apple mac studio Review : It looks like a Mac Mini, But It’s A Real Beast | Tech Reviews
We recognize it. We were looking forward to thoroughly testing this Apple team. After all, it was the product that generated the most expectation during the event that this brand celebrated on March 8.
However, our curiosity is strictly technically motivated: Apple has ‘sold’ us this Mac Studio as an ambitious content creation and productivity proposition , and we were eager to find out if it really lived up to the hype.
In addition, this is the first computer of this brand that incorporates the M1 Ultra processor , a chip implemented on the same microarchitecture as the other CPUs in the M1 family, but, on paper, more powerful than the M1 Max that had reigned until then . on top of Apple processors.
In fact, the M1 Ultra chip is the result of interconnecting two M1 Max using a physical interface that is capable of a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 2.5TB/s . This figure is a real outrage.
Apple Mac Studio: Technical Specifications
In the cover image of this article we can see that the design of the Mac Studio is indisputably inspired by that of the Mac mini . In fact, both teams are essentially carbon copies . They have the same width (197 mm) and the same depth (197 mm).
They differ only in height (the Mac Studio is 95mm vs. 36mm on the Mac mini), and of course weight. The Mac Studio with the M1 Max chip weighs 2.7kg , while the Mac mini weighs just 1.2kg.
Mainly responsible for the increased height of the Mac Studio is a large fan that is responsible for keeping all the components on the printed circuit board below their maximum temperature threshold .
Here you have an appetizer dedicated to this element to whet your appetite: as we will see later, the cooling system that Apple has fine-tuned in this equipment successfully fulfills its mission , although it is evident that the efficiency of the M1 chips helps .
The base version of Mac Studio features an M1 Max processor with 10 cores (8 high-performance and 2 high-efficiency), 24-core integrated graphics logic, 32GB of unified memory, and a 512GB SSD. It costs 2329 euros .
This equipment, as I have mentioned, is also available with an M1 Ultra processor, although its price shoots up to 4,629 euros in the most ‘modest’ version offered by Apple, which unfortunately places it out of reach for many users. those that due to its benefits and theoretical versatility this computer could fit them.
The model that we have had the opportunity to test integrates an M1 Max chip (the version with a 24-core GPU), 64 GB LPDDR5-6400 and a 2 TB SSD. It is not bad at all, but its price increases to 3479 euros . We would have liked to review the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra processor, but who knows, maybe this opportunity will present itself in the future.
In any case, as we are about to verify, the version of this equipment that we are going to analyze deserves that we talk about it at length. We assure you that this Mac Studio will not leave anyone indifferent .
|PROCESSOR||10-core Apple M1 Max (8 high-performance, 2 high-efficiency), 16-core Neural Engine, 400GB/s memory bandwidth|
|GRAPHICS||24 cores (graphics logic is integrated into the M1 Max chip)|
|UNIFIED MEMORY||64 GB LPDDR5-6400|
|STORAGE||SSD the 2 TB|
|OPERATING SYSTEM||macOS Monterey 12.3|
|SOUND||Integrated stereo speakers|
|WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY||Wi-Fi 6
|DIMENSIONS||197 x 197 x 95 mm|
|PRICE||2,329 euros (base version with 32 GB and 512 GB SSD)
3479 euros (reviewed version with 64 GB and 2 TB SSD)
A few brushstrokes about the ‘brain’ of this computer: the M1 Max chip
Both the M1 Max processor integrated in the version of Mac Studio that we are about to review and the other three chips in the M1 family (the M1, the M1 Pro and the M1 Ultra) share the same design philosophy , the same microarchitecture , and also the same manufacturing technology. All of them are being produced by Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer TSMC using 5nm photolithography.
The M1 Max processor has a single precision floating point (FP32) computing power of 10.4 TFLOPS
The M1 Max, as we have seen, incorporates 10 cores (8 high-performance and 2 high-efficiency), as well as a graphics logic with 24 cores (this processor is also available with a 32-core GPU). On the other hand, in this version of Mac Studio the logic of the CPU and the GPU accesses a unified main memory map of the type LPDDR5-6400 with a capacity of 64 GB.
