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Mac Studio review roundup: The Pro's choice

Apple has a new Mac Studio

Prior to wide availability, reviews of Apple's new Mac Studio highlight its exceptional performance and pinpoint exactly where it fits into Apple's product lineup.

Apple unveiled the second generation of the Mac Studio on June 5, featuring the inclusion of the M2 Max processor to deliver a noteworthy 25% increase in speed. The enhanced performance comes without any changes to the previous model's design and chassis.

In March 2022, Apple introduced the initial Mac Studio model, which offered configurations equipped with either the M1 Max or M1 Ultra processors. The latest update now presents an enhanced selection, featuring the M2 Max and M2 Ultra processors.

Some of the first reviews of the new Mac Studio have appeared, echoing thoughts similar to those of the first generation reviews. Once again, reviewers praise the new model and point out its performance and expandability with its array of ports.

"Mac Studio has been a breakthrough for pros everywhere, and it's at the heart of hundreds of thousands of home and pro studios across the world," said John Ternus, Apple's senior vice president of Hardware Engineering. "Today, it gets even better with M2 Max and the new M2 Ultra, featuring even more performance and enhanced connectivity."

Engadget: Mac Pro who?

A review from Engadget says that the new Mac Studio may even tempt the people who are considering getting the New Mac Pro, writing, "Years ago, some professionals would buy the Mac Pro for its sheer performance, while the internal expansion possibilities were more of an afterthought. The Mac Studio is a system made for them."

The Mac Studio boasts an astonishing level of power that caters exclusively to the needs of the most demanding users, writes Devindra Hardawar, rendering the PCIe expansion of the Mac Pro unnecessary. Unlike previous reasons to opt for the Mac Pro, such as the ability to add additional RAM in the future, the integrated unified memory alongside the M2 chips eliminates this possibility.

Hardawar ends by saying that even if the built-in storage isn't enough for some users, "external storage options are fast enough to deal with the demands of a video production shop," thanks to Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 on the Mac Studio.

Tom's Hardware: Not that upgradeable

However, Tom's Hardware points out that some people who need expansion may not be satisfied with the Mac Studio's capability for expansion, since the components are not upgradeable. "Those users may want to consider the Mac Pro, which also comes equipped with the M2 Ultra, but in a bigger case that includes PCIe slots to add sound cards, storage cards, and more."

Andrew E. Freedman ran plenty of benchmarks to test the Mac Studio, and was impressed that the machine was "extremely quiet" during intensive workloads unless he put his ear up against it.

Ars Technica: Best choice for pros

Andrew Cunningham reviewed the Mac Studio and believes it's Apple's most compelling professional desktop. Though there is likely still a "tiny audience" for the Mac Studio, the device is more than capable of handling many tasks.

For those who prioritize tasks like photo and video editing, 3D rendering, app development, and other demanding work on Apple desktop systems, the Mac Studio remains unparalleled in its performance and capabilities.

Cunningham further highlights that the discrepancy in weight between the M2 Ultra and M2 Max Mac Studio models is attributed to the presence of a heatsink. The faster Ultra chip necessitates a copper heatsink resulting in increased weight, but the M2 Max chip can manage with a lighter aluminum heatsink.

PCMag: Better support for external displays

Joe Osborne points out that the new Mac Studio "handily outdoes" its predecessor, especially for external displays. The Mac Studio showcases a substantial advancement in external display compatibility, as it has the capacity to accommodate up to eight 4K displays, six 6K displays, or three 8K displays.

Another enhancement is the 32-core Neural Engine alongside the M2 Ultra chip, offering a notable 40% increase in speed compared to the previous generation, as per Apple's claims. This improvement proves beneficial for AI apps and services that rely on local processing.

The Independent: Better cooling

According to The Independent, Apple has made notable improvements to the thermal cooling system and fan functionality of the 2023 Mac Studio, surpassing the performance of the 2022 model.

It's a "big, mostly square box full of grunt" and has plenty of holes in the casing to provide air circulation for the fans. Like Freedman, Andrew Griffin noticed that the new model's fans are more quiet than the old Mac Studio.

Pocket-lint: Small but mighty

Britta O'Boyle calls the new Mac Studio a "Mac mini on steroids" and praises the device's performance within its compact form. "The design may not have seen any changes, but what's under the Mac Studio's hood has and that's what matters."

The standard configuration of the base model includes a 12-core CPU and a 30-core GPU, with the option to customize it to a 24-core CPU and a 38-core GPU. Users can choose between unified memory capacities of 32GB and 64GB, while the storage options span from a 512GB SSD to an expansive 8TB.

The Mac Studio has a high level of power and capability, providing resources that the majority of users are unlikely to fully use or put to the test.