Tested: Mac Studio with M1 Max vs. Mac Studio with M1 Ultra

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited March 21
They look the same, they're both impressive, but one Mac Studio configuration costs twice as much as the other. We test the differences between the M1 Ultra and M1 Max versions.

M1 Ultra and M1 Max Mac Studios
M1 Ultra and M1 Max Mac Studios


Two machines, both alike in dignity -- and both with so much to offer the professional working in the creative, science, and engineering industries. There are key differences, however, and not only in how one is double the cost of the other.

If you have the budget for a Mac Studio with M1 Ultra, it's worth going for because it will handle your workload now and hopefully far into the future. There are still considerations, though, that can make it cost more than its base $3,999.

But for that price, you could buy two base-level Mac Studio machines with the M1 Max. If you're working in a team, that will be tempting option - though only if the performance is good enough.





That's chiefly performance as in how well and fast the processor works for you, but it's also about exactly how the machine fits into your workflow.
Mac Studio with M1 MaxMac Studio with M1 Ultra
Base price$1,999$3,999
RAM32GB or 64GB64GB or 128GB
CPU10-core20-core
GPU24-core48-core
Neural Engine16-core32-core
SSD512GB1TB
Front ports2 x USB-C, 1 x SDXC2 x Thunderbolt 4, 1 x SDXC
Back ports4 x Thunderbolt 4 ports, 2 x USB-A, 1 x HDMI, 1 x 10GB Ethernet, 1 x 3.5mm headphone4 x Thunderbolt 4 ports, 2 x USB-A, 1 x HDMI, 1 x 10GB Ethernet, 1 x 3.5mm headphone

Beyond the processor choices

The obvious, headline difference between the Apple's two recommended base versions of the Mac Studio is the processor inside them. But there is more.

If you buy the base Mac Studio with M1 Max, then in part you are getting:

  • 32GB RAM

  • 512GB SSD

  • 2 x USB-C front ports

Whereas if you buy the Mac Studio with M1 Ultra, those three specifications change to:

  • 64GB RAM

  • 1TB SSD

  • 2 x Thunderbolt 4 front ports

You can upgrade the base M1 Max version to 64GB RAM for $400, and go from 512GB SSD to 1TB SSD for $200. That would raise the price to $2,599.

The different front ports may affect which model you buy
The different front ports may affect which model you buy


That's $1,400 less than the base M1 Ultra version. So it's no longer enough that you can buy a second Mac Studio, but it's still a substantial help toward buying a new Studio Display.

What you can't change are the front ports. Whether they are USB-C or Thunderbolt 4, it is a genuine boon having them available on the front like this.

It means that when your workflow requires you to repeatedly add and remove external storage, or cameras and so on, that it is much more convenient. It's not as if turning the machine around is difficult, but it easily becomes so if the ports on the back are full with short cables.



That convenience is the same whether it's USB-C or Thunderbolt 4 ports on the front. What's different is the data transfer speed. If you're in a broadcast operation then the the speed difference could well be significant to you.

Perhaps most of the time, though, for most people with most workflows, the speed difference in this won't be noticeable. Or if it is, it won't be important.

Whereas the local storage, the 512GB SSD in the base M1 Max version, could be.

This is debatable, as there are many workflows where 512GB is fine. That could be because the files and documents being worked on are not very big, or they are very temporary.

And it can be because masses of storage are just a WAN connection away from you.

However, people who have found 512GB to fine are not people who've ever been held up by Final Cut Pro soaking up every byte of available space. There are things you can do to mitigate this, including using external drives for everything.

But having more internal storage makes life easier, even if you don't consider yourself to be producing complex, or long, videos.

As for RAM, we've now had unified memory for long enough that we know Apple is correct, you can do more with less. Compared to regular RAM, this unified memory is exceptional.

However, it also limited and if anything is to press up against the limits, it is the kind of high-volume, high-resolution, and perhaps fast workflows that the Mac Studio is built for.

