Mini, Air, Pro, Max, Studio, Ultra: What do Apple’s names actually mean?

May 20, 2022Technology0 comments

What’s in a surname? All of Apple’s product lines have some mix of Air and Pro and now Max and Studio, with each bringing different capabilities to the table depending on what you’re buying. We’ll help you sort it all out and tell one Pro from the next Max.

Mini

For the most part, mini seems smaller in Apple’s terminology, both literally and performance-wise. Apple sells three products in the mini family.

iPhone 13 mini

What it costs: $699-1,029

What it means: Small display, mid-range performance and features

The iPhone 13 mini is a smaller version of the iPhone 13, with the same processor, camera, and specs (aside from the battery). It has a 5.4-inch display versus 6.1 inches on the iPhone 13 and a slightly smaller battery, but otherwise, mini here means what you expect: smaller.

iPhone 13 mini

iPad mini

What it costs: $499-$799

What it means: Small display, mid-range performance and features

The iPad mini is essentially a smaller version of the iPad Air with one exception: It’s powered by the A15 processor in the iPhone while the iPad Air has the same beefy M1 processor as the Mac and iPad Pro. The iPad mini got an 8.3-inch display (versus 10.9-inch on the Air), but everything else is the same: 12MP cameras, USB-C port, 5G networking, and 2nd generation Apple Pencil support.

Mac mini

What it costs: $699-$2,099

What it means: Small size, entry-level to mid-range performance

The Mac mini is Apple’s smallest desktop Mac, about a third of the height of the Mac Studio. It has an M1 processor (versus the much more high-end M1 Max and M1 Ultra) and costs about a third of the price. The highest-end Mac mini (which we wouldn’t recommend buying until it gets an Apple silicon update) is nearly the same price as the entry-level Studio, so they match up nearly perfectly.

Mac mini Mac mini
You don’t have to look too hard to see where the Mac mini, left, gets its name.

Air

Apple’s use of the Air name is a little more confusing. The MacBook Air is decidedly entry-level but the iPad Air is clearly mid-range. And while the MacBook Air is the lightest Mac laptop you can buy, the iPad Air isn’t all that lighter than the iPad and 11-inch iPad Pro.  

iPad Air

What it costs: $599-$899

What it means: Upper-range performance and mid-range features

At $599, iPad Air costs quite a bit more than the most budget-friendly iPad, which begins at $329. But you’re getting a lot more for your money: a Liquid Retina display, M1 processor, Apple Pencil 2 support, sub-6GHz 5G, USB-C, and an array of colors: space gray, pink, purple, starlight, and blue. 

Lifestyle shot of iPad Air (2022)
The iPad Air is thin and light like the MacBook Air, but it’s more powerful than its name implies.

IDG

MacBook Air

What it costs: $999-$2,049

What it means: Entry-level performance 

The Air has been a mainstay in Apple’s laptop lineup since its dramatic introduction in January 2008, but Apple hasn’t made any major improvements to the MacBook Air since 2018, when it got a redesign and a retina display. While it started out as a higher-end machine, the current model is a great value for $999 with an M1 processor, 256GB of storage, a Magic Keyboard, and tremendous battery life. 

Pro

Pro is the most confusing name in Apple’s parlance. It clearly means better and sometimes best, but not all Pro devices are created equally. The iPhone Pro and AirPods Pro are relatively affordable upgrades from their non-pro compatriots, but the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is quite pricey, and the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR are out of reach for most people. And the 13-inch MacBook Pro is basically an Air compared to the 14-inch and 16-inch models.

M1 Pro

What it costs: $1,999-$5,299

What it means: Mid-range performance

In December 2020, Apple started the transition to its own processors with the M1 chip. Not even a year later, the exponentially faster M1 Pro was announced for the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, delivering nearly twice as much speed as the M1. As it stands, it’s only available in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, but we expect it to come to the Mac mini as well.

AirPods Pro

What it costs: $249

What it means: High-end design and features

The AirPods Pro are one of three different types of AirPods Apple sells, but they stand alone. Unlike the cheaper AirPods models, the AirPods Pro offers active noise cancellation with transparency mode and a more secure fit than regular AirPods thanks to the use of silicon tips. 

AirPods Pro

iPhone 13 Pro

What it costs: $999-$1,499

What it means: High-end features

Apple introduced its iPhone Pro line with the iPhone 11 and each model has had the same distinctions: a better camera, better screen, stainless steel finish, and larger 6.7-inch “Max” option. The latest iPhone 13 Pro finally brought the smooth stylings of ProMotion to the iPhone as well as a slightly better A15 processor with a 5-core GPU, better battery life, and an upgraded camera system. You also get different colors available in Sierra Blue, silver, graphite, and gold colors.

iPad Pro

What it costs: $799-$1,999

What it means: Upper-end performance and features

While there are two sizes of iPad Pro, the 12.9-inch model is the more “Pro” of the two. The 11-inch model has a similar Liquid Retina display to the iPad Air (but with the addition of ProMotion), but the 12.9-inch model ups the ante with a Liquid Retina XDR display that uses mini-LED backlighting to deliver better brightness and superior color accuracy. Otherwise, the iPad Pro is very similar to the iPad Air with some slight upgrades: mmWave 5G, higher RAM and storage options, and a Thunderbolt 3 port.

