On March 8, 2022, Apple unveiled its all-new Mac Studio for pros. The company is targeting very demanding business users with this machine, not just people who use Macs for work.
Extreme pros, as they might be called, are people who need colossal computing power and rock-solid versatility to get the job done. That usually means lots of RAM, lots of ports, big screens, tons of storage, and a super-fast LAN.
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They are therefore mainly music producers, video editors, photo editors, programmers, designers of virtual reality and augmented reality solutions, scientists, 3D modelers and anyone else who needs a great computing power.
Mac Studio vs. Mac Pro
Until recently, if you needed the best Mac performance, you had to buy a Mac Pro. The range, still based on Intel processors, was revamped in 2019 to provide the raw power that extreme pros need. However, this power comes at a high price: the cheapest Mac Pro costs 6,499 euros. By inflating its technical sheet, we can reach 60,000 euros.
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While that price is enough to make some people giddy, some high-end applications (like filmmaking) justify it. Or rather, they justified it.
Indeed, the performance of the basic Mac Studio, even equipped with the M1 Max processor, exceeds that of the Mac Pro. With the M1 Ultra processor, it greatly surpasses the performance of the Mac Pro.
Despite this, the Mac Studio starts at a very affordable price for professionals: 2,299 euros. The fastest configuration (with a 20-core processor, a 64-core GPU, a 32-core neural engine, 128 GB of RAM and 8 TB of flash storage) reaches 9,199 euros.
9,200 euros against 60,000 euros, that’s quite a difference. To be as complete as possible, it is true that the old Mac Pro Intel can support 768 GB of RAM, which is not the case with the Mac Studio. But the fact that the Mac Studio eclipses the performance of the Mac Pro for less than a sixth of its price completely reshuffles the cards.
The Mac Studio is also much smaller. In terms of physical volume, the Mac Pro 2019 occupies 51,894 cm3. The Mac Studio occupies 3686 cm3. That’s about one-fifteenth of the physical volume. In terms of footprint, the 2019 Mac Pro measures 45cm deep by 21.8cm wide. The Mac Studio is a 19.7cm square.
All of this is made possible by Apple’s switch to its in-house Apple Silicon chips. Apple has proven its ability to evolve its components with the introduction last year of the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. And with the announcement of the M1 Ultra, Apple showed off its interposer skills, that is, its ability to merge chips inside the package to create even more powerful systems on a single chip. .
And yet, this is only the first generation of chips for Mac. Since the release of the Mac Studio, Apple has unveiled its even more powerful M2 processors.
In fact, if the Mac Studio is already a complete game-changer for professionals, we can expect even more impressive performance in the near future.
What about the Mac mini?
The Mac Studio looks like a Mac mini, but with a bigger case. In terms of footprint, the Mac Studio takes up the same space as the Mac Mini, but the Studio is about 2.5 times taller than the Mini. This accommodates the Mac Studio’s fans and cooling system.
Certain points concerning the management of heat are justly worth discussing. To do that, let’s take a look at the latest Intel-based Mac mini (which Apple still sells).
The Intel version has more ports than the M1 version. The new Mac Studio, on the other hand, fixes this problem. The machine has the same ports as the Mac mini Intel, with some bonuses. On the power side, there is no doubt that the jump from the basic M1 chip of the Mac mini to the M1 Ultra chip of the Mac Studio is a huge leap.
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It’s amazing that Apple didn’t update the Mac mini with the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Given that the company was able to squeeze these chips into the svelte MacBook Pro, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to put an M1 Pro or M1 Max in a Mac mini case. The proof, the YouTuber Snazzy Labs proved that the motherboard of the Mac mini M1 was compact enough to be integrated into a much smaller case.
It’s unlikely that it was a heat or fan issue that kept mid-range M1 processors from finding their way into a Mac mini. Indeed, let’s repeat, Apple has managed to fit these same processors into the MacBook Pro even though there’s far less room for airflow in this laptop than in the much larger Mac mini casing.
It is possible, however, that the M1 Ultra needs a lot more ventilation. The chip is particularly powerful and, since it is actually two chips connected by an interposing layer, it is possible for the component to become very hot. This would cause massive cooling requirements that would require the Mac Studio’s much taller case.
The Mac mini has long been Apple’s cash cow. Leaving this scale alone without modifying it is rather clever. Thus, Apple can concentrate on its new flagship, the Mac Studio, capable of offering more power. Most Mac mini users won’t complain, as the Mac Studio performs all the same functions as the Mac mini, so it’s not like Apple left them without a solution.
The only users who might be bothered are the few who install Mac minis in racks. But, in view of the performance gain, it does not seem absurd to rearrange these racks to allow the installation of a machine twice as high.
The Mac Studio is a masterstroke. It’s priced right and it has plenty of power in the belly that most professionals won’t be limited by CPU capabilities.
The Mac Studio offers better performance than a Mac Pro for less than the price of a high-end iPad Pro. So it’s affordable for people who can’t afford a Mac Pro, but still want the benefits that a super-powerful machine can bring.
In conclusion, the Mac Studio is an interesting computer that could very well have positioned itself as the replacement for the Mac Pro. That said, the fact that Apple is planning to release a Mac Pro based on Silicon chips bodes well for demanding business users.