The issues over RAM and SSD storage are the same with the Mac Studio using M1 Ultra. Except the base model of that comes with 64GB RAM and 1TB SSD storage, which is more likely to be sufficient for most users.

When you buy the M1 Ultra version, though, you do get one more benefit regarding RAM. It's that you have the option to go to 128GB RAM.

It will cost you a further $800, but it's an option you don't get with the M1 Max edition.

Benchmarks

We threw a litany of benchmarks at both machines once we got them in our studio, testing everything from Geekbench to 8K video exports. The two models we picked up were both base models, one with the M1 Ultra and the other with M1 Max.

Starting with our browser test, we ran the Speedometer benchmark from BrowserBench that tests a machine's ability to run web applications. The M1 Max managed 293 runs per minute while the M1 Ultra earned 292 runs per minute. Effectively the same when the margin of error is considered.

Geekbench 5 results for Mac Studio
Geekbench 5 results on Mac Studio


In Geekbench 5, our M1 Max Mac Studio got a 1798 single-core and a 12822 multi-core. The M1 Ultra variant pulled a similar 1786 single-core score but an impressive 23778 multi-core score. This is due to difference between the 10-core M1 Max and the 20 cores found in the M1 Ultra.

Cinebench revealed similar numbers. The M1 Max version scored 1535 and 12389 on the single and multi-core R23 tests respectively while the M1 Ultra earned a 1535 and a 24210 on the single and multi-core tests.

Affinity Photo now has its own benchmark that tests vector performance on the CPU and raster performance, taxing both the CPU and GPU. We looked primarily at the combined scores for CPU and the GPU. The M1 Max scored a 947 for the CPU and a 22537 for the GPU. The M1 Ultra came in with a 1879 for the CPU and a 33668 on the GPU.

Geekbench's Compute graphics test echoed those results. When running on Metal, the Geekbench 5 Compute test scored a 60629 on the 24-core M1 Max GPU and a 91938 on the 48-core M1 Ultra GPU. A roughly 50 percent increase for the M1 Ultra graphics.

Ungine Heaven is started to become a bit dated, and it still runs under Rosetta rather than natively on Apple silicon, but we can still see the difference in how these machines handle these graphics. When this gaming-specific benchmark runs, the M1 Max averaged 94 frames per second with a 2371 score and a max frame rate of 186.4. The M1 Ultra earned an average frame rate of 102 FPS, a score of 2584, and a maximum frame rate of 187 FPS.

These maxed out at roughly the same frame rate, but the M1 Ultra scored just a bit higher and kept the frame rate just a bit higher throughout.

Blackmagic disk speed results
Blackmagic disk speed results


Testing the built in storage, our 512GB SSD on the M1 Max earned a 4629.7MB/s write speed and a 5180.3 MB/s read speed on the BlackMagic Disk Speed Test. This was below the 1TB module in our M1 Ultra machine that earned a 5163.2 MB/s write speed and a 5226.8 MB/s read speed. The larger the SSD the faster they tend to be, so keep this in mind as you choose your storage configuration.

In Final Cut Pro, we exported multiple videos and saw varying degrees of performance difference. Unless you're doing very high end production, you likely won't see a huge difference in video performance, even with the additional encode and decode engines on the M1 Ultra.

When exporting a one hour 4K video as "Apple compatible," both machines took a nearly identical 18 minutes to finish. When we exported an uncompressed 4K video in Apple ProRes that was 16 minutes long, it took a minute and 14 seconds on the M1 Ultra and a minute and 30 seconds on the M1 Max. As you continue to increase the resolution and complexities of your videos, this gap will increase between the two machines.

We tried exporting an 8K video as well uncompressed from Apple ProRes and the M1 Max took five minutes and five seconds while the M1 Ultra took four minutes and 42 seconds.

It does come down to the processor

Ultimately, however, the two considerations that will affect your choice between these models are the processor and the cost. We won't know until the Mac Studio is out and subjected to real-world tests, but to say the very least, the M1 Ultra version is certainly going to be faster than the M1 Max.

