Apple Mac Studio (M2 Ultra, 2023) Review: The Mac Pro Killer

Apple Mac Studio (M2 Ultra, 2023) Review: The Mac Pro Killer
Written by Techbot

The Mac Studio is the perfect middle ground for power users. It’s far more powerful than the 24-inch iMac ($1,299) as well as the Mac Mini ($599), but it’s thousands of dollars less than the new Mac Pro ($6,999). It’s the Goldilocks Mac—just right.

You have the choice to outfit it with the M2 Max ($1,999) or M2 Ultra ($3,999)—two of the most powerful Apple chips available—but this further encroaches on the Mac Pro’s territory, since Apple’s pricey desktop computer is also powered by the M2 Ultra. For the vast majority of folks that need a powerful machine, you don’t need to go Pro. The Studio is nearly as capable and far more compact.

Pro Performance, Studio Design

Photograph: Apple

The M2 Ultra is Apple’s newest and most powerful chip in the M-series family. Made of two M2 Max chips fused together, the M2 Ultra is comprised of a 24-core CPU and a GPU that can be configured with 60 to 76 cores. Apple says the CPU delivers up to 20 percent faster performance and a 30 percent faster GPU than the M1 Ultra. If you don’t need that much power, you can default to the M2 Max—which Apple introduced last year.

Apple sent me the Mac Studio with the M2 Ultra for testing (with a 60-core GPU and 64 gigabytes of unified memory)—a configuration that will set you back $4,399 with the added 2 terabytes of storage. Since my daily workflow consists of typing words into documents, sending emails, and web browsing, I handed the Mac Studio over to my partner, a professional videographer, to stress-test this machine.

We imported multiple streams of both ProRes and RED raw footage (about 10 gigabytes in total with a RED raw clip at an 8:1 compression) into Final Cut Pro to edit. We applied several color corrections and changed the camera log conversion LUTs over 20 times in real time, while also keeping it set to “better quality.” The M2 Ultra handled the footage like it was nothing—there were no dropped frames or stutters and everything was rendered quickly. Even applying noise reduction at “high amount” and “high sharpness” on a raw clip—changes that would normally bring an Intel-powered machine to a crawl—took less than 20 seconds on a four-minute clip.

None of this was surprising, since I went through a similar experience when I stress-tested the M1 Ultra. Even as a video professional who constantly works with graphics-intensive footage, my partner walked away from the M2 Ultra in the new Mac Studio feeling like it was more computer than even he’d ever need.

Familiar Design

Photograph: Apple

Apple used the same chassis with this Mac Studio as its predecessor for good reason. It doesn’t take up much room on my desk, and it neatly fits right underneath the Apple Studio Display. My brother said it looks like “a giant Apple TV,” and he’s not wrong.

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