Mac mini M2 Pro vs Mac Studio: Why it was worth the wait

At a Glance

Our Verdict

We think a M2 Pro Mac mini could be the perfect Mac for many Mac users who may have been considering the Mac Studio, so it was worth the wait.

Best Prices Today: Apple Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023)

$1,299.00

Adorama

Not Available

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When Apple introduced the Mac Studio in March 2022 we were impressed by its impressive processing power and excellent value for money. The Mac Studio is a superb deal for content creators of any level, and, frankly, it’s a suitable replacement for the Mac Pro in some situations. But not everyone needs all the power of a Mac Studio with M1 Max, let alone the M1 Ultra.

Despite the arrival of the Mac Studio there has been a gap in Apple’s line up though. While the MacBook Pro has offered an M1 Pro, and now an M2 Pro chip, there was no desktop Mac with such a configuration, until now. In January 2023 Apple introduced a Mac mini with M2 Pro chip. It’s the Mac we have been waiting for ever since Apple introduced the M1 Mac mini in November 2020.

Now that we have the Mac mini M2 Pro is the Mac Studio a less attractive proposition? Should you avoid the Mac Studio with M1 Max and wait for Apple to introduce a version with the M2 Max chip. We investigate.

Mac Studio M1 Max vs Mac mini M2 Pro: Price

We love the price of the M1 Max Mac Studio. At $1,999/£1,999 it cost $1,500/£1,300 less than the M1 Max variant of the 16-inch MacBook Air did. At that price there was more than enough left over to buy the necessary screen, mouse and keyboard.

The Mac mini M2 Pro also represents a bargain when compared to a similarly specced MacBook Pro. The Mac mini M2 Pro 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, costs $1,299/£1,399 compared to the 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU 14-inch MacBook Pro that costs $700/£750 more at $1,999/£2,149.

But we aren’t comparing the MacBook Pro and the Mac mini, or the Mac Studio and MacBook Pro here. We mention these comparisons to illustrate just how much you can save by buying one of Apple’s desktop Macs. The Mac mini and Mac Studio are the most cost effective way to get the Apple’s most powerful processors.

Here the question is more about whether it is worth spending the extra $700/£700 to get the M1 Max in the Mac Studio (from $1,999/£1,999), or whether you should save money with the Mac mini with M2 Pro (from $1,299/£1,399).

Let’s take a closer look at what you get for your money:

  • Mac Studio M1 Pro 10-Core CPU, 24-Core GPU, 32GB unified memory, 512GB SSD, $1,999/£1,999
  • Mac mini M2 Pro 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, 16GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD, $1,299/£1,399

Closing the gap between the two machines further: You can max out the Mac mini with a M2 Pro 12-Core CPU, 19-Core GPU and 32GB memory for $1,599/£1,599.

Another thing to consider is whether it is worth holding off on the purchase until Apple introduces the M2 Max variant of the Mac Studio, which is likely to happen at some point in 2023. Since we are discussing price here, we’ll note that it is likely that the Mac Studio will see a price hike when the new model is introduced, at least outside the U.S., so keep that in mind if you do decide to wait.

If you are going to buy either Mac take a look at our round up of the best Mac mini deals and the best Mac Studio deals.

Mac Studio M1 Max vs Mac mini M2 Pro: Design

Apple

The Mac Studio takes its design inspiration from the Mac mini. Both Macs are silver (there is no Space Gray version) and feature a big Apple logo on top. The Mac Studio measures 7.7 inches square, the same as the Mac mini, but it’s 3.7 inches tall, nearly three times the height of the Mac mini.

That extra space inside the Mac Studio means it benefits from a more efficient cooling system (although if you are after the ultimate thermal system you need to look to the M1 Ultra Mac Studio).

Other than the height difference, the Mac Studio offers a handy collection of ports on the front, including two USB-C ports and an SDXC card slot. We’ll discuss ports in more detail below.

Mac Studio M1 Max vs Mac mini M2 Pro: Specs

Even though the M2 Pro is a newer chip than the M1 Max, the M1 Max, at least in terms of GPU cores is the superior chip. If we were comparing the M2 Max and the M1 Max, or the M2 Pro and M1 Pro there would be clear improvements, but we are comparing the M1 Max and M2 Pro – two very different chips.

According to Apple, the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips offer 20 percent better CPU performance and 30 percent faster GPU performance than the M1 Pro and M1 Max did. Other improvements include a newer Neural Engine, which is up to 40 percent faster than the one in the M1 series.

