Mac Studio Review

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5

The Apple Silicon family is growing. After the MacBook Air, Mac mini, MacBook Pro and iMac, Apple unveils a brand new product. Not a new generation of an existing product. No, Apple is launching a new computer. And what a computer!

The Mac Studio (that’s its name), is positioned between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. If it takes up the design of the first, it is technically close to the second. Apple has indeed equipped it with an M1 Max chip (which we have already seen in the latest MacBook Pros) or an M1 Ultra, the very last chip before the M2 which should equip the next Mac Pro. You follow ?

The Mac Studio is therefore not a product for the general public (unless you like it) but a professional machine intended for creative people and any other profession requiring phenomenal computing power.

We had the chance to test the Mac Studio several days before it was released. After a week of experience, discover our full review.

Mac Studio Pricing and Availability

The Mac Studio has been available since March 18 on the Apple site. It comes in two versions: M1 Max and M1 Ultra.

The first starts at 2299 euros and has 512 GB of storage. The second is marketed from 4599 euros with 1 TB of storage.

As always, Apple offers to customize each machine by adding storage memory (up to 8 TB), RAM (up to 128 GB) or accessories.

The bill can soar to more than 9000 euros for a version with the most muscular M1 Ultra chip, 128 GB of unified memory and an 8 TB SSD.

Our test model has a 24-core GPU, 64 GB of RAM and a 2 TB SSD. Its price: 3449 euros.

Mac Studio, who is it for?

Very good question my dear Jean-Pierre! And yes, who is the Mac Studio for? Apple may hold a conference where professional and consumer products mingle, but the Mac Studio is definitely a product for the pros. Although its design looks more like a hormone-inflated Mac mini, this device is more like a compact Mac Pro.

In concrete terms, the power of the M1 Ultra chip could even make the Mac Studio a direct competitor to the Mac Pro. But now, the Mac Studio is not modular, not scalable. Impossible to add a little RAM, SSDs here and there, in short, it lacks the flexibility that some professionals require and that they find in the Mac Pro.

Nevertheless, the Mac Studio remains a product for professionals, especially for creation. It is suitable for photographers as well as videographers and editors. 3D designers, architects, graphic designers, musicians or even developers will also find what they are looking for in this super-powerful machine.

We therefore imagine the Mac Studio in a creative trades agency but also among freelancers (with comfortable resources). For the general public, this Mac Studio is therefore not really of interest since the iMac with its M1 chip already delivers more than enough power for all uses. And for those who prefer a small fixed box, the Mac mini M1 will also do the trick.

Between nostalgia and modernity

The youngest will see in the Mac Studio a Mac mini that would have exaggerated sessions at the gym. To the oldest (not too old either) the Mac Studio will remind you of the PowerMac G4 Cube, a transparent machine topped with an aluminum cube. Inevitably, the years passing by (too quickly) and miniaturization having passed by, the Mac Studio is much more powerful than the G4 Cube but also much more compact.

Aesthetically, the Mac Studio is therefore not very original, but its finishes are still worthy of Apple. From the packaging to the product itself, everything exudes high-end. It is therefore not hidden under the desk like a more classic (and often ugly) PC tower. No, the Mac Studio sits proudly on the desk next to the screen, like a central element of our state-of-the-art setup.

Important precision, the Mac Studio will be more or less imposing depending on its configuration. The model with M1 Max chip displays 2.7 kg on the scale and more contained dimensions than the model with M1 Ultra chip and its 3.6 kg. In both cases, this featherweight and the compact format of the machines allows us to imagine transporting them in a bag without any problem. Some professionals need ultra-powerful machines on the go. It will be enough to find a screen to connect this beast of competition.

A very rich connection

Obviously Apple did not appreciate criticism of its connectivity policy very much. In recent years, the American swore that the future lay in the design of machines devoid of any ports. USB-C and Thunderbolt technology were the future. And if you needed an SD card reader, a USB-A or an Ethernet port, you found your salvation in the dongle (adapter).

Without admitting its failure, Apple is backtracking. We have already seen this with the latest MacBook Pros, which once again sport ports that were previously considered obsolete. We think for example of HDMI or USB-A.

So yes, a fixed machine like the Mac Studio has nothing to do with a MacBook Pro whose interest is to work on the move. Nevertheless, Apple’s backpedaling in terms of connectivity is obvious when analyzing the Mac Studio.

At the back, to accompany the imposing power socket, there are no less than 9 ports : one HDMI, two USB-A (5 Gbit/s), one 3.5 mm jack, four Thunderbolt 4 (up to at 40 Gbit/s), 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Apple also responds favorably to the demands of professionals by integrating three ports on the front, for easier access. Thus, the M1 Max version embeds 2 USB-C (up to 10 Gbit / s) and an SDXC card reader. The Ultra version includes the same drive and two Thunderbolt 4 (40 Gbit/s).

For wireless technologies, we can rely on WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

But where are the accessories?

Whether you opt for the Mac Studio at 2200 euros or the most muscular version at 9200 euros, it will be delivered to you without a keyboard or mouse/trackpad.

