Ars Technica reviews new Mac Studio: ‘Shows us exactly why Apple left Intel behind’

Apple earlier this month introduced Mac Studio, an entirely new Mac desktop powered by M1 Max and the new M1 Ultra, the world’s most powerful chip for a personal computer. It is the first computer to deliver an unprecedented level of performance, an extensive array of connectivity, and completely new capabilities in an unbelievably compact design that sits within arm’s reach on the desk.

Mac Studio front (top image) and rear
Mac Studio front (top image) and rear

With Mac Studio, users can do things that are not possible on any other desktop, such as rendering massive 3D environments and playing back 18 streams of ProRes video.

Andrew Cunningham for Ars Technica:

The 27-inch iMac was Apple’s de facto high-end desktop workstation for many years, and while the increasing core count of Intel’s desktop CPUs helped it fill this niche reasonably well, it never felt quite like a natural fit. The display was nice, but you had to replace it every time you wanted to upgrade your CPU or GPU. And both the CPU and GPU were restricted by a slim design that tucked them behind the screen since there was only a limited amount of room to dissipate heat.

The M1 Studio solves most of these problems. A big, beefy fan and a switch to Apple Silicon means that heat and power consumption are total non-issues for this machine, and you can connect whatever screen you want to it, whether it’s a Studio Display or a $100 1080p LCD. That Apple is delivering such good performance while also completely crushing Intel on the power efficiency front makes the Studio an even more impressive machine, and it helps to explain why we had to wait until after the Intel era to get a Mac that works and looks like this…

The worst thing I can say about the Studio is that it prioritizes function over form, which is a deeply strange criticism of a modern Apple product. The second-worst thing is that there is still a gap between the least expensive Studio and the most capable Mac mini. It would be nice to see a product that’s not much faster than the mini but does support more displays and offer more ports on the back (and, ideally, on the front). That hypothetical Mac may be coming sooner rather than later. In the meantime, the Studio is an excellent workhorse and a great Apple Silicon upgrade path for a lot of people still using older Intel iMacs, Mac minis, and Mac Pros.

MacDailyNews Take: As for the late 27-inch iMac:

Today, a buyer in the market for a 27-inch iMac would be looking at a Mac mini with a 27-inch Apple Studio Display… Yes, you’re paying $499 more ($2,298) to start, but you’re getting a much more capable Mac setup than you would with the former 27-inch Intel-handicapped iMac…

Of course, there are still 27-inch iMacs to be had at Apple resellers, but those machines are the past. Intel-handicapped. I wouldn’t buy Mac with an Intel snail inside today any more than I’d buy a Dell.

A future-proofed and significantly better-performing Mac contains Apple Silicon.SteveJack, March 9, 2022

Please help support MacDailyNews. Click or tap here to support our independent tech blog. Thank you!

Shop The Apple Store at Amazon.


  1. And the Mac Studio is dated the day it ships. Closed design with no ability to upgrade it. It’s a waste of money that is quickly outdated. And now no 27” iMac. Consumers want all in one and Apple just has a last century size iMac screen. With Tim Cook at the helm, sounds about right.

    1. I agree that Apple often overcharges, and their desktop products are unnecessarily sealed.

      But I am confused why anyone thinks this is a new phenomenon, or is a personal Cook decision. All-in-one computers are by definition hard to upgrade sealed boxes. Can you name one that is upgradeable in any meaningful way?

      Consumer products from Apple have been increasingly restricted from internal upgrades well before Jobs left us. He was complicit as Ive tried to make everything portless and paper thin. Now suddenly we gripe about the Studio, the best semi-affordable desktop Apple has launched since the original cheesegrater Mac Pros? It should be clear to everyone that the highly integrated M1 chipset is fundamentally not upgradeable regardless of what box you put it in. Same as the Mini, same as the 24″ iMac, same as all the laptops, same as the original MacBook Air that smug smirking Jobs proudly yanked out of an envelope. He loved sealed locked down products. At least the Studio allows you a choice of monitors to upgrade.

      Waste of money? Sounds like a personal budget problem. The 2002-2005 eMac (iMac SE?) was the last budget priced all-in-one desktop from Apple. Don’t pretend an all new 27″ screen iMac today would be cheap & upgradeable even if Jobs was resurrected and anointed savior. The M1 chip is the constraint, not the shape of the box. You know very well Apple (and Jobs) would charge as much as the Studio for a new 27″ iMac, because they don’t design to low price points. If don’t like the 24″ iMac and you want a screaming bargain upgradeable Mac appropriate for consumer performance needs, buy a used 2012 Mac Pro. That would also run bargain 32 bit software to save you more money!

      1. All good points but I wonder, would they be able to achieve the memory and SSD speeds if they went with some sort of socketed solution?

        For me the Mac Studio is perfect because I need to be able to run multiple external displays or projectors and it looks like it will suit the bill perfectly. I’ll know tomorrow, mine is scheduled to arrive Friday 🙂

        1. Good observation: the short answer is a “No”.

          The general design has been to seek performance gains by not only making the CPU itself faster, but also in keeping it well “fed”.

          When the Mac Pro (Intel Cheesegrater) came out with Xeon chips, Apple power users dug into what the “North Bridge” and “South Bridge” chips were doing to support those CPUs, what they meant and what their specs were.

          As their names imply, the ‘bridges’ were effectively to link CPU to “socketed” subsystems. Over the past decade, newer methods have been developed to do this better (higher bandwidth, more throughput): where we stand today is effectively a trade-off – the sockets have been eliminated and RAM/Storage brought nearly totally “onboard”, in the name of higher performance.