And then there's the matter of the media engines. The M1 Max has one video decode engine, two video encode engines, and two ProRes encode and decode engines. Because the M1 Ultra is effectively two M1 Max chips, it has two video decode engines, four video encode engines, and four ProRes encode and decode engines.

How much this matters depends very much on what you do with the machine. If you're a photography-centric user, these won't matter. If you're a videographer, they absolutely will.

Leaked benchmarks show that the M1 Ultra beats the very top performing Intel Mac Pro.


It matters where you're coming from

Apple may get some switchers coming to the Mac for the first time because of the Mac Studio. But the odds are that most users will already be on the Mac, and which Mac they're on plays a part in which Mac Studio they choose.

Perhaps you're in a company where you and many colleagues all rely on a whole series of Mac Pro machines. In that case, the M1 Ultra is the best choice. You could swap to it now, maybe selling off the Mac Pro collection.

Or you could transition over to Mac Studio by just replacing the odd Mac Pro as you need.

Equally, you could be on a Mac mini at present. If you are, then it's likely to be because your typical workflow and workload have not been so high that you've had to switch to a Mac Pro.

Switch to a Mac Studio with M1 Max instead. It's sufficiently better and faster that you will immediately appreciate the difference, plus it probably has enough performance that you've got room to grow your workflow for years.

If the Mac Pro and the Mac mini are at the extremes, in between there are the users who are on an iMac, an iMac Pro, or a MacBook Pro.

Mac Studio with M1 Ultra will certainly always beat all of those, but the Mac Studio with M1 Max probably will, too.

It's hard to quantify your current workflow, and its harder still to compare it to somebody else's. And if there's anything that high-end Mac users have in common across the media, science, and other industries, it's that workflows change.

Maybe you have periods that are feast or famine, but overall the workflow tends to increase. Which means in an ideal world, everyone would just by the Mac Studio with M1 Ultra.

In the real, practical world, though, the likelihood is that the M1 Max version is going to be sufficient for most people, most of the time.

How to save on Apple's Mac Studio

Apple's Mac Studio desktop is already on sale at select retailers, with the best Mac Studio deals offering $200 to $400 off retail models at press time.

Stay tuned to our Mac Studio Price Guide for the latest specials and product availability.

Read on AppleInsider
«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,363member

    The different front ports may affect which model you buy

    I'd love to hear from someone who would lay down $2,000 extra just for a couple of Thunderbolt ports.
    muthuk_vanalingamviclauyycomasouapplguySoli
  • Reply 2 of 71
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 391member
    Color me unimpressed... with the article.  I was hoping for some benchmarks or actual comparisons, but instead got a rehash of all of the various options available.

