Tech 

Mac Studio. Impressions after the first month of use

Why Mac Studio?

First, I’ll start with why I chose Mac Studio over the parking lot. After analyzing my current computer power needs and comparing what Apple has to offer, I found that the optimal computer for me would be a Mac mini / Mac Studio with M1 Pro. M1 Max is already, as the Americans say, “super passion”, but it was in the second place above the usual M1, about which in a moment.

As you can see, this “almost” is no accident, Apple did not put this special chip in any of these desktops. As for laptops… personally, I don’t think it’s a very wise approach to buy a laptop with a battery that becomes more and more problematic with age, for stationary work.

The arrival of Mac Studio made waiting for a new Mac Pro pretty pointless. Looking at the current line of computers, such an MP will be limited to M1 / ​​​​M2 Ultra processors, and its prices will start at a level similar to the earlier Intel version. So we just had to wait for WWDC to see what the new Mac mini M2 would look like. This one, however, as you probably know, has not yet appeared.

I probably would have waited until the fall to buy, but in the meantime my Mac Pro RAID collapsed, and it didn’t make sense to invest any more in that computer. In addition, we had to take into account inflation and price increases, all this pushed me to make a final decision. From all the formulas and calculations, it turned out that the best device would be a Mac Studio with a powerful processor, the right number of ports, a fast SD reader and a 10Gb ethernet card.

If I tried to get the Mac mini m1 to a similar state (bigger SSD, stand with ports and reader, etc.), there wouldn’t be such a big difference in price, but most of the components would obviously be worse. In addition, the M1 Max has hardware support for ProRes and faster integrated memory, which for someone who also works with graphics and video, has a measurable value.

Another argument for Mac Studio is removable SSDs. I think Apple will allow them to be purchased/replaced in the future and they will definitely be available as service parts. I must also admit that analyzing the tests of Macs with M2 processors, I come to the conclusion that the new systems are not as successful as the M1, their performance has increased mainly at the expense of increased energy consumption. And so the base Mac Studio arrived at my desk.

Why the base version?

As I mentioned before, the M1 Max with 24MB of RAM is too much for my needs, so I didn’t even analyze the higher options. There was a question about choosing the size of the SSD, in the basic model Apple installs a 512 GB drive. We all know that the premiums for larger drives at Apple are legendarily high. It’s no different with Mac Studio, you have to pay 1200 PLN more for the version with 1 TB drive.

The analysis of the available options showed that such a step would not be very reasonable. A decent SSD NVMe with a capacity of 1 TB, I had a Samsung 980 Pro, it costs 600 – 700 PLN. Of course, such a drive must be installed in a Thunderbolt or USB-C case, the prices of which start even below 100 PLN. However, there is a catch here.

Most of the cases mentioned, even the “poppy” brands like OWC, will allow speeds of ~1000/1000MB/s (R/W), sometimes ~1500/1500MB/s. If you don’t need faster, and most of it is definitely enough, you can save on the SSD drive and buy, for example, the Evo version instead of the Pro version. As a result, an extra 1TB will cost you half of Apple’s lead to add another 512GB.

However, I wanted better performance, so I ordered a USB 4 case from Acasis in China. You can get ~2800/2800MB/s R/W after putting said drive into it. Of course, the built-in disk in the Studio is even faster, reaching around 5000/5000 MB/s, but these are values ​​that are difficult to find use for today.

In summary, I paid about 1300 PLN for an apartment and a fast 1 TB drive, which is the same as Apple. The difference is that I have 1.5 TB instead of 1 TB, and in case of problems with the computer, I can connect one such drive to another in a few seconds. I don’t have to return it to the site either. The TBU405 case itself is well made and very nice looking.

If I could find a downside to this solution, it would be the fact that with Pro-class SSDs things get hot. This is because the kit comes with thermal tape that transfers heat from the motor to the case more efficiently. The housing effectively radiates them, and the engine itself runs at normal temperatures. It’s a shame, though, that the company didn’t make the housing bigger, then it would let the heat out more efficiently, and everything was cooler.

Not to be like a cube and a bin

Mac Studio is everything the Power Mac G4 Cube and Mac Pro 6.1 were meant to be. The device is incredibly fast and at the same time almost silent. It should be added here that we are talking about his work during the period when the temperature in the apartment is relatively high. Another advantage, of course, is the power-to-power ratio. Most of the time the computer draws ~12W. At this point, drawing electricity like a small Mac Pro 5.1 refrigerator might just burn in embarrassment.

On the computer, of course, everything happens very quickly, in DaVinci Resolve the unoptimized 4K material (XAVC S codec), for which I left the tortoise-developed Final Cut Pro X, works without any problems. Mac Pro doesn’t stand a chance in this regard and you have to turn to ProRes and often work with Proxy files.

Obviously, Affinity (Photo and Designer) and Adobe (InDesign) also do not cause problems. Although I should mention here that my old Mac Pro with an RX580 8GB card also worked surprisingly well. It hurts the lack of virtualization on the old Intel macOS, I can’t run the old Acrobat Pro for which there’s really no alternative (other than subscribing to the new one).

The disadvantage is certainly what I described after the premiere of this computer, namely the inability to open Studio without the service. The cooling system is designed in such a way that I am sure it should collect dust quite “efficiently”. It seems that in a few years, the Mac Studio cleanup service should appear in the Apple service offering. Why can’t the shell be removed the normal way? I don’t know, but it is completely unjustified and meaningless.

macOS Monterey

The change to Mac Studio also allowed me to work longer on macOS Monterey, which I only occasionally interacted with on my wife’s computer. In my opinion, both in terms of ergonomics and quality, it is worse than the macOS Mojave installed on the Mac Pro. And Safari, when opening multiple tabs at once, may lose the address in some tabs, and iA Writer sometimes does not display the sidebar… There are no serious errors, but such cheating is a bit annoying.

As for ergonomics, it is better, fortunately, thanks to third-party add-ons, it is possible to tidy up the system. After the holiday, I’ll write another “macOS on steroids” segment, showing you the best ergonomic enhancements in Apple’s new system. iPhone and iCloud services work much better than Mojave. I was also pleased with the return of Apple’s MP 5.1, AirDrop notch.

Fortunately, I missed the interface scanning problems, my monitor has a resolution of 2560 x 1440 px and it works without problems. Keep in mind that Maki’s 4K monitors cause problems. With my Nec, I also have no surprises with the computer going to sleep and waking up, which is said to happen with some monitors.

The beginning of the road

One of the remaining things to do is the issue of backups. For now I’m running them through an old drive, but that’s neither convenient nor fast enough. I need a NAS, probably a Synology or QNAP, and generally most people who decide to buy a Mac Studio will need to add something like that to its purchase price. In this regard, Mac Pro is a much more convenient solution with a large number of internal pockets and PCI-e.

I have to replace a few things wirelessly, because it is unsightly tangled with the computer on the desk. Things will improve with a wireless keyboard and a NAS that goes under the desk, but today it looks worse than a Mac Pro standing under a desk. Well, Apple’s minimalism has advantages as well as disadvantages, or perhaps more difficulties that need to be spent more money to solve.

Summary:

So after using Mac Studio for a month, can I recommend it? It’s definitely a nice, fast and quiet car that should last for years. If you edit the video, I assume that even 8K material will not be scary for him, it is edited in 4K without any problem.

The PC shines in the price/performance category, and if you add the so-called “work culture” factor, the PC world has nothing comparable to offer. Most of the problems, we must add, are related to the quality of macOS Monterey. The biggest concern is the dust problem, but if the problem does occur, Apple services should take care of it. Also for today, I am yes.

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