apple-mac-studio-review:-evaluating-value-and-performance-vs-pc-alternatives

While it is solely been about six months since Apple launched the M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs that might energy the 16-inch and 14-inch MacEbook Pro, the structure inside these chips can hint its roots again one other full 12 months to the daybreak of Apple Silicon within the Mac mini’s M1 processor. This is when Cupertino left behind Intel and its x86 processors to roll its personal Mac-focused chips, primarily based on its legacy of high-performance cell SoCs that had been discovered within the iPhone and iPad line-ups. By and enormous, it delivered excellent efficiency in each single-threaded and multi-threaded hundreds, particularly when contemplating general system energy draw. 

We closed out our MacEbook Pro evaluate with a warning: Alder Lake cell processors had been coming quickly. The desktop model had already blasted by means of our benchmark candy, notching numerous clear victories, and we had a reasonably good concept that Intel may do the identical factor within the cell house. In truth, that positively got here to cross as laptops with Twelfth-gen Core processors usually provide excellent efficiency. Chipzilla proved it may get its hybrid structure to scale all the way down to a lot decrease energy envelopes, and that put plenty of strain on Apple.

Enter The Mac Studio

Back in March, the corporate stunned the world with the announcement of the Mac Studio, a small however mighty desktop for professional content material creators and those that, like me, daydream of being professionals. It is available in a few configurations, all kind of primarily based on the M1 Max SoC. The base mannequin is fairly much like high-end MacBooks, however the M1 Ultra additionally made its debut. Built from a pair of M1 Max chips tethered collectively by a high-speed interconnect, this processor represents Apple’s present leading edge processing platform.

The M1 Ultra is up to now unique to only the Mac Studio

The M1 Ultra actually is 2 of all the pieces. It boasts not solely twice the CPU and GPU cores, however twice the reminiscence capability and bandwidth, too. The 2.5 TB per second bandwidth of the interconnect permits the M1 Ultra to current all of its assets to macOS as if it was a single monolithic chip. Rather than a pair of 24 or 32-core GPUs, the working system sees a single 48 or 64-core graphics processor. 16 efficiency cores and a quartet of effectivity cores deal with common objective compute features. There’s additionally 4 separate media engines (two per M1 Max), two 16-core neural processors, and a whopping 800 GB per second of bandwidth. That’s a bit greater than the 760 GB discovered on the ten GB model of the GeForce RTX 3080, for context. Unfortunately, you may need to cough up $4,000 to search out out what all that energy can do for you.

The draw back to the Mac Studio’s numerous configurations, if there may be one, is that Apple remains to be utilizing the identical CPU structure as 2020’s M1 Mac mini and smaller MacBooks, which additionally discovered its approach into the 24″ iMac. Single-threaded performance at its launch was stellar, but Intel has had plenty of time to catch up, and Alder Lake on the desktop is especially potent. Along with that, we’re still limited to the same 8+2 performance and efficiency core configuration as the 2021 MacBooks Pro in 14-inch and 16-inch form factors. The Mac Studio is much bigger with room for better cooling, and it’s a little disappointing Apple didn’t decide to push the envelope on clock speeds a little bit. 

Of course, M2 is here. Apple just recently announced new MacBooks Air and Pro 13-inch machines at WWDC at the start of June, and the company promises upwards of an 18% increase in system performance with those CPUs. What’s interesting is that M2 and M1 Pro/Max all share the same TSMC 5-nanometer class manufacturing process and M2 has the same CPU core configuration as the M1, so we’re not in any danger of the Mac Studio being outrun by a $1,200 laptop. 

Starting at $2,000 the Mac Studio promised faster-than-Mac Pro performance in a very small package. That two grand will net you a pretty powerful Mac, all things considered. So, without further ado, let’s meet the Apple Mac Studio. 