    Thanks.
    9secondkox2pjorlandoseanjapplguyanonconformist
  • Reply 3 of 71
    Meh. Apple is taking too long. I'm holding out for the M5 processor, impressed with Steve Jobs's engrams.
    williamlondonblastdoorJWSC
  • Reply 4 of 71
    Does anyone else think that paying $400 for 32GB of RAM or $200 for 512GB of SSD space is a bit expensive? Like perhaps four times what the parts should cost? I guess we will just have to upgrade them our... oh snap!
    9secondkox2darkvadercpsro
  • Reply 5 of 71
    Does anyone else think that paying $400 for 32GB of RAM or $200 for 512GB of SSD space is a bit expensive? Like perhaps four times what the parts should cost? I guess we will just have to upgrade them our... oh snap!
    It's always entertaining when commenters here become component cost experts. 
    williamlondonbshank9secondkox2twokatmewmichelb76macxpressGG1lkrupptenthousandthingsmwhite
  • Reply 6 of 71
    Does anyone else think that paying $400 for 32GB of RAM or $200 for 512GB of SSD space is a bit expensive? Like perhaps four times what the parts should cost? I guess we will just have to upgrade them our... oh snap!
    https://www.dell.com/en-us/work/shop/dell-memory-upgrade-32gb-2rx8-ddr5-udimm-4800mhz/apd/ab883075/memory?gacd=9646510-1025-5761040-266794296-0&dgc=st&ds_rl=1282786&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2dHT25289gIVDyCtBh3UhAdDEAQYAiABEgKkwfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&nclid=QdbtvXnEyfxVAG1Ep9441_OEA1DpthWIlAVHXF4ljS56KB_mKa59cnPRc5BUsRdsPsHU_qPoMa24hS1Ovy8JXQ It’s rilly small ddr5. Have fun getting that in the budget bin. Also, Apple’s solid state storage isn’t M.2, but feel free to compare it to any respectable brand name M.2 of that size with similar performance. Do you think your feet are far more stinky than they should be, like maybe 4x more stinky? Thanks for blessing the internet with your baseless whining, it was really coming up short in that department.
    bshankviclauyycwilliamlondonmaximaramacxpressGG1tenthousandthingsmwhiteseanjredgeminipa
  • Reply 7 of 71
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 1,394member
    Does anyone else think that paying $400 for 32GB of RAM or $200 for 512GB of SSD space is a bit expensive? Like perhaps four times what the parts should cost? I guess we will just have to upgrade them our... oh snap!
    It's always entertaining when commenters here become component cost experts. 
    You mean like every fiscally responsible person who budgets and justifies purchases? 

    Of course we know what things cost. And of course we feel gouged when Apple pulls this stuff. 

    It’s kind of crazy. They go through seasons of being normal and the prices get good. Then they go through seasons of crazy prices. 

    In Apples defense, I can imagine that this is to shield thrmselves against the ongoing and increasing financial pain brought upon the USA from 2021 - early  2025. 

    So it’s a smart move on Apples part, no doubt. But It’s s tough time to be in the market for a new high performance Mac. 

    Yet, it’s never wrong to recognize when gouging is occurring and to compare with industry average pricing as responsible people tend to do. 
    williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamtwokatmew
  • Reply 8 of 71
    maximaramaximara Posts: 407member
    Does anyone else think that paying $400 for 32GB of RAM or $200 for 512GB of SSD space is a bit expensive? Like perhaps four times what the parts should cost? I guess we will just have to upgrade them our... oh snap!
    You don't understand that you are buying quality products not Joe Bargain Basement which, odds are, die in two to three years.  For example the SSD is high quality small ddr5.  For comparison a Dell Memory Upgrade - 32GB - 2RX8 DDR5 UDIMM 4800MHz costs $519.99... which is $119 less than what Apple is charging.
    edited March 11 williamlondontwokatmewGG1redgeminipa
  • Reply 9 of 71
    maximaramaximara Posts: 407member
    Does anyone else think that paying $400 for 32GB of RAM or $200 for 512GB of SSD space is a bit expensive? Like perhaps four times what the parts should cost? I guess we will just have to upgrade them our... oh snap!
    It's always entertaining when commenters here become component cost experts. 
    You mean like every fiscally responsible person who budgets and justifies purchases? 

    Of course we know what things cost. And of course we feel gouged when Apple pulls this stuff.
    Dell Memory Upgrade - 32GB - 2RX8 DDR5 UDIMM 4800MHz costs $519.99... which is $119 less than the $400 Apple is charging.  And thanks to the M1 that can pull double duty as video RAM.  So what exactly is Apple "pulling"?  Or are you not as knowledgeable as you think you are?
    edited March 11 GG1bbhtenthousandthingsseanjredgeminiparobaba
  • Reply 10 of 71
    Does anyone else think that paying $400 for 32GB of RAM or $200 for 512GB of SSD space is a bit expensive? Like perhaps four times what the parts should cost? I guess we will just have to upgrade them our... oh snap!
    It's always entertaining when commenters here become component cost experts. 
    You mean like every fiscally responsible person who budgets and justifies purchases? 

    Of course we know what things cost. And of course we feel gouged when Apple pulls this stuff. 

