New Mac Studio and Studio Display Change Mac Buying Calculus

Had one of the two old 2013 vintage 27" monitors fail that are connected to my 2013 MacPro (128GB ram and 2TB SSD from OWC). The OWC SSD does not allow me to upgrade to latest MacOS so original Apple 1TB has to be installed so Apple can block the firmware to limit it to version 12 of the OS. Then reinstall 2TB SSD.

Then this event happened.

Ordered a new Apple 27" monitor and a mini Ultra with 128GB of Ram and a 4TB SSD. Will try to see old monitor with an adapter until resources allow for a se4cond new one.

Studio Display review from The Verge. Sounds like the webcam needs an update to work properly, which is both surprising and a big deal. Personally, I’m not stressed about the lack of variable refresh rate or local dimming.

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And The Verge has an excellent review of the Mac Studio, for which they gave it to a bunch of different people in their office.

Jason Snell also has a review of the Studio Display that’s kinder to the webcam but still identifies some issues with Center Stage.

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I thought an interesting take away from The Verge was that they considered $1600 for this display (despite camera weirdness and the refusal to just assume a supposed update was going to fix it all) was justified, while $1300 for the “finicky” LG (their words) was overpriced.

Edit: I might be getting my reviews mixed up. Think they might have actually said this in the Mac Studio review, not the actual Studio Display review.

I really enjoyed The Verge review, despite a bunch of people trying to hella out-cool each other with overt almost parody-level displays of Bay Areasim. But seriously, the review was really interesting. My main takeaways were:

  • The Ultra is a CPU monster (unlike its GPU). Nothing else comes close to its performance/Watt. And even if you couldn’t care less about power bill or environment, nothing else that’s so small and quiet will come anywhere close. If you do want to come close, you’ll be getting big, heavy, and loud.
  • For most people the Max version will suffice. You have to have a very CPU-limited, extensive, and highly multithreaded workflow to benefit from the Ultra for an extra $2k.
  • The GPU performance of the Ultra is good, but still far from excellent, let alone best-of-class (in contrast to its CPU performance).
  • The Xeon Mac Pro is now officially a dog.
  • Some people have a rather odd obsession with SD cards.
  • The Max Studio is a really awesome computer and the whole packagee (including software) is ready to go and well rounded.
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A great Youtuber called Constant Geekery worked out the likely way this may work for the Mac Pro. Rather than their die-interconnect called UltraFusion (to connect the two Max chips to make a single Ultra), they may decide to connect more than one Ultra together using a socket-interconnect. Exact section here (rewind a couple of sections for background context):

Seems one likely solution, given the Mac Pro has to be more than the Studio, yet no more (larger) chips are in the pipeline.

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I actually cancelled my Apple Studio Display order after the reviews were published, and I am mostly relieved. It does not seem to improve much upon my LG 5K and the other peripherals I already have:

  • It is indeed virtually the same as the LG 5K when it comes to display quality.
  • Perception of display brightness does not increase linearly with measurement, so I will probably not perceive 600 nits as being 20% brighter than 500 nits. (Not mentioned in reviews I think, but my own observation.)
  • The LG 5K is still in production! (See Notes below)
  • I use an RX100 + Elgato Cam Link 4K as webcam, and the 12MP webcam in the Studio Display will not improve upon it. Plus, I don’t think the latter makes the whole 12MP available as output.
  • While the Studio Display has very nice speakers, my MBP 14 speakers sound pretty good, and I can get better audio on the Sennheiser HD650 + DAC/Amp stack.
  • I plan to add a condenser mic + interface to my setup so probably no improvement there as well.
  • While I am about to use up all the ports on the CalDigit Element TB4 hub, I can add another one for much less than the Studio Display costs.
  • I can detach the LG 5K fairly easily from the VESA mounting plate which is securely attached to the monitor arm. It looks to be a lot of work if I were to detach the Studio Display from the monitor arm.

I look forward to accounts from new owners though, and also what Apple has in store in the future!

  • WSJ: “Though it’s sold out now at various retailers, an LG spokesman told me the company expects it back in stock next month.”
  • I think another tool that can vastly improve webcam image quality is a proper lighting setup.

I get where you’re coming from with the display. Makes sense to me. If the LG has been stable for you, there appears little reason to upgrade to the Studio when you already have good speakers/camera in place.

Just be careful that if you run lots of heavy bandwidth stuff across those, you might want to plug them into separate TB4 ports on your Mac instead of daisy chaining them off each other.

The latter of course works great and it is super convenient in terms of a “dock setup” (love the Element Hub myself :heart_eyes:) , but if you’re pushing massive b/w over TB, you want to be sure that you make use of the separately available 40 Gbps on each of the built-in ports (there’s no internal sharing going on) rather than having all high-b/w peripherals go over a single 40 Gbps pipe.

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Me too. Likely just keeping my two LG 5K’s. Although, it is tempting as they are selling used for nearly the same as I paid for them (best price used £850, new bought for £884), lol! So I could in theory sell the two LG’s and only have to top-up around one amount extra for a second Apple one.

