At its March 8th Peek Performance event, Apple focused on the big announcements of the day: the entirely new Mac Studio, powered by the insanely fast M1 Ultra chip and accompanied by the stunning 27-inch Studio Display.
Mac Studio with M1 Ultra and Studio Display Redefine the Mac Lineup
In 2020, Apple started to transition Macs away from Intel processors to Apple silicon, beginning with the M1 system-on-a-chip and a year later adding the even more powerful M1 Pro and M1 Max to the family. The performance of those chips, particularly when measured against their low power requirements, was stellar. Apple has now unveiled the M1 Ultra, which bonds two M1 Max chips together for double the performance.
To hold the M1 Ultra—or a less expensive M1 Max—Apple introduced an entirely new Mac that looks like an inflated Mac mini. The Mac Studio has the same 7.7-inch (19.7 cm) square outline, but is more than twice as tall, clocking in at 3.7 inches (9.5 cm) high. Much of that vertical space is occupied by cooling fans, but Apple says the Mac Studio makes minimal noise.
The Mac Studio also expands the Mac mini’s price, with the M1 Max model starting at $1999 and the M1 Ultra model at $3999. You can kit a Mac Studio out with an impressive set of options:
- Chip: For $1999, the M1 Max model offers 10 CPU cores, either 24 or 32 (add $200) GPU cores, and 16 Neural Engine cores. The $3999 M1 Ultra model doubles those numbers with 20 CPU cores, 48 or 64 ($1000) GPU cores, and 32 Neural Engine cores.
- Memory: With the M1 Max, you can choose between 32 GB or 64 GB ($400) of unified memory. With an M1 Ultra, you can opt for either 64 GB or 128 GB ($800) of unified memory.
- Storage: Internal SSD storage starts at 512 GB, with options of 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), and 8 TB ($2400).
Because of Apple’s focus on creative professionals, the Mac Studio offers a solid set of ports. On the back, it has four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10-gigabit Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, an HDMI port, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 is built in, as is Bluetooth 5.0. For ease of access, Apple finally put ports on the front, too. The M1 Max model features two USB-C ports, whereas the M1 Ultra model offers two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Both provide an SDXC card slot.
There’s one other fact you need to know before we put all this together: Apple said that the only remaining Mac to transition to Apple silicon is the Mac Pro, which means that it’s dropping the popular 27-inch iMac from the lineup. We’re sad since that iMac was a terrifically good deal, but if you’ve been waiting for an Apple silicon 27-inch iMac, the Studio Display suggests four alternative directions, depending on your needs. Remember that even the entry-level M1 chip outperforms the most recent Intel-based 27-inch iMac.
- Minimize desktop cost: If keeping costs down while sticking with Apple-designed desktop gear is important to you, couple a Mac mini with the Studio Display.
- Maximize desktop performance: Need the maximum performance on your desk? A Mac Studio driving one or more Studio Displays is the ultimate professional setup today.
- Minimize portability cost: Those who need portability and desktop screen real estate can get both without breaking the bank by combining a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Studio Display.
- Maximize portability performance: For top-notch portability, performance, and productivity, a 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro is unbeatable when matched with one or even two Studio Displays.
Finally, don’t discount the 24-inch iMac. Although its screen is smaller than the 27-inch iMac’s, its Retina screen resolution isn’t far off, and it’s notably less expensive. If you mostly like the all-in-one nature of the 27-inch iMac and don’t need the performance of the Mac Studio or MacBook Pro, you won’t go wrong with a 24-inch iMac.
The Mac Studio is available to order now, with shipments starting on March 18th, although demand is already pushing some ship dates into April. Note that the Mac Studio doesn’t include any input devices, but Apple also introduced a new silver-and-black Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Keypad ($199), Magic Mouse ($99), and Magic Trackpad ($149) designed to complement the Studio Display.
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