Should You Buy the Mac Studio?
The Mac Studio is one of Apple's most powerful custom Apple silicon-based Macs, offering extreme performance and a wide range of ports in a compact, desktop form factor. The Mac Studio starts at $1,999.
The Mac Studio is still at the beginning of its product cycle as it was just updated with M2 Max and M2 Ultra chips. Now is a good time to buy a Mac Studio.
While the Mac Studio is one of Apple's most powerful Macs, for a more versatile desktop machine with an interchangeable, modular design with more ports, there is the Mac Pro, which starts at $6,999. It uses the same M2 Ultra chip that is in the higher-end Mac Studio. On the other hand, if the Mac Studio is out of your price range but you still want a similar Apple silicon-based desktop Mac, there is the entry-level Mac mini with the M2 chip, which starts at just $599.
Mac Studio Detailed
The Mac Studio is the newest Mac in Apple's desktop lineup, positioned as a cross between a Mac mini and a Mac Pro. Designed to look like a taller version of a Mac mini, the Mac Studio is aimed at "studio" professionals, as the name suggests, and it uses Apple's most powerful M-series chips. It is an alternative to the pricier Mac Pro and serves as an option for those who do not need the expandability and flexibility the Mac Pro offers.
Apple designed the Mac Studio to provide impressive performance, connectivity, and functionality in a more affordable and compact form than the Mac Pro. Apple refreshed the Mac Studio in June 2023, adding M2 Max and M2 Ultra chip options.
Priced starting at $1,999, the more affordable entry-level version of the Mac Studio is equipped with an Apple M2 Max chip that features a 12-core CPU, 30-core GPU (upgradeable to 38-core), 16-core Neural Engine, Media Engine, 400GB/s memory bandwidth, and up to 96GB Unified Memory, and it is the same chip Apple used in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The more expensive $3,999 model is equipped with a new M2 Ultra chip.
The M2 Ultra chip is essentially two M2 Max chips connected together on a single die and able to perform as one unified chip, which Apple calls UltraFusion architecture. It features a 24-core CPU and a 60-core GPU (upgradeable to 76-core), along with a 32-core Neural Engine, 800GB/s memory bandwidth, up to 192GB Unified Memory, and a 2x faster Media Engine.
According to Apple, the M2 Ultra's CPU is up to 20 percent faster than the M1 Ultra, while the GPU is up to 30 percent faster. The Neural Engine is up to 40 percent faster.
The M2 Ultra supports playback of up to 22 streams of 8K ProRes 422 video, which Apple says no other personal computer in the world is able to do, and it offers performance on par with top-of-the-line PC chips and graphics cards at a fraction of the power.
Designed to look like a taller version of the Mac mini, the Mac Studio features a square-shaped 7.7-inch all-aluminum enclosure that's 3.7-inches high. The size is meant to allow it to fit under most displays on the market, and the design has not changed between generations.
The Mac Studio is designed for quiet operation, with a unique thermal architecture that pulls air in through the airflow channels on the bottom using double-sided blowers and pushes it out through additional perforations on the back of the chassis.
There are four Thunderbolt 4 ports at the back of the Mac Studio, along with a 10Gb Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, an HDMI port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones. At the front, the M2 Max Mac Studio has an additional two USB-C ports and an SDXC card slot, while the M2 Ultra has two Thunderbolt 4 ports and the same card slot.
The Mac Studio with M2 Ultra supports up to six 6K Pro Display XDRs along with one 4K display over HDMI. The M2 Max version comes with a 512GB SSD and the M2 Ultra model comes with a 1TB SSD, but both are configurable with up to 8TB of SSD storage space.
As for wireless connectivity, the Mac Studio has Wi-Fi 6E for the fastest Wi-Fi speeds, and it supports Bluetooth 5.3.
The Mac Studio can be paired with Apple's matching $1,599 Studio Display, a 27-inch 5K resolution display that has a built-in 12-megapixel camera with Center Stage support, as well as high-quality microphone and speaker arrays, or it can be used with the more expensive Pro Display XDR.
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How to Buy
The Mac Studio can be purchased from the Apple website. The M2 Max version is priced starting at $1,999, and the M2 Ultra version is priced starting at $3,999, with additional upgrade options available.
Reviews of the Mac Studio are unsurprisingly positive, given the performance of the M2 Ultra chip and the fact that the price point has not changed. Reviewers were impressed with the Mac Studio's speed, along with the adoption of faster Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 and the inclusion of an HDMI 2.1 port for 8K display support.
The M2 Ultra is the fastest chip that Apple offers, and it has demonstrated notable CPU and GPU improvements compared to the M1 Ultra and the M2 Max chips.
With the update to an M2 Ultra chip, the Mac Studio can drive a total of eight 4K displays at 60Hz or three 8K displays at 60Hz, which means it is suitable for professional workflows.
Despite the update, the Mac Studio's operation is close to silent, and reviewers were pleased with the easily accessible ports. The M2 Max Mac Studio has been described as the "ideal machine" for power users, while the M2 Ultra can "destroy just about any task."
Professional users who don't need the PCIe expansion options of the Mac Pro can get the same performance with the Mac Studio at a cheaper price.
Additional Mac Studio reviews can be found in our full review roundup.
The Mac Studio takes design cues from both the Mac mini and the Mac Pro with an all-aluminum enclosure and unique thermal design. It uses the same "squircle" shape as the Mac mini, with a square-shaped design that has rounded corners.
