On March 8th, during Apple’s Peek Performance event, Apple unveiled the first addition to the Mac lineup in several years: The new Mac Studio. And it’s a serious beast.
Despite all of the rumors leading up to this event, I never once heard any mention of this new machine. And I’m glad, because wow, was it an incredible surprise.
There’s a lot to talk about with this new computer. It’s a true powerhouse at a mind-blowing price and one that will make you rethink your next Mac purchase. Let’s put the introductions to rest and get right into it.
What is the Mac Studio?
The Mac Studio is the newest addition to Apple’s lineup of Macs. Every few years Apple updates the specs of its Macs and gives them a new coat of paint. But it’s rare when Apple adds a new computer to its Mac lineup. It’s been so long, in fact, that I can’t remember the last time Apple did add a new computer to the Mac series.
So what is this machine? It’s a powerful, professional monster. It’s packed with high-performance M1 chips (the M1 Max and M1 Ultra), a $%^#-ton of RAM, and a design that mirrors the Mac mini.
This is not a computer for your mom and dad. This is for those who are looking for that extra oomph, who want/need the maximum amount of power possible. For power users, the Mac Studio presents one of the most affordable workhorses Apple has ever released.
Is the Mac Studio the new Mac Pro?
Something that crossed my mind while Apple was showing this new computer off was: Is this set to replace the Mac Pro?
For those that don’t know, the Mac Pro has long been Apple’s overpowered PC. It’s come with insane amounts of power and features that other Macs don’t, like the ability to upgrade the computer retroactively.
With so much power being packed into the Mac Studio, it was hard not to feel like this machine was set to replace the Mac Pro. It would serve as a rebranding for the outdated (and overused) “Pro” terminology Apple employs.
Well, the answer is no! The Mac Studio is not replacing the Mac Pro. At the end of the Peak Performance event, Apple hinted at the Mac Pro coming later this year during the WWDC22 keynote. I can’t imagine how Apple plans to top the Mac Studio, but it let us know that it is planning to do just that later this year.
So if you’re in the top 1% of Mac users for whom the Mac Studio still isn’t enough (i.e., you’re a Pixar animator or NASA engineer) then you should wait a few more months before upgrading your Mac setup.
Everything you need to know about the new Mac Studio
Alright, with those basics out of the way, we’re ready to dive in and look at the Mac Studio up close. Below is everything, and I mean everything, that you need to know about the newest Mac. There’s a lot to cover, so strap in!
The Mac Studio packs insane performance power
Let’s get this out of the way: The Mac Studio is insanely overpowered. This thing has nightmare levels of performance. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy it, but I am saying that 99% of you reading this post will probably never scratch the surface of what the Mac Studio is capable of.
And that includes the base model. You don’t have to upgrade to the most expensive version of Mac Studio to push boundaries. Though if you do decide to upgrade to the max version of Mac Studio, be prepared to kiss your wallet goodbye and watch your vision blur while you compute with this thing.
We’ll dive deeper into the specs below, but make no mistakes about it. The Mac Studio is not for the faint of heart. This is meant to demolish your computing tasks.
I’m not sure which future sounds more exciting. One where the Mac Studio stays relevant and powerful for the next ten years of computing, or one where it needs to be replaced after just a few years. Developers haven’t had power like this to take advantage of on such a mainstream level before, so maybe we’re going to see software eat this thing’s performance up in no time. Either way, I’m excited to see the splash the Mac Studio is about to make.
A great price for the package
Not only are you getting insane performance with the Mac Studio, but the price is amazing, too. During the event, I joked that it would be priced at $75,000, and in all honesty, I was expecting something not too far off from that range.
Fortunately, Apple seems to be sticking to its recent trend of more affordable machinery. The base model starts at $1,999 and when maxed out with maddening specs, you’re only going to need $7,999. That latter price may sound ridiculous, but it’s for people who need ridiculous performance. Engineers, animators, cinematographers – people who have the budget and need for that kind of power.
