Mac Studio is the legendary completion

Apple’s announcement of Mac Studio on Tuesday may be available fulfill a dream which some Mac users have been clinging to for several decades. Finally, there’s a more modular desktop Mac that’s more powerful than the Mac mini that doesn’t carry the Mac Pro’s high price tag.

Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, being a Mac geek meant using a Power Mac. The arrival of the original iMac in 1998 was greeted with enthusiasm by Mac enthusiasts because it meant that Steve Jobs could restore Apple to the greatness that it was after it was founded in the mid-90s — but none of them will not want to use itself. .

When Jobs returned to Apple, he presided over a dramatic and necessary simplification of the product line. Mac Power desktop computers, a model suitable for power users, disappeared in 1998. Choices dwindle to the less powerful iMac (and later the Mac mini) at one end and the increasingly expensive Power Mac/Mac Pro tower at the other.

In the middle, at least for proficient Mac users, is a desert. And rising out of the desert is a glorious illusion: a mythical mid-range Mac powerhouse just like the old Power Macs. This legendary creature is called the xMac.

Scope of anxiety for computers

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and where complaints about Apple’s lack of mid-range Mac desktops began, but they’re at least 20 years old. ONE 2005 Ars Technica post by John Siracusa suggests that it was coined in that site’s Mac forums in 2001 or earlier.

Despite that, the discontinuation of Power Mac for desktop computers seems to have created a community of Mac users who feel trapped between the iMac and the larger and more expensive Power Mac tower. They vent on Internet forums and in threads tied to stories about new Apple hardware.

The introduction of the Mac mini in 2005 brought a clearer focus to frustration. In his post, Siracusa rejected the Mac mini because it was too limited to be a proper replacement for the expensive Power Mac and expressed his desire for an affordable modular Mac with Configurable specifications:

This is what I want. Start with a choice of two possible CPUs: the single fastest CPU Apple sells and the second fastest. In modern terms, both would be dual core CPUs. Internal expansion buses should also be top-of-the-line but have less capacity than Power Macs…. Build-to-order options should span the entire range for each item that can be configured.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the xMac. My XMac. The Mac I want to buy. Shortened to one sentence, it’s a completely Scalable, configurable, headless Macs to reduce size and cost.

[…] but I would be satisfied with a compromise: a Fully configurable Headless Mac makes trading scalable to reduce size and cost. It is Power Mac mini, making it cheaper and faster than at least one Power Mac model, while also providing the fastest single-CPU “deluxe” version available. That would still reduce Power Mac sales, but it also creates an opportunity to sell more to iMac and (especially) Mac mini customers. It could still be a net win.

Siracusa was happy to trade scalability, but for many users, the desire for xMac was inseparable from the desire for a PC modular Mac. 2007, MacworldDan Frakes wrote his own article dream of a mid-range desktop Macand while he is enthusiastic about the prospect, he also makes 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 more RAM is quite small. But at the same time, many people who will never upgrade their computer still think they will — or at least want the safety and comfort of knowing that they can.

Painful truth. Electric car buyers will prioritize range and charging networks though the truth that 95 percent of car trips are 30 miles or less – and nearly 60 percent are less than six. The anxiety about computer upgrades was long before the anxiety about the EV range existed.

Beige Power Macintosh G3 desktop, one tower, one desktop, with large CRT display.

25 years ago, Apple built a mid-sized modular desktop for power users.
Image: Apple

Of course, the past two decades have almost completely eliminated the concept of upgradeable technology, especially on Apple devices. What’s built into current Macs is what they’ll be — processor, memory, memory, and GPU — forever. Only the super expensive Mac Pro offers upgradability. (And how much of it will be left when it moves to Apple silicon? Only Apple knows for sure, but proof so far suggests that it will be little or nothing.)


Page one of Macworld’s five-page Hackintosh story.
Jason Snell’s photo

So what is an xMac fan supposed to do? Many of them have tried building Hackintoshes, custom Intel PCs using Apple-compatible parts, on which macOS can be installed. In 2008, a company called Psystar tried to sell macOS compatible minitowersdirectly to the consumer, only to be sued into oblivion Apple’s.

