Apple’s desktop strategy has undergone significant changes in 2023. The company not only unveiled the long-awaited update to the Mac Pro, its last Intel-based computer but also introduced a new version of the Mac Mini featuring a more robust processor. This expansion in the product lineup offers consumers a wider range of choices, spanning from the ultra-high-end to the mainstream-pro level. Positioned in between these options is the updated second-generation Mac Studio, featuring the choice of M2 Max and M2 Ultra processors.
Initially, there was speculation that the Mac Studio might replace the Mac Pro or become the go-to choice for content creators. However, in this review, we will delve into the 2023 Mac Studio to uncover its unique attributes and help you determine whether it represents the ideal middle ground or if one of its siblings better suits your specific needs.
|Article Title||“Revolutionizing Desktops: The 2023 Mac Studio Unleashed”|
|Mac Studio Price in India||– Base Variant: Rs. 2,09,900 (M2 Max SoC, 12-core CPU, 30-core GPU, 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD)|
|– Upgraded M2 Max with 38 GPU cores: Rs. 20,000 more|
|– M2 Ultra Variant (starts at): Rs. 4,19,900 (64GB RAM, 1TB SSD)|
|– Top-End M2 Ultra with upgrades: Rs. 8,99,900 (128GB RAM, 8TB storage)|
|Mac Studio Accessories||– Apple’s Studio Display: Rs. 1,59,900 base price|
|– Magic Keyboard with Touch ID: Rs. 19,500|
|– Magic Mouse: Rs. 9,500|
|– Magic Trackpad: Rs. 14,500|
|Mac Studio Design||– Resembles taller Mac Mini with ports on the front|
|– Silver aluminum construction|
|– Compact and desk-friendly|
|– Built-in speaker|
|Mac Studio Specifications||– M2 Max SoC: 12-core CPU, 30-core GPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD|
|– M2 Ultra SoC: 24-core CPU, 60/76-core GPU, 64GB RAM, 1TB SSD|
|– Impressive display support: Up to eight 4K displays|
|– Abundant ports: Thunderbolt 4, USB, Ethernet, HDMI|
|– Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3|
|– Preloaded with macOS and essential apps|
|Performance Tests||– Geekbench 6: Single-core 2,664, Multi-core 14,508, GPU OpenCL 74,465|
|– Cinebench R23: Single-core 1,660, All-cores 14,539|
|– SSD Performance: Sequential read 6,497.12MBps, Sequential write 7,044MBps|
|– Content creation and rendering tests: Impressive results|
|– GFXBench, Unigine Valley, and gaming performance|
|– Silent cooling system|
|Verdict||– M2 Max-based Mac Studio is a solid performer|
|– M2 Ultra version redefines performance|
|– Mac Pro caters to a niche audience|
|– Compact design sacrifices upgradability|
|– Pros: Performance, Compact, Front ports|
|– Cons: Non-upgradeable RAM and storage, Expensive options|
Mac Studio Price in India
The Mac Studio is available as a standalone unit, devoid of a monitor, keyboard, or mouse. Inside the package, you will find the unit itself, a power cable, and relevant documentation. Pricing starts at Rs. 2,09,900 for the base model, which includes the M2 Max SoC (featuring a 12-core CPU and a 30-core GPU), 32GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. For a slightly more potent variant with 38 GPU cores (as opposed to the standard 30), you’ll need to invest an additional Rs. 20,000.
In Apple’s characteristic fashion, post-purchase upgrades are not an option, and configuring your Mac Studio can quickly become expensive. For instance, expanding your RAM to 64GB will set you back an additional Rs. 40,000, while doubling your storage to 1TB costs an extra Rs. 20,000. Although the SSD is technically removable according to teardowns, user-initiated upgrades are hindered by software-level locks.
Versions equipped with the M2 Ultra SoC, which we’ll discuss later in this review, start at Rs. 4,19,900. This higher tier of Mac Studio includes a minimum of 64GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. There are two variants of the M2 Ultra SoC, with the more advanced one featuring an additional 16 GPU cores, elevating the price by Rs. 1,00,000. You can further upgrade to 128GB or 192GB of RAM for an additional Rs. 80,000 or Rs. 1,60,000, respectively, and expand your storage to 8TB for another Rs. 2,20,000. Consequently, the top-of-the-line configuration can reach a hefty Rs. 8,99,900, and that’s before you even consider adding software.
The Mac Studio pairs exceptionally well with Apple’s Studio Display, which is available for a base price of Rs. 1,59,900. For more insights into this display’s performance, you can refer to my recent Mac Mini review. Additionally, I used Apple’s Magic Keyboard With Touch ID and Number Pad, Magic Mouse, and Magic Trackpad during this review, each priced at Rs. 19,500, Rs. 9,500, and Rs. 14,500, respectively. As a result, the total cost can easily surpass Rs. 10,00,000 when accounting for all these peripherals.
