The long-lost new desktop model
At the online new product launch conference held on March 9, Apple’s new desktop “Mac Studio” was announced. The rumored new processor “M2”, although not announced, has had enough of an impact on the look of the Creator Studio model.
After all, the Mac Pro line has been around as creators’ models for a long time, but new models were last announced in 2019, and they’re Intel machines. Desktop models for creators haven’t been released since the M1 architecture, but for freelancers and small-scale productions, a new series “Studio” that is closer to personal use has been launched instead of “Pro,” which is great news . site.
There are two models with “Apple M1 Max chip” and “Apple M1 Ultra chip”. The standard price of the M1 Max model is 249,800 yen, and the standard price of the M1 Ultra model is 499,800 yen.
You might think it’s expensive, but a 16-inch MacBook Pro with the same M1 Max costs ¥419,800. And considering the 2019 Mac Pro costs 659,780 yen, the Mac Studio is a lot cheaper.
In addition, the 27-inch 5K Retina display “Studio Display” was released. As the name suggests, it’s a monitor designed to work with Mac Studio. It is also unique in that it is equipped with an “A13 Bionic” chip while serving as a display. Prices start at 199,800 yen for the standard glass model, and 242,800 yen for the model that uses the less reflective “nano-textured glass”.
This time around, I could borrow a standard Mac Studio with an Apple M1 Max chip and a standard glass Studio Display. Let’s try it right away to see how much performance can be achieved using the so-called “standard” combination.
New Era Desktop
Let’s check usability and more with the combination of Mac Studio and Studio Display. It’s been a while since I’ve used a desktop computer, but all I need is a thin Thunderbolt cable to connect the monitor, so the wiring is neat.
The Studio monitor is 27 inches but has a 5K resolution. I usually use a 40″ 4K TV instead of a monitor, so it’s pretty small. On the other hand, the resolution is high, so making the display more detailed is a waste.
I’ve tried to maximize the resolution in the display settings, but the characters are very small at the distances I usually use. It might be better to adjust the distance to the monitor depending on the resolution. In other words, you have two options: lower the resolution and use it further away, or increase the resolution and use it closer.
The Studio Display deserves credit as a precisely calibrated monitor, but unfortunately it doesn’t support HDR for nearly 200,000 yen. A few days ago, I just verified the possibility of HDR output from an external display on the Mac, but the correct answer for now is to connect an HDR-compatible 4K TV to the HDMI terminal to view HDR content.
The monitor’s built-in six-speaker sound system supports 3D audio. When I played spatial audio content with Apple Music, the sound made me feel the expanse of where the speakers were located, unlike normal stereo playback. The frequency response is also simple, and as a speaker with a built-in display, I’m doing my best.
However, as a balance, I wanted more bass. High frequencies are well stretched, but the speakers point down, so the sound is a bit “off” and lacks clarity. The Apple Music app allows you to adjust the sound quality using the equalizer, so it’s best to use this feature to improve. If tuned properly, the sound is reasonable and no external speakers are needed.
On the other hand, it doesn’t support spatial audio playback on the Amazon Music app. Amazon Music decodes spatial audio for headphones and earphones, but only for compatible soundbars from the Echo series or speakers, so this is normal stereo playback.
Since there’s no power button on the display, you’ll have to turn off the display in the “Hot Corner” settings or put it into sleep mode when you leave your seat. This is an alternative to turning off the MacBook display. Although it is a desktop computer, in terms of operation, it is close to the feeling of dealing with a “big Mac notebook with a closed display”.
How does it actually perform?
There are four variants of the M1 processor, with the first generation coming in November 2020, the M1 Pro and M1 Max in October 2021, and the M1 Ultra in March 2022. With Mac Studio adopting the M1 Max, Apple’s position for creative work is the M1 Max or better.
I own the original M1 MacBook Air (8 core) and I’ve done 4K video editing with it, but when color grading log files to create HDR content, playback can be slow. It’s still important because the MacBook Air can do so much, but I wonder how good the M1 Max is.
First, let’s check with benchmarking software. BlackMagic Design’s measurement tool “BlackMagic RAW Speed Test” is a tool to measure how much resolution and frame rate the company’s RAW format can handle.
According to this, the M1 Max version of Mac Studio appears to support CPU performance up to 3,456/30p and GPU up to 4,320/60p. Comparing the results of the original M1, it can be seen that the performance of the CPU is about 2 times, and that of the GPU is about 3.7 times.
