Compared: Mac Studio versus Mac Pro

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 30
Apple's new Mac Studio is the company's most powerful Apple Silicon machine yet. Here's how it stacks up against the Mac Pro, Apple's most powerful Intel-based Mac to date.

Mac Studio and Mac Pro
Mac Studio and Mac Pro


The Mac Studio fills a new slot in Apple's Mac lineup between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. While it's technically in between those devices in the lineup, it actually outperforms the Mac Pro across a variety of metrics.

To see how the Mac Studio can deliver more power for less money, here's a comparison of the two machines as far as CPU, graphics capabilities, and other considerations.



Mac Studio vs Mac Pro - Specifications

Mac Studio (M1 Max)Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)Baseline Mac ProTop Mac Pro
Processors10-core M1 Max
20-core M1 Ultra8-core 3.5GHz Intel Xeon W28-core 2.5GHz Intel Xeon W
Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz

Memory32GB Unified Memory,
up to 64GB
64GB Unified Memory,
up to 128GB
32GB DDR4 ECC 2666MHzUp to 1.5TB of DDR4 EEC
GraphicsM1 Max 24-core
Up to 32 cores
M1 Ultra 48-core
Up to 64 cores
AMD Radeon Pro W5500XAMD Radeon Pro W6900X
Media encoding/decodingMedia EngineMedia Engine-Apple Afterburner
Storage options512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB
Ports4 Thunderbolt 4 ports
2 USB-C ports
2 USB-A ports
10Gb Ethernet
SDXC (UHS-II)
6 Thunderbolt 4 ports
2 USB-A ports
10Gb Ethernet
SDXC (UHS-II)
Two USB 3 ports
Up to 12 Thunderbolt 3 ports
Dual 10Gb Ethernet
8 PCI Express card slots
2 HDMI ports (on card)
Two USB 3 ports
Up to 12 Thunderbolt 3 ports
Dual 10Gb Ethernet
8 PCI Express card slots
2 HDMI ports (on card)
Connectivity
Wi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 6802.11ac
Dual 10Gb Ethernet Ports
802.11ac
Dual 10Gb Ethernet Ports
Bluetooth5.05.05.05.0
PriceStarts at $1,999
$7,999$5,999
$45,799

Mac Studio vs Mac Pro - Chips & Performance

The Mac Pro is a modular machine, while Apple's M-series Macs are not.
The Mac Pro is a modular machine, while Apple's M-series Macs are not.


The Mac Studio is available in multiple configurations, just like the Mac Pro.

Apple's baseline Mac Studio is equipped with an M1 Max chipset that has a 10-core CPU, 24-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. The highest-tier Mac Studio sports an M1 Ultra chip with a 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine.

Apple's baseline Mac Pro comes with a 3.5GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz. The top-line Mac Pro is configured with a 2.5GHz 28-core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz.

In Geekbench 5 testing, the base model Mac Pro achieved a single-core score of 1,015, while the top-tier Mac Pro had a single-core score of 1,152.

The same testing run on a Mac Studio with an M1 Max found that the chip netted a single-core score of 1,798. A Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra got a single-core score of 1,786.

Single-core results.
Single-core results.


The differences become more apparent in multi-core scoring. The base model Mac Pro had a multi-core score of 7,993, while the 28-core Mac Pro had a score of 19,951.

Multi-core results.
Multi-core results.


Comparably, a Mac Studio with M1 Max had a multi-core score of 12,822, while the Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra had a multi-core score of 24,210.

In other words, the top Mac Studio model available far outperforms the top Mac Pro in single-core and multi-core testing -- and for a lot less money and power consumption.

Mac Studio vs Mac Pro - Memory

Apple's Mac Studio isn't user-configurable.
Apple's Mac Studio isn't user-configurable.


Apple's M-series chips are equipped with what the company calls Unified Memory, which is embedded on the chip. Apple says the Unified Memory technology allows for various elements on a chip to access stored without needing that information to be stored in specific memory pools.

The M1 Max can be configured with either 32GB or 64GB of Unified Memory. If you upgrade to an M1 Ultra chip, you can add up to 128GB of Unified Memory to the Mac Studio.

Apple's Mac Pro start with 32GB of DDR4 ECC memory. The base model runs at 2,666MHz, while all other options on the Mac Pro use 2,933MHz RAM modules.