MacBook Pro

What it costs: $1,299-$6,099

What it means: Mid- to upper-end performance

The MacBook Pro family runs the gamut of pricing, performance, and features. At the low end, there’s the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 processor starting at $1,299, and at the high end is the 16-inch MacBook Pro with a Liquid Retina XDR display and M1 Pro processor starting at $2,499, nearly twice as much. The difference between the 13-inch and the 16-inch MacBook Pro is so great that it’s hard to understand how they both share the same surname.

14-inch MacBook Pro 2021

IDG

Mac Pro

What it costs: $4,999-$52,199

What it means: Ultra high-end performance

Apple’s workstation hasn’t had a meaningful update since 2019 and still starts at $5,999. It’s certainly a beefy machine, with up to a 28-core Intel Xeon W processor, up to 1.5TB of DDR4 ECC memory in 12 DIMM slots, and very high-end graphics options. It’s also Apple’s only modular Mac, with eight accessible PCIe slots. It’s slower than some of the Apple silicon-based Macs but also much more expandable and attractive to demanding pro users.

Pro Display XDR

What it costs: $4,999-$6,998

What it means: Ultra high-end performance

Pro is actually the display’s first name, but it’s no less premium than the Mac Pro. The Pro Display XDR is a 32-inch Retina 6K (resolution of 6016×3384, 1,000 sustained nits of brightness, and 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio) that starts at the very high end of available 32-inch monitors, and that’s even before you add pricey options such as nano-texture glass for $1,000, a Pro stand for $999 or a VESA mount for $199.

Max

For the most part, Max means bigger—more cores, fuller sound, bigger screen.

M1 Max

What it costs: $1,999-$6,099

What it means: Upper-end performance

The M1 Max, which was announced simultaneously with the M1 Pro in October, has a GPU that’s four times faster than the M1’s GPU. The chip supports up to 64 GB of unified memory, and has twice the memory bandwidth of the M1 Pro and six times the bandwidth of the M1, up to 400GB/s. Read more about our projections of the future of Apple’s chips for an idea of what’s coming down the pipeline over the next few years.

AirPods Max

What it costs: $549

What it means: High-end design and features

Apple’s high-end over-the-ear wireless headphones bring active noise cancellation and a premium design but come at a hefty price. They’re also heavy at 384 grams, as compared to the drastically lighter four-gram AirPods and AirPods Pro. Plus the AirPods Max lacks a 3.5mm jack input, so you’ll have to pony up for a Lightning to 3.5mm cable if you want to enjoy them without the Bluetooth latency.

AirPods max

iPhone 13 Pro Max

What it costs: $1,099-$1,599

What it means: Large display, high-end performance

The rare product with two surnames, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is exactly what its name implies: A larger version of the iPhone 13 Pro. With a 6.7-inch display compared to a 6.1-inch one, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is for people who want a bigger and better display, better camera, and longer-lasting battery life. While Apple has added extra features to the Max in previous years, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is just bigger.

Studio

A revival of an older name, Studio now means high-end performance without completely breaking your budget. 

Mac Studio

What it costs: $1,999-$7,999

What it means: High-end performance

The compact Mac Studio was announced in two standard configurations during Apple’s March “Peek Performance” event: a $1,999 model with M1 Max (10-core CPU), 24-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD; and a $3,999 version with M1 Ultra (20-core CPU), 48-core GPU, 32-core Neural Engine, 64GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD. It’s substantially cheaper than the Mac Pro, but thanks to Apple silicon, is just as fast as those multi-core Xeon W processors at a fraction of the price. Apple is reportedly working on a new Mac Pro with Apple silicon, but for now, Studio is the new Pro, at least when it comes to desktop Macs.

Mac Studio

Willis Lai/Foundry

Studio Display

What it costs: $1,599-$2,299

What it means: Mid-range performance

The 27-inch Apple Studio Display is a more affordable version of the Pro Display XDR, but like the Mac Studio, still isn’t cheap. It has an A13 Bionic processor and runs iOS to power its 12MP webcam with Center Stage support. There are also six built-in speakers with support for Spatial Audio when using Dolby Atmos and the same nano-texture glass as its ultra-high-end sibling.

Ultra

Apple only has one Ultra product, but it’s the fastest and most expensive chip it makes.

M1 Ultra

What it costs: $3,999-$7,999

What it means: The highest-end performance

And now, there’s a new surname in M1 Ultra, which is a configuration of two Max chips with a combined 2.5TBps of bandwidth in the highest configuration of the Mac Studio. We don’t know if the Ultra name will be used in other products—a Mac Ultra perhaps—but if it is, you can expect it to be the ultimate flagship.

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