actual point?

If we have reached the conclusion that the Pro Macs are dead, with no more iMac Pro or Mac Pro, then, the two-year transition to Apple Silicon is complete bang on time.

As for me?

I will make no quick decisions, but I think, as I work or create, in one of two spaces, then I may well end up going with an M1 Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro and grab a Studio monitor. That way, I will have all the computing power I will ever need in a rucksack and therefore with me at all times. When in my primary workplace, I can hook it up to a larger 5K Studio monitor and work with the larger real estate. As I say, I will take time to reach my decision, but in honesty, I am just not, quite, professional enough it would seem, to warrant the new Studio Mac.

What about you? Where will your Apple money be spent after the events of yesterday?

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