The Mac Pro can be configured with a lot more memory, if need be. Users can add up to 1.5TB of DDR4 ECC memory to the Mac Pro, though that upgrade will cost $25,000.

Mac Studio vs Mac Pro - Graphics

The Mac Pro has a range of GPU options available.
The Mac Pro has a range of GPU options available.


Recent Geekbench 5 Metal graphics benchmarks for the M1 Studio indicate that the M1 Max achieved a GPU score of 60629.

The same test on an Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra chip resulted in a graphics score of 91938.

M1 Max (24-core GPU) and M1 Ultra (48-core GPU) versus AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards.
M1 Max (24-core GPU) and M1 Ultra (48-core GPU) versus AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards.


Comparably, the lowest-tier Mac Pro now comes with an AMD Radeon Pro W5500X, which scored a 41874 in the same test.

Customers can configure the Mac Pro with a wide range of graphics card options, including the Radeon Pro W6900X. Additionally, the Mac Pro can be equipped with a pair of Radeon Pro W6900X options.

The AMD Radeon Pro W6900X is at the top of the pack as far as Geekbench Metal benchmarks, with a score of 170100.




In Apple's own testing, the chip achieved better graphics performance than the "highest-end discrete GPU" while using a lot less power. AppleInsider testing found that the M1 Ultra had excellent graphical performance, but it still didn't keep up with the AMD Radeon Pro W6900X.

Additionally, we tested the 24-core GPU on the M1 Max and the 48-core GPU M1 Ultra, but Apple allows users to configure both chips up to 32-core and 64-core, respectively. If you're willing to shell out a bit more money, then you can get more graphical performance than what's listed here.

Mac Studio vs Mac Pro - Media Engine vs Afterburner

The Mac Studio's Media Engine outperforms the Afterburner card by a long shot.
The Mac Studio's Media Engine outperforms the Afterburner card by a long shot.


The Mac Pro can be configured with an Afterburner card for $2,000, which Apple promises will speed up workflows involving video. The Afterburner card is a PCI-E based accelerator that can handle video codecs like ProRes and ProRes RAW.

Apple's M-series chips come with an equivalent called the Media Engine, which is an on-silicon element that boosts performance for video and media work.

On the M1 Max, the Media Engine allows for simultaneously streaming of at least seven streams of 8K ProRes content. For an M1 Max, the Media Engine allows the chip to run up to 18 streams of 8K ProRes video.

As Apple noted when it released the MacBook Pro, the M1 Max can handle more streams than a 28-core Mac Pro with an Afterburner card. The M1 Ultra can handle more simultaneous streams than any other chip on the market.

Mac Studio vs Mac Pro - Upgrades and other main features

The Mac Pro is highly modular and configurable.
The Mac Pro is highly modular and configurable.


When it comes to onboard storage, both the Mac Studio and the Mac Pro offer the same range of SSD options: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB.

As mentioned earlier, the Mac Studio tops out at 128GB of memory, while the Mac Pro can be configured with up to 1.5TB. The Mac Studio's memory is not user-upgradable, however, while the Mac Pro's memory is.

Speaking of user-upgradeable, the Mac Pro's main draw is the fact that it can be configured with additional PCI Express or MPX Module cards. The Mac Studio, like other M-series Macs, doesn't support this level of modularity.

Depending on the graphics card installed, the Mac Pro can run up to 12 displays, six 5K displays, or six Pro Display XDRs. The M1 Ultra can run up to four Pro Display XDRs or 6K displays, with a fifth display at up to 4K.

The Mac Studio is also a lot smaller than the Mac Pro, with a form factor akin to a beefed-up Mac mini. That could be a boon for users with smaller spaces to work with.

Apple's Mac Studio comes with a range of ports, including four Thunderbolt 4 and two USB-C ports on the Max Max model or six Thunderbolt 4 ports on the M1 Ultra model. It also comes with two USB-A ports, an HDMI port, 10Gb Ethernet and an SDXC card slot.

The Mac Pro can be configured with up to 12 Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C ports, depending on the specific configuration. It also comes with a pair of USB3 ports and dual 10Gb Ethernet ports. PCI Express expansion cards can add additional I/O to the machine.

In the box, the Mac Pro comes with a keyboard and mouse. The Mac Studio, however, does not.

