If you think you need the sheer power of the Mac Studio, then you probably need the Mac Studio. That's all you really need to know about Apple's squat little desktop. It fits neatly into the company's current offerings: The Studio delivers more performance than the M1 Max-powered MacBook Pros, but it costs significantly less and gives you access to all the ports you'd want from a desktop. It's basically the super-powered Mac Mini many have been waiting for. The only question for the Mac faithful: Should you get one, or wait for the Mac Pro revamp that'll surely blow it out of the water?
Gallery: Apple Mac Studio | 10 Photos
Gallery: Apple Mac Studio | 10 Photos
The answer, naturally, will depend on your budget. The Mac Studio starts at $1,999 with the M1 Max chip and jumps to $3,999 if you want to go full beast mode with the M1 Ultra. But while those prices may seem high, they're in line with PC workstations meant for editing 4K and 8K video. If it's not clear by now, the Studio isn't really targeted at mainstream consumers – that's what the Mac Mini is for. Its purpose lies in its name: It's a diminutive desktop meant for creative professionals working in something akin to a studio (or a swanky home office).
Apple Mac Studio
- Sleek design
- M1 Max and M1 Ultra are seriously powerful
- Plenty of ports
- Incredibly fast SSDs
- Beefy graphics
- Not upgradeable
- Cumbersome rear headphone jack
- Apple needs better accessories
Here's what's really exciting, though: The Mac Studio is within reach for many professionals. It's more practical than the ill-fated iMac Pro, which started at $4,999 when it launched in 2017. (At the time, even we were genuinely confused about its intended audience.) That machine was unceremoniously discontinued last year, to no one's surprise. The Studio is also far more approachable than the long-awaited Mac Pro Apple introduced in 2019, a feat of industrial design with a $5,999 entry price (which could easily scale to tens of thousands of dollars). The Mac Pro was certainly an impressive beast, but it was so far removed from consumers that Apple never sold it in their retail stores.
The Mac Studio has some benefits that are obvious even before you turn it on: It doesn't take up much floor or desk space; it's easy to move around (clocking in at either 5.9 pounds for the M1 Max model or 7.9 pounds for the M1 Ultra); and its curvy aluminum case looks like something you'd find at MoMa. It's not meant to disappear into the background like the Mac Mini. No, the Studio deserves a prominent spot on your desk, a symbol that you've become a true creative professional.
Also, you'd definitely want it on your desk to get easy access to all of its ports. So many ports! Up front, there are two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connections and an easily accessible microSD card slot. On the rear, they're joined with four more Thunderbolt 4 USB-C sockets, two USB Type-A connections, a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI and a headphone jack. I was shocked Apple even remembered USB Type-A exists, but I'm sure plenty of customers will be pleased that they can still use their old gear.
My only quibble is the rear headphone jack/line out connection: It's fine if you're using speakers, but it's annoying for people who constantly need to plug and unplug their headphones, especially since it's right beside the power button. (I know several video editors who'll be particularly peeved by this.)
Apple sent along two Mac Studio models for testing: one with an M1 Max chip and 64GB of RAM, and another with the M1 Ultra chip and 128GB of RAM. (I can say with certainty there's never been this much RAM on my desk at once.) The M1 Max is pretty much the same chip that was featured on the new MacBook Pro: It has 10 CPU cores (8 8 performance cores, 2 for efficiency), a 24-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine for AI processing.
In all practical respects, the M1 Ultra is basically two M1 Max chips joined together with Apple's "UltraFusion" die-to-die interconnect. That means you can just double all of those stats: It has a 20-core CPU, 48-core GPU and a 32-core Neural Engine. The M1 Ultra can be equipped with up to 128GB of unified RAM with 800 GB/s of memory bandwidth (again, double what's possible on the M1 Max).