The Mac Studio was a huge surprise at this year’s March event. While we were expecting the launch of new MacBook Pros with an M2 chip, the Cupertino firm unveiled a brand new Mac machine with M1 Max and M1 Ultra Silicon chips.
The form factor of the Mac Studio leads to immediate comparisons to the M1-based Mac mini that Apple launched in November 2020. Both machines are small-sized independent Macs that do not come included with a keyboard, monitor, or mouse. Both can fit perfectly in most corners and won’t take much of your room space.
However, the Mac Studio and Mac mini are designed for different users. Choosing between the two comes down to what you will do with your machine. We have put the two to the test to see which one is best for you in this guide.
|M1 Max or M1 Ultra
|Up to a 20-core CPU
|Up to 64-core GPU
|Up to 16GB
|Up to 128GB
|Up to 2TB
|Up to 8T
The Mac Studio and the Mac mini share some fundamental features, including a similar silver aluminium body, Apple M1-series chip, and two USB-A ports at the rear. Aside from those facts, the two machines have a lot that sets them apart.
One of the main differences between the two is the starting price. The M1 Mac mini starts at just $699 for the entry-level model. The Mac Studio, on the other hand, retails for $1,999 for the base M1 Max variant. That’s almost three times as expensive as the Mac mini.
Remember that the base model of the Mac mini has only 16GB of RAM. If you kick up some SSD and RAM storage and add a 10 Gigabit Ethernet, you are looking at $1,599. It means that the price difference is now only $400.
Here is the Mac mini configuration we used in this article.
- 8-core M1 CPU (4 performance cores)
- 8-core GPU
- 32GB Unified RAM
- 512GB SSD + 10GbE
Total price: $1,599
Suppose you spend an extra $400 to buy the entry-level Mac Studio. In that case, you will be getting a more powerful CPU, additional ports and the ability to use up to 5 external displays instead of being limited to two. That said, choosing between the two relies on what you will do with your machine.
Ports and External Display Support
Both machines have enough connectivity ports for most of your needs, but only one is packed with high-speed ports. The Mac mini comes with two USB 4 ports and two USB-A ports, but the most significant difference is that the USB-4 ports only support the older Thunderbolt 3.
In contrast, the base model Mac Studio has four USB 4 ports (Thunderbolt 4), two USB-C ports, and two USB-A ports. If you go for the M1 Ultra variant, you will get up to six Thunderbolt 4-enabled USB-4 ports, which is great.
Both machines feature HDMI and Ethernet ports. However, the base Mac mini only supports Gigabit LAN, while the Studio supports 10-Gigabit speeds. Of course, you can upgrade the Mac mini to get a 10 Gigabit Ethernet for $100.
The Mac Studio can be hooked up to four 6K displays and another 4K monitor, all at the same time. That’s an ultimate 5-display setup, which is insane. For the Mac mini, you are limited to a 6K ProDisplay XDR and a 4K monitor simultaneously.
In short, the Mac Studio wins out when it comes to connectivity ports and external display support. Of course, not all of you need more than two displays, but having those extra ports is great in 2022.
Most people who do basic tasks won’t notice much difference between the two. We ran some CPU tests, and both machines delivered the same performance.
The Mac Studio scored 1,787, followed by 1,753 reported on the Mac mini. That was pretty close. We also got the same results when doing a test with Speedometer, an app that measures the responsiveness of web applications.
If you use regular tasks like web browsing, watching Netflix, or doing some basic editing tasks, you won’t need a 32GB RAM variant. But, the extra 16GB RAM makes a difference when you go pro with photo editing and other productivity apps.
We did some Geekbench multi-core CPU tests. The Mac Studio performed twice as the Mac mini did.
Another main difference lies in the SSD speed. Even if you get a maxed-out Mac mini with a 2TB SSD, you are still limited to under 3,000 MB/s. Meanwhile, the Mac Studio reached over 5,465 MB/s, close to twice as fast. Not to mention that the Studio can be configurable with up to 8TB of SSD storage.
The M1 Max stood out during our graphics tests compared to the base M1 chip. With a Geekbench 5 Metal test, the Mac Studio scored over 60,873, whereas the Mac mini lagged far behind, scoring over 22,700.
As for the gaming performance, the Studio was far better than the Mac mini, scoring 241,5 fps and 81 fps, respectively.
We also ran tests with some productivity apps like Xcode or Logic Pro. The Mac Studio continued to show its upper hand.
In our Logic Pro test for music production, the Mac Studio scored 173 tracks, whereas the Mac mini scored only 90 tracks. That was close to double the performance.
We did a test where we exported up to 50 high-res photos on both machines. The speed was almost twice as fast on the Mac Studio.
For those doing 3D work, we suggest you spend the extra money and get the Mac Studio. We tested both machines using Blender. The performance was pretty impressive on the Mac Studio.
To sum up, the Mac Studio with a more capable chip showed its upper hand. Don’t get me wrong; the Mac mini was fast too. However, if you do a lot of demanding work like high-res photo editing, exporting, or 3D animations, we suggest getting the Mac Studio.
What to Buy?
The Mac Studio is a small-sized machine designed for performance-minded folks and is built with the top pick of high-end components. The Mac mini, on the other hand, targets the average user who’s looking for a machine that can handle almost any basic task you throw at it