2024 is expected to be a slow and steady year for the Mac, with the iPad and Vision Pro taking center stage. After Apple’s thunderous launch of the M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max chips in the MacBook Pro and iMac a few months ago, these chips will roll out as spec bumps in the MacBook Air M3 and the rest of the lineup next year.
And don’t hold your breath for an M4 MacBook Pro. That probably won’t debut until early or mid-2025.
What to expect from Mac in 2024: MacBook Air M3 and more
Throughout 2024, Apple is expected to finish updating its Mac lineup to the new M3 chip that debuted in November on the MacBook Pro and iMac. That means bringing the lower-end chips to the MacBook Air and Mac mini, with the high-end M3 Max chip and expected M3 Ultra chip headed for the Mac Studio desktop and Mac Pro tower.
None of these machines are expected to be significantly redesigned or changed in price.
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MacBook Air M3
An updated MacBook Air with an M3 chip is expected early in 2024 at a March event. Both the 13-inch and 15-inch models will get the same M3 chip that debuted in November in the base model MacBook Pro. This chip optimizes for efficiency and battery life — but now with improved graphics.
The M1 MacBook Air currently holds down the all-important $999 price point. But it’s getting long in the tooth at 3 years old. It remains an open question whether Apple will discontinue it or keep it in the lineup at an even lower price.
It’s possible the current 13-inch M2 model will replace it at $999 and the M3 models will take the $1,099 and $1,299 spots. The old M1 model might be available only through the Apple Education Store (if at all).
Mac mini M3 and M3 Pro
The Mac mini with M3 and Mac mini with M3 Pro could debut at the same March event. These new models would replace the existing M2 and M2 Pro models at the same prices, with the M3 and M3 Pro chips first seen on the MacBook Pro.
Today, there’s no way to get the power of the M3 chip in the cheaper desktop form factor. If you want Apple’s latest and greatest, you must pay a roughly $700 premium for an iMac or MacBook Pro.
The Mac mini is far from the most glamorous Mac in the lineup. However, its modular form factor makes it a top pick for independent creators, small businesses and server farms.
Mac Studio M3 and Mac Pro M3
According to Bloomberg, the Mac Studio and Mac Pro will not receive updates until late 2024 or early 2025.
This is likely due to the limited manufacturing capacity of the three-nanometer process, a cutting-edge technology used to make the M3 family of chips. As the Mac Studio and Mac Pro are the lowest-volume sellers, with the highest-spec and highest-complexity chips, they will be the last to ship — just like before.
The Mac Studio and Mac Pro likely will receive the same M3 Max chip and introduce a new M3 Ultra chip, with double the specs and performance. The M3 Ultra, then, should be configurable up to a 32-core CPU, 80-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine and 256GB of unified memory.
MacBook Pro M4
Will Apple debut updated MacBook Pros with M4 chips before the end of 2024? It’s highly unlikely Apple will begin rolling out M4 chips before the M3 generation is finished. If you’re waiting for a MacBook Pro with M4, you may have to wait until March or June of 2025.
Apple’s M4 chip reportedly will be manufactured using an “enhanced” three-nanometer process that is likely to bring a significant boost to performance per watt. Apple could tune this to either increase performance with the same battery life, maintain performance with a significant bump in battery life, or strike a balance somewhere in the middle.
I suspect M4 will be the first “must-have” Mac upgrade for anyone still on an M1-generation chip.