Mac Studio Purchase Advice

I’m looking to upgrade from my 27in iMac 2017 to a Mac Studio Max, and I’d appreciate some advice.

Of course I’m looking at the new model, but there are some pretty good/great deals on some of the M1 Max models at Adorama and others as they look to clear out last years’ models.

I do some photo editing in Photoshop, but a lot of my usage is pretty run of the mill stuff… browsing, email, excel, word, and watching video. I also use my Mac as a Roon Core for my music, and Apple Music as well quite a bit.

My Mac is kind of my multi-purpose entertainment system, as I run a pretty hi-end music/headphone listening setup with it and an outboard DAC (Schiit Yggdrasil) and headphone amp/preamp.

I have an extensive local file music collection, so I want 2TB of internal (fast) storage built-in, especially since you can’t upgrade ANYTHING internally anymore.

There are 2 M1 Max models that I’m looking at on sale, 1 has 10/24 cores with 64GB RAM, and 1 has 10/32 cores with 32GB RAM for $100 less, so virtually the same price… Both 2TB.

Any thoughts on which way to go? I imagine for my purposes 32GB RAM is fine, but more is always better. :laughing: Any real benefit to 8 additional GPU cores in my use case?

I’d welcome some advice, and any comments on fan noise from Mac Studio owners.

I looked at the M2 Pro Mini, but it’s awfully expensive compared to the lower end Studio, so that doesn’t seem a good value proposition.

Lastly, am I foolish to not go with M2 Studio? I just don’t know if it’s worth it for me since it’s not for content creation/editing use here.

I’d suggest considering off-board (external drive) storage for your music files. I have about 8 to 9 TB and SSDs would be a completely impractical (and unnecessary) hardware solution. Not to say that you shouldn’t get at least 2TB internally but do it for other reasons. Music files need little of the CPU/RAM/SSD capabilities; USB3.x to a so-called “spinning rust” drive (or drives) is more than adequate and much more economical. With 4TB+ SSDs going for several hundred bucks, 8TB Toshibas with 3 year warranties look better and better. YMMV, but if you’re sophisticated enough to use a Schitt DAC then you’re probably using higher resolution music files (with consequently much larger file sizes).

Given your stated requirements, maybe an M-1 or M-2 Studio might be a bit of overkill? Obviously, your choice. I went with a 16" MBP M-2 with 64GB RAM, 4TB internal SSD, with an Apple Display; positioned over the MBP, I’m able to use both displays with no problem.

The only time the MBP’s vent fans came on was when rendering mkv files to mp4s, by the way. Otherwise, has been completely silent.


Judging by the apps and use you mention, I’d say you are unlikely to benefit from extra GPU cores or larger mem b/w for that matter.

In fact, if you’re on a tight budget I’d be tempted to suggest considering a high-end Mac mini with an M2 Pro to save ~$300. But I won’t since that still means you’re down 2 CPU cores unless you try to match the Studio’s CPU core count in which case that difference disappears entirely ($2600 either way at 32GB/2TB). Just another example of how the Studio is actually really good value compared to other desktop Macs. Also, if you believe you want (and can afford) 64 GB RAM, it has to be the Studio ($3k at 64GB/2TB) anyway.

I’d definitely not skimp on RAM or SSD because you’ll be stuck with those forever, but as @mark4 points out, you can always add inexpensive external storage for media later. To be honest, I’m not convinced the use you describe calls for 64GB but that also depends on its life expectancy. If you plan to hold on to this Mac Studio for ~4 years or more, I’d go for 64 GB without hesitation. $400 is not nothing, but compared to the overall cost of this system and distributed across several years, it’s minor. Just my 2¢.


