July 7, 2022

Mac Studio is a legendary achievement

Mac Studio is a legendary achievement

Apple’s Mac Studio announcement could be on Tuesday make the dream come true Which some Mac users have been clinging to as a couple of decades ago. Finally, there’s a standard Mac desktop that’s more powerful than the Mac mini without the expensive Mac Pro cost.

Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, being a Mac expert means using a Power Mac. The arrival of the original iMac in 1998 was enthusiastically greeted by Mac nerds because it meant Steve Jobs might be able to return Apple to greatness after its stumbles in the mid-1990s — but none of them have drifted into using one themselves.

When Jobs returned to Apple, he oversaw a dramatic and necessary streamlining of the product line. Desktop Power Mac, the go-to model for power users, Disappeared in 1998. The options have narrowed to the weak iMac (and later the Mac mini) on one hand, and the very expensive Power Mac/Mac Pro tower on the other.

In between, at least for users of powerful Macs, there was a desert. And getting out of the desert was a wonderful mirage: the legendary mid-range Mac tower like the old Power Macs. This mythical creature was known as xMac.

Scope of concern for computers

It’s hard to say when and where the grumbling about Apple’s lack of a mid-range Mac desktop computer began, but it’s at least 20 years old. a 2005 Ars Technica After John Siracusa Indicates that it was drafted on the site’s Mac forums in 2001 or earlier.

Regardless, it seemed that discontinuing the desktop Power Mac created a community of Mac users who felt trapped between the iMac and the larger and more expensive Power Mac tower. I’ve breathed in online forums and in related threads with stories about new Apple devices.

The introduction of the Mac mini in 2005 provided a clearer focus of frustration. In his post, Siracusa dismissed the Mac mini as too limited to be a viable alternative to an expensive Power Mac, and expressed his desire for a Mac with configurable specs at a reasonable price:

this is what I want. Start by choosing two potential CPUs: the fastest single CPU that Apple sells, and the second fastest CPU. In contemporary terms, both would be dual core processors. Internal expansion buses should also be top-notch, but with less capacity than a Power Mac….Building options should extend the demand for the full range of each component that can be configured.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my xMac. My xMac. The Mac I want to buy. Shortened to one sentence, it’s a completely A configurable headless Mac that trades in expandability to reduce volume and cost.

[…] But I would be happy to settle: a completely configurable The headless Mac trades in expandability to reduce size and cost. call it Power Mac MiniMake it cheaper and faster than at least one Power Mac model, and give the “Luxury” version the fastest single CPU available. This will still lose some Power Mac sales, but it will also provide an opportunity to increase sales of iMac and (especially) Mac mini customers. It could still be a net win.

Siracusa was happy to ditch the expandability, but for many users it was impossible to separate the desire for an xMac with the desire for a modular PC-style Mac. In 2007, MacworldDan Frakes wrote his own article Dreaming of a mid-range desktop computerAnd while he was very excited about the possibilities, he also made this important point about the fallacy of the whole thing:

The reality of the computer market is that the percentage of people who actually upgrade their computers beyond adding RAM is very small. But at the same time, many people who will never upgrade their PC still think they will upgrade their PC – or at least want the security and comfort of knowing they can.

The truth hurts. Despite this, electric car buyers will prioritize range and charging networks the truth That 95 percent of vehicle trips are 30 miles or less — and nearly 60 percent are less than six. Computer upgrade anxiety was a thing long before EV range anxiety existed.

25 years ago, Apple made modular, mid-size desktop computers for the most discerning user.
Photo: Apple

Of course, the past two decades have almost obliterated the concept of upgradeable technology, especially on Apple devices. What’s built into today’s Macs is what you’ll have — processor, memory, storage, and GPU — forever. Only an expensive Mac Pro offers upgradability. (And how much of that will be left when you switch to Apple silicon? Only Apple knows for sure, but Evidence so far Suggests it would be little to nothing.)

The first page of the five-page Hackintosh story for Macworld.
Photography by Jason Snell

So what should an xMac fan do? Many of them tried to build Hackintoshes, custom Intel computers that used Apple-compatible parts, on which macOS could be installed. In 2008, a company called Psystar Try selling macOS compatible mini towersdirectly to consumers, just to be A lawsuit in oblivion from Apple.

in the same year, MacworldRob Griffiths to explain He built it for “Frankenmac” (a synonym for Hackintosh we used to avoid irritating Apple) this way: “I don’t want or need a machine with a built-in screen, I don’t need a powerful eight-core Mac Pro, but I’d like my Mac to be faster And more expandable than a mini.”

