Taller and bigger than the Mac Mini, the Apple Mac Studio is a souped-up version of Apple’s dinky computers that barely take more space than a dinner plate. In our last year’s Mac Studio with M1 review we explored all the curves and edges of this form factor and Apple has kept that design and added the latest M2 Max processor to heave through the toughest tasks.
Apple Mac Studio 2023 M2 Max review
The Mac Maharaja
Between the M1 Max and the M2 Max chip Apple has increased the efficiency core count by 2. So now you get a 12-core CPU with 8 performance cores (P-cores are the same as M1 Max) and 4 efficiency cores. Oh, and up to a 38-core GPU. As for the 16-core Neural Engine and the 400GB/s memory bandwidth, the numbers remain the same as the M1 Max. Our Apple Mac Studio M2 Max came with 64GB of unified memory. If you want 128GB or 192GB then you’ll have to pony up for the M2 Ultra. Apple also sells a 30-core GPU unit as the starting variant for the M2 Max line.
Ya, it’s not much of a spec bump from last year but you’re forgetting how flirty this computer can be with professionals. It’s built for developers and video editors. Putting it next to my reference Intel-based gaming PC with an Nvidia RTX 4090, the Mac Studio M2 Max looks suspiciously feeble. You’ll have to turn water into wine to convince anyone that the Mac Studio is a powerful machine for workloads. Spoiler alert, it is! And where’s my wine?
Hold on! There are caveats. For one, this is a more powerful machine when you consider the size, heat, price and fan noise compared to a system with an Intel and RTX 4090 or an RTX 4080. The RTX 4090 is half the thickness of the entire Mac Studio and costs almost half as much as the Mac itself. Our Cinebench R23 multi-core score was 14,460 on this Mac Studio M2 Max which is mighty impressive because it managed to come at a spitting distance of our Intel i9 11th Gen CPU. All without making a hullabaloo with fan noise and heat.
InDesign and Photoshop are a breeze on this machine. Albeit it’s like moving a plane on its wheels rather than letting it fly. This machine can support up to eight 4K displays, six 6K displays or three 8K displays. That’s some serious firepower for video editors. Exporting 4K videos is also quite breezy on the M2 Max but I am not certain if it’s a big leap over the M1 Max. The M2 Max is definitely faster but not enough to make you ditch the M1 Max if you already own one. Compared to the Intel NUC 13, the Apple Mac Studio with M2 Max is whisper quiet but at the cost of slightly slower rendering. The NUC is bigger and faster but runs hotter and noisier. So that makes the Apple Mac Studio a better option in my opinion.
Big-title gaming is still a far cry from what it should be. We downloaded Mafia III: Definitive Edition from our Steam library and the game wouldn’t start. It’s a MacOS-supported game but it doesn’t work. Apple’s Game Porting Toolkit is available for developers to run x86 games from the translation layer to see how their games work on the MacOS without tweaking the game for the hardware. It’s essentially an emulator for devs. Hopefully, this encourages game developers to port their games to the MacOS but Apple needs to work harder if it ever wants the ARM-based silicon to cash in on this billion-dollar industry. I personally feel ARM processors are the future and Apple has a massive lead over Intel and AMD here. It’s only a matter of time before Nvidia joins the race too. However, that’s a conversation for another day. If you want to blow some steam, Apple Arcade games run without any hiccups and it’s honestly packed with great options too. It’s a shame that the recent additions to iOS and iPadOS like Stardew Valley and Slay the Spire didn’t make it to the MacOS on Apple Arcade. You can buy them though.
Ports and configurations
There’s a speaker built into the Mac Studio M2 Max which is handy if you just want to hear something without connecting proper speakers or headsets. Don’t expect phenomenal sound quality here. It’s just to give you notification alerts and run you through system settings if you need voice prompts.
The 3.5 mm headphone jack supports high-impedance headphones which is great for studio use and as the product name suggests the Apple Mac Studio is now more studio friendly. It’s only good for headphones though and active speakers will be better with an external DAC.
Around the back, you get four Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, two USB-A ports and a 10Gb Ethernet along with the headphone jack. You also get two USB-C ports in the front of the M2 Max. For the M2 Ultra, those are Thunderbolt ports. You also get an SDXC card slot (UHS-II) on both M2 Max and Ultra.
As per the new government law, Apple has to provide a 16Amp power cord in the box which might not be suitable for people. Luckily, you can run the Apple Mac Studio M2 Max with a 5 amp socket. We tried it with this 6A Dell laptop power cord and it worked just fine.
As for wireless connectivity, the M2 Max gets an upgrade over the M1 Max with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 support.
The M2 Max starts with 512GB storage and a 30-core GPU and 32GB of unified memory. Any subsequent upgrade to storage and memory is an eyewatering investment. The 1TB storage will cost you ₹20,000 more and 2TB will cost you a wallet-crushing ₹60,000. So unlike a PC, you can’t rip the Mac Studio open and plonk an upgrade. It’s all a single piece and you have to decide at the checkout what you want and how much you’re ready to pay.
The Apple Mac Studio M2 Max is a Goliath in David’s clothing. It’s able to eke out performance that can rival the best Windows PCs without taking up an entire desk or chewing more power than your microwave. Yes, you can build a stronger and better Windows PC but it won’t have the slick MacOS running the show and it won’t fit under your monitor too. The Apple Mac Studio M2 Max is a serious powerhouse that builds on the solid foundations of the M1 Max. If you’re strapped for cash, the M1 Max is a fantastic choice as well.
Tiny, efficient, powerful and silent. Every professional work desk needs Mac Studio and this one will run happily for power users.
|Processor:||M2 Max 12-core CPU with 8 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, Up to 38-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, 400GB/s memory bandwidth|
|Memory:||32GB (M2 Max), 64GB, 96GB (M2 Max with 38-core GPU)|
|Headphone jack:||3.5 mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones|
|I/O:||4x Thunderbolt 4 ports, 2x USB-A ports, 2x USB-C ports,1x HDMI port 1x 10Gb Ethernet, 1x SDXC card slot (UHS-II)|