Ahead of the retail availability of Apple’s Mac Studio on March 18, reputable media houses and popular content creators have put out their reviews of the computer. The new Mac Studio features Apple’s new M1 Ultra chip and packs more muscle than the Mac Pro while retaining a small form factor.
Apple took the wraps off its Mac Studio at the Peek Performance event on March 8. It shared the stage with the Apple Studio Display, iPad Air 5, and iPhone SE 3. One customer in France was lucky enough to get their Mac Studio ahead of schedule, and the product’s hype doesn’t cease. The reason for that is the M1 Ultra chip that Apple debuted with the computer. It is a behemoth of a chip with a 20-core CPU, 48-core GPU, and a 32-core neural engine. The base price for the M1 Pro variant is pegged at $3,999. Here’s what the reviewers think of the Mac Studio.
2022 Mac Studio Review Roundup
Writing for The Verge, Monica Chin notes that Apple has outdone the Mac Pro with the Mac Studio. Notably, the Mac Pro was powered by Intel Xeon chips, and this is Apple’s first computer aimed at creators and professionals, albeit with its silicon inside.
“But while it was a gorgeous and powerful computer, it also had some issues. We bought a $16,599 model, and while that wasn’t the most specced-out option, it was one that creative professionals around The Verge and Vox Media felt could handle their heavy editing workloads. We gave that computer to all kinds of artists, producers, and designers. And they didn’t love it. They didn’t feel it was any faster than their years-old setups, and they ran into all the same issues they always did. In particular, not enough software was optimized for that Mac Pro’s approach to high-performance desktop computing, especially when it came to GPUs.”
Chin clarified that there are two chip choices on offer and several storage configurations.
“While the Mac Studio is configurable, there are two general models you can buy. (And it’s not modular or user-upgradable at all, so what you buy is what you’re stuck with.) The base model starts at $1,999 and includes the M1 Max, a super-powerful chip with 10 CPU cores and up to 32 GPU cores. That’s exciting in itself, because for the past year, the only place you’ve been able to get that chip is in the MacBook Pro.
“But there’s an even more expensive Mac Studio that starts at nearly $4,000. This one includes the M1 Ultra, which is Apple’s brand-new chip debuting in this device. This chip is a monstrosity — Apple has essentially taken two M1 Maxes and stapled them together, creating one big processor with double the CPU cores (20), double the GPU cores (up to 64), and double the memory bandwidth, at 800GBps.
Chin commended the Mac Studio for its small form factor, bug-free user experience, and silent performance.
“The Mac Studio is a nice-looking, compact computer. Someone mentioned to me that it looks like two Apple TVs stacked on top of each other, and now I can’t unsee it. You might also see it as a taller Mac Mini — either way, it’s a design Apple fans have seen before.”
“The first thing I noticed was that every professional I gave this machine to was able to sit down and get cooking on this device basically immediately without any major problems. That was not at all the case with the Mac Pro, where people were constantly having to fix various software hiccups before they could really do their job.
“The other thing I want to emphasize is that this computer is shockingly quiet for the power it offers. Even when we were doing elaborate things in Adobe After Effects and Blender, stuff that would have had the fans on any Intel desktop I’ve ever used absolutely roaring, the Studio was inaudible. I’d put my ear to the case, and while I could literally feel the fans vibrating beneath me, they were still silent. And the only time we ever felt it blowing hot air was during gaming, which we’ll get to later.
Writing for Engadget, Devindra Hardawar concurs that the Mac Studio is a phenomenal yet overpowered computer. He also notes that it is particularly small and easy to move around.
“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.”
He also compliments Apple for designing the I/O ports with creative professionals in mind.
“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.”
The only issue Hardawar faced with the Mac Studio was the peculiar headphone jack placement.
“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.)”
In summary, Hardawar’s review says the only creators will be able to tell the difference and benefit from the additional performance. Further, Apple’s accompanying accessories have a long way to go before they deliver a comparable user experience.
“I’m not a professional video editor, and I don’t work with complex 3D models regularly. So I relied on a few Apple-provided projects to get a better sense of the Mac Studio’s real-world performance: an 8K video edit in Final Cut Pro, and a 54-million voxel CT scan in Horos Mobile. I was able to export an 8K version of that 34-second video in 23 seconds on both Mac Studios (the M1 Max model took 0.2 seconds longer). There was a slightly bigger difference when exporting to 4K: the M1 Ultra Mac Studio took 23.5 seconds, while the M1 Max took an additional two seconds.”
“As great as the overall Mac Studio experience is, it’s hampered a bit by Apple’s accessories. The Magic Keyboard is fine to type on, but I’d still like more key depth. And the Magic Mouse is, once again, a disastrous design. You can only charge it from the bottom, and it’s simply too small for me to use comfortably. Instead, I gravitated towards the Magic Trackpad, which feels more like using one of Apple’s laptops. If you’re a PC user jumping ship to Macs, I’d recommend bringing over your favorite Logitech hardware instead.”
If you have around 10 minutes to spare, make sure to check out some of these video reviews of the new Mac Studio.
Are you a creator or professional looking forward to a Mac Studio purchase? If yes, do let us know in the comments if these reviews altered your purchase decision.