    It’s kind of crazy. They go through seasons of being normal and the prices get good. Then they go through seasons of crazy prices. 

    In Apples defense, I can imagine that this is to shield thrmselves against the ongoing and increasing financial pain brought upon the USA from 2021 - early  2025. 

    So it’s a smart move on Apples part, no doubt. But It’s s tough time to be in the market for a new high performance Mac. 

    Yet, it’s never wrong to recognize when gouging is occurring and to compare with industry average pricing as responsible people tend to do. 
    I remember back when I was getting my BSEE one of the teachers for the digital microprocessor courses was talking about washing machines. A company would have a base model available that had no frills that they wouldn’t make much profit margin on. But then they could throw in an inexpensive microcontroller and LED display to give the exact same machine a few bells and whistles and make a much higher profit margin. It’s basically what Apple does.
  • Reply 11 of 71
    omasouomasou Posts: 367member
    crowley said:

    The different front ports may affect which model you buy

    I'd love to hear from someone who would lay down $2,000 extra just for a couple of Thunderbolt ports.
    Seriously, not like a cable can't be plugged in the back and laying on the table for connecting things. Never really understood front ports on computers and other video equipment, etc. Seems like a left over idea from tower computers under a desk.

    I would have preferred to see a clean front with no additional ports and the SD slot moved to the side but I get the convenance for those that use them a lot.
    maximaraaderutter
  • Reply 12 of 71
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,834member
    omasou said:
    crowley said:

    The different front ports may affect which model you buy

    I'd love to hear from someone who would lay down $2,000 extra just for a couple of Thunderbolt ports.
    Seriously, not like a cable can't be plugged in the back and laying on the table for connecting things. Never really understood front ports on computers and other video equipment, etc. Seems like a left over idea from tower computers under a desk.

    I would have preferred to see a clean front with no additional ports and the SD slot moved to the side but I get the convenance for those that use them a lot.

    Front ports are useful to people in the video production world. Sometimes, a drive is shipped to you with all the footage from a shoot. You only use it to get the files into your RAID etc., then is is shipped back to the owners. Front ports make that very convenient.  Also, maybe you shoot and edit your own stuff, same thing. You bring your footage in whatever device it got recorded on, plug it in the front ports and transfer to the RAID. Easy and no fumbling to find ports on the back.
    williamlondonomasoumichelb76GG1mwhiteFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 13 of 71
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,242member
    omasou said:
    crowley said:

    The different front ports may affect which model you buy

    I'd love to hear from someone who would lay down $2,000 extra just for a couple of Thunderbolt ports.
    Seriously, not like a cable can't be plugged in the back and laying on the table for connecting things. Never really understood front ports on computers and other video equipment, etc. Seems like a left over idea from tower computers under a desk.

    I would have preferred to see a clean front with no additional ports and the SD slot moved to the side but I get the convenance for those that use them a lot.
    Anybody who deals with "data shuttle" external drives a lot — basically, all media professionals — are constantly hooking up and disconnecting external drives all the time. 
    welshdogmichelb76FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 14 of 71
    crowley said:

    I'd love to hear from someone who would lay down $2,000 extra just for a couple of Thunderbolt ports.
    well... it was only $1400 ... and it gets you Thunderbolt ports AND twice the processing power.  you don't think there are people for whom that would be worthwhile?  You can't see where that would be lucrative without hearing from one of them? :) 


    williamlondon
  • Reply 15 of 71
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,363member
    crowley said:

    I'd love to hear from someone who would lay down $2,000 extra just for a couple of Thunderbolt ports.
    well... it was only $1400 ... and it gets you Thunderbolt ports AND twice the processing power.  you don't think there are people for whom that would be worthwhile?  You can't see where that would be lucrative without hearing from one of them? :) 
    Quoted text only mentions the ports, nothing about processing power. 
  • Reply 16 of 71
    Rogue01Rogue01 Posts: 55member
    Other articles have already posted the benchmarks for the M1 Ultra.  Like all other M1 CPUs, the single core score is in the 1700 range.  The M1 Ultra only excels with the multi-core score, over 20,000 in Geekbench 5.  So unless your work specifically takes advantage of the multi-core tasks and video work, the Mac Studio would be a waste of money.  The other difference between the base model studio and the Ultra CPU studio is the massive 2 pound heat sink required to keep the Ultra CPU cool.  Shop wisely.