Mac Studio vs Mac Pro - Pricing

The Mac Studio delivers a lot of bang for the buck, including a robust I/O.
The Mac Studio delivers a lot of bang for the buck, including a robust I/O.


There's a stark difference in pricing between the two Mac models. The Mac Studio starts at $1,999, while the Mac Pro starts at $5,999.



On the Mac Studio, the most you'll pay for a fully loaded version is $7,999. That includes the M1 Ultra, 128GB of Unified Memory, and an 8TB SSD.

The top Mac Pro configuration will cost upward of $45,000 -- though this does include 1.5TB of DDR4 memory. If you go with a "more realistic" memory configuration, such as 192GB, you'll be paying in the range of $25,000.

This Mac Pro configuration also includes the 2.5GHz 28-core Intel Xeon W processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz, an Afterburner card, and an 8TB hard drive.

M1 Mac Studio outperforms the Mac Pro in most cases

The Mac Studio delivers a lot more performance than even the top-tier Mac Pro -- and all for a lot less money.

Because of that, it's hard to recommend the Mac Pro except in very specific use cases. If you absolutely need an Intel-based machine or you can't do without a Mac that has some level of configuration, then the Mac Pro will be your best choice.

For most professional users, the Mac Studio has enough power to handle virtually any performance or graphics need. In fact, it outclasses the Mac Pro in multiple tasks.

Of course, the Mac Pro is also technically an aging device -- and a refresh equipped with an Apple Silicon chip is just over the horizon.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,057member
    Mac Pro, up to 12 TB ports? Are these mainly on PCIe cards? If so can the Mac Pro actually drive 12 full speed TB3 peripherals at same time or are they handled as one TB channel with multiple ports (like a hub)?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 52
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,834member

    M1 Mac Studio outperforms the Mac Pro in most cases


    I suspect this statement might be true, but I'd like to see more evidence before reaching that conclusion. 

    The multicore geekbench scores are very impressive, to be sure. And I'm not a Geekbench hater, I think it's useful. 

    But I'd like to see some comparisons using a broader range of professional software. 

    The thing I most look forward to is more evidence of the benefits of the unified memory architecture. Apple says there's a big advantage, and their argument makes sense, but I'd like to see it demonstrated in more real world software. 

    cgWerkswatto_cobrakillroy
  • Reply 3 of 52
    thttht Posts: 4,630member
    I think the reasons to get the Mac Pro are all still there save for the CPU performance. You get the Mac Pro for the 8 PCIe slots which affords a whole bunch of capability that the Mac Studio can't provide: more I/O, GPUs, more storage, audio cards, so on and so forth. If a persons workflow is GPU bound, the Mac Pro will be the best option until Apple can get multiple 128 g-core GPUs in a box.

    For CPU bound workflows, and ProRes workflows, looks like the Mac Studio is the best option.
    rob53blastdoordrdavidwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 52
    So if there is an upgrade to the ProRes algorithm can the Media Engine code be reconfigured as you would be able to do with an FPGA or is it locked in?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 52
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,057member
    The Mac Studio is user-configurable, both when you order it and what you attach to it. I know people will say that doesn’t count but it actually does. The Mac portion is only one part of the entire system, especially for the target audience. I’d like to see a comparison of Mac Pro internal components vs equivalent TB-connected external ones. We know the Studio can provide lots of TB ports but what about other interfaces? Storage is easy, memory probably isn’t. No need for the Afterburner ($2k) since its capabilities are included on the Studio SoC (and probably much better). Locking everything into a Mac Pro reduces the ability to easy share expensive interfaces and dedicated hardware between Mac computers. Everything is tied up in an ultra-expensive Mac Pro. 