For most users, I think the $1,999 price is probably what you should and will end up paying. The only add-on I’d seriously recommend is an upgrade to 1TB of storage (512GB isn’t enough in 2022) and possibly upgrading your RAM if you are a performance-intensive user.
When you compare this price to that of the new iMac or MacBook Pro, it looks more than reasonable. I paid about $1,999 for my iMac, and be sure of it, it has nowhere near the power that the Mac Studio brings to the table. The pricing of this machine makes me excited for the new products Apple has planned for the rest of 2022.
You don’t get an included display
The one “drawback”, if you can consider it that, is that the Mac Studio doesn’t come with an included display. This is pretty standard for performance-centric Mac computers. The Mac mini and Mac Pro have never come with a display, though Apple has offered displays alongside them that you can purchase separately.
This is the same for the Mac Studio. You can grab the Studio Display alongside the Mac Studio to create a traditional PC setup. However, the Studio Display is so expensive ($1,999) that it’ll seriously jack up the cost of the Mac Studio.
Instead, I recommend grabbing a third-party display for most users. As stylish as the Studio Display is, pairing it with this machine is going to seriously hurt your savings. I’ll be doing a comparison post soon looking at various displays against the Studio Display so that you can decide if it’s right for your needs.
Choose between the M1 Max and M1 Ultra
Another feature of the new Mac Studio is that it comes with either the M1 Max or the brand new M1 Ultra.
The M1 Max is in a few other Mac models, like the MacBook Pro 16″ once you’ve upgraded it from the base model. It has more cores than the basic M1 chip and fewer efficiency cores (therefore more high-performance cores) than the M1 Pro.
The result is a chip that is more powerful than the M1 Pro and fast enough to run circles around the standard M1.
Then you have the M1 Ultra. This beast is more or less two M1 Max chips that have been stuck together and made to run as a single unit. So it’s twice as powerful as the M1 Max in nearly every way. This means that your computer will only be held back by your Mac’s thermals. And considering that the Mac Studio’s body is mostly packed with a cooling system, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Note, however, that to nab the M1 Ultra, you’re going to have to pay double the price of the M1 Max, too. It starts at $3,999 while the M1 Max Mac Studio model starts at $1,999.
Up to 128GB of RAM
As I said, everything about this computer is ridiculously powered-up, and that doesn’t stop at the RAM. You can configure the M1 Max model to have up to 64GB of RAM (a.k.a. “Unified Memory”) and the M1 Ultra model with 128GB of RAM.
I’m going to be honest, I don’t even understand what you could do with that much RAM. It’s so ridiculously over the top that you’d have to be exporting multiple 8K nature documentaries every day for the machine to start to struggle.
Of course, these memory upgrades aren’t going to come cheap. It adds $1,200 to the price tag to max out the RAM, and even upgrading to the 64GB of RAM for the base Mac Studio adds $400. You’ll be future-proofing your machine for virtually the next decade, but at what cost? (Just kidding, we know the cost – it’s $1,200).
A GPU with 64 cores
The weakest part of any Mac is typically the graphics performance. Apple’s machines don’t handle rendering very well and struggle with graphics-intensive apps like video games.
However, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for this new Mac. It comes with a 24-core GPU by default (three times as many cores as the standard M1 chip). And you can upgrade it to have up to 64 cores.
As with all of the aspects of the Mac Studio’s processor, this is sure to provide plenty of performance for whatever graphics-intensive processes you’re going to be running.
An overpowered Neural Engine
While it makes sense on paper, I was surprised that Apple even over-specced the Neural Engine. For those that don’t know, the Neural Engine is the part of the processor that handles machine learning tasks. Currently, there aren’t too many tasks in macOS that rely on machine learning. However, this technology is developing rapidly and being used more and more. Having a powerful Neural Engine built into the Mac will allow Apple to add more ML features in the future.
