Apple has been putting a lot more attention and effort into the Mac over the past few years. It ironed out issues with the keyboard, and realized the pro users want ports — and the result is arguably the best laptop it has ever made in the current MacBook Pro. And, it built a colorful and friendly-looking iMac that offers more than enough performance for most. At its most recent event, however, it launched its first all-new model in a while — the Mac Studio.
The Mac Studio is built to sit somewhere in between the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro. It’s bigger and more expensive than the Mac Mini, but doesn’t quite reach the price tag and pro features on offer by the Mac Pro.
It also, however, exists in a world where the Mac Pro has yet to transition to Apple Silicon, and as a result, the Mac Pro is still big, loud, and expensive. It would be easy to want to forget about the Mac Pro altogether, and treat the Mac Studio like Apple’s highest-end computer.
But still, it lives in the middle ground, and that middle ground can sometimes be a tricky space to play in. How well does the Mac Studio perform? And is it able to carve out room for itself?
- Solid design
- Lots of ports
- Excellent performance
- Very quiet
Apple Mac Studio design
One thing Apple is great at is consistency in design across its products. The Mac Studio looks like it belongs next to the Mac Mini. In fact, if you took a Mac Mini and stretched it, it would look something like the Mac Studio.
With one exception, of course. There are some ports on the front. On the front, you’ll get an SD card slot, along with either two USB-C ports or two Thunderbolt 4 ports, depending on if your computer has the M1 Max or M1 Ultra chip. I really appreciate that there are some ports on the front here, and I hope Apple adds a few on the next iteration of the Mac Mini.
On the back, however, is where most of your peripherals will connect. There are four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10Gb Ethernet port, two USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a 3.5mm audio output. It’s an excellent selection of ports. I really like the rear-facing audio output on the Mac Studio, as it makes it much easier to connect speakers. That said, an audio jack on both the front and the back might have been nice. I’m a niche user, but I sometimes use external speakers, and sometimes use headphones.
Everything else about the Mac Studio’s design is to be expected. The device is built from a brushed aluminum, and comes in Silver. Unfortunately, it’s not available in Space Gray — and I hope this doesn’t signal the beginning of the end for Apple’s Space Gray devices.
Generally, however, the Mac Studio is well-built and good-looking. It has a small enough footprint to fit nicely on most desks, and it looks premium and Apple-built.
Apple Mac Studio specs and performance
The design of the Mac Studio is great, but what’s really making the headlines is what you’ll find under the hood. The Mac Studio offers either the M1 Max chip, found in the highest-end MacBook Pro models, or a new M1 Ultra chip, which is essentially two M1 Max’s fused together with Apple’s low-latency UltraFusion tech. The result is a chip with up to 20 CPU cores, 64 GPU cores, and 32 neural engine cores. And, UltraFusion means that the computer treats the M1 Ultra as one single chip, ensuring that software doesn’t have to try and figure out how to use what would otherwise be two separate processors.
Our model is…not cheap. Our review model offers a top-spec M1 Ultra with 128GB of RAM and 4TB of storage. Priced out, this model will cost you $6,799.99, and the only upgrade you could get is to double the storage to 8TB. That, however, wouldn’t change the performance of the machine — this is as good as it gets.
In day-to-day use, the M1 Ultra-equipped Mac Studio performs like a dream. I had a few hangups when I first setup my Mac Studio, where the Mac would freeze up for a few seconds just by launching the Finder, but after a reset, those issues seemed to resolve themselves — and the Mac Studio soon performed as incredibly as you would expect.
Benchmarks confirm the incredibly high-performance of the M1 Ultra Mac Studio. Here are the benchmark results we achieved with the computer.
- GeekBench 5: 1787 single-core, 24223 multi-core
- CineBench R23: 1534 single-core, 24072 multi-core
As someone with a background in audio production, I wanted to put the Mac Studio to the test, and found that it simply refused to slow, no matter how many virtual instruments and audio plugins I ran at once in Logic. To be fair, I’m far from the most demanding audio producer, preferring to produce recorded music rather than electronic, virtual instrument-heavy music. But with no signs of slowing, I’m confident much more demanding musicians could get serious use out of the Mac Studio.
The Mac Studio is in a slightly weird position. Some will be deciding between it and the Mac Mini. Others will be deciding between it and a Mac Pro. And it’s hard to answer the question about which to buy for everyone.
In a vacuum, the Mac Studio is an incredible computer though. I wasn’t able to test the M1 Max version, however, I imagine that it performs similarly to the M1 Max-equipped MacBook Pro, or perhaps a little better given the better thermals. In that case, it’s excellently powerful, and easily enough for even most creative professionals. The M1 Ultra takes that performance to the next level, with enough performance for some of the most demanding video and graphics workflows. If time is money for you, then the M1 Ultra may be worth considering — even though it costs double the price.
If you’re deciding between the Mac Mini and the Mac Studio, then rest assured that the Mac Mini is likely powerful enough for most. Those that use their Mac for web-browsing, emails, and basic productivity, should save their cash and get the Mac Mini, with the caveat that rumors indicate Apple may update the Mac Mini within the next year.
If you’re deciding between the Mac Studio and Mac Pro, however, it’s a slightly trickier conversation. Apple is set to update the Mac Pro at some point, but we don’t yet know when. The fact is that the Mac Studio is more than powerful enough for all but the most demanding creative workflows, and unless you’re willing to fork out what could end up being over $5000 for the next Mac Pro, I think the Mac Studio is the way to go.
Should I buy the Apple Mac Studio?
Yes. The Mac Studio is an excellent computer for the majority of demanding creative workflows.