I was going to bite the bullet on the M1 Studio Max when I had to go on holiday/vacation. When I got back, the WWDC was over and I was playing catchup on my inbox and other work. The M2 Studio would be great if all I did was video and photo work. But that is for my Ryzen box now. However, I am replacing a 2012 macmini and I think I would recommend that unless you are producing content (4K, musician work, rendering,…), the Studio IMHO is overkill. Plus the M1 is older Bluetooth, and wifi compared to the M2 Mini Pro.
I’m getting the M2 Mac Mini Pro…32GB 2TB. And the 10Gb port add on (I might need if I am going to 2.5Gbs Fios thats available here now).
BTW- a bit OT, but my mini continues to have log errors and I lose display. I can move mouse but nothing on screen. Requires hard reboot. Seems thermal or some GPU issue. Nothing running except iCal and iTunes. (and monitor is off, till I need it).

Oh and I’ll just chime in that Apple’s upgrade tier prices are …well…shame on you Tim Cook. $400 for 32GB ram. $600 for 2TB storage.

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Depending on how much of a discount you get on the M1 model…the improvement in performance might be worth skipping…if the price is right and it better meets your budget. I have the M1 Pro Studio 64GB/2TB and do my amateur Lightroom Classic work on it as well as Photoshop…and realistically even my wife’s original M1 Air blew the performance of either my 2015 MBP or 2019 iMac in either of those apps by a considerable margin.

My Studio processes a 45 MP Nikon Z9 RAW file for denoise in DxO 3 in about 20 seconds or so…the old iMac took well over a minute and a half to do the same thing. The M2 Studios will be a bit faster…Apple claims they’re 20% faster…but that would cut it down to maybe 16 seconds for saving 4 seconds per image. For a typical photo outing I will put 20 or so images on the blog…so figure that the M2 saves me 80 seconds of time…for me that would be worth not having if I saved 300 or 400 on the older chip.

I would get 32 GB…that’s fine for both LR and PS work, you really only need more RAM for encoding video but unless you’re doing 8K the improvement of 64 over 32 might not be worth it. OTOH, if budget allows then 64 future proofs it for a bit longer…maybe, and since you can’t upgrade later might be worth it. Getting the Max model over the Pro model…again the reviews of max/pro for LR for M1 showed only slight improvement with the Max but the Pro showed a greater improvement over the base chip…so whether it’s worth it or not to get the Max is a budget/needs/wants decision…but unless you’re doing serious video then the Pro is just fine.

Fan noise on mine is…pretty much non existent. My RAID makes more noise than it does…and it’s an OWC Thunderbay Mini using the smaller 2.5 inch drives that are inherently much quieter than 3.5 inch ones…it’s barely audible but I’ve never heard any noise from the. Studio putting ears right down next to it.

Go for the 2 TB internal…but personally I would not waste the internal drive space on it…music will work just fine on a USB 3 connected drive and save the expensive storage space for things needing speed. I keep my LR catalog and current year images on the internal drive and use CCC to clone all that daily to the RAID and older year images are out on the RAID since they aren’t getting routinely edited.


If you were considering an M1 MacStudio before, I believe that an M2 MacStudio, announced at the WWDC and now available, with the same core and memory specs, will be the same price. Of course, if you can find an M1, the price should be reduced.


For your apps, literally anything sold by Apple today will have plenty of power for the task. So I would take the CPU out of the equation altogether and focus on other aspects of the system.

  • Agreeing with others, max-out the RAM. You can’t upgrade it later, and it isn’t that much more expensive. Especially if you were prepared to buy an expensive M2 Max system.

  • I agree with the 2TB of storage. It’s a bit pricey compared to external storage, but not too much so. I definitely would not choose more than that, because the prices become nuts after that. As others have said, external media (even a USB3 hard drive) will be just fine for playing your media collection.

  • You are coming from an iMac. Do you need/want a display with it? Unfortunately, the iMac hasn’t updated for a few years (and it is only 24"), so I would probably recommend avoiding it until the next iMac refresh. I don’t know when that might be, but hopefully later this year.