Apple Mac Studio Specifications

Find The Apple Mac Studio @ Amazon

As we mentioned, the Mac Studio starts out with either one or two M1 Max SoCs. Our base model has just the one chip; you’ll need to spring for the $4,000 model to get more than 10 CPU cores. For now, though, that’s enough, and the M1 Max has eight performance cores and just a pair of efficiency cores. Compared to the Mac mini, this a much more balanced approach befitting a desktop where power consumption isn’t necessarily a huge concern. Despite what we’d hope to be a bigger thermal budget, our performance results (starting on the next page) indicate that the maximum clock speed hasn’t budged from 3.2 GHz, even in single-threaded loads. This seems like a lost opportunity for Apple, but the company appears to be prioritizing silence over absolute performance. 

Compared to the 2020 Mac mini (top), the Mac Studio is maximum Mac

Along with those 10 CPU cores is a 24-core integrated GPU, itself a 71% increase in core count compared to our MacBook Pro’s 14-core graphics processor. The base model has a whopping 32 GB of LPDDR5 memory with a total bandwidth of 400 GB per second. That’s somewhere between the bandwidth afforded by NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3060 (360 GB/sec) and 3060 Ti (448 GB/sec). That’s also double the bandwidth found in the base model 14-inch MacBook Pro. There’s a beefy GPU lurking under the hood, and we’ll do our best to see it put to work soon. Being LPDDR5, it’s soldered in place, just like LPDDR4x before it in both PCs and M1 Macs. It can be upgraded to 64 GB for the M1 Max model, or a whopping 128 GB on the M1 Ultra, though that by itself is an $800 upgrade. 

Solid state storage is kind of a funny story in the Mac Studio. As far as Apple is concerned, you need to outfit the Mac Studio with as much internal storage as you think you’ll want when you order it. There’s plenty of Thunderbolt 4 connectivity if you want to add external storage later, but as far as built-in storage goes, what you buy is all you get. But of course things are never all that simple, and it does seem the Mac Studio’s storage is socketed. Unfortunately, nobody’s been able to figure out how to expand it, even though there appear to be two sockets buried under all the aluminum. Whatever the reason for it, just be warned: it seems impossible to expand the Mac Studio’s built-in storage at this point in time. The base M1 Max model comes with 512 GB of storage while the M1 Ultra doubles that to 1 TB by default. Prices climb quickly from there, however; it’s an extra $2,400 to go from 512 GB to the max of 8 TB of space.

The Mac Studio supports wireless networks using 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 (not 6E) and Bluetooth 5.0 provided by the same USI 339S00912 as the 14″ MacEbook Pro. There’s additionally 10-Gigabit Ethernet for many who want the highest-speed wired interface potential. Unfortunately our ASUS AX3000 router does not even assist 2.5 Gig-E, not to mention 10, so we could not actually put it by means of the paces. Still, it is there with none added price in contrast to the Mac mini, which solely serves to underscore the skilled focus of the Mac Studio.

The ports on the rear are neatly aligned with the ability cable within the center

Apple Mac Studio Design And Features

The Mac Studio itself is mainly a Mac mini, however taller. Measuring the identical 7.7-inch sq. footprint, the Studio stretches its legs a bit to succeed in round 3.7 inches tall. The further peak in comparison with the Mac mini is devoted to air flow. An array of holes serve a pair of blower followers that flow into air and push warmth out the rear. In the M1 Max model of the Studio, the warmth is pulled away by an aluminum heatsink, whereas the M1 Ultra will get a copper model that provides two full kilos to the M1 Max’s 5.9 kilos. The complete enclosure is milled from a single aluminum block, and there are not any seams wherever to be discovered besides the big round foot on the underside.

The Mac mini was fairly gentle on ports, and the Mac Studio goes half approach in direction of fixing that. On the rear, there’s solely a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, however a relatively beneficiant 4 Thunderbolt 4 ports with Type-C connectors. There’s additionally an HDMI 2.0 port with a max of 4K at 60 Hz, a headphone jack, and the plug for the built-in energy provide on the rear. Those Thunderbolt 4 ports also can carry 10 Gbit/sec USB and DisplayPort 1.4, and because the HDMI port is comparatively pokey, we predict most people will need to use DisplayPort.