It is essentially a taller version of the Mac mini, measuring in at 3.7 inches tall and 7.7 inches wide at each side. Apple says that it is sized to fit perfectly under most displays, including the Studio Display that Apple introduced alongside the first Mac Studio release.
The M2 Max version of the Mac Studio weighs 5.9 pounds, while the M2 Ultra version weighs 7.9 pounds. The extra weight in the M2 Ultra version is due to a difference in thermal needs. The M2 Max version has an aluminum heatsink while the M2 Ultra version has a larger copper thermal module.
To dissipate heat and allow for quiet operation, the Mac Studio has a series of airflow channels at the back and at the bottom. The machine pulls in air from the bottom and pushes it out through the more than 4,000 perforations at the back and bottom of the chassis to cool the internal components.
There are a total of 12 ports on the front and back of the Mac Studio. The back features four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10Gb Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, one HDMI port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack that supports high-impedance headphones. There is also a built-in speaker to go along with the headphone jack.
The front of the M2 Max Mac Studio features an additional two USB-C ports along with an SDXC card slot, while the front of the M2 Ultra Mac Studio includes two Thunderbolt 4 ports and the SDXC card slot.
Up to eight 4K displays, six 6K displays, or three 8K displays can be used with the Mac Studio. 8K display support is new to the machine this year.
Processor and Internals
The Mac Studio can be purchased with either an M2 Max or M2 Ultra chip. The M2 Max is the same chip that was first introduced in the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models earlier in 2023, while the M2 Ultra is essentially two M2 Max chips working together in tandem to form a single chip for double the performance of the M2 Max. Apple uses UltraFusion, a custom-built packaging architecture, for the M2 Ultra.
The M2 Max chip features a 12-core CPU with eight performance cores and four efficiency cores. It has up to a 38-core GPU, a 16-core Neural Engine, and 400GB/s memory bandwidth.
Apple's higher-end M2 Ultra chip doubles that. It features a 24-core CPU with 16 performance cores and eight efficiency cores. There's up to a 76-core GPU and a 32-core Neural Engine, along with 800GB/s memory bandwidth.
M2 Ultra benchmarks suggest the machine features a single-core score of 2837 and a multi-core score of 21730, which means the CPU is up to 20 percent faster compared to the M1 Ultra chip. It is by far the fastest Apple silicon chip that Apple has released to date.
According to Apple, GPU performance is up to 6.1x faster compared to the prior-generation M1 Ultra chip.
The Media Engine in the M2 Max and M2 Ultra offers dedicated acceleration for the ProRes video codec, along with video encode/decode engines and hardware accelerated support for H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW.
The M2 Max has a video decode engine, two video encode engines, and two ProRes encode and decode engines, while the M2 Ultra has double that. The M2 Ultra can play up to 22 streams of 8K ProRes 422 video, while the M2 Max supports up to 10.
The M2 Max Mac Studio supports up to 96GB unified memory when equipped with a 38-core GPU (64GB on the 30-core GPU version), while the M2 Ultra Mac Studio supports up to 192GB unified memory.
Both the M2 Max and M2 Ultra Mac Studio machines support up to 8TB of SSD storage with read speeds up to 7.4GB/s. The M2 Max Mac Studio comes with a 512GB SSD by default, while the base M2 Ultra Mac Studio ships with a 1TB SSD.
The Mac Studio models support the faster 802.11ax WiFi 6E connectivity, which is able to connect on the quicker 6GHz band when a compatible network is available. It also supports Bluetooth 5.3, which is the latest Bluetooth protocol.
There are two base Mac Studio configurations available from Apple, one with an M2 Max chip and one with an M2 Ultra chip.
- $1,999 - M2 Max chip with 12-core CPU, 30-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. 32GB unified memory, 512GB SSD, and two front USB-C ports.
- $3,999 - M2 Ultra chip with 24-core CPU, 60-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine. 64GB unified memory, 1TB SSD, and two front Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Base Model Mac Studio Upgrade Options
- M2 Max w/ 12-core CPU, 38-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine - +$200
- M2 Ultra w/ 24-core CPU, 60-core GPU, 32-core Neural Engine - +$1,400
- M2 Ultra w/ 24-core CPU, 76-core GPU, 32-core Neural Engine - +$2,400
- 64GB unified memory - +$400
- 96GB unified memory - +$800 (requires M2 Max w/ 38-core GPU upgrade)
- 1TB SSD - +$200
- 2TB SSD - +$600
- 4TB SSD - +$1,200
- 8TB SSD - +$2,400
Higher-end Mac Studio Upgrade Options
- M2 Ultra w/ 24-core CPU, 76-core GPU, 32-core Neural Engine - +$1,000
- 128GB unified memory - +$800
- 192GB unified memory - +$1,600
- 2TB SSD - +$400
- 4TB SSD - +$1,000
- 8TB SSD - +$2,200
Apple introduced the first version of the Mac Studio alongside the Studio Display, a 27-inch 5K display that's designed to be used with it. The Studio Display is compatible with other Macs and iPads, but it was designed to match the Mac Studio, and Apple still promotes the Mac Studio and Studio Display as the "dream team."
The Studio Display features a built-in A13 chip that powers a 12-megapixel Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage and a six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio, plus it includes a studio-quality three-microphone array and a tilt and height adjustable stand option. More information on the Studio Display can be found in our dedicated roundup.