    I am hoping the new Mac Pro will not be an Apple Silicon version of the old Mac Pro. 
    watto_cobraXed
  • Reply 6 of 52
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,057member
    So if there is an upgrade to the ProRes algorithm can the Media Engine code be reconfigured as you would be able to do with an FPGA or is it locked in?
    I’m wondering if a new Mac Pro might have a socketed, replaceable SoC. This way Apple could release new SoCs with updated hardware in case firmware updates aren’t available. 
    killroywatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 52
    You can debate the power of the M1 Studios to the Mac Pros all day but there's one absolute and that's power per $. The Studios are crushing it in that category.
    rob53williamlondonsconosciutokillroyerniefairchild1h2pwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 52
    waveparticlewaveparticle Posts: 1,068member
    Does it use DDR5 memory or more advanced DDR6?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 52
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,834member
    rob53 said:
    So if there is an upgrade to the ProRes algorithm can the Media Engine code be reconfigured as you would be able to do with an FPGA or is it locked in?
    I’m wondering if a new Mac Pro might have a socketed, replaceable SoC. This way Apple could release new SoCs with updated hardware in case firmware updates aren’t available. 
    That's a really interesting idea. It seems they really could do that. The socket wouldn't even need a crazy number of pins, because RAM is on the SOC. The pins are only for PCIe. There would be much rejoicing if they were to do that. And it makes sense for them to do it, business wise, because they're the ones making the SOC (so they'd be the ones making money off the upgrades, not Intel). 
    killroycgWerkscornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 52
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,042member
    Most people won't buy Apple RAM for the Mac Pro at $25K. Example: from amazon, 1.5TB 2933MHz ECC memory for the Mac Pro is less than $12K. Let's say you only need 768GB RAM; Apple asks $10K, whereas the equivalent can be found on amazon for $4K.
    watto_cobradarkvader
  • Reply 11 of 52
    HrebHreb Posts: 44member
    Even ignoring configurability, it's striking how much more RAM the 2019 Mac Pro allows vs. the Mac Studio.  It seems unlikely to me that Apple will scale their "unified" memory up to those capacities on any Apple Silicon chip.  I bet when the Apple Silicon Mac Pro rolls around we see something analogous to Intel's 3D XPoint to allow memory capacities to scale and hopefully keep prices sub-stratospheric.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 52
    shaminoshamino Posts: 505member
    rob53 said:
    Mac Pro, up to 12 TB ports? Are these mainly on PCIe cards?
    Yes.  If you look at the specs page, the high-end video cards (the Radeon Pro W5700X, W6800X, W6900X and W6800X Duo) each include four TB3 ports and one HDMI port.

    Then there are two more ports on an I/O card and two built-in ports mounted in the top of the case.




    killroywatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 52
    fordeefordee Posts: 30member
    Speaking of user-upgradeable, the Mac Pro's main draw is the fact that it can be configured with additional PCI Express or MPX Module cards. The Mac Studio, like other M-series Macs, doesn't support this level of modularity.
    And while this is true, I don't believe that it is much of an advantage. I wonder how many people who bought a Mac Pro have plugged anything into them apart from a video card. I would expect very few.
    Most people add to their machines through usb-c and Thunderbolt these days, and that is plenty fast enough for most use cases. Bus modularity is pretty much a thing of the past. Most manufacturers aren't going to invest the time to make peripherals that use a bus over a usb-c or Thunderbolt port. And they especially aren't going to make MPX modules with such a small market.
    williamlondonAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 52
    killroykillroy Posts: 220member
    blastdoor said:

    M1 Mac Studio outperforms the Mac Pro in most cases


    I suspect this statement might be true, but I'd like to see more evidence before reaching that conclusion. 

    The multicore geekbench scores are very impressive, to be sure. And I'm not a Geekbench hater, I think it's useful. 

    But I'd like to see some comparisons using a broader range of professional software. 

    The thing I most look forward to is more evidence of the benefits of the unified memory architecture. Apple says there's a big advantage, and their argument makes sense, but I'd like to see it demonstrated in more real world software. 


    That's already been tested. Go here to real world info. When the Ultra chip is tested you should see 2X the performance.


    edited March 11 williamlondoncgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 52
    killroykillroy Posts: 220member
    fordee said:
    Speaking of user-upgradeable, the Mac Pro's main draw is the fact that it can be configured with additional PCI Express or MPX Module cards. The Mac Studio, like other M-series Macs, doesn't support this level of modularity.
    And while this is true, I don't believe that it is much of an advantage. I wonder how many people who bought a Mac Pro have plugged anything into them apart from a video card. I would expect very few.
    Most people add to their machines through usb-c and Thunderbolt these days, and that is plenty fast enough for most use cases. Bus modularity is pretty much a thing of the past. Most manufacturers aren't going to invest the time to make peripherals that use a bus over a usb-c or Thunderbolt port. And they especially aren't going to make MPX modules with such a small market.

