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2022 Mac Studio M1 Ultra: Recommended Models and Accessories

Unsure which Mac to get or how to configure it? Consult with Lloyd, and see recommended Macs for photographers and videographers.

MPG tested the $7999 Apple Mac Studio M1 Ultra 20-core CPU / 64-core GPU/ 128GB / 8TB SSD , provided on loan for review by B&H Photo, an authorized Apple Mac dealer. Please buy your gear at B&H Photo and OWC/MacSales.com using any link from this site.

2022 Mac Studio M1 Ultra

2022 Mac Studio M1 Ultra — Conclusion

Mostly superb, but also mixed-bag performance from the 2022 Mac Studio M1 Ultra.

For many tasks, it smokes the Intel-based Macs.

For a few tasks, the Mac Studio lags the 10-core 2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max badly, such as focus stacking with Zerene Stacker and panorama and creating aperture series.

The lackluster performance in a few cases is surely a software issue, and might eventually be rectified via a software update. That this is so is shown by the 25% gains in speed literally overnight (June 21, 2022), from Photoshop CC 23.3.2 to v23.4.1.

The sluggish SHA512 hashing speed per core will likely never be fixed as it is a hardware limitation*.

For most users, the Apple Mac Studio M1 Ultra will be a thrilling ride, particularly for Adobe Lightroom users—highly recommended. But it will all come down to what you do in your own work.

But for users like me, the serious performance problem areas just happen to be my most time-intensive and most-used tasks I do, namely, creating aperture series and focus stacking with Zerene Stacker. So for me, the Mac Studio is a turd sandwich until (if and when) these are improved. Doing something twice as fast when I don’t do it is not a benefit!

* Hashing speed is unlikely to ever improve, the difference stemming from special hardware support in Intel chips that makes them about twice as fast for special hashing operations. It appears that the M1 Max CPU lacks such specialized instructions. Apple will need a new chip design wish such support, or some auxiliary chip, neither of which will arrive in the current Mac Studio.

Which model?

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The numerous tests and benchmarks shed considerable light on what benefits from the 20-core CPU (M1 Ultra) vs the 10-core CPU (M1 Max). Base your decision on what you do versus those tests and whether you think the performance bugs discussed above will be fixed soon, or later than you’d like.

The most important advice I can give is this: do not skimp on memory. That Adobe Lightroom was a memory pig to the tune of 74GB just to process 600 files should give pause to anyone contemplating only 64GB (or less).

The 10-core CPU with 128GB memory is not going to disappoint most users on speed. Except that you cannot buy a 10-core with 128GB—64GB maximum. Which means buying the M1 Ultra model if you want 128GB—standard Apple playbook for extracting maximum profit.

SSD: it is hard to go wrong with a 4TB SSD, and for many users 8TB SSD will be overkill. 2TB SSD OK, 1TB ill-advised over the lifetime of the machine. Strictly avoid less than 2TB SSD.

GPU usage on all the tests in this review was minimal to nil, with the possible exception of the Enhance Details test, where Activity Monitor showed low utilization. But possibly that is a bug in Activity Monitor. So don’t sweat the GPU cores; get a larger SSD or more memory first, unless you are absolutely sure that the GPU cores will be used, e.g., some video thing that you are familiar with and know those GPU cores will be used.

View: current Mac wishlist and all current OWC wishlists.

See the 2022 Mac Studio M1 Ultra models at B&H Photo. B&H Photo Payboo pays sale tax for most states.

Backup, peripherals, etc

Budget for peripherals as well as AppleCare.

Memory UpgradesExternal SSDInternal SSDExternal StorageHard DrivesPort ExpansionCables

Backup

Everyone should have an absolute minimum of two backups drives and preferably four: two always-attached, and two offsite. Single drives are best for offsite backup (separable and multiply redundant on power supply).

The OWC Thunderbay 4 makes an excellent “always attached” backup unit for Time Machine and clones spread across its 4 drives (use the drives individually, not RAID).

See the OWC storage wishlist.

Primary storage

Most photographers are going to need large storage like the OWC Thunderbay 4 or OWC Thunderbay 8.

See the OWC storage wishlist.

Port expansion

To attach Mini DisplayPort display, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock is best.

See the OWC port expansion wishlist.

See also OWC Offers Dual DisplayPort and dual HDMI Adapter for Thunderbolt 3 Macs or PCs.

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