This article was published on March 22, 2022

Why is Apple’s Studio Display basically a giant iPad?

A monitor shouldn't be this powerful

Why is Apple’s Studio Display basically a giant iPad?

Much like the tiny-but-beastly Mac Studio, the Apple Studio Display is the type of device only Apple could make.

No, I’m not talking about the fancy metallic design, 5K resolution, nor its sextuple speaker system. Nor am I even making fun of the $1,600 price tag.

Instead, I’m talking about the sheer flex of building a display that, for some reason, is basically as powerful as the company’s latest entry-level iPad. Apple would have probably helped many more users by making a really nice $500 monitor instead, but no, it just had to make an absurdly overpowered monitor instead.

Apple already confirmed the monitor is using Apple’s A13 processor — the same chip used in the 2021 iPad. Although that processor was released in 2019 with the iPhone 11, Apple’s lead in mobile chip design means it still goes toe-to-toe with the latest chips from Qualcomm and Google. It also uses a similar 12MP front-facing camera for extra-nice video calls with Center Stage support.

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Moreover, we later found out (via Daring Fireball) that the Studio Display runs on a full-fledged version of iOS 15. And furthering Apple’s flex, developer @KhaosT on Twitter recently noticed the screen comes with 64GB of built-in storage — again, the same as the iPhone 11 and 9th Gen iPad — despite only using 2GB of the available space.

The only other major specification we don’t know is RAM, but given how closely the other specs line up with the iPhone 11 (4GB) and 2021 iPad (3GB), I’d be surprised if it’s much lower.

In other words, this display, which does little else besides offering a webcam and nice speakers, offers comparable performance to many of the best smartphones on the market right now, and even some PCs.

For reference, the A13 Bionic scores roughly 1,300 for single-core performance and 3,300 for multi-core performance on GeekBench 5. Here’s how some other devices compare in both single-core and multi-core performance, respectively (these are rough estimates based on results in the Geekbench Browser):

  • Google Pixel 6 (and 6 Pro): ~1,000/2,800
  • Samsung Galaxy S22: ~1,100/3,800 (and Samsung was banned for allegedly cheating on this benchmark)
  • Microsoft Surface Pro X (2nd Gen): ~800/2,900
  • OnePlus 9 Pro: ~900/2,900
  • Dell XPS 13 (2021, i7): ~1,400/4,900
  • Pre-M1 MacBook Pro (2020, i7): ~1,200/4,400

There’s pretty much no reason for a monitor to have this much computing power. Sure, Apple is using some of that performance for fancy features like Center Stage and Spatial Audio, but there’s no doubting those things are overkill too.

That begs the question of why Apple would build so much power into a glorified monitor. Is Apple planning on letting you use the monitor as a standalone computing device? I mean, it already has all the processing power it needs plus a bunch of ports, right?

As interesting as I think that would be — I, for one, am all for the MacPad — I highly doubt this would happen. Only Apple knows the numbers behind its decision, but chances are that the company decided it wanted to build in some neat features into its display, like the aforementioned Spatial Audio, and found that re-using an old chip design was simply the cheapest way to do it well.

It sounds absurd, but that’s the kind of thing the economics of scale allow for when you’re a 3-trillion-dollar company. Apple didn’t need to make a monitor that’s more powerful than many people’s PCs, but it’s probably the only company that could get away with it.

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