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2023 Mac Pro M2 Ultra: Recommended Models and Accessories

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Consult with Lloyd, to design a complete system for photography or similar including backup and data safety

MPG tested the Apple Mac Pro with M2 Ultra #Z171000US 192GB/4TB/60GPU. 76 GPU/8TB SSD are options.

Consult with Lloyd to design a complete system for photography or similar including backup and data safety.

2023 Mac Pro M2 Ultra

Incredible performance from the 2023 Mac Pro M2 Ultra!

Executive summary

  • Realistic performance gains of M2 Ultra over M2 Max are typically no more than 50%.
  • M2 Ultra speed is never double that of the M2 Max chip. Scalability is reduced with more cores*. The very best-written software (eg IntegrityChecker Java) can expect to achieve about 1.95X speedup, which is rare.
  • Some tasks are slower with the M2 Ultra than M2 Max, perhaps due to scheduling overhead of more CPUs. That’s a software design issue and/or workload issue specific to particular applications and specific workloads.
  • The 60 M2 Ultra GPU cores outstrip the 38 of the M2 Max chip , delivering at best can about 50% higher throughput.
  • One test disappoints badly: Photoshop (java) scripting is subject to some peculiar overhead, throttling performance heavily.
  • Not tested: the 76 core GPU option. In the best case this could increase performance by 25% for GPU-intensive tasks.

* Increased overhead, see Gunther's law of computational scalability.

Which model?

This work is not free; it is very time consuming with no direct reward. I need your support. Thank you for buying your Macs and other gear at B&H Photo, which provided the machine for testing. Subscribing to my photographic publications is another way to help support work like this—consider that AppleCare alone is $350 on $4000 to $7000 machine.

The 2023 Mac Pro M2 Ultra is offered only with the M2 Ultra chip. Whereas the 2023 Mac Studio can be had with M2 Ultra or M2 Max.

The only significant reason for most users to go with M2 Ultra CPU is the option of 128GB or 192GB memory. Few users will ever make use of PCIe slots, and few users will want the huge bulk of the Mac Pro. If you need a Mac Pro, you know why. Hardly anyone does.

The very best value is the Mac Studio M2 Max with 96GB memory, coming in at 1/2 the price of the Mac Pro and delivering 2/3 of its performance. The 2022 MacBook Pro M2 Max offers similar value to the Studio in a laptop format.

It is hard to go wrong with a 4TB SSD and 60 GPU cores. Spend more on an 8TB SSD and 76 GPU cores if there is good reason to do so, but otherwise, meh.

  Mac Pro Mac Studio M2 Ultra Mac Studio M2 Max
CPU: M2 Ultra M2 Ultra M2 Max
GPU: 60 or 76 60 or 76 30 or 38
PCIe sots: YES NO NO
Max memory: 192GB 192GB 96GB
Thunderbolt/USB-C: 8 ports 6 ports 4 ports + 2 USB-C
Form factor: huge compact compact
Price: $9599 $6599 $4199

View: current Mac wishlist and all current OWC wishlists.

B&H Photo Payboo pays sale tax for most states.

Getting a deal

Some users do not need all this power as it won’t make any real differences. As this was written, M1 Max models were discounted up to 30% for savings up to $1900 on maxed-out models. For the true power user, fastest is best regardless of cost, but for those of us with a budget, saving that kind of money particularly on a secondary computer might make a lot of sense, which is why I (MPG Lloyd) bought the M1 Max.

Backup, peripherals, etc

Budget for peripherals. Also for AppleCare, given the pathetic 1-year warranty.

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.

CLICK TO VIEW: Recommended Accessories and Storage

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