Review of the new Mac Studio: having what it takes

Apple launches a new Mac that, despite being very familiar to us, arrives to fill a position that has been vacant for too long, and it does so by convincing everyone. We tested the new Mac Studio with M1 Max processor and we tell you everything you need to know about him.

Design: your face rings a bell

The Mac Studio is a completely new computer, it introduces a new category within the wide range of computers that Apple already has under its belt, but it learns from the successes and mistakes made in the past. Its design is nothing new since it follows the line marked by the Mac mini, but not the one we all know but the one that was launched 17 years ago. Steve Jobs introduced his first mini computer as an "affordable" Mac in 2005, and although since then its design has undergone minor changes, the essence of the Mac mini remains intact, and this new Mac Studio, although not intended to replace the Mac mini, derives directly from it. Even the box that Mac Studio comes in is reminiscent of the original Mac mini.

 

 

In its design, Apple has continued the path that began with the new MacBook Pro. Without losing the essence of Apple, in this new era not everything goes as long as you achieve the desired design. Now you think about functionality, what the user needs, and it gives you the best design you can get without sacrificing functionality. The Apple of ultrathin computers that eliminated ports and sacrificed cooling in order to boast of having the thinnest laptop has already given way to a new Apple that most of us applaud. And for the record, I said it in the presentation and I stand by it: I didn't fall in love with the design of this Mac Studio the first time I saw it, nor do I fall in love now that I have it in my hands. But there are many other things that have won my heart, so I don't care.

Who would have thought a few years ago that a Mac would have ports on the front? Who would have thought that a 2022 Mac would have two USB-A connectors? And a card reader? Apple has changed its proposal, at least in "professional" computers, and although it means sacrificing its design somewhat, it has chosen to give the user what he needs. The first step was taken with the MacBook Pro, adding the card reader and HDMI connector, as well as a MagSafe port dedicated exclusively to charging the laptop despite the fact that any of the USB-C that it has can do the same job. And with the Mac Studio has advanced in that sense.,

The front of the computer has two USB-C ports and a card reader. This is something that It is greatly appreciated on a day-to-day basis to connect USB sticks, external drives or devices that do not have to be permanently connected to the computer, but that you use often and that plugging blindly in the back is very annoying. Says someone who has used the iMac as a main computer since 2009. And let's not talk about the card reader, having it so accessible on the front is wonderful. And frankly, I don't think they'll spoil that clean aluminum front either.

The rear part is dominated by the ventilation grille through which hot air will escape from inside our Mac to keep it well cooled. Once again a necessary element is imposed on the design, although here what difference does it make, after all, it is the rear part, destined not to be seen. What's more we found four Thunderbolt 4 connections, one 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection, the power cord connector (with a Mickey Mouse-like design), two USB-A connections (yes, seriously), an HDMI, and a headphone jack (again, seriously). Finally we have the computer's power button, the classic circular button that we hardly use, because how many times do you turn off your Mac?

The circular base is surrounded by another ventilation grill, from where the air will be taken to cool the computer, and a circular rubber ring will prevent the computer from slipping and also protect the surface on which we place the computer. This circular base slightly raises the computer leaving the necessary space for air to enter and keep the inside of Mac Studio at the optimum working temperature. Both the intake grille and the air outlet grille are actually perforations in the aluminum body like only Apple knows how to do.

Connections, all you need

A computer intended for professional use is a computer to which all kinds of accessories must be connected. Video and photography cameras, memory cards, microphones, headphones, external monitors, external graphics, hard drives... And this means that you need all kinds of connections, and some of them, several. Well here we have everything you may need, and also with really good specifications.

Wall

  • 2 USB-C 10Gb/s ports
  • SDXC (UHS-II) card slot

rear

  • 4 Thunderbolt 4 ports (40Gb/s) (supported are USB-4, DisplayPort)
  • 2 USB-A ports (5Gb/s)
  • HDMI 2.0
  • Ethernet 10Gb
  • 3,5mm headphone jack

Between this model and the one that incorporates the M1 Ultra processor, the only difference regarding the connections is in the two front USBs, which in the case of the Ultra they are also Thunderbolt 4like the butts. I do not think it is a determining factor when deciding between one or the other.

The number of connections available and their variety seems more than adequate to me. There may be some users who need some type of dock or adapter, but as a general rule, I think that for most they will be more than enough. Regarding its specifications, I think that only the HDMI connection could have been a bit better, as HDMI 2.0 is already somewhat outdated and the new 2.1 specification would be more suitable for a computer of this quality and price. With HDMI 2.0 you can connect a maximum 4K 60Hz monitor, which can be somewhat limiting for the most demanding professionals. Of course, through the Thunderbolt 4 connections you can connect up to four 6K 60Hz monitors. This computer supports up to 5 momitores simultaneously, a real madness.