The number of execution units of this CPU amounts to 4096, which positions it right in the middle of the M1 Ultra chip, which brings together 8192, and the M1 Pro, which integrates 2048 units. Another interesting fact that is worth noting: the M1 Max processor has a single precision floating point (FP32) calculation power of 10.4 TFLOPS .
It’s not bad at all if we keep in mind, just to put this figure in context, that the GPU of a PS5 gives us a maximum of 10.28 TFLOPS, and that of an Xbox Series X reaches 12 TFLOPS. Of course, the engine dedicated to the execution of the artificial intelligence algorithms of the M1 Max chip is identical to that of the M1 and M1 Pro processors. It incorporates 16 cores and can carry out a maximum of 11 billion operations per second (billions of ours, not the Anglo-Saxons).
This Mac Studio is a hypervitaminated mini Mac (also aesthetically)
The design and finish of the Mac Studio have left us no room for even a small surprise. And they haven’t because, as you can see in the photos that illustrate this article, it’s almost identical to a Mac mini.
As we have seen a few paragraphs above, the only difference between the enclosure of both teams lies in the considerably greater height of the Mac Studio. However, it doesn’t seem like a mistake to me because I like the Mac mini’s aesthetics and minimalism a lot, although, of course, it depends on taste.
As with the Mac mini, the Mac Studio’s enclosure is machined entirely from aluminum. The choice of this material responds both to Apple’s clear intention to position its proposals in the premium segment and to optimize the cooling of computer components that dissipate more energy in the form of heat.
This effect is possible due to the fact that the thermal conductivity index of aluminum is much higher than that of the polycarbonate used in some elements of the enclosure by other less ambitious compact equipment. And this property allows the Mac Studio case to behave like a huge heat sink capable of exchanging thermal energy with the air through convection.
As far as the quality of the machining is concerned, I have nothing to object to. It is objectively very high, but it is a quality that this brand has already accustomed us to, and that, without a doubt, has a tangible impact on the price of its products. In addition, the enclosure of this compact equipment has an interesting peculiarity: the top panel and the side profiles are machined in a single piece that has no joints.
In these detailed photos we can see that the aluminum case of this compact computer does not have a single screw in sight . Not even on the basis of Mac Studio. From a qualitative point of view, whether or not it has visible screws is not particularly relevant, but this characteristic reflects that this brand continues to pamper the finish of its proposals.
One last interesting point: as we can guess, the small holes made in the aluminum base of this compact computer serve to facilitate the exchange of hot air from inside the Mac Studio with ambient temperature air from outside. Later, in the section that we will dedicate to our performance tests, we will also check if the cooling system of this equipment is up to the task or not.
So yes, Apple: the connectivity of this equipment is up to the task
A few days ago we published our analysis of the Studio Display monitor that Apple offers us as a companion to this Mac Studio, and one of the sections that seems clearly improvable to us is, precisely, its connectivity . And it is that it is limited exclusively to four connectors in USB-C format that we have known little by little. However, in this area, this computer has left us with a much sweeter taste in our mouths.
On the rear panel there are four Thunderbolt 4 connectors in USB-C format capable of working at a maximum transfer speed of 40 Gb/s, an Ethernet port in RJ-45 10 Gb format, 2 USB type A ports with a speed maximum transfer rate of 5 Gb/s, an HDMI 2.0 output and a 3.5 mm headphone jack . Not bad, especially if we keep in mind that this Mac Studio is a very compact team.
However, in my opinion Apple has made a mistake in this area. And I miss the fact that the HDMI output implements the 2.1 standard . The 2.0 specification, which is what it proposes, allows us to transport 2160p signals at 60 Hz to our monitor , but it limits both the resolution and the refresh rate.
