New Mac Studio and Studio Display Change Mac Buying Calculus

Originally published at: New Mac Studio and Studio Display Change Mac Buying Calculus - TidBITS

Apple has introduced a new Mac model—the Mac Studio—powered by its most powerful chips yet, the M1 Max and new M1 Ultra. But for Adam Engst, the most exciting announcement of the day is the new 27-inch Studio Display, which pairs well with any of Apple’s M1-based Macs.


Although I’d guess that the M1 Ultra won’t quite be twice as fast as the comparable M1 Max due to the need for the UltraFusion interconnect, I’m willing to bet that the performance will still be insanely fast.

Actually first benchmarks show the Ultra performs indeed just as a scaled up Max. That’s what UltraFusion and excellent thermal management get you. Good luck, Intel. :wink:

In terms of ports, the Studio Display offers one Thunderbolt 3 port to connect to a Mac—complete with 96-watt charging—and three USB-C ports for connecting peripherals. Perhaps I don’t entirely understand the variables involved in divvying up the available bandwidth, but that feels a little stingy. Even my 27-inch Thunderbolt Display offered three USB-A ports, a Thunderbolt 2 port, a FireWire 800 port, and an Ethernet jack.

I agree it feels that way, but the 5K display is pushing very roughly 26.5 Gbps (w/o compression) alone. That’s a whole lot more bandwidth than your old Thunderbolt Display. But the TB pipe used only gained a total of 20 Gbps in the meantime. Also, 3x USB-C is 3 times more than those old 2x USB-A. By comparison FW800 and Gigabit are nothing.

I’m actually rather curious how much bandwidth can be detected through those 3 USB-C when the display is run at 60 Hz and its native resolution. It’s not going to be 3x 10 Gbps that’s for sure.

That sounds like a lot, but when I look at the cost of my current 2020 27-inch iMac and M1-based MacBook Air, plus the Thunderbolt Display I bought in 2014, it comes out to a shockingly similar $5587.

And in today’s money that’s actually over $6600.

I’m a big fan of the MBP plus screen & dock solution. It’s what my main workstation looks like at work.

But I also think if Apple were to introduce an M1 Pro replacement of the Intel Mac mini, this would present a much less expensive option for folks who just need a desktop Mac. Take such a ~$1200 M1 Pro mini and add a Studio display for a total of ~$2800. That’s comparable to what you would have laid out for a high-end 27" iMac. And way below iMac Pro cost.

In your example you also make a point out of getting two Studio Displays and that excludes the M1 (assuming we forget about DisplayLink). For those OTOH who just want a single good 5K screen, the great M1 performance could make even the low-end mini viable. And then you’re looking at ~$2300 for the mini+Studio Display combo which is squarely in 27" iMac territory.

With the “disappearance” of the 27" iMac, I wonder whether Apple can/would/will come out with a firmware/software tweak which will let us use our 27" iMacs as screens for the Mac Studio?

Luna, Duet?

That would mean I could get a higher specced Mac Studio now and Studio Display down the track.

@ Simon… apparently the AMD Threadripper 3990, a 2yr old CPU, can still compete.

While I am not happy with Apple’s calculated pricing tiers, I’ve considered selling off my MacMini and MacPro Late2013 to which I would then get a 64GB/1TB Mac Studio @ $2599. I already have a 27" 4K display and would rather spend the new 5k display money on a bandsaw :slight_smile:

But I am rather disappointed that unlike the 24" M1 IMac line, there is no color options for the new Display or the Mac Studio. A black option (they do it with the trackpad and mouse!) would have been welcome. How does Apple promote a creative pro’s computer but it appears…sterile?

Well barely. And at more than 3x as many cores. :laughing:

With a correspondin wattage and heat issues. Plus it’s expensive. So the M1 in the MP will have it beat by about 100% at likely far lower wattage and at best at equal cost.

Seriously, Apple has outdone itself with the Ultra. This is a game changer. And the fact that this happened less than two years after the first M1 came out is impressive. Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA are in for a ride. So are we. :slight_smile:

LOL, now this is cute. :laughing:

No biggie, you can always sell of your $2k height-adjustable Studio Display and buy a new one when you want to get a VESA to rotate.

Tags: money grab, greed, derangement. :wink:


Adam’s example of dual monitor setup makes sense, but the replacement for a current 27" iMac user with a higher end CPU setup is missing. I think this is the big hole currently.