Mac Studio (M2 Max, 2023) Design
The Mac Studio’s design can be aptly described as a taller version of the Mac Mini. Its simplicity conceals the significant power packed within. While the Mac Studio maintains the same width and depth as the Mac Mini, it stands over twice as tall, making it less discreet and more suited for placement on your desk. Accessories designed for the Mac Mini, such as hubs, should seamlessly integrate with the Mac Studio. The device is constructed from the same silver aluminum and features a similar textured body. The Apple logo on top is larger, and the base is slightly elevated. It’s evident that this device is intended for a prominent position on your workspace. Notably, the Mac Studio incorporates ports on the front, a feature that has been missing in multiple generations of desktop Macs.
The design discussion is succinct, with the front housing a notably large power LED. The back is where you’ll find the bulk of the ports, along with a sizable air vent. Unfortunately, the AC power cord included in the box for India utilizes a 16A power plug, a minor inconvenience given the Mac Studio’s power consumption shouldn’t require such a high-rated plug. If you pair the Mac Studio with a Studio Display, you’ll need two of these uncommon outlets at your desk. However, the power supply is built into the unit, eliminating the need for an external brick.
The M2 Max-based version of the Mac Studio weighs 2.7kg, while the M2 Ultra-based model surprisingly tips the scales at 3.62kg. This difference can be attributed to the need for a more robust cooling system in the latter. Nonetheless, both versions remain portable enough for occasional on-the-go use. In fact, the packaging even includes a cloth handle for easy transport. Many companies also offer rack-mount adapters, enabling you to fit one or more of these units into a standard equipment cage.
Mac Studio (M2 Max, 2023) Specifications and Software
For this review, I received a Mac Studio powered by the M2 Max, equipped with a 30-core GPU, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. In India, this configuration is priced at Rs. 2,29,900. The M2 Max offers superior performance compared to the M2 and M2 Pro (the latter being the top-tier option for the Mac Mini). All models within the M2 family are fabricated using a cutting-edge 5nm process.
The M2 Max boasts an impressive 67 billion transistors. It features a 12-core CPU block, identical to the M2 Pro, but it distinguishes itself with GPU resources that extend to 30 or 38 cores and support for up to 96GB of RAM. Additionally, it provides double the video encoding resources in hardware, including acceleration for Apple’s ProRES format, compared to the M2 Pro. This differentiation positions the Mac Studio above the Mac Mini, particularly for tasks such as editing or processing multiple 4K or higher-resolution video streams, 3D modeling, visual effects work, and machine learning model training.
Apple claims that compared to the previous-generation Mac Studio featuring the M1 Max SoC, the M2 Max can render motion graphics in Adobe AfterEffects up to 50 percent faster and build Xcode projects 25 percent faster.
If you opt for the higher-end Mac Studio, it comes equipped with the M2 Ultra SoC, Apple’s top-end in-house processor. The M2 Ultra essentially doubles all the specifications of the M2 Max, effectively combining two M2 Max dies with a custom high-speed interconnect. This configuration comprises around 134 billion transistors and offers 24 CPU cores, 60 or 76 GPU cores, twice the Neural Engine capacity, doubled memory bandwidth, and enhanced media encoding capabilities.
The 2023 Mac Studio equipped with an M2 Max SoC can support up to four 6K displays and an additional 4K display at 60Hz, or alternatively, two 4K displays and one 8K display at 60Hz. The M2 Ultra-powered variants can accommodate up to eight 4K displays, six 6K displays, or three 8K displays at 60Hz, allowing for flexibility in display configurations and refresh rates.
On the rear panel, you’ll find four Thunderbolt 4 (40Gbps) Type-C ports, two USB 3.1 Gen2 (10Gbps) Type-A ports, 10Gb Ethernet, HDMI, and a 3.5mm combo audio socket. Additionally, there’s a three-pin AC mains inlet and a power button. Notably, the front panel boasts even better connectivity with these two Type-C ports operating at USB 3.1 Gen2 (10Gbps) speed on M2 Max-powered units, while the M2 Ultra supports additional Thunderbolt 4 ports, providing increased bandwidth. The card slot accommodates SDXC cards but not the newer SDExpress format.
Similar to the Mac Mini, the Mac Studio features a built-in speaker suitable for notifications but not recommended for music playback. When connected to a Studio Display or other external speakers, this internal speaker is bypassed. Wireless communication options include Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.
MacOS comes preloaded, and an iCloud account is required for initial setup. The Mac Studio includes a suite of preloaded apps, such as Safari, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, FaceTime, iMovie, GarageBand, Mail, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and Maps. Additionally, the Mac Studio includes the Apple App Store and integration with the iCloud ecosystem, enabling seamless content synchronization across various Apple devices like iPhones, iPads, and AirPods linked to the same Apple account.