This computer has a very clear professional vocation, so it would have been a good idea if it also allowed us to deliver signals with a resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels and 60 Hz to our monitor through the HDMI output (there are professionals who need to use monitors 8K), or 3840 x 2160 points and 120 Hz. At this point, a computer with the price of this Mac Studio should integrate an HDMI 2.1 socket .
The front panel of this equipment is not transparent. In the detailed photographs we can see that it incorporates two USB-C ports (they work at a maximum transfer speed of 10 Gb/s) and a slot for SDXC (UHS-II) storage cards. Finally, when it comes to wireless connectivity, it offers us Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
In combat it measures up. go if it gives
And finally, we come to one of the juiciest sections of this review. This Mac Studio is a desktop computer with the ambition to compete head-to-head with the best that Intel and AMD currently have, but it’s also interesting not to just test its brute force. The Apple offerings equipped with an M1 processor that we’ve reviewed so far have shown us to have exceptional performance per watt , so it’s important that we also check to see if the M1 Max chip follows suit.
We start with the Cinebench R23 single-core test, a demanding test with the hardware and very valuable when what we want is to find out how the CPU of a computer behaves under stress. As we can see from the graph, the Mac Studio’s M1 Max processor has somewhat clearly outperformed, as we might expect, the M1 chip built into a MacBook Air. And it has also outperformed the MacBook Pro equipped with Intel processors.
To measure the consumption of the M1 Max and M1 processors we have used the ‘sudo powermetrics ‘ command that we can execute from the shell of the Terminal app, and to evaluate the consumption of the Intel processors we have used the Intel Power Gadget tool. You can see the result in the following graph: the Mac Studio and its M1 Max processor have consumed much less than the MacBook Pro with Intel CPUs during the execution of Cinebench R23 ( single core ), and just 0.2 watts more than the MacBook Air with M1 chip.
The following graph reflects the efficiency of the equipment that we have tested so far, and to prepare it we have divided the index that they have shown in the Cinebench R23 single-core test by the watts consumed by each CPU. In this way we have calculated how many points each processor gives us in this test for each watt consumed.
The victory goes to the M1 processor when we enable only one high-efficiency core , but the M1 and M1 Max chips are very evenly matched when using a single high-performance core, and both clearly stand out from Intel’s processors.
The time has come to take another step forward. This time we are going to compare the performance in the Cinebench R23 single core test of Mac Studio with M1 Max processor with that of our reference machine equipped with a large battery of chips from Intel and AMD in which the latest CPUs of these brands appear. (Includes 12th Gen Intel Core processors with Alder Lake microarchitecture.)
The M1 Max chip has been relegated to the penultimate position, but we must not overlook the fact that it is on the heels of a good part of its rivals and that, in addition, its consumption is much lower .
We now turn to the Cinebench R23 multi-core test, and, as we can see from the graph, the Mac Studio with M1 Max processor has overwhelmingly prevailed over all its rivals, including the MacBook Air with M1 chip. It was expected if we stick to the result we have obtained in the monocore test, and yes, the M1 Max has lived up to it.
In the following graph we can see that when we subject all the cores of the M1 Max processor to considerable stress, its consumption clearly increases. It was predictable. Even so, the 26.8 watts that we have measured represent an objectively very moderate figure, and we must not overlook the fact that in this particular graph we are comparing it with processors designed to work in laptops. Despite this, the M1 Max chip puts up a fight without being intimidated.
The graph in which we have evaluated the efficiency puts things in their place. The M1 processor excels in this parameter when using only its four high-efficiency cores, and delivers a very convincing result when using all of its cores , including the high-performance ones.
The M1 Max chip also comes off very well, especially considering that it’s housed inside a desktop computer, and therefore its performance per watt is important, but not as critical as in a laptop.
And again it’s time to pit the M1 Max processor against desktop chips from Intel and AMD. In the Cinebench R23 multi-core test, the number of execution threads ( threads ) that each CPU is capable of processing simultaneously weighs heavily. The M1 Max processor is capable of dealing with 10 execution threads , while all its rivals outperform it in this parameter.