Here’s how the specs compare:

Mac mini M2 Pro

  • 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, 16GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD, $1,299/£1,399
  • Additional options: 12-Core CPU, 19-Core GPU +$300/£300, 32GB memory +$400/£400, up to 8TB SSD

Mac Studio M1 Max

  • 10-Core CPU, 24-Core GPU, 32GB unified memory, 512GB SSD, $1,999/£1,999
  • Additional options: 32-Core GPU +$200/£200, 64GB memory +$400/£400, up to 8TB SSD

CPU

In terms of CPU it doesn’t look like a significant difference—there is a 10-core CPU as standard in both devices. But there are improvements in the newer chip, including, Apple claims, a larger L2 cache, though it doesn’t provide specifics. There is also a difference in the number of efficiency cores—up from two to four in the newer chip.

Apple claims that the M2 Pro and M2 Max offer 20 percent better CPU performance than the M1 Pro and M1 Max.

This played out in our testing. As you can see from our Geekbench benchmarks, the Mac Studio with M1 Max (10-core) lagged behind in the multicore results. The Mac mini we compared it to was a build-to-order model with 12-cores, so an improvement is to be expected, but even in single core benchmarks, the M2 Pro scored higher.

We saw a similar scenario in with our Cinebench R23 benchmarks, with the 12-core Mac mini M2 Pro beating the M1 Max in the Mac Studio. Since the M1 Pro and M1 Max saw very similar benchmarks, we can certainly expect an improvement even with the standard 10-core CPU option.

GPU

When it comes to GPU cores things are a bit different. The standard Mac mini M2 Pro offers 16 graphics cores (up to 19), but the standard Mac Studio with M1 Max has 24-core GPU (up to 32, and there will be up to 38 graphics cores in the M2 Max).
While the GPU cores of the M2 Pro are ahead of those in the M1 Pro, the M1 Max still offers the better graphics performance.

To get an idea of how this plays out in testing, in Geekbench 5 Compute benchmarks the 16in MacBook Pro with M2 Pro (12-core CPU, 19-core GPU) scored below the 14-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max (10-core CPU, 32-core GPU).

Our iMovie benchmarks show the effect of the M1 Max’s two video encoding engines. The M2 Pro can’t quite keep up.

However, the faster CPU and Neural Engine in the M2 Pro make it faster than the M1 Max when applying the video stabilizing feature.

RAM

There are other ways in which the Max beats the Pro, whichever generation. The M1 Max has more memory bandwidth (400 GB/sec vs 200 GB/sec) and can offer more RAM than the M2 Pro can (64GB vs 32GB).

Note that there is a 96GB RAM option for the M2 Max which may be coming to the Mac Studio, but there’s a catch—the 96GB RAM option is limited to the version of the M2 Max with 38 GPU cores, while the less expensive option with 30 GPU cores still tops out at 64GB.

Ports

Apple

The Mac Studio has the most ports, with two USB-C ports and one SDXC card slot on the front and four Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A ports, one HDMI 2.0 port, one 10Gb Ethernet port, and one 3.5mm headphone jack on the back. 10 gigabit Ethernet is standard.

That’s more than enough ports for most people, but you don’t have to buy a Mac Studio to get all those ports—there are plenty of USB-C hubs available if you want even more options.

Not that the Mac mini doesn’t offer a decent supply of ports. There are fewer than there are on the Mac Studio, but you’ll still find four Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, Gigabit Ethernet and a headphone jack. You can pay an extra $100/£100 for a 10 gigabit Ethernet option.

You’ll notice that the newer Mac mini offers the newer HDMI 2.1 standard. HDMI 2.1 brings support for 4K at 240Hz and 8K at 60Hz. With HDMI 2.0, you could only connect one display with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz. You can of course add additional displays via the Thunderbolt ports on both the Mac Studio and Mac mini. The Mac mini with M2 Pro supports up to three displays, while the Mac Studio supports up to four Pro Display XDRs and one 4K display.

The 2023 Mac mini also offers the new WiFi 6E standard and Bluetooth 5.3 (although that is more about future-proofing right now).

Apple

Mac Studio M1 Max vs Mac mini M2 Pro: Buying Advice

Now that the M2 Pro Mac mini is here the Mac Studio with M1 Max certainly looks less impressive than it did. There is a group of Mac users who can now save $700/£700 by buying a Mac mini with M2 Pro, rather than the Mac Studio, and still get a machine that is plenty powerful enough for their needs.

However, there is also a group of Mac users who need the extra graphics prowess that only the Max can offer, be it the M1 Max, or the M2 Max. The Mac Studio with M2 Max is sure to make an appearance at some point in 2023 so it may be worth waiting. Alternatively, an even more powerful machine could be in the pipeline—the Mac Pro is sure to be introduced in 2023.

In the meantime, here are the best prices right now for the Mac Studio.

Backmarket

$1949.00

Adorama

$1999.00

$1999.00

$1999.99

For more help deciding which Mac to buy read our Best Mac buying guide.

Source : Macworld