Mac Studio (M2 Max, 2023) Specifications and Software
Upon the initial boot of the Mac Studio, you’ll be guided through a comprehensive setup process. This entails signing in or creating a new Apple ID and the option to import data from iCloud or another Apple device automatically. Several security features are activated by default, including SSD encryption, verification of unmodified macOS installations, and restrictions on booting from external media. Additionally, the SSD is encrypted by default, emphasizing the Mac Studio’s suitability for production environments. Apple accessories, if available, are detected automatically, facilitating a seamless setup process. During the first boot, updates for macOS Ventura 13.5 and Apple Studio Display firmware 16.4 were offered.
In everyday use, the Mac Studio exhibits smooth and dependable performance. For more in-depth information regarding macOS usage and Apple peripherals, you can refer to our Mac Mini review. It’s important to note that while Apple’s products are known for their quality and integration, they often come at a premium price compared to third-party alternatives. One minor inconvenience is that, despite the convenience of having front-facing USB Type-C ports, the relatively light weight of the Mac Studio requires you to hold it down when connecting or disconnecting devices.
The differences in performance become apparent when running benchmarks. In Geekbench 6, the Mac Studio achieved scores of 2,664 in the single-core CPU test, 14,508 in the multi-core test, and 74,465 in the GPU OpenCL test. In comparison, the Mac Mini (M2 Pro, 2023) produced scores of 2,654 and 14,208 in the CPU-based tests but lagged behind in GPU performance with a score of 49,686. The Cinebench R23 render test delivered single-core and all-cores scores of 1,660 and 14,539, respectively, mirroring the performance of the Mac Mini.
When evaluating SSD performance using AmorphousDiskMark, sequential read and write speeds of 6,497.12MBps and 7,044MBps were recorded, in line with the capabilities of the Mac Mini. Consequently, the choice between the Mac Studio and the Mac Mini should be based on the specific demands of your workload, with the M2 Ultra SoC representing a significant performance leap.
The Mac Studio truly stands out in content creation and holistic testing scenarios. In browser-based benchmarks, the WebXprt benchmark achieved 255 points, the Basemark Web test returned a score of 2,285.41, and Jetstream 2 posted a result of 320.501. The LuxMark render test achieved a score of 39,217 for the standard LuxBall scene, while the IndigoBench tests for the Bedroom and Supercar scenes reached 1.679 and 3.848 Megasamples per second, respectively. Notably, Blender’s Barcelona Pavilion Demo took just 7 minutes and 2 seconds to render, and the Classroom scene was completed in 5 minutes and 50 seconds.
Graphics performance was equally impressive, with GFXBench’s Aztec Ruins and Car Chase tests achieving maximum frame rates of 60fps, likely constrained by the Studio Display. However, when rendering off-screen at 4K resolution, frame rates soared to 144.934fps and 589.78fps, significantly surpassing the Mac Mini’s performance. In the Unigine Valley benchmark, the Mac Studio achieved a frame rate of 114.6fps at 1920×1080 resolution using the Ultra quality preset with AA set to 4X. While AAA games are not as prevalent on the Mac platform, Rise of the Tomb Raider achieved frame rates of 111fps at 1920×1080, 75fps at 2560×1440, and 38fps at 4K resolution, all on the High quality preset.
Notably, the Mac Studio’s cooling system operated nearly silently throughout testing, with no discernible fan noise. Additionally, the top surface of the unit only exhibited minimal warmth.
All performance evaluations and observations in this review pertain to the M2 Max-based Mac Studio. The M2 Max offers notable performance gains over the M2 Pro in certain areas, but not across the board. Therefore, it is essential to carefully assess your workload and future requirements when deciding between the Mac Studio and the Mac Mini. The Mac Studio with the M2 Ultra should be considered an entirely different product, occupying a different performance and price tier. This variant is likely to suffice for users engaged in intensive creative production work.
In summary, the brand-new Mac Pro caters to an exceedingly niche audience, primarily those who require expansion cards for specialized workflows such as fiber-based network interfaces, additional NVMe storage, and low-latency audio/video interfaces. The Mac Studio lacks this level of expandability (beyond external Thunderbolt devices), but it should meet the demands of many creative professionals.
The Mac Studio is an impressive feat of engineering, packing substantial power into a compact form factor. However, this compactness comes at the cost of upgradability, with internal components locked in place. Additionally, Apple’s pricing for RAM and storage upgrades at the time of purchase is on the higher side. Therefore, prospective buyers should carefully evaluate all available options within Apple’s current product lineup before making a purchasing decision.
- Outstanding performance
- Compact and quiet operation
- Front-facing ports for convenience
- Non-upgradeable RAM and storage
- Expensive configuration options
Ratings (out of 5):
- Design: 4
- Performance: 4.5
- Software: 4.5
- Value for Money: 3.5
- Overall: 4