The Mac Studio pulls air in by means of these holes on the underside of the chassis

Unlike the Mac mini, nevertheless, there are a few Type-C ports on the entrance, as nicely. On our M1 Max unit, they carry USB 3.2 at 10 Gbps. On the M1 Ultra, these ports carry two extra Thunderbolt 4 lanes tied to the second SoC. There’s additionally an SDXC reader that reads our Sandisk Ultra SD playing cards at up over 100 MB per second, which is nice for pulling massive portions of uncooked pictures or video from our Nikon digital camera.

We’d wish to see a bit extra USB connectivity on future iterations of the Mac Studio. Even if we went Apple’s most well-liked route of Bluetooth for keyboards and mice — all of Apple’s first-party peripherals are wi-fi as of late — we might nonetheless come up wanting sufficient rear-facing ports to plug in our USB audio interface, MIDI keyboard, and Time Machine backup with out including a USB hub to the combination or cannibalizing a number of of the Thunderbolt 4 ports. This is a machine geared toward professionals, in spite of everything, and it isn’t unreasonable to count on 4 USB ports.

Mac Studio Software Experience


The Mac Studio ships within the field with macOS 12 Monterey. Apple has been on the free annual improve prepare for a extremely very long time now, and all Macs bought since 2015 (together with the 2014 Mac mini and 2013 “trash can” Mac Pro) are eligible to improve to the most recent. Microsoft made some waves when it lower off AMD’s unique Ryzen and Intel’s Seventh-generation Core processors, all of which had been launched in 2017, at Windows 11’s launch. Of course, Windows 11 can nonetheless be put in on these PCs, whereas Macs that are not supported require fairly a little bit of coaxing to get on the most recent OS. That mentioned, Apple appears to be supporting most Macs for about 7 years after they have been retired from lively gross sales, which is not too shabby.

For many, probably the most engaging factor concerning the Mac platform is how nicely it integrates with all the pieces else Apple makes. The OS has built-in assist for textual content messages on iPhones through Messages and cellphone calls through FaceTime. Sidecar can flip an iPad right into a secondary show both wirelessly or tethered. New in macOS 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4 is Universal Control, which  mechanically shares keyboards and mice between an iPad and a Mac primarily based on gesture enter. Macs mechanically unlock if it detects the consumer is carrying an Apple watch. The checklist of conveniences goes on and on whereas Microsoft and its OEM companions play catch-up.

GarageBand is sort of a full-featured audio software for a freebie that comes with each Mac

One factor that we have by no means needed to fear about with a Mac is the out-of-the-box software program expertise. Apple does not embrace any third-party trials with its machines. That’s to not say there is not any freebies tacked on, although; each new Mac contains the iWork suite of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers together with the iLife inventive suite that includes GarageBand and iMovie. GarageBand is an entry-level digital audio workstation that has a surprisingly massive variety of options for monitoring, modifying, mixing, and mastering. iMovie is Apple’s stripped-down video modifying software program that is a little bit naked, however nonetheless contains greater than sufficient performance for modifying video for most people.

Of course, Apple actually desires people to get on board its providers and subscriptions, and there are numerous choices. The choices can get a little bit overwhelming, so the corporate has began bundling its subscriptions into über-subscriptions. Various Apple One tiers mix iCloud storage, Apple TV+, Music, News+, Fitness+, and Arcade right into a single month-to-month price. With household sharing, it is really dust low-cost; a single Apple One Premier subscription ($30 a month) permits me to share all of these providers together with 2 TB of iCloud storage with not simply my family, however my mother and mother-in-law, too. Since most of those providers, significantly Apple Music and TV+, exist on platforms like Android and Roku, they do not even essentially must be Apple customers to entry them.

Next up, we’ll dig deep into efficiency. Can the Mac Studio reside as much as its target market? Keep studying to search out out…