The M1, while amazing, has two big gaps for me. The 16GB ram limit and the lack of media engine, hardware H.264 encoding/decoding. Even if not a video creative, lots of people watch movies, take video of their kids etc. Even every photo taken with an iPhone is technically H.264 video when live photos is turned on.

So I too hope that the mac mini might gain a higher end M1 Pro option, otherwise for me the only option is the MBP for what I’d be looking for. And even a high end mini for $1200 is much less than the minimum of $2.5-3 for a 14" MBP with a mid-range setup (10/16 cores, 32GB ram).

I fear that Apple might not go there though, right now the Mac Mini, iMac, and MBAir are are clearly student/consumer models, and M1 only. With the Mac Studio starting with the M1 Max, a M1 Pro in a Mac mini might blur the lines. Another option to maintain the consumer/pro line: a Mac Studio with M1 Pro for $1500 (could even drop to Gig-E) would be very attractive to me, given the better port access etc.

[Tangental thought, With WFH, I wonder if there’s been a notable trend towards more desktops and if it will continue. I know my own need for laptop has decreased.]

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I don’t think Apple will add the M1Max to the MacMini. It would steal sales from the MacStudio M1Max. Where the M1Ultra MacStudio will fill the gap of those not justifying the MacPro premium. That gap, the Macpro, was hinted at, where I can see a M2Pro, M2Ultra or Dual M1Ultras.

Now, in the future, when Apple releases M2 chips (or similar), I can see that an M2 MacMini could be par with M1Max, with perhaps a 32GB/64GB Unified Memory capability. But not if it would take sales from the Mac Studio.
Just disappointed that Apple, which showed much “diversity” in their marketing video, didn’t give us more colour options on the cases of the display and Mac Studio box. If taking away the 27" iMac, but giving us 24" iMac in colours… Why no Space Gray Studio and display? Or Black? (maybe that would look like a REALLY XXL Apple TV? :laughing:

I agree the M1 Max wouldn’t end up in the Mac Mini for lots of reasons (product differentiation, thermal etc). I think the possibility discussed was if the M1 Pro could/would be added to the Mini.

Right now there is no M1 Pro desktop option available.


Adam wrote: “For those who prefer to separate their Mac and their display, combining a Studio Display with a Mac mini isn’t that much more than a 24-inch iMac”

This is the purchase point I have been mulling over ever since Simon, I think, woke me up to the waste it is to throw out the iMac monitor to get better CPU performance. Perhaps I am confused about specs and not considering ports/connectivity etc. But…

When I configure an M1 iMac with 16 GB and 1 TB, plus Numeric/Touch ID keyboard, it’s $2,129.

Configuring a similar Mini and Studio Display (adding a mouse and keyboard) the price is $3,156.

That’s a $1000, or nearly 50%, higher price than the iMac. Of course for this you get a 27" 5K monitor with better camera and sound, as opposed to the 24" 4.5K iMac.

(And, though it makes no difference to me, isn’t the Studio Display actually thicker than the iMac?)

Am I missing something?

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I think that’s about right. The only way to get a Studio Display & Mac mini combo to get close price-wise to the 24" M1 iMac or the old 27" Intel iMac is by choosing a low-end config. M1 8/256 is $599.

But spec out that M1 Mac mini and add quality KB/mouse, and you’re really closing in on the ~$2800 range. I think people need to realize you’re paying a premium for the Studio Display and the old 27" iMac was indeed good value for its time. But its Intel stinks compared to the new M1x.

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Yeah, that was muddled thinking on my part at the end of a very long day. You’re right, and the 24-inch iMac is quite a bit cheaper, though of course, not as large or as capable. But $1000 difference? Probably not worth it for most people.

You know, I would really not expect a “low-end” Mac Studio. This an expensive case with lots of cooling for just an M1 Pro.

But that said, I’m perhaps not as concerned about blur as you are. I think in the past Apple has been very selective about this. I agree they usually are concerned about it, but at other times they seem to not really care at all: the iMac Pro blurred the MP and the iMac. The iPad lineup has been almost exclusively blur for years. The 13" low-end MBP is super blur between MBA and “real MBP” (high-end 13" before, low-end 14" now). It’s really not clear to me where they draw the line. Or recall the old 4-core i7 Mac mini “server”. That was a lot of blur considering the old MP being sold at the same time.