Even with all of that having been said, the Neural Engine in the Mac Studio is also overpowered. It provides up to three times the machine learning performance when compared to the 3.6GHz 10-core Intel Core i9-based 27-inch iMac.
This is another way of ensuring that your Mac is future-proofed. As macOS adds more complex features like image recognition, automation, and behavior predictions, your Mac Studio will continue to crush the rest of the Mac lineup.
Plenty of ports and storage
As is essential in 2022, the Mac Studio comes with plenty of ports and storage, too. It includes four Thunderbolt (a.k.a. USB C) ports, an ethernet port, two USB A ports, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack.
On the front of this Mac, there are two more USB C (or Thunderbolt, depending on your model) ports and an SDXC port. In total, that’s twelve high-performance ports on this fairly small Mac.
Also, for those that don’t know: Thunderbolt ports and USB C ports look identical and can accept the same cables/connectors. Thunderbolt is just an upgraded version of USB C that’s faster and more capable, and it’s proprietary to Apple. This can be confusing since Apple rarely expands on this.
The one complaint I have about the port situation here is that the headphone jack is on the back of the Mac. I know Apple likes putting it on the back of the Mac to hide it, but really, it just makes it a pain to use.
A clean, albeit boring design
Another potential “drawback” of the Mac Studio is that it features a somewhat bland design. It looks just like the Mac mini, which looks almost the same as the Apple TV, which all resemble the app icons on Apple devices.
In other words, it’s a square with rounded corners. It’s got a pretty small footprint, which is nice, but otherwise, the design is pretty non-specific. It doesn’t even come in multiple colors. It’s just a silver rectangle.
If you’re using this for work, then maybe you don’t care what it looks like. And since you can pair it with a display of your choosing, you might be more worried about finding a stylish display over a stylish tower.
Even so, I’m someone who really cares about the look of my work appliances. After all, if my computer looks cold, sterile, and metallic, then it’s just one more thing that’s going to get me down when it’s time to start work. On the other hand, a colorful tower with an interesting design adds more life to my desk, making work feel that much less like work.
I don’t know! Might just be a “me” thing, but I find the Mac Studio to be a bit lackluster looking.
Pair the Mac Studio with the new Studio Display
Speaking of pairing your Mac Studio with a display, Apple announced a new display at this event! It’s called the Studio Display, which seems to imply that it was built to pair with the Mac Studio.
And honestly, they do make a great pair! The Studio Display has the same silver and black color scheme. And it’s clearly modeled after the new iMac lineup since it has the same design, minus the chin.
It’s 27″ and comes with all kinds of neat upgrades, like a hinge that moves between standing and sitting viewing angles. It’s pretty overpriced, however, starting at $1,999. For that reason, I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have an employer buying it for them. It’s one of those many occasions where a third-party solution will provide little to no noticeable drop in quality while costing less than half the price.
Three new matching Magic accessories
Lastly, the Mac Studio comes with matching Magic accessories! This seems to be a new theme with Apple products, considering that the iMac and iMac Pro both came with matching and exclusive Magic accessories.
These accessories include a keyboard with Touch ID, a Magic Mouse, and a Magic Trackpad. All three of these are silver and black, with black being the accent color. The top glass of the trackpad and mouse are black, as are the keycaps on the keyboard. Everything else is silver.
It’s a pretty unique design at first blush, but the more I look at it, the more I can’t help feeling that it’s just as bland as the Mac it’s meant to pair with.
I understand that keeping just one design makes sense for a product that Apple probably doesn’t expect to sell a lot of. But that doesn’t remove the feeling that the look of the device and its accessories is “bleh”.
Should you buy the new Mac Studio?
Alright, so on to the big question: Should you buy the new Mac Studio? For most of you, including myself, that answer is most definitely going to be “No”. It’s too expensive, too powerful, and too lacking in certain areas (no display, boring design) to warrant a purchase.