Some of them, such as the Intel Core i9-12900K (24 threads) or AMD Ryzen 9 5950X (32 threads ) do it very clearly, and despite this disadvantage, it has beaten two of them . It will be interesting to see how the M1 Ultra chip , which is capable of simultaneously processing 20 threads, fares in this test.
We are now going with a test belonging to a real use scenario. To carry it out, we have compressed the Ubuntu 20.04 ISO with the Keka tool for macOS, which has a size of 3.38 Gbytes . As you can see, the Mac Studio’s M1 Max processor has clearly beaten all its rivals, including the MacBook Air with M1 CPU.
The clear winner in the Corona 1.3 ray tracing rendering test was the Ryzen 9 5950X because it is the processor that spent the least time on this task. Interestingly, in this test the Core i9-12900K and the Ryzen 9 5900X have exactly the same result. As in the multicore test of Cinebench R23, in this test the number of execution threads that each CPU processes simultaneously is crucial.
It’s highly unlikely that a gaming enthusiast would choose a Mac Studio if they’re primarily looking for a gaming PC. Still, we’ve jumped at the chance to put it to the test with some games that use CodeWeavers Crossover, which is the same WINE emulation layer used to play them on Linux. As you can see, ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ is perfectly playable even at 2160p . And at 2880p (5K) it gives us more than 30 FPS even with the highest graphic quality.
The result we have obtained in ‘DiRT Rally’ is very similar to the previous game. In fact, if possible, it is even more impressive because, as you can see, in this graphics engine this chip gives us even higher frame rates per second even at 2160p . The graphics logic of the M1 Max processor definitely does not shy away from games, although we all know that in macOS we can enjoy infinitely fewer titles than in Windows.
To evaluate the maximum temperature reached by each core under load, we have used TG Pro , an application that, as you can see in the following screenshot, clearly and dynamically indicates the temperature of each of them. Under maximum stress, none exceeded 60 ºC . High-efficiency cores, as you might expect, run cooler than high-performance ones, with GPU cores rarely exceeding 40 °C.
We have also measured the temperature reached by the Mac Studio’s aluminum case under maximum load because, as we have seen, this material has a high thermal conductivity index. To do this, we have swept its entire surface using a digital infrared thermometer in a room with an ambient temperature of 22 ºC.
In the following table you can see what maximum measurements we have obtained, and none of them represents a risk to our skin if we touch the team’s enclosure while it is being subjected to significant stress. We have measured the highest temperature in the ventilation grill housed in the back of the box.
|MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE AT FULL LOAD (CINEBENCH R23 MULTICORE)|
|UPPER PART||24.5 C|
|LEFT SIDE||25.1 C|
|RIGHT SIDE||25.3 C|
|FRONT OF||24.9 C|
Apple Mac Studio: Fadvices opinion
This team impresses. Its enclosure is so compact, despite being a bit bulkier than a Mac mini, that it seems to invite us to anticipate that it can’t be extremely powerful. But it is. As we have just seen, it rivals without complexes the equipment that bets on the most advanced processors that Intel and AMD currently have, but, in addition, it consumes much less . Objectively, the efficiency of the M1 processors, their performance/watt ratio, falls in love.
If the Mac Studio with M1 Max processor goes like this, what will the version that bets on the M1 Ultra chip be capable of.
Whoever decides to get hold of a Mac Studio will be able to use it with full guarantees for productivity, but also for content creation . And it is that it performs wonderfully when used to edit video or process photographs, among other usage scenarios in which you feel comfortable. It even works amazingly well with video games, although in this area macOS is much more limited than Windows.
And, as a tip, as we have verified, it is impeccably finished. Still, it’s not perfect. The only downside of some relevance that I put is the fact that the HDMI output does not implement the 2.1 standard . In addition, its high price places it out of the reach of some users who, due to its versatility, could fit them. This is the only thing I can claim against him. To conclude, I can only offer you a reflection: if the Mac Studio with the M1 Max processor goes like this, what will the version that bets on the M1 Ultra chip be capable of ?