The original M1 had 8 CPU cores, but it consists of 4 high-efficiency cores and 4 high-performance cores. On the other hand, the M1 Max has a 10-core configuration of high-efficiency core 2 and high-efficiency core 8, and it seems that the ratio of high-efficiency cores is effective. On the other hand, the GPU’s original M1 had 8 cores, while the M1 Max had 24 cores, so the number was only tripled. If it’s a 3.7x difference, that’s a convincing number.
Next, let’s look at the speed of storage. The internal storage is 512GB SSD, which is also measured using the measurement tool “Disk Speed Test” provided by BlackMagic Design. It can be seen that the speed of reading 4383.7MB/s and writing 5446.0MB/s is quite fast. Even with ProRes 422 HQ, 2,160/60p is a speed you can read and write.
The original MacBook Air also had enough storage to read and write 2,160/60p with the ProRes 422 HQ, but at about half the speed.
The problem with the first M1 Mac was slow I/O. The result is that it’s about half as fast as Intel-era machines. Does Mac Studio solve this problem?
Connect an external SSD and try to measure. The USB 3.1 Gen 2 Compatible Sandisk “Extreme 900 960GB” is an SSD that both reads and writes 850MB/s, but when I connect it to the back end of my Mac Studio, the write speed is a bit faster, but still half as fast specifications around. Not too different from the original M1 MacBook Air.
For studio work, there are many opportunities to use an external SSD to carry, execute and back up large amounts of material. If the speed does not increase, it will take time in a quiet place.
I also measured the speed of the SD card slot. The media is Kingston’s 128GB/300MB/s/V90 grade SDXC.
If the spec value is 300MB/s, read 236.6MB/s, write 210.2MB/s, I think it is a good place. If I read through a card reader it is slower. Many images are now captured with digital cameras, and the benefits of a built-in SD card drive are greater than ever.
Let’s actually measure performance by editing 4K HDR video. I used DaVinci Resolve Studio to color grade a V-Log clip shot with a Panasonic GH6 the other day for HDR, and edited a video of about 1 minute. On the original M1 MacBook Air, I had no problem editing pre-grade footage, but after grade I experienced frame skipping during playback.
Even in Mac Studio, it plays without dropping frames while editing. However, the bit rate of clips shot in HD/240P is 814Mb/s, which cannot be played back in real time. This is an issue with DaVinci Resolve though, playing the clip in QuickTime works fine. Of course, this is a material that should be played slowly, so even when slowed down to around 1/8 on DaVinci Resolve, it will play without issue.
Preview playback after color grading also plays without getting stuck. Looking at the performance monitor, I use Ghan’s GPU, but the CPU is distributed with about 3 to 8 cores, which is a little less used, so there is still a lot of space.
When I try to render the file, the GPU utilization is about the same as in the preview, the CPU uses all the cores evenly, and it’s done in the blink of an eye. It took 51 seconds to export 1 minute of DCI 4K size HDR content. It’s a bit heavy if the music and subtitles overlap, but it’s a performance that can be exported in almost real-time even in 4K HDR.
I used the Mac Mini for homework until around 2018, but since then I have connected an external monitor to a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air and operated it like a desktop with the LID turned off. It’s been a while since I’ve dealt with “real” desktops.
Today, notebooks have evolved to the point where the performance is not much different from desktops, but desktops are cheaper and more powerful than notebooks, and the advantage of being able to connect a lot of peripherals is that it is impossible to take out the machine. Required for studio operation.
So far, the M1 processor has revolved around laptops, but many titles are coming to Mac Studio. Surprisingly though, this unit has not eliminated the drawbacks of slow storage I/O. I didn’t test the network speed this time, but the file transfer may be faster if you connect the storage to the Intel machine and transfer it over the network.
Unfortunately, the Studio Display doesn’t support HDR, but it has good speakers built in and is a good display for near-field use. Still, for someone with presbyopia like me, it’s still easier to watch on a big-screen TV in the distance. Instead, it might be smarter to use the Studio Display as a sub-display to check color and SN.
Compared to the M1 Max model, the M1 Ultra model doubles in performance, memory and storage. The price has roughly doubled, which is reasonable. From my testing, the M1 Max should be fine for 4K sources, but if you want to handle 8K sources with 4K-like performance, you’ll need the M1 Ultra. 8K as a window of content is less, but 8K shooting with 4K completion is possible.
I don’t think Ultra is the best yet, but I’m curious about the rumored M2 architecture. But even if it becomes an M2, I don’t know if the M2 versions of Pro, Max, and Ultra will come out soon. For those who need to update their equipment for studio work, it’s fair to say that they’ll go all out for 3 to 5 years in this Mac Studio.
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