    Everyone loves to claim how fast the M1 Macs are, but that is only the single core processes.  Most Intel CPUs have faster multi-core scores than the M1, by a considerable margin.  That is why Apple continued to sell the higher-end Intel Macs, also with dedicated GPUs that were faster than the M1.  The M1 Pro and Max fix the limitations of the M1, and the Ultra has amazing multi-core scores.  But if your work does not take advantage of the Pro, Max, and Ultra CPUs, you won't see any increase in performance because the single core score is the same as the M1 CPU.  I wonder what the M2 will bring to the table?
    williamlondonapplguy
  • Reply 17 of 71
    Meh. Apple is taking too long. I'm holding out for the M5 processor, impressed with Steve Jobs's engrams.
    Dr. Daystrom? Is that you?

    (sorry, couldn't resist!)


    twokatmewJWSC
  • Reply 18 of 71
    I would have to be a huge power user to
    consider the Ultra. I’d rather upgrade my Max in 3 to 5 years than have an Ultra that’s good for 10 years as my primary workstation. Just think where ASi will be in 2025 or 2027!
    radarthekat
  • Reply 19 of 71
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 414member
    Rogue01 said:
    Other articles have already posted the benchmarks for the M1 Ultra.  Like all other M1 CPUs, the single core score is in the 1700 range.  The M1 Ultra only excels with the multi-core score, over 20,000 in Geekbench 5.  So unless your work specifically takes advantage of the multi-core tasks and video work, the Mac Studio would be a waste of money.  The other difference between the base model studio and the Ultra CPU studio is the massive 2 pound heat sink required to keep the Ultra CPU cool.  Shop wisely.

    Everyone loves to claim how fast the M1 Macs are, but that is only the single core processes.  Most Intel CPUs have faster multi-core scores than the M1, by a considerable margin.  That is why Apple continued to sell the higher-end Intel Macs, also with dedicated GPUs that were faster than the M1.  The M1 Pro and Max fix the limitations of the M1, and the Ultra has amazing multi-core scores.  But if your work does not take advantage of the Pro, Max, and Ultra CPUs, you won't see any increase in performance because the single core score is the same as the M1 CPU.  I wonder what the M2 will bring to the table?
    And the annoying part is, that unless you use some very specific pro apps that have been optimised, or only use Apple's Pro apps, you will not see great performance compared to Intel/AMD + Nvidia. This will probably take another few years for everyone to update their apps, or hope that Apple will provide support as they did with Blender. I'm definitely factoring that in, and have decided to go with the Max, as the Ultra just doesn't add that much, in other words I'm not prepared to pay through the nose for a slight speedup. I'll probably buy whatever new model there is in 2-3 years.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 71
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 889member
    Does anyone else think that paying $400 for 32GB of RAM or $200 for 512GB of SSD space is a bit expensive? Like perhaps four times what the parts should cost? I guess we will just have to upgrade them our... oh snap!

    No.  It's not "a bit expensive".  It's highway fucking robbery.

    Even if it was reasonable NOW (it's not) it'll be absolutely outrageous in 2-3 years after purchase which is the point when most people realize there's not enough RAM or storage and upgrade.

    The storage is the stupidest part.  The VAST majority of people don't know how much storage they'll need in the future when they buy a computer.  512GB is rarely enough.  And the only advantage of having the computer be a cute tiny little box is GONE when you've got to have an external box for the storage you'll need, the minuscule speed advantage of soldered storage is GONE when you're booting from that external box because the internal SSD is worn out.
    williamlondon
Sign In or Register to comment.