    The Mac Pro works with any AMD graphics card and don't need an MPX module to do so. All you get with MPX is more Thunderbolt ports.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 52
    killroykillroy Posts: 220member
    blastdoor said:
    rob53 said:
    So if there is an upgrade to the ProRes algorithm can the Media Engine code be reconfigured as you would be able to do with an FPGA or is it locked in?
    I’m wondering if a new Mac Pro might have a socketed, replaceable SoC. This way Apple could release new SoCs with updated hardware in case firmware updates aren’t available. 
    That's a really interesting idea. It seems they really could do that. The socket wouldn't even need a crazy number of pins, because RAM is on the SOC. The pins are only for PCIe. There would be much rejoicing if they were to do that. And it makes sense for them to do it, business wise, because they're the ones making the SOC (so they'd be the ones making money off the upgrades, not Intel). 

    Sure hope they do PCIe 5.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 52
    It is too bad they've killed any upgradability and any internal expansion capabilities.  
    williamlondonwatto_cobradarkvader
  • Reply 18 of 52
    Hreb said:
    Even ignoring configurability, it's striking how much more RAM the 2019 Mac Pro allows vs. the Mac Studio.  It seems unlikely to me that Apple will scale their "unified" memory up to those capacities on any Apple Silicon chip.  I bet when the Apple Silicon Mac Pro rolls around we see something analogous to Intel's 3D XPoint to allow memory capacities to scale and hopefully keep prices sub-stratospheric.
    I’ll go out on a limb with a prediction that Apple manages to put all the RAM on the same small chunk of an SoC, but it’d be more accurate to call it a System on Carrier, because it would be perhaps like drawing an asterisk for all the M1 Ultras to join at one common edge in the middle.  Note: fill in the M1 Ultra with whatever they call it, but I’d expect that arrangement for the reasons of physics both for having a way to cool it and also for distance/speed of communication between chips being optimized.

    It may be some variation of that as well, maybe as crazy as 12 of them with 6 meeting in the center on one edge with their other edge meeting one of the edges of each on the side of the hexagonal arrangement, since the hexagon is the only shape that has the same radius as each edge in that regular polygon: what I would NOT expect is purely a stack of chips with no room for cooling because that’s mechanical and electrical disaster due to expansion and contraction issues between layers when they’re going through their loads.

    If anyone has a better idea how they’d manage the same amount of possible memory with the current process nodes and be able to cool it with no under-clocking, I’m all ears.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 52
    shaminoshamino Posts: 505member
    If the rumors about the 4-way connectivity module (M1 Ultra-Max?) prove to be true, then that module would support up to 256 GB of RAM.  Which may be enough for the entire Mac Pro market.

    Or they may introduce a new kind of module (M2?) that can support more.

    Another possibility, which might make sense if they think there are enough customers that want truly huge amounts of RAM (e.g. >1TB) is that the on-module unified memory will behave as a cache to a much larger amount of external DDR5 RAM.  You'd be able to run the Mac without any DIMMs, using only the unified memory (in the M1 module) or with DIMMs, if you have a need to go beyond that amount.

    Similarly, if Apple believes that Mac Pro customers really need PCIe slots, there's enough bandwidth to support them, even allowing external GPUs to run alongside the built-in GPU/NN units.  But I think that is less likely.  I think that if Apple decides to support PCIe slots (and this is far from certain), that they will primarily support hardware that doesn't replicate what the M1 module has on-board (e.g. advanced networking and storage peripherals, professional multi-channel video capture, and other such things).

    But this is just my opinion.  I could be wrong.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 52
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,057member
    shamino said:
    rob53 said:
    Mac Pro, up to 12 TB ports? Are these mainly on PCIe cards?
    Yes.  If you look at the specs page, the high-end video cards (the Radeon Pro W5700X, W6800X, W6900X and W6800X Duo) each include four TB3 ports and one HDMI port.

    Then there are two more ports on an I/O card and two built-in ports mounted in the top of the case.

    The real question is how many Thunderbolt channels does the current Mac Pro have. All these video cards with their extra TB ports are simply coming off one TB channel so connecting something to the four ports shares the total TB bandwidth. I believe M1 Max has four, independent TB channels so the M1 Ultra has eight. TB3/4 has a max throughput of 40Gbps on each port. I am hoping the Ultra can actually drive eight external devices at full speed, not just act as a large hub sharing the TB bus between everything. More ports doesn't mean as much as more full-speed TB channels. 
    watto_cobra
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