Vision Pro was a better deal than my Mac Studio

As the post-launch hype has cooled, the Apple-watcher zeitgeist has started to turn against the platform—some are even bold enough to invoke the word "failure".

(Aside: if Apple considers Vision Pro a failure, it's not because of sluggish sales figures or a weak App Store lineup. It was clear from the jump that Apple is committed to a ten year roadmap for this thing, regardless what you or your favorite Youtuber thinks. Burback's video was hilarious, though.)

I've been using Apple Vision Pro for no purpose other than Mac Virtual Display for 4-8 hours a day, 7 days a week, since it launched on February 2nd. Meanwhile, my brand-spankin'-new M2 Ultra-equipped Mac Studio and 32" 6K monitor are collecting dust. More than that, I'm getting more done than at any point in my career. So I figured I'd share the Good News with y'all, in case it might sway anyone sitting on the fence into giving Vision Pro a shot.

First, I'll explain why my productivity shot through the roof once I strapped a computer to my face. Then, I'll show why such an expensive device is no more an irresponsible use of funds than other "Pro"-tier equipment in the Apple ecosystem.


As I mentioned, I have an extremely over-provisioned Mac Studio and a very fancy monitor five feet away from me, and I've barely touched them for over 2 months. Instead, I'm lounging in my knock-off Eames chair and typing with my MacBook Air on my lap as I gaze straight ahead at a massive screen and sip my coffee.

Two things about the traditional "sit at a computer desk and stare at a monitor all day" paradigm don't work for me, it turns out:

  • Posture. I've never been convinced proper Computer Posture™ is actually all that natural or healthy, long-term. In over 30 years of computering, I've never figured out how to maintain a neutral neck position staring at a display for more than a few minutes at a time. I can't train myself into hovering my hands above the keyboard instead of digging my wrists into the palm wrest, either. And whenever I experience pain or discomfort in front of my computer, you know what I'm not thinking about? Whatever the hell I'm supposed to be working on.
  • Focus. I'm extremely prone to distraction when using computers. Not because I have ADHD, but because early-days social media so thoroughly rotted my brain that whenever I feel the faintest twinge of uncertainty, I'll mash command-tab and latch onto whatever source of distraction I can. I might escape to "fun" time-wasters like Twitter, Reddit, or RSS, but I'm shameless—if it'll get me out of thinking hard thoughts, I'll even resort to repeatedly checking e-mail and Slack

Vision Pro solves both of these problems spectacularly for me.

For the first time in my life of obsessive computer use, I experience near-zero pain and discomfort. Because I can effortlessly fling and resize a screen into any position I want, I've begun to detect when my eyes' default "gazing point" (for lack of a better term) shifts throughout the day and started making micro-adjustments to the virtual display's size and location to keep it in the dead center. For the first time, my computer display moves to meet my eyes instead of my head and neck craning to align with my display. In addition to traditional standing/sitting computer desks, I can finally code comfortably in a lounge chair, a couch, or even my bed. Now that I'm able to arrange my meatbag however I need to without sacrificing my control over my computer, I'm able to maintain a state of intense focus for several more hours each day than I used to.

Behind this productivity breakthrough is an uncomfortable truth: even though just about everyone has an 8-hour workday, knowledge workers generally and programmers specifically usually accomplish whatever they're going to in their day's best 3 or 4 hours. That means the fact I'm now able to sit at my computer for 6 hours and get 6 really great hours of work done doesn't mean I worked a partial day, it means I got two days' worth of work done in less than one. If you care about how much you actually achieve in your limited time on this planet and you haven't tried Vision Pro, this should get your attention.

Speaking of attention, the Vision Pro has almost entirely eliminated my desire to distract myself when I'm at the computer. Why is that?

I've spent two months asking myself that question. The fact that I'm staring at a massive screen is a huge part of it. The lack of postural discomfort certainly helps. The way its audio pods envelop one's space with music is a nice touch. At the end of the day, though, when you're wearing a way-too-heavy pair of aluminum ski goggles, you feel a certain urgency to do whatever it is you meant to do when you strapped it on. As engrossing as your social media timeline might be, is it worth scrolling endlessly while you have a big honking computer strapped to your face? My answer is no, apparently. The handful of times I've opened my RSS reader and started distracting myself with news, it was so overkill that it just felt silly. Like I rented a 40-ton dump truck to drive myself to the bowling alley. There's an intangible seriousness to the experience of using Vision Pro, and it doesn't leave room for unserious distractions.

So yeah, I'm convinced the single best thing I've done for my productivity in the last decade was to buy this thing and use it as nothing more than a glorified computer monitor.


My setup has changed a bit since I did an interview for The Setup / uses this about all the kit assembled in my office back in 2021. I apparently predicted this exact shift for myself, though:

One unintended consequence of a popular high-resolution, lightweight convergence AR/VR device could be the death of the stationary display panel industry—what purpose would they continue to serve? As somebody who doesn't like to stay in one place for too long, I'd be in line on day one.

Points for knowing myself, I guess.

Anyway, I now have two separate development environments in my office. Let's compare the price of each.

My flat stack:

  • $6999 for my Mac Studio (M2 Ultra, 128GB RAM, 8TB disk) – I really over-provisioned this one. I had my reasons, I swear
  • $2479 for Dell's 6K monitor – The only 6K monitor on the market aside from Apple's $4999 Pro Display XDR. (The price was $3199 when I bought it less than a year ago)

My spatial stack:

  • $1499 for MacBook Air (M3, 16GB RAM, 512GB disk) – mostly designed to retain maximal trade-in value so I can get more than half my money back for each annual M-series chip upgrade
  • $3699 for Vision Pro (512GB) – though I realize I totally could've gotten by with 256GB, I did manage to fill all 512GB with movies and TV shows before my last plane ride

In total, my $5198 spatial setup is blowing the socks off my much-fancier-by-every-metric $9477 computer. There's no contest.

While it's true that the Mac Studio is much, much faster, I benefit more from the cognitive benefits of immersing myself in the Vision Pro than I do from the faster feedback loops on my Mac Studio (where my full test suite takes about 20 seconds versus 45 seconds on my MacBook Air).

I realize this whole post will look like a straw man argument to some—after all, a much cheaper Mac Mini equipped with a 4K display would be a better apples-to-apples comparison. But that's not my point. What I'm trying to say here is that pairing a Vision Pro with a MacBook Air offers a superior experience to what basically amounts to Apple's top-of-the-line desktop computer for about half the price.

I haven't given up on the Mac Studio, by the way. It's just that in the current version of visionOS, it is much easier to use Mac Virtual Display with a laptop in your lap than to try to get a keyboard and trackpad working with a desktop from across the room. If and when that changes, I'll absolutely start using the Mac Studio again.

Taking the leap

Anyway, that's my pitch. The Vision Pro in its current form is only recommendable as a virtual display for Macintosh computers. It's the only thing it does well. It just happens to do it so well that this feature alone is easily worth the price of admission. Everything else it enables—like Sandwich's delightful Television app, playing Battleship with a friend's spatial persona, and forgetting you're on an airplane—is just gravy.

If you do buy a Vision Pro for this purpose, be sure to get a better strap, by the way. Also consider listening to the two-hour episode of my podcast where I just absolutely eviscerated the thing for being nowhere near good enough at literally everything Apple is marketing this device as.

I'm incredibly bought into the long-term potential of this platform and I look forward to developing apps and experiences for Vision Pro, but for the average consumer I implore you: do not buy this device as anything but a Mac display right now. Unless getting an early taste of the honest-to-god future is worth $3500 to you.

Questions? Comments? E-mail me.

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