That same year, MacworldRob Griffiths of explain he built “Frankenmac” (a synonym for Hackintosh we use to avoid incurring Apple’s wrath) this way: “I don’t want or need a machine with a built-in screen, I don’t need the energy power of an 8-core Mac Pro, but I want my Mac to be faster and more scalable than a mini. ”

That’s how Mac users crave something more. Macworld magazine devoted five physical pages to the story of buying a copy of Psystar and building a Hackintosh, all in order to create a Mac that Apple refused to manufacture.

The Hackintosh community never really died; Still there Tutorials on YouTube show you how to make one. However, the Mac’s departure from Intel means that the Hackintosh era is coming to an end in the next few years.

2013 Mac Pro: Everyone loses

In 2012, xMac followers got excited when Tim Cook replied to an email from an Apple customer named Franz by telling him that New Mac Pro launched at the end of 2013. The old Mac Pro has been around for a long time. Surely this is an opportunity for Apple to rethink the whole idea of ​​a desktop Mac!

MacworldFrakes’s jumped into the story, providing a Updated list of requests for xMac, citing the large price gap between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. Alas, Frakes discovered that the late 2013 Mac Pro Still only for professionals.


Cylindrical Mac Pro from 2013.
The Verge’s photo

Not only did the Mac Pro fail to satisfy the xMac crowd, it also lacked true internal expandability and had serious thermal issues, resulting in remarkable curves where Apple promises to do better when it releases the next version of the Mac Pro. That version shipped at the end of 2019 and starting at $6,000.

The waste of a good screen

Over the past few decades, the iMac has been the product that bridged the gap between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. And forced to buy anything else, a lot of xMac champions ended up buying iMacs. I suppose this ended up distorting the iMac, forcing it to High-end chip support and other features that’s too complicated for what it means to be all-in-one consumer-friendly. The M1 iMacWith simple design and bright colors, is a return of form.

And then there’s the waste of that perfectly fine display, which has always annoyed many xMac proponents. Monitors can last a very long time, and if you’re the type of person that upgrades your computer every two or three years, that means you’re rolling out a perfectly good monitor. It just seems wasteful. (Apple succinctly provided a feature called Target Display Mode, which lets you boot up your iMac and use it as a dumb external display.)

A user works on a Mac Studio Desktop.

Mac Studio and Studio Display – headless module again.
Image: Apple

With the announcement of not just a Mac Studio but a new Studio Display — the company’s first new sub-$5,000 monitor in over a decade! —Apple seems to have understood this part of the message about the xMac philosophy. Yes, buying a Mac Studio and a separate monitor will cost a lot more than an iMac — but at least you can trade the computer in for a new one in a few years. And if you’ve got a handy display, you’re already sitting pretty.

Is it a big money saver? Ability. Is there less waste? A little. And it meets at least part of the requirements to be a suitable xMac.

Requiem for xMac

A funny thing happened on the way to the xMac that finally existed: The world moved with it and left the dream behind. I asked the 2005 xMac proponent John Siracusa 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 make your desires vibrant.”

Macs today, except for the Intel-based Mac Pro, don’t have swappable RAM, storage trays, or card slots. Even Mac Studio doesn’t have those. “The fact that we can’t upgrade the RAM, we get a huge benefit for that,” said Siracusa said last week on his podcast. “Apple doesn’t do it just for the sake of evil. Memory is really, really fast… it makes computers better. “

It’s hard to give up the desire to tinker with a computer’s insides, to accept that the benefits we get from a modern built-in Mac might be worth the PC equivalent of worrying about it. operating range. It’s hard to go against human nature.

But if you look around, you’ll see this: Apple is currently selling a computer powerful enough to please “advanced users,” but doesn’t start at $6,000. It’s not there still no hole in the lineup that may need to be filled with Mac mini is more powerfulbut the decades-long desire of the proficient user to buy a desktop Mac between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro has finally come to fruition.

Even the exampleMacworld xMac editor and fan Rob Griffiths, who built the old “Frankenmac,” bought a Mac Studio this week. That oasis in the Mac computer desert? It is no longer an illusion. Mac Studio is the legendary completion

Fry Electronics Team

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