    Otherwise, you should consider the price of a display with your computer (unless you already have one you plan on using). Apple’s displays are great, but very expensive. I would look for a high quality 4K or 1440p display with an IPS panel from any number of other companies (I’m partial to Dell’s UltraSharp displays, but there are many other good brands to choose from). You can get some very good prices on these, even if they won’t come in a beautiful aluminum enclosure.


I wanted to thank everyone for their thoughtful replies…

Yes, I know a Mac Studio is really overkill, but I kind of gagged when I found the Mac Mini is basically the same price as a lower end Studio with how I wanted it spec’d! Plus I’m used to a bigger screen with the 27 in iMac, and was a bit underwhelmed with the 24 in iMac screen size. I wish Apple still offered a bigger iMac.

One last question for anyone with a Studio using a non-Apple monitor: Will it support higher resolutions/refresh rates than 60 Hz and HD via HDMI? Or do you have to use a USB C to Display Port adapter? And will going that route offer whatever the native resolution of whatever monitor you are using? Thanks all!

I found this article helpful in deciding between a Mini and Studio:

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I have an M1 Mac Studio with 32 GBs of RAM which has been plenty even with many programs open. I think one big advantage over a MacMini is the extra heat dissipation. As we upgrade our operating systems and software, they always seem to stress our computers more, so I am happy that I have extra cooling capability. That said, you may want check it out in the store to see if you hear the fans. I have never heard them but my hearing isn’t what it was.

If I was buying one today, I would get the M2 Mac Studio because MIT found a bug in the M1 that probably isn’t really an issue but I think Apple has most likely improved version 2 (and removed the bug).

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One other interesting aspect of the Mac Studio is that the ssd chips are actually removable. Does that mean that Apple could replace or upgrade the SSD chips at some point? Maybe. :slight_smile: How to Replace/Upgrade Mac Studio SSD (2022):

Given the fact that the new Mac Pro’s SSD modules are upgradable, maybe we will see upgrades for the Studio as well.

From what I’ve been able to learn, the only issue preventing it is the cryptographic pairing. But Apple could easily release a software tool to do that (maybe part of the Configurator app). The only thing stopping them from doing it is that they don’t want to. Although some have claimed that this is for security reasons, it doesn’t make sense - the tool wouldn’t attempt to install the drive’s keys in a new Mac (which would be a security problem, but is probably impossible) but would instead generate new key-pairs, installing one of the keys in the Mac’s secure enclave.


7 posts were split to a new topic: Storage upgrade approaches

5 posts were split to a new topic: Keeping a 27-inch iMac going

I have a 2020 M1 MacBookAir (16GB & 1TB SSD), a 2021 14" M1 MacBook Pro Max top processor (64GB & 4TB SSD) and a 2022 MacStudio Ultra top processor ( 128GB & 8 TB SDSD).

When one does a detailed study of their specs, the sad discovery is that the single core performance number of these three different computers is nearly identical. So the boot up times are nearly the same as well as loading webpages etc.

That common base performance number was not a public number when these computers were first released. I wanted a M1 14" MacBook Pro series performance laptop so was an early orderer. I needed to replace my 2013 MacPro and its two TB2 monitors as one had just died so I needed to order the MacStudio months after its release.

There is no justification for me to consider new “M2” models. So until the “M3” series are announced or most likely the “M4” series, the single core speeds need to dramatically improve for daily mundane work at my place.

We have seen that as the “M” series processors evolve, they support more of the chip memory. In some computers, the M2 supported 50% more memory over the M1 supported memory. If this train of thought continues, then the M3 series might have double the memory of the M1 series. This could also mean the “Pro” laptops might support 128GB of memory.

So the M3 series MacStudio could have a max of 256GB of memory vs the M1 model’s 128GB.

Ever since my first computer (a Heathkit H-89) way back when, specs have improved every year.
The consumer has to decide to pull the purchase trigger in the knowledge that tomorrow after the order is placed there will be improved specs.

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