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Maybe Apple should cut the price on the Mac Pro. I still want one because it can be upgraded after purchase.

Makes sense if you already have a 5K monitor. For those of us using older/smaller monitors it looks like a good deal. I’m still using my 2006 20" Apple Cinema Display. I certainly got long-term value from that display.

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Gruber agreed with The Verge about the camera, calling it “crushingly disappointing.” Again, Apple promised a fix, and given the A13, I see no reason the company won’t be able to deliver, but it seems like a major miscalculation to have shipped when reviewers were going to savage the camera.

During their video, The Verge showed this summary. The Ultra’s GPU doesn’t perform as well as the leading 3rd-party GPU because the latter can draw much more power and performs better up there. The Ultra is more efficient (-200 W at same power), but it still can’t go as far.

That chart also allows for some extrapolation. If you assume that Apple’s UltraFusion is so good that it allows GPU performance to scale linearly (and per that chart Max to Ultra seems to indicate that), and you further assume that Apple can use the same tech to possibly allow for multiple Ultras to be installed in the upcoming M1 Mac Pro, you can see that’s it’s going to require at least 1.5 Ultras to match the Threadripper system with its 2 RTX 2080 Ti or about 2-3 Ultras to match the RTX 3090 system, in terms of GPU performance alone.

Now, while M1’s GPU performance is definitely more efficient than anything the high-end competition has to offer right now, that doesn’t mean it goes as far as that competition. If you have no boundaries on wattage you’ll get farther with an RTX 3090 than with an M1 Ultra right now. So if Apple wants to best the RTX 3090 in terms of GPU performance, their new Mac Pro is going to require at least 2 Ultras, perhaps 3-4 by then. But that doesn’t seem entirely implausible either. :slight_smile: Daughter cards anyone? I like that this is starting to feel like the 90s again. :wink:

Indeed; my calculus is more of a marginal analysis “what extra do I get from my existing base by spending an extra $1,600”. I agree that the Studio Display looks fairly priced vis-à-vis the LG 5K. These displays are durable and worth the investment.

Having said that, I admit I’d probably cave if Apple does offer a large Mini-LED display. The IDEs look incredible in high-contrast theme (black background, bright text) on the MBP Mini LED display. I like the pure black so much that I just used black background on the MBP, and I could not tell if the display is on or off (which may or may not be a good thing). Now if we can scale that to 27" or 32" at a reasonable price…

That reminds me - Apple did offer a discount when the LG 5K first went on sale in late 2016, didn’t they? Having outlived the butterfly keyboard and overheating i9 MBPs, the 5K does look like an incredible value to me.

Meanwhile, the Mac Studio with M1 Ultra seems to offer incredible value for money for those who can leverage its capabilities. The whole machine costs not much more than a standalone Xeon 24-core or 28-core - e.g. the Platinum 8160 I use at work - and fits into a drawer instead of a 2U rack - yet the M1 Ultra just wipes the floor with the Xeon - with no obvious bottleneck on RAM/storage throughput which may constrain Intel systems. I’d be very worried if I am Intel.


One can imagine that Apple could make an Apple Silicon graphics card that is nothing but GPU and memory and connects to the presumed M2 based SoC through some sort of bus on an Apple Silicon based Mac Pro in the same case they’re using now for the Xeon version.

I think that could potentially be very interesting if that bus were something like UltraFusion rather than PCIe.

I just noticed that Apple included a Logitech MX Master 3 in the Mac Studio promo shot, instead of the Magic Mouse - wondering about the signalling given that Apple usually sweats the details in such shots.

The Apple Event talked up the video and sound qualities of the Studio Display in web conferencing. But reports are saying that the new Studio Display’s webcam captures lots of noise and washed-out picture. How can this happen?

Does Apple doing any testing of its hardware before releasing product onto the market? Did no one in Apple test the new Studio Display say by using zoom before its release?

Apple is reportedly saying it has a software fix on the way. Talk about shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. From past experience with Apple doing fixes quickly, hold buying a Studio Display until the fixes work, or buy another display.

From Gruber who was told that:

the image quality problems really are a software problem, not hardware — a bug introduced at the last minute —

That seems plausible, given that I imagine that yes, Apple does test out how well the products work.

I am in Australia and Macs, including 27" size, are at counters in big end businesses here. The screen size is appreciated. Marketing people like the style and appearance particularly the backside facing the customer/client. The IT facility people (not programmers) like the single component fit.

The new Studio Display is too expensive for a workstation.

Apple has never understood the business use of computers and I know that from the inside.

Thank you all for this illuminating discussion. I will replace my 2014 27" at some point as it will not upgrade beyond Big Sur. However, I see no feature of Monterey that makes it worth switching so I’ll keep waiting. Frankly, it has been Microsoft’s decisions to end support for Office on older Macs that has dictated my hardware purchases in the past.
I’d love to go to a mini + Studio Display but if I had to decide today I’d buy the 24", I don’t do anything that absolutely requires the extra display area.