The headphone jack also deserves special mention, which is not a conventional Jack although it may seem so. As Apple indicates in the Mac Studio specifications, This 3,5mm jack features DC load sensing and adaptive voltage output, that is, the Mac detects the impedance of the connected device and will match the output for low and high impedance headphones. High impedance headphones (above 150 ohms) generally require an external amplifier to work, but this is not the case with the Mac Studio, which is great news for sound professionals.

M1 Max and 32GB of unified memory

We had been waiting a long time for “made in Apple” processors for Macs. After years of experience with iPhone and iPad processors, Apple has achieved an amazing superiority in this area over the competition. The balance between power and energy efficiency of its ARM processors is right now a dream for the rest of the manufacturers, and porting it to their Mac computers has completely changed the rules of the game.

Apple uses what is called “system on chip” (SoC), that is, the CPU, GPU, RAM memory, SSD controller, Thunderbolt 4 controller… are integrated. We no longer have a CPU processor, a graphics card and RAM memory modules that are assembled differently, but they are all part of the same structure in such a way that unimaginable efficiency is achieved for traditional systems.

A perfect example of how this architecture improves the performance of the new Macs we find it in the “unified memory”, which we could say is the equivalent of RAM on these Macs. This memory, essential for the performance of a computer, is now available to the CPU and GPU, which use it as needed, directly. In this way, much faster and more efficient access is achieved, because it is also located in that same SoC, so that the information does not have to travel through the computer circuits. The price to pay is that the RAM cannot be upgraded.

The performance of this Mac Studio is exceptional, even when we talk about the base model, the "cheapest", which is the one I bought. This $2.329 Mac Studio outperforms the cheapest $5.499 iMac Pro (already disappeared from the Apple catalog), even the cheapest Mac Pro at €6.499. Users finally have a "Pro" option that can be considered accessible, and this is great news for those of us who saw that we had to settle for more limited models because what we needed was out of our reach.

Modularity? None

Apple mentioned in its presentation Keynote that this Mac Studio was "modular", but we don't know exactly what they were referring to. Perhaps because several Mac Studios can be stacked on top of each other, because neither the configuration options are too varied, nor can you make any changes once you have the Mac Studio in your hands.

You can choose the type of processor (M1 Max or Ultra), with two options for each depending on the GPU cores you want, two unified memory options for each (32GB and 64GB for the M1 Max, 64GB and 128GB for the M1 Ultra) and voila. Well, you can also choose the internal storage, starting from 512GB (M1 Max) or 1TB (M1 Ultra) up to 8TB. Once you have placed your order, forget about changing absolutely anything. Not even the SSD, which is the only part that is not soldered, can be expanded, at least not yet, and I don't think Apple is going to change its mind.

It is without a doubt the only aspect of this Mac Studio that leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, but it is what it is. If you want modularity you have no choice but to go for the Mac Pro… but that's another league that most of us can't even aspire to.

Using Mac Studio

As Steve Jobs said when he introduced the original Mac mini in 2005, it's a "BYODKM" (Bring your own display, keyboard and mouse) computer, meaning you have to bring your own display, keyboard and mouse. So the use of this Mac Studio is enjoyed with its performance. I have been using the MacBook Pro 16″ with M1 Pro processor and 16GB of unified memory for a few months, with exceptional performance, doing tasks with Final Cut Pro that on my 27 iMac 2017″ with 32GB of RAM and Intel i5 processor were already impossible for me to do without despairing, and I still don't know if the fans work on this laptop.

In the new Mac Studio the fans work, because Apple has decided that they start from the moment the computer is turned on. You press the button on Mac Studio and if you get close enough you can notice a small noise even though it is not performing any task. It is a negligible noise unless you are silent, and that during the entire process of editing the video of this analysis it has not increased at any time. At the moment it is the only test that I have been able to perform on this computer so far.

With this Mac Studio, which cost me about the same as my iMac back in 2017, I have a feeling I've never had before when buying a Mac, and I've owned quite a few: the feeling that I have bought a computer that will more than meet my needs. With the previous Apple computers, I always had the impression that I had bought the one that my money allowed, because if I could have, I would have bought a superior one. Even with my MacBook Pro, I would have gone for the M1 Max if I could have.

Editor's opinion

Saying that a computer with a starting price of €2.329 is cheap may come as a surprise to many users, but that's how I feel this new Mac Studio is. We no longer only have a beautiful computer, with excellent materials and finishes, now we also have all kinds of connections and superior performance to models that cost more than twice. This Mac Studio brings "professional" computers closer to users. The wait has been worth it, and the feeling is that the best is yet to come. You can already buy it in the App Store (link) and authorized sellers with a starting price of €2.329.

MacStudio
  • Editor's rating
  • 4.5 star rating
2.329
  • 80%

  • MacStudio
  • Review of:
  • Posted on:
  • Last modification:
  • Durability
    Publisher: 100%
  • Finishes
    Publisher: 100%
  • Price quality
    Publisher: 80%

Pros

  • Compact design
  • assorted connections
  • front connections
  • extraordinary performance

Cons

  • Impossibility to extend later

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