2024 could be one of the dullest years ever for the Mac
2023 ended up being a good year for the Mac, thanks to the somewhat surprising introduction of the M3 series of chips and the launch of the 15-inch MacBook Air. But what about next year? What will happen to the Mac lineup in 2024?
Well, it looks like not a whole lot. We’ll get some new macOS features revealed at WWDC in June, but hardware-wise, we’ve reached a stage in the M-series Mac evolution that will likely be more routine than revolutionary. Put it all together and you’ve got the makings of a very dull year for the Mac.
The M3 chip got a lot of attention leading up to its October release in the iMac and MacBook Pro. It’s the first 3nm chip to be used in a Mac (or any personal computer), and with it being the third generation of the M-series, there was a lot of speculation about how Apple would handle the rollout.
But since the M3’s arrival, there hasn’t been any buzz about upcoming chips. Since Apple released the base, Pro, and Max versions of the chip at the same time, the only M3 chip variation to look forward to is the Ultra, which will probably happen in the spring or at WWDC in June. And we have a basic idea of how the Ultra will be configured–Ultra chips are basically a pair of Max chips tied together with a super-fast interconnect, so it’s not a totally new concept. We pretty much know it’ll be a 28-core CPU and 80-core GPU.
Then after that, Apple will go through generations of 3nm M-chips for some time, until chip manufacturer TSMC has the 2nm process ready in 2025 or 2026. We’ll see enhanced 3nm before that, but it’s unlikely to demonstrably change much for the user.
We could see an M4 chip towards the end of 2024. But even if we do, we’ve entered a maturation phase of the M-series, similar to what we experienced with Intel chips. The performance boosts are going to be incremental, about 15 to 20 percent, if Apple continues with a typical product progression. While any performance improvement is always good, it may never reach the scale that we saw when Apple switched from Intel to its M1.
Apple is always tinkering, however, as seen with the M3 Pro CPU core configuration. The company could do something completely different to the chip structure that changes how it works or enhance the Neural Engine and the media codecs. Or maybe even increase the base amount or unified memory. There’s plenty that can be done to make the chips better than ever.
Designs are set
If you’re holding out on investing in a new Mac because you are waiting for Apple to introduce new designs, you’re going to wait a long time. Apple’s current lineup is almost certainly set from a design standpoint for the next few years.
The MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Studio, and iMac are all relatively recent designs, and they aren’t dated from a technological standpoint. Apple won’t be changing them, and they have no reason to. The Mac mini’s design is 13 years old, but it still works–maybe it can be smaller, but Apple would’ve done that already with the M1 or M2 release. The Mac Pro’s design is actually only 4-plus years old, and it’s a Mac that sells in such small quantities that a new case would just be a design exercise.
New models are further down the road
Maybe it’s not new designs you want. Maybe it’s a new model completely, like an iMac Pro with a screen bigger than 24 inches. If there’s going to be big Mac news in 2024, an iMac Pro would be it. Reports do say an iMac Pro is in the works, but it’s hardly a lock and almost certainly not coming in 2024. Both Mark Gurman of Bloomberg and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had said that Apple has 2024 in mind, but have pushed the ship date to 2025–if it is released at all.
Or maybe it’s a cheap MacBook you want. Rumors have floated around that Apple is working on a Chromebook-like laptop to address the education market, and if this is truly the case, this laptop won’t be available until 2025.
In any case, 2024 looks like a year that won’t see Apple introduce new Mac models into the lineup. What you see now is what you’re getting.
We’ve come to the eventuality
The M-series Mac was going to get to this point of routineness eventually. After all, the Mac is a very mature product–it’ll be 40 years old in January. Its core functionality has been set for decades, and excitement comes with implementations of new technology. And those implementations happen periodically, not annually.
Which, actually, makes it easier for you to buy a new Mac when you need it. You don’t have to worry about missing out on something major that’s around the corner. You can feel safe and secure in your investment. That’s a nice feeling—even if it makes for a pretty boring year.