          The good news is that this choice was enabled by 1MB of RAM no longer costing $500, so the initial outlay for “full lifecycle” RAM/Storage was far smaller than in the past. This is because since 1985, these prices have declined by ~5 full orders of magnitude, so what used to be a $10,000 differential expense is now less than a cup of coffee. See the histogram at:

          Now granted, we’re no longer talking about Megabytes of data, but TB, but the basic point still holds: a mundane 1TB SSD back in 2010 cost $3,000 where today it is closing in on $100/TB and the not-so-mundane high performance SSDs such as on the Mac Studio are just $400/TB.

          FWIW, it can be useful too to hearken back to a very old PC joke, which was:
          “The Computer you want always costs $5,000″ (John Dvorak, I think?).

          From this perspective, a base M1 Max Studio with dual 27’s is a shade over $5K, or a loaded M1 Max at 2TB SSD with one 27” is a shade under $5K….

  2. Know how many video editors and 3D FX workers and large file photographer editors add in cards to their Windows PC’s and then just update the machines with newer cards in a few years? .00031% to be exact.

    For professional users Apple provides systems, this is an amazing solution, with the most powerful desktop processor in the world and graphics that make machines 2x its price blush.

    The Mac Studio user also puts the system on a 3 year depreciation schedule with their accountant, and gets a new machine usually at the end of that last year. They have no interest in getting a card for an aging machine that serves them almost no tax advantage and must be configured and set up etc… who truly does that? Perhaps gamers but that is not Apple’s market.

    Mac Studio is going to make its users a lot more money in a much faster amount of time.

    Lastly, many editors take their Mac Pro towers on the road with them – yes, still. They may be technically directing a golf tournament, a motocross event, some thing for ESPN X Games, Pac-12 volleyball tournament, tennis tournament, sand volleyball in Florida, rough cutting a tourism video for a local city they are Directing, on and on and on…. Then, in the evening they put together vignettes of the day, editing away for a few hours. This is work which a live sports feed media truck is not equipped to do for them. They take their Mac Pro towers along with them in giant pelican cases to do the additional work.

    With this new Mac studio, they can literally throw it in their carry-on bag! They even built the power supply internally so there’s no brick to lug around.

    Apple understands its market and anyone ragging on the fact that this is an all-in-one machine has no clue whatsoever who Apple is selling to and the efficiencies this thing brings.

    If anyone has need for 3rd party cards, get a Mac Pro tower as it’ll be around for another year with one more Intel update.

    1. Do you know what my add-in card compute score is on my AMD RX6900 using Geekbench’s OpenCL ? 177,099!
      And it’s readily replacable with multiple card from multiple vendors, now on in the future.

      My M1 MBP score 20,000.
      Just remember, you guys brought up “speeds and feeds”.

      1. Well, if you need speed so much that you’re willing to drop as much for a GPU as a laptop costs … then perhaps you shouldn’t be using laptop in your comparison.

        Likewise, this article isn’t about M1 MBP’s, but the Studio system.

        For Geekbench 5.4 OpenCL, the M1 Ultra version is clocking in at ~83,868, as per Toms Guide; URL:

        But the real question isn’t about posting numbers to try to brag about: these are synthetics which are informing the suitability of various productivity workflows. So to that end, the question for “Apple BS” is just what is their workflow such that they’re benefitting from a higher GPU performance score?

        Because if it is for, say, Bitcoin mining, Apple isn’t advertising this product with that use case in mind. As such, you’re simply complaining that Apple’s socket wrench isn’t a very good hammer .. even though picking the wrong tool for the job is on you, not them.

        1. You may be correct, the Studio offers more performance than the vast majority of general computer buyers will ever use. However, the original poster does have a point. The M1 family offers a limited set of options for the use cases Apple chooses to support. The ability for the high end user to add and swap GPUs on AMD or Intel computers means that the end user may get a much more appropriate or versatile toolbox if they need it without replacing their entire machine.

          You bring up costs? Are you proposing that adding an internal GPU card on a PC would be more expensive than adding an eGPU, which might be the only option for M1 computers (and trashcans)? The only real cost comparison you can do today is GPU price upgrades on the Mac Pro versus similar reputable workstation offerings from Dell or HP or whatever. Check the prices on that machined aluminum Mac Pro tower.

          When the Mac Pro is next updated, it would be better for demanding users if Apple continues to offer socketing for future user RAM and GPU upgradeability, and that is spends less time on useless case overstyling and chrome bling to keep the price in check. Nobody knows what new use cases are around the corner, especially with all the hype about AR and VR. It remains to be seen how much flexibility Apple will offer non-millionaire users. It prices its Mac Pro well outside the mainstream today.

          Since you read Tom’s Guide, you must have seen this article as well:

        2. The only M1 I have is the MBP (other than the iPad Pro). But I remind you that Apple was comparing those very laptops to desktops when they launched.

          But think of it this way. How much faster is the M1 Ultra on compute than the original M1. 2x? 4x? 8x?

          This is almost 9x.

          Never mind, the result is now online it’s 83940, or ~4x

          Now, talking about appropriateness, what’s this reported speed Apple uses at a reduced wattage? Same as throttling on the video SoC. Far less honest.

    1. Apple chips save energy when idling, using the “efficiency cores”. When performing any operations, the Apple chips are on par with any other state of the art chip. AMD and Intel aren’t slouches, they simply prioritize different goals.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.