Mac Studio review (2023, M2 Ultra): The go-to Apple desktop for demanding users

Mac Studio review (2023, M2 Ultra): The go-to Apple desktop for demanding users

Streamy Awards 2023

2023 Mac Studio (M2 Ultra)

The M2 Ultra Mac Studio may only offer a spec bump, but it could still serve as the go-to Apple desktop. How does it perform?

Pros

  • Incredible performance
  • Excellent port selection
  • Ports on the front
  • Very quiet

The Mac Studio fills a special space in the Mac lineup. Until the Mac Studio came along, those who wanted a little more oomph than the Mac Mini could offer had to either go for an all-in-one like the iMac or pony up for a Mac Pro. The Mac Studio changed that — likely eating up the majority of the Mac Pro’s sales in the process, and allowing Apple to focus on the Mac Pro for actual professional environments.

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Now, the Mac Studio is in its second generation. As expected, the new iteration of the computer is not much more than a spec bump. That’s not a bad thing, though — the Mac Studio was already a great machine.

Is the 2023 iteration of the Mac Studio worth buying? I’ve been using it for a while now to find out.

As mentioned, the 2023 version of the Mac Studio represents a spec bump — and that means there’s nothing different about the design of the computer. That’s not a bad thing, though — I like the design of the Mac Studio. Despite its incredible performance, it’s relatively compact, especially when compared to similarly-powerful Windows computers.

On the front of the Mac Studio can be found an SDXC card slot, along with two USB-C ports on the M2 Max model, and two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the M2 Ultra. As you might have gathered, we’re reviewing the M2 Ultra model — so we get Thunderbolt 4 ports on the front.

2023 Mac Studio FrontImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

I’ve found these front-facing ports to be incredibly helpful on a daily basis. I don’t keep things plugged into them — that’s reserved for the rear ports. However, being able to quickly and easily access ports for random bits and pieces makes the computer more versatile.

On the back, there’s a great selection of ports. No matter which model you get, you’ll get four Thunderbolt 4 ports, along with a 10Gb Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. While some might argue that the headphone jack should be on the front, I definitely prefer it on the back — as I permanently have studio speakers connected through it, instead of headphones. Perhaps a headphone jack on both the front and the back would have been nice.

The footprint of the Mac Studio is quite compact — and it’s actually the same as that of the Mac Mini. That means that it should fit on most desks.

Overall, I really like the design of the Mac Studio. I do wish it came in Space Gray, but the Silver still looks good.

2023 Mac Studio (M2 Ultra) specs and performance

The difference between the latest model and last year’s Mac Studio, of course, comes under the hood. The 2022 Mac Studio came with either an M1 Max or M1 Ultra, while the 2023 model swaps those out for an M2 Max or M2 Ultra.

We’re focusing on the M2 Ultra model. The new chipset offers 20 billion more transistors than the M1 Ultra, and it supports up to an impressive 192GB of unified RAM, instead of 128GB. At its most powerful, the M2 Ultra offers up to an impressive 24-core CPU and 76-core GPU.

2023 Mac Studio PortsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

So what does all this mean? It means that the Mac Studio continues to push the limits. The computer will easily handle all basic tasks you can throw at it, and the most demanding users will get more from their computer without having to buy a Mac Pro. I found that it quickly converted video with Handbrake and rendered edited video on Logic Pro.

Perhaps the differences are easier to see in benchmarks. Here are the GeekBench 6 results we achieved with the M2 Ultra Mac Studio:

  • GeekBench 6 single-core: 2,814
  • GeekBench 6 multi-core: 21,455

Even under the heaviest of workloads, however, the Mac Studio remained relatively quiet and cool. I struggled to get the fans to kick in at all, and while I could hear fan noise if I really put my ear close to the computer under heavy workloads, in day-to-day life, I never noticed it.

Conclusions

The 2023 Mac Studio takes what was already a great computer, and makes it even better. But not much better. There’s little reason for you to buy a 2023 model if you had a 2022 model — unless you bought an M1 Max model and find that you could really use a performance boost to the M2 Ultra. But if you’re newly in the market for a high-performance computer, the 2023 Mac Studio is an excellent option.

The competition

Most people considering the Mac Studio will be debating between either the Mac Mini and the Mac Studio, or the Mac Studio and the Mac Pro. Frankly, for most people, the Mac Mini will be enough — especially those using their Mac for web browsing, social media, emails, and so on.

But once you venture into the world of things like media creation, the Mac Studio starts to make sense. You may not need a computer as powerful as the M2 Ultra-equipped Mac Studio, but if you do use your Mac for more demanding tasks, then the Mac Studio in general is worth considering.

Only the most demanding users even need to consider a Mac Pro — and individual buyers should probably pass on it. At this point, the Mac Pro is for things like high-end music studios and video production houses — users who need expansion through PCIe.

Should I buy the 2023 Mac Studio?

Yes. If you’re a demanding user looking for a desktop computer, the Mac Studio is an excellent option.

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