Mac Studio vs. Mac mini, iMac, MacBook Pro, etc.

Apple introduced a whole new Mac category with the landing of Mac Studio as the most powerful machine yet with Apple Silicon. And until Mac Pro moves on from Intel, Mac Studio will become the go-to for many creative professionals and other power users. However, with more to choose from, there is more to consider and while it sounds tempting, Mac Studio might be overkill for many. Let’s dive into Mac Studio versus the rest of the Mac lineup.

Apple designed Mac Studio as a powerful, compact desktop computer for creative professionals, scientists, developers, and other workflow-intensive users. While it might look like a larger Mac mini with ports added to the front, the $2,000-$8,000 price range and using the M1 Max chip or the new M1 Ultra chip make clear the place of Mac Studio between Mac Pro and all other Macs.

Mac Studio vs. Mac mini, iMac MacBook Pro, Mac Pro

Performance

The new M1 Ultra chip (only available in Mac Studio) doubles most of the specs of the M1 Max. This is because the Ultra is made by combining two Max chips with “UltraFusion”. According to Apple, thanks to its custom packaging architecture, macOS treats the M1 Ultra as a single SoC.

UltraFusion is also what enables Apple’s multi-chip interconnect to deliver 4 times the bandwidth of similar technologies from other companies.

Mac Studio vs the rest of the Mac lineup

Elevating from the M1 Max, the M1 Ultra brings total unified memory up to a maximum of 128GB with a 20-core CPU, up to 64-core GPU, 800GB/s memory bandwidth and a Ultra-fast 7.4GB/s speed for SSD storage.

Here’s how the M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra compare in the Mac lineup:

mac studio Macbook Pro Mac mini/iMac Mac Pro
SoCs/CPUs M1 Max or Ultra – up to 20 cores M1 Pro or Max – up to 10 cores M1 – 8 cores Intel Xeon – up to 28 cores
GPUs Up to 64 cores Up to 32 cores 8 hearts Up to AMD Radeon Pro W6800X Duo
Storage room Up to 8 TB Up to 8 TB Up to 2 TB Up to 8 TB
Unified Memory/RAM Up to 128 GB Up to 64 GB Up to 16 GB Up to 1.5 TB

Although Apple used the term “modular” to describe Mac Studio, all of the hardware components are fixed, so you’ll need to set it up the way you want from the get-go. In an interview, we learned that Apple uses the term modular to refer to Mac Studio as a desktop computer with your own display, not in terms of modular components like Intel’s Mac Pro.

We saw early benchmark results from the M1 Ultra and it beat the top-end 28-core Intel Mac Pro for the multi-core score. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Mac Studio cannot match the Mac Pro’s maximum 1.5TB RAM or dual Radeon Pro W6800X Duo with 128GB of dedicated GPU memory. So there will always be use cases where Intel’s Mac Pro will reign supreme as Apple’s most powerful Mac.

Even so, the M1 Ultra offers incredible power in a very compact design. And like the rest of the super-efficient Apple Silicon, the company touts the performance per watt of the industry-leading M1 Ultra packs.

Compared to a 16-core desktop PC, the M1 Ultra delivers more performance with 100W less power.

Mac Studio vs other Macs - M1 Ultra specs

And Apple says the M1 Ultra uses 200W less power compared to the high-end discrete GPU (but the Ultra can’t outperform the RTX 3090, here’s why Apple’s chart below is misleading).

Mac Studio vs other Macs - M1 Ultra GPU details

One group of users who will see a noticeable return on investment with Mac Studio will be creatives working with video. Thanks to a powerful multimedia engine, the M1 Ultra can handle up to 18 streams of 8K ProRes.

And Apple claims the M1 Ultra can transcode video up to 5.6 times faster than a 28-core Mac Pro with the Afterburner hardware accelerator.

Apple also claims that the M1 Ultra will provide huge performance gains for graphic designers working with large 3D environments and developers compiling code.

Reviews back up Apple’s claims of top performance and efficiency while remaining nearly silent. But it might be worth considering whether the M1 Ultra (or Max) might be overkill for your needs.

Connectivity

Mac Studio compared to the rest of the Mac line offers an impressive range of I/O that was designed around feedback from real creative professionals and other experienced Mac users.

Outside of the Mac Pro, Mac Studio offers connectivity that all other Macs have to rely on in an external Thunderbolt dock, like 6 Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports, 10GB Ethernet, and an SDXC UHS-II slot.

mac studio Macbook Pro Mac mini/iMac Mac Pro
Thunderbolt 4/USB4 Up to 6 3 2
Thunderbolt 3/USB-C Up to 12
USB-A 2 2/❌ 2
hdmi 1 1 1/❌
SDXC slot UHS-II UHS-I
ethernet 10 GB gigabit Dual 10 GB
Headphone jack
WiFi 6 (802.11ax)
WiFi 5 (802.11ac)
Bluetooth 5.0

And of course, the front-facing ports provide thoughtful convenience on the Mac Studio that you don’t get with the Mac mini or iMac.

However, on the other hand, if you’re debating something like a Mac mini or MacBook Pro versus the Mac Studio, a $200-$300 Thunderbolt docking station could save you a lot of money in the process. together (as long as you don’t). need a high-end M1 chip).

Another aspect of connectivity to consider, how important is having a permanently dedicated desktop Mac to you compared to a Mac laptop?

Display(s)

mac studio Macbook Pro mac mini iMac Mac Pro
Integrated display ✅ (XDR display with ProMotion) ✅ (4.5K Retina display)
Supported external displays Up to 5 (4 @ 6K and 1 @ 4K) Up to 4 (3 @ 6K + 1 @ 4K) 1@6K 1@6K Up to 12 (12 @ 4K or 6 @ 6K)

The big takeaway here is that if you need more than an external display, the Mac mini isn’t a good choice. Meanwhile, MacBook Pro or Mac Studio with the M1 Pro, Max, or Ultra chipset offer the most external display flexibility without upgrading to Mac Pro.

Pricing

Depending on your budget, Mac Studio offers a range from $1,999 for the base model with the M1 Max up to $7,999 for the fully loaded version with M1 Ultra.

Your priorities regarding which M1 chip you need, how much value you place on a desktop computer versus a MacBook Pro which naturally includes an integrated XDR display, and how much memory and storage you need will determine the best solution for you.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,999 like Mac Studio but with a less powerful M1 Pro chip. To get the M1 Max, you start at $2,899.

Meanwhile, if you’re good with an M1, the iMac is a bargain at $1,500 with a built-in 4.5K display, the Mac mini with M1 starts from just $699, and the M1 MacBook Air from of $999.

Recap of Mac Studio compared to other Macs

Chances are good you already know if Mac Studio will make a difference to your workflow and be worth it. But if you’re not a creative professional, developer, scientist, or the like who regularly pushes your Mac to the limit, you’ll probably be better served by one of the more affordable Macs. Unless you don’t mind spending the extra cash to have Apple’s latest and greatest desktop machine.

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