This is how bad Mac users have been craving for something more. Macworld The magazine devoted five physical pages to a story about buying a copy of Psystar and building a Hackintosh, all in order to build the Mac that Apple refused to make.

The Hackintosh community is never dead; still there Youtube lessons Show you how to make one. However, the Mac’s move away from Intel means that the Hackintosh era will be coming to an end in the next few years.

2013 Mac Pro: Everyone Loses

Back in 2012, xMac fans got excited when Tim Cook responded to an email from an Apple customer named Franz by telling him that The new Mac Pro was due to be released in late 2013. My old Mac Pro was long in the tooth. This was definitely an opportunity for Apple to completely rethink the idea of ​​a desktop Mac!

MacworldFreecs jumped on the story, and presented Updated order list As for xMac, pointing to the huge price gap between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. Unfortunately, Frakes found that the late 2013 Mac Pro It was still only pro.

A cylindrical Mac Pro from 2013.
Photo by The Verge

Not only did the Mac Pro satisfy the xMac crowd, it also lacked true internal scalability and had serious thermal problems, resulting in Note mea culpa In which Apple promised to do better when it released the next version of the Mac Pro. This version Shipped in late 2019 It starts at $6000.

Good screen loss

For the past two decades, the iMac has been the product that differentiates the gap between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. They were forced to buy SomethingMany xMac champions have ended up buying iMacs. I’d argue that this ended up distorting the iMac, forcing it to Support for high-quality chips and other features which overcomplicated what was meant to be a friendly all-in-one consumer. The M1 iMacWith its simple design and bright colors, it is a return to style.

Then there’s the loss of this perfectly good offering, which has long annoyed many xMac supporters. Displays can last a very long time, and if you’re the kind of person who upgrades your computer every two or three years, you’re throwing in a perfectly good monitor. It just seems a waste. (Apple briefly introduced a feature called Target Display Mode, which allowed you to turn on your iMac and use it as a dumb external display.)

User working on Mac Studio Display.

Mac Studio and Studio Display – Headless modularity again.
Photo: Apple

With the announcement of not just the Mac Studio but the new Studio Show – the company’s first under-$5,000 display in over a decade! Apple seems to have gotten that part of the xMac philosophy message. Yes, buying a Mac Studio and a separate monitor will cost a lot more than an iMac – but at least you can switch your computer for a new one in a couple of years. And if you already have a screen close at hand, you’re already beautifully seated.

Is it a great money saver? Maybe. Is it less waste? Yes a little. It fulfills at least part of the requirements of being a suitable xMac.

Mass for xMac

A funny thing happened on the way to the finally existing xMac: the world moved and the dream was left behind. I asked xMac supporter John Siracusa in 2005 how he felt about the arrival of Mac Studio. “Sixteen years is a long time,” he said. “If you have the same desire long enough, the world will change and it will make your desires moot.”

Current Macs, with the exception of the Intel-based Mac Pro, do not have interchangeable banks of RAM, storage slots, or card slots. And not even Mac Studio has those. “The fact that we can’t upgrade the RAM, we get a huge benefit from that,” Siracusa He said this last week in his podcast. “Apple doesn’t do it just to be mean. Memory is really fast…it makes computers better.”

It can be hard to let go of that computer-obsessed urge to fiddle with a computer’s internals, to accept that the benefits we get from a modern, integrated Mac might be worth the equivalent of worrying about scale on a PC. It is difficult to fight human nature.

But if you look beyond, you’ll see this: Apple now sells a computer that’s powerful enough to satisfy “power users,” but it doesn’t start at $6000. This is not there There are still holes in the lineup that may need to be filled out Mac mini is more powerfulBut the decades-old desire for seasoned users to buy a Mac desktop between Mac mini and Mac Pro has finally come true.

even exMacworld Rob Griffiths, the editor and xMac fanatic, who designed “Frankenmac” back in the day, purchased Mac Studio this week. That oasis in the Mac desktop desert? It is no longer a mirage.