The Missing Mid-Range Desktop Mac

Killian Bell, Cult of Mac:

The larger iMac probably isn’t gone for good. Apple is rumored to be working on a new model with a revamped design that will be powered by its latest and most powerful M1 chipsets, likely including the incredibly new M1 Ultra.

John Gruber:

I can’t speak to the rumors, but product-fit-wise, I think the 27-inch iMac doesn’t have a spot in the lineup anymore. I think the Mac Studio and Studio Display fill that spot. It even makes sense in hindsight that the consumer-level iMac went from 21 to 24 inches, if it’s going to be the one and only iMac.

Dan Moren, Six Colors:

But what if you’re someone who falls in the middle, what once was called the “prosumer” market? There’s actually a surprising dearth of options on the desktop side. The Mac mini and iMac offer only the 8-core CPU/8-core GPU M1 processor — even in the top of the line iMac, starting at $1699. To get anything more than that, you’d have to jump to a $1999 Mac Studio, and then add a display like Apple’s new $1599 Studio Display. That’s $2000 more than that top of the line iMac.

Moreover, because of the limitations of the M1 chip, the iMac and the Mac mini offer only a maximum of 16GB of RAM and two Thunderbolt ports—the same as an M1 MacBook Air.

I think Moren is more right than Gruber on this one. The Mac Studio occupies a position more akin to the old iMac Pro. In fact, if you build a cart today with the base M1 Ultra Mac Studio model, a Studio Display — standard configuration — a Magic Keyboard, and a Magic Mouse, it is within $200 of the inflation-adjusted price of a base iMac Pro from its launch in 2017. That seems right to me.

The Mac Studio may start with an M1 Max configuration at half the price of the M1 Ultra model, but it is $200 more than the base price of the Intel 27-inch iMac. The Mac Studio’s lowest possible configuration is way better than the Intel model used to offer — 32 GB of RAM compared to just 8 GB, twice the storage, and a better port selection — but you need to buy a 5K display, too. Good luck with that.

I think a mid-range iMac is still a welcome addition to the line. Apple has been extolling the virtues of an all-in-one for decades, and its computers have a greater lifespan — how many people do you know who still used an early 2000s Mac in the late 2000s? There still seems to be space to offer something to a midrange user who has outgrown the M1 iMac, but does not need the raw performance of the Mac Studio. It seems possible to me this could take the form of a different-sized iMac as much as it could a higher-specced version of the 24-inch model.