We know they are keeping the Intel Mac mini alive due to need. I would image that need doesn’t just go away with Intel alone. Less expensive headless and/or rack-mountable number crunchers will still be required in M1 territory. Sure, the Mac Studio would be great at that too, but I would estimate an M1 Pro Mac mini gets you many more flops per cubic foot than a Mac Studio.

Agreed. The only clear advantage (price-wise) here is that you can keep using that monitor as you upgrade the computer in the future.

For example, I bought my current display (a Dell 2405 FPW) almost 20 years ago (replacing a CRT display on my 2002 PowerMac). I have kept on using it since then through two subsequent computers (a 2011 Mac mini and a 2018 Mini) and it’s still working great.

Assuming Apple’s Studio Display is of similar high quality, you should be able to keep using it for the next 15-20 years, as you upgrade the computers that connect to it. Which translates into savings if you would otherwise be using iMacs as the computer - since each successive system doesn’t need a new display.

So instead of comparing a single purchase (e.g. a $2200 iMac vs $3200 for a Mac mini and display), consider the comparison against 20 years of computing (let’s say 4 computers - if you upgrade every 5 years).

With this comparison (using today’s prices and assuming that the replacements over time cost the same), you’re looking at:

  • iMac solution: $2100 (8-core M1, 16G RAM, 1TB storage) * 4 = $8400
  • Mini solution: $1600 (display) + $300 (keyboard with TouchID and Magic Mouse) + $1300 (8-core M1, 16G RAM, 1TB storage) * 4 = $7100

Of course, this assumes you will be able to keep using the display for 20 years. Apple’s display longevity may not end up being the same as my experience with my Dell display. I think the biggest risk is if some future generation Mac stops using Thunderbolt as a display interface or if the Thunderbolt interface 15 years from now isn’t backward compatible with TB3 (and adapters are not available).


I’ve been waiting for a more capable M1 Mac mini to use as our server. I just ordered a M1 Max Mac Studio. I’ve also been waiting for an affordable 32 inch 5k+, preferably 6k, display. I love the new Studio Display’s specs, but I need a 32 inch version. The Pro Display XDR is double what I can afford. I’m hoping they’ll release a 32 inch Studio Display sometime soon.

I’m curious what kind of load you’re putting on your ‘mini as server.’ I’ve had a low end Mini as a file server for years, and never noticed any particular computational load on it. The lag was with disk arrays and the external connection to same. A low end M1 server and some USB-C drives seems to be just fine as a file server.

Now for a long time I ran a larger set of OS X Server services, including DNS, LDAP, VPN, etc Even with that additional load, I can’t say that my Intel servers ever showed much load. (And I -really miss- the product that OS X Server became, in terms of ease of configuration for small/home office needs!! I started with Tiger Server, back when OS X Server cost $1k, and was a real PITA to configure…)

You could get two studio displays for about half of what the XDR costs. At least 50% more screen real estate.

On other Apple forums, most people find the price of the Studio display ridiculous, because it’s the same 5K as the 5.5 year old LG 5K’s, yet Apple are asking a ridiculous $1600 for it.

Along with the silly stand issues and the minimal length 1m cable (extra $130/160 for 1.8m/3m ones!).

And given they’re removing the standard 27" iMac, surely this “Studio” display has to also be used by non-techie people (with a lower end headless Mac), not just the mid-tier professionals (with a Studio mac) they seem to be attempting to market it as. Making the pricing for it very much overpriced.

I have to agree with them. This is clearly a more expensive option over 27" iMac ones, and is very obviously Apple driving up average prices overall. What’s new, I guess, but it isn’t going down well at all.

I agree the Studio Display is expensive. Combine it with even the cheapest Mac mini and you’re already beyond the $1799 entry-level 27" iMac in terms of price. So, yes, no doubt it’s expensive and Apple is once again introducing something to get more people to pey them more money.

But I disagree about the comparison with the LG 5K. The LG sucked. I never understood why it got trumped up so much by the Mac press. Perhaps because it was the only 5K display that didn’t come with a built-in iMac. I don’t care if the Studio Display is the same panel or not cheap compared to the LG. The LG sucked. This thing rocks. No comparison.

9to5Mac says we will in fact get a high-end Mac mini. Just later this year. It will come with M2 Pro, not M1 Pro though.