If you think you need the power of Mac Studio, then you probably need Mac Studio. That’s all you need to know about Apple’s squat desktop. It fits perfectly with the company’s current offering: The Studio offers more performance than the MacBook Pro M1 Max, but costs much less and gives you access to all the ports you own you want them from your desktop. This is basically the extremely powerful Mac Mini that many have been waiting for. The only question for Mac loyalists is: should you buy one, or wait for a Mac Pro overhaul that’s sure to blow it out of the water?

Gallery: Apple Mac Studio

The answer naturally depends on your budget. Mac Studio’s M1 Max chip starts at $ 1,999, or $ 3,999 if you want to go full monster mode with the M1 Ultra. But while those prices may seem steep, they are in line with PC workstations for 4K and 8K video editing. If it’s not clear by now, Studio isn’t really aimed at mainstream users – that’s the purpose of the Mac Mini. It fits in with its name: it’s a small desktop for creative professionals working in a studio-like home office (or fashionable home office).

But what’s really exciting: Mac Studio is within reach of many professionals. It’s more functional than the ill-fated iMac Pro, which started at $ 4,999 when it launched in 2017. (At that time, even our target audience was confused.) The machine ended up in disarray last year, and not that is surprising. The Studio is also easier to access than Apple’s long-awaited 2019 Mac Pro, a feat of industrial design that starts at $ 5,999 (which can easily expand into the tens of thousands). The Mac Pro is certainly an impressive beast, but it’s so far from consumers that Apple has never sold it in its retail stores.

Studio Mac has some benefits that are obvious before you even open it: it doesn’t take up much floor or desk space; it is easy to move around (5.9 lbs for the M1 Max model, 7.9 lbs for the M1 Ultra); Looks like something you would find at MoMa. It’s not supposed to disappear into the background like the Mac Mini. No, the studio deserves a prominent place on your desk, a sign that you’ve become a true creative professional.

Plus, you’ll definitely want it on your desk for easy access to all of its ports. So many ports! At the front are two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connectors and an easily accessible microSD card slot. On the back, they connect to four other Thunderbolt 4 USB-C sockets, two USB Type-A connections, a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI, and a headphone jack. I’m surprised that Apple even remembers the existence of USB Type-A, but I’m sure many customers will be happy that they can still use their older devices.

My only problem is the rear headphone jack / line out connection: fine if you use speakers, but annoying for people who often need to plug and unplug headphones, especially as it’s near the power button. (I know of a few video editors who would be particularly annoyed by this.)

Apple sent two Mac Studio models to test: one with an M1 Max chip and 64GB of RAM, and one with an M1 Ultra chip and 128GB of RAM. (I can safely say I’ve never had so much RAM on my desk.) The M1 Max is pretty much the same chip as the new MacBook Pro: it has 10 CPU cores (8 for 8, 2 performance on for efficiency), a 24-core GPU, and a 16-core Newral Engine for AI processing.

In all practical terms, the M1 Ultra is essentially two M1 Max chips connected to Apple’s “UltraFusion” chip-to-chip interconnect. That means you can double check all those stats: it has a 20-core CPU, a 48-core GPU, and a 32-core Neural Engine. The M1 Ultra can have up to 128GB of unified RAM and 800 GB / s of memory bandwidth (again double the M1 Max).

While Apple’s custom processors excel in laptops – offering the speed and power efficiency of x86 CPUs we’ve never seen before – desktop workstations pose a bigger challenge. AMD has been able to cram 64 cores into the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, a powerful chip with 280 watt TDP (thermal dynamic profile). But then again, the chip could cost over $ 8,000.

Apple’s more direct competitor is the Intel Core i9-12900K. While the company did not provide specific details on cooling its chip, it noted that the M1 Ultra can provide up to 90 percent better performance in the same power envelope as the “fastest 16-core PC desktop chip available.” That’s most likely 12900K. Apple adds that the Ultra can match the peak performance of that PC chip while consuming 100 watts less.

Biggest takeaway: You can expect a great performance from Mac Studio without excessive heat or fan noise. And, for the most part, that’s what I found during the tests. Ultra-powered Mac M1 Studio achieved the highest multi-threaded Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23 scores we’ve ever seen, all without a fan spin or a sweatshirt. Meanwhile, the M1 Max model scored about the same as the Max-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro, and far above other 10-core systems. Intel’s 14-gen 14- and 16-core chips scored slightly higher than the M1 Max for multi-threaded performance, but the M1 Ultra beat them all.

I’m not a professional video editor and often don’t work with complex 3D models. So I relied on a few projects from Apple to get a better idea of ​​what Mac Studio really can do: edit 8K video in Final Cut Pro and 54-megapixel CT scans at Horos Mobile. I managed to export an 8K version of that 34 second video in 23 seconds on both Mac Studios (0.2 seconds more for the M1 Max model). There is a slightly larger difference when exporting to 4K: the Mac M1 Ultra Studio takes 23.5 seconds, while the M1 Max takes an additional 2 seconds.

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