I’ve been trying to consider why the average Mac user would want this machine, and I’ve only come up with three real answers:
- You want to play games on a Mac. But at that point, you might as well just grab a PC for half the price or invest in Mac gaming workarounds. I’ll be doing a post where I test AAA games on the M1 iMac soon, and if that goes well, this reason will cease to exist anyway.
- You want a future-proofed Mac for several years to come. In my M1 iMac review, I mentioned that it’s a computer I plan on having for several years to come. I don’t see myself upgrading it for upwards of seven years. However, you might be the kind of user that has more intensive needs and wants a computer that will last that long or even longer. For you, the Mac Studio might be the right buy.
- You’re in a higher tax bracket. Yeah, not too complicated of a point here – if you’ve got the cash and want to grab this thing even if you’ll never need the performance it offers, I don’t blame you. It’s a bit like taking a Porsche to the grocery store. No one needs to, but when in Rome!
Ok, so let’s say you’re an average user, but you still want the Mac Studio. Or you’re a not-so-average user for whom this Mac might be a must-buy. Here are some considerations to keep in mind before making your purchase!
The base Mac Studio model packs a serious punch
First, the base-level Mac Studio packs a serious punch. For only being $1,999 (comparable to the M1 iMac and the MacBook Pro lineup) it provides more performance than nearly anything else on Apple’s website.
Now, I would recommend upgrading to the 1TB of storage (512GB is a bit low for a long-term machine). And you’ll need to grab a monitor, though you can get a decent third-party one for around $200. That means that in total, assuming you don’t already have a monitor, you’ll spend around $2,399 for a new Mac Studio.
That’s not that much for what you’re getting. In fact, it’s so low that the price comes close to what I paid for my M1 iMac, which has substantially less power behind it.
The point is, if you’re considering something like the M1 iMac and aren’t that concerned with getting an all-in-one package, then the Mac Studio might not be a bad purchasing decision. Just know that you’ll need to supply your own display. And if you have an Apple Card, you can grab this machine with monthly payments that come out to less than $200/month.
Are you going to take advantage of what the Mac Studio has to offer?
The second point to consider before purchasing a Mac Studio is your set of needs. This computer offers hardcore, cutting-edge performance. But do you need that performance?
In my case, I can honestly say “No”. There is nothing that I do daily that will ever warrant this kind of power. The most power-intensive process on my Mac is macOS itself and the occasional video game.
For most readers, this will be the same story for you. You’d likely be just as well suited or even better suited with a more affordable Mac purchase. For instance, the M1 Mac mini offers excellent power in a similar form factor to the Mac Studio at a much lower price.
Now, buying a computer that has power you don’t need isn’t necessarily a bad idea. It means the computer will retain its value for a long time. But it also means you might not be getting your full dollar’s worth.
On the other hand, you might be a user who does have power-intensive needs. This would include users like:
- Graphic designers
- Video editors
- 3D modelers
- Game developers
For users in these camps, a super-powered computer can speed up your workflow. It can also reduce the chances of your Mac crashing during work.
Is performance more important than design?
And that brings us to our very last point, is performance more important to you than design? There are Macs on Apple’s site that are comparable in price to the Mac Studio. And while these don’t pack the same performance punch, they do offer better designs and a more complete package.
If, like me, you’re someone who values an elegant, all-in-one package for your desktop, then I don’t think the Mac Studio is the Mac to get.
On the other hand, if you’re more concerned with performance than looks, then this might be a better buy than something like the M1 iMac. You’ll pay a similar price but wind up with something far more powerful and long-term.
The new Mac Studio: An exciting addition to the Mac lineup
And that’s it! That’s everything you need to know about the new Mac Studio! Overall, it’s an exciting addition to the Mac lineup and a true powerhouse. I have no clue how Apple plans to top it with the Mac Pro in a few months. But that seems to be what they’ve promised!
Let me know in the comments if you plan on getting this thing! And if you already have, share your thoughts on its performance!
For more insights, news, and guides on all things Apple, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog.
See you next time!