To equip yourself completely, you will therefore have to add a few denarii to the bill. The new aluminum / black keyboard is sold for 205 euros (yes yes) while the Magic Mouse (which always recharges from below) is offered at 109 euros. Are you more of a trackpad? In this case, you will have to pay 155 euros more. In total, the accessories will therefore cost you at best 314 euros (keyboard and mouse), at worst 360 euros (keyboard and trackpad). “That’s a lot there, isn’t it? “.

Some will say that the target audience (professionals) is already equipped with these accessories. First of all, it’s not a certainty, but even if it were, not providing new accessories with such premium machines is more stingy than anything else. Red card.

Incredible and magical performance

As we indicated in the introduction, our test model does not have an M1 Ultra chip but an M1 Max chip, the very one that equips the latest MacBook Pros. So we don’t have the most powerful machine at the moment, but that’s not really a problem.

First, because the M1 Max is already an overpowered chip that will suit demanding professionals. The M1 Ultra being simply two M1 Max linked together, a simple multiple of two gives an idea of ​​its potential. Some of our colleagues have gladly indulged in performance comparisons and benchmarks of the M1 Ultra and confirm these statements: the M1 Ultra is twice as fast, twice as powerful and performs tasks twice as fast as the M1 Max. .

In addition, testing a version of the Mac Studio with M1 Max rather than an M1 Ultra also allowed us to know the potential of a machine at a more affordable price. Our configuration is a bit more muscular than the basic model and could perfectly suit independent professionals or small agencies for example. Machines with M1 Ultra are aimed more at professionals with even more advanced needs, such as film directors, special effects experts, etc.

Anyway, our Mac Studio blew us away and we therefore imagine that the version with M1 Ultra is mind-blowing. When we process 9 video streams in 8K on Final Cut Pro without any slowdown or a YouTube video export (in 4K) is done in a few seconds, imagine what a machine with an M1 Ultra chip can do. Ditto on the photo editing which takes place in a flash.

We also asked a developer to have some fun with the machine. A musician also created some sounds on Logic Pro. We thought that these one-time testers were going to leave with the machine under their arm, so impressed were they with its power.

king of silence

Its performances of madness, the Mac Studio realizes them in a cathedral silence. You can hear the fans activate at start-up, discreetly. Then nothing. Even with the most complicated tasks, the Mac Studio remains the king of silence. If we had to compare the atmosphere of the office (in teleworking), it is comparable to that of a bedroom, when everyone is sleeping.

To achieve this feat, Apple has above all created incredible chips. They are not only overpowered but consume very little energy. As a result, the temperature under the case stays stable, and the fans don’t even need to turn on. It almost feels like they are there “just in case”. Because during our entire test phase, we never heard them. And the air escaping from the grilles under and behind the Mac Studio always came out cold. Mind-blowing.

What about gaming?

Historically, the relationship between Apple and video game publishers has never been very friendly. And today, this situation creates great frustration. Because the power of this Mac Studio (like all machines under Apple Silicon) necessarily makes us want to know what gaming experience we could have with such machines.

Unfortunately, publishers do not develop games for Mac, or very little. There is of course Apple Arcade and there are plenty of games to have a good time. But we would like to be able to launch Elden Ring for example (to name but one) on the latest Apple machine.

Because the graphics power is there, and the benchmarks carried out by certain testers show that the M1 Ultra is more powerful than the latest graphics cards from Nvidia.

We understand that Apple’s market share in the PC market is very small and that it is not profitable for publishers to develop games for these machines. But with the Apple Silicon chips, the American made his revolution. And it is not impossible that Macs invite themselves more and more into homes. This may push publishers to turn to the Big Apple. Unless the latter has prepared its own platform and surprises the entire community of players. The future will tell.

 

Studio Display: could do better

To test the Mac Studio in the best possible conditions, Apple also provided us with a Studio Display, its brand new monitor. If the Mac Studio literally amazed us, the Studio Display leaves us more skeptical.

Indeed, if the design of the foot is impeccable (adjust the position of the screen is done with two fingers, a treat), the screen itself is disappointing. Not by its display quality which, with a 5K definition and all possible compatibilities, is a delight for the eyes.

It doesn’t disappoint with its audio quality either. It’s very simple, we have never had the opportunity to use a monitor delivering such quality sound. You have to hear it to believe it.

No, the screen actually disappoints on two counts. First of all, its wide black borders which denote with what we find on the market. We usually use Huawei’s MateView monitor with extremely thin bezels. Next to it, the Studio Display looks a little “old-fashioned”, even though it is brand new.

In addition, the refresh rate of the panel is only 60 Hz. In this price segment, it is almost unforgivable. Finally, the new integrated webcam (and compatible with Center Stage) produces a very average quality image. At least for this price range.

Because, yes, the Studio Display, although more affordable than the magnificent Pro Display XDR (sold for 5,500 euros, remains an expensive monitor. Available from 1,749 euros , the Pro Display does not have an HDMI port and can only be connected at the Mac Studio, so we can’t even hope to connect a game console to it to compensate for the anecdotal gaming experience on Apple machines.

Moreover, for this price, the monitor is not compatible with AirPlay . We could also have hoped for the integration of tvOS in a product with such image quality. But that’s not the case either. Too bad.

Source: Lemon Squeezer

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