Apple’s new Mac Studio desktop focuses on very specific demographics. Right in the title: “Studio”. Apple designed the machine from the inside to suit the creators and their creative jobs.
As a longtime content creator, I wanted to see how the new Mac Studio and the accompanying 27-inch studio display are related to my current setup and workflow, especially since it’s Apple’s most expensive desktop for professional PCs, now that the iMac Pro isn’t out. is more.
Read more: Apple Mac Studio Review
Why you should listen to me
I was a professional video editor for almost ten years. I worked in Hollywood for seven years, editing and producing videos and pilots for television development, working on a video series for Spotify and editing digital content for America’s Got Talent. Three years before joining CNET, I ran my own technology channel on YouTube, where I edited almost all of my videos.
After all, I am the editor of Final Cut Pro X. I have edited on all major NLE (non-linear editing systems) from Avid to Premiere, and I found Final Cut to be the fastest and most effective editing software for my needs. . In fact, I’ll come out with a video on the reasons why I’m choosing it in the coming weeks.
Final Cut only supports MacOS, so when Mac Studio was announced, it was obvious.
My home editing station comes first
I always give priority to setting up video editing at home, because that’s where I edit most often. I built the perfect workstation: a desk, an ergonomic chair, a large 5K monitor and a good set of speakers to impress my edits and easily mix projects.
My current setup consists of a 14-inch 2021 MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip. It’s connected to a 27-inch LG Ultrafine 5K monitor, and I use the Thunderbolt 3 docking station to connect all my devices to my laptop with a single cable.
I purchased the 14-inch when it was first released in late 2021, and at the time it felt like the best option. An Intel-based Mac Pro desktop would be superfluous for my editing needs, not to mention too expensive for my budget. If Mac Studio came out with the new MacBook Pro, I would most likely decide to go for it.
The 14-inch M1 Pro cost about $ 2,500 (with a 1TB memory upgrade). The base Mac Studio model, which has a more powerful M1 Max chip, starts at $ 2,000 and will cost another $ 200 for the same 1TB update.
This is a significant difference in price, and the fact that I already have a great 5K display, keyboard and mouse means that it doesn’t require a lot of extra purchases. It would be easy to take Mac Studio for my home office and use an old 16-inch MacBook Pro (2016) that I already owned as an editing system on the go.
Now, if you don’t own a monitor yet, then Mac Studio may not be as big a deal as I think. If buying a monitor isn’t a hindrance, there’s a studio display costing $ 1,600 and up, but there are less expensive options.
More power, same price
Most of the videos I used for editing use broken 1080p frames plus multi-layer graphics, so I’m not what you would call an “experienced user”. My technical videos are shot in 4K format, with a maximum of two camera angles and simple graphics. Both of these workflows work great in Final Cut with “best quality” with my 14-inch MacBook Pro M1 Pro.
If you look at CNET tests, even at the base level of the M1 Max from Mac Studio, it will outperform my current and more expensive 14-inch laptop. Also, because of Mac Studio’s sophisticated cooling system, which occupies the upper half of its internal organs, CNN’s Dan Ackermann says the M1 Max works a little better in the Mac Studio than on the MacBook Pro.
I spent a few days editing at M1 Max Mac Studio in the CNET office. I opened the project in Final Cut and deleted all the cache files to see how it would work. Editing with uncut material and graphics was more reliable than on my MacBook Pro. Final Cut instantly responded to mouse and keyboard clicks, causing a smile on my face. I was amazed at how quickly the sharp reproduced multi-layered graphics and how quickly the export ended.
For my workflow I don’t see the need for power outside of the M1 Max – I won’t come close to editing the 18 8k video streams that the M1 Ultra claims to support. The base model would be fine, and I don’t need extra speed, it definitely won’t hurt. Faster rendering and exporting will give me plenty of time to work on other projects.
Design and desktop
At first glance, the design of Mac Studio shows that it is created for creatives. The front has two USB-C ports (two Thunderbolt 4s on the M1 Ultra chip model) and an SD card slot. The rear panel also has a whopping four Thunderbolt 4 ports – more than enough to connect multiple monitors and drives. The ports are back, baby!
We’ve seen this with the latest MacBook Pro, and we see it here: Apple is finally putting features above form and returning ports to its devices. It seems to be a change of direction compared to when Johnny Ive, Apple’s former design director, focused on the design and dimensions over the ports that we, the creators, valued.
As a person who runs back and forth all the time, between shooting and flipping to my computer, the luxury of having an SD card slot right in the front is an instant win. I restored this for my current workspace using the Thunderbolt docking station – which cost about $ 300 at the time.
Mac Studio offers the same benefits as my current Thunderbolt dock. I can connect my monitor, hard drives and speakers through the back and have a clean desk without wires.
I also like its minimal design – it’s small for a professional desktop machine. There was a time when I literally packed my 5K iMac into a box and took it with me on trips. Mac Studio is the perfect size to put it in hand luggage or in a pelican case and use as a portable machine. Get yourself a portable monitor and I’ll see you at the Delta Lounge.
What about the studio display?
When the studio display was first announced, I was very excited, but since then my excitement has subsided. It costs $ 1,600, which is much less than the Apple Pro XDR Display, which starts at $ 5,000 and sadly adds another $ 1,000 per stand. However, I don’t think Studio Display offers enough value, especially when comparing it to other monitors on the market.
Yes, Studio Display includes a stand, which is a great start, but it has no default height adjustment. After an editing session with him I felt too low and I stretched my neck. I prefer to look a little up or straight at my monitor. Personally, I would change the stand to mount the VESA (at no extra cost) and attach it to the monitor bracket. Another option available is a height-adjustable stand, but it costs an extra $ 400.
However, there are other monitors that offer almost the same visual quality as the studio display, for a fraction of the cost and with height adjustment.
As for the 5K, I like my 27-inch LG Ultrafine ($ 1,299, also available in 24-inch). The main differences are that the LG monitor is made of plastic and its peak brightness is 500 nits versus 600 nits in the studio display. There are many other 4K monitors that are great for me, including the Dell UltraSharp U2720Q ($ 600), which has almost the same characteristics, only with a lower resolution and a peak brightness of 320 nits.
And you might say, “But Justin, Studio Display has great speakers!” This is true for the monitor. It has a six-speaker system, which according to Apple is the highest precision speaker system ever created for the Mac. The speakers sound great, but as a video creator, I prefer much better sound quality in my editing compartment and would still decide to use my professional monitor speakers.
Should creators buy this?
If you are an experienced user, the M1 Ultra Mac Studio can be a great option. If your workflow is similar to mine, you probably don’t need anything stronger than the base M1 Max model.
If you already have a laptop for video editing, but you are looking for the next update, this may be what you need. Save your old laptop as a car for travel, and if necessary, you can edit with low-resolution proxies and then enhance them in Mac Studio at home.
Personally, I’m happy with my current MacBook Pro M1 Pro, and I don’t need Mac Studio in addition to it yet. If I had to choose between them, I would probably choose Mac Studio for home and the less expensive MacBook Pro or MacBook Air for travel and proxy editing.