Consult with Lloyd on your computer or photographic purchase, backup strategy, archival and storage strategy, etc.
It is unlikely that even the most souped-up Intel-based Mac or PC can even touch the 20-core CPU of the M1 Ultra. Which is here now, not next year or in 2024. Intel has its work cut out for it.
Since the 2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max with its 10-core CPU eclipsed my 2019 iMac 5K and beat my 28-core $19K 2019 Mac Pro at most things, the 20-core M1 Ultra CPU surely leaves all competing Intel-based computers (Mac or Windows) far behind in the dust.
- Apple 10-core M1 Max CPU or Apple 20-core M1 Ultra CPU.
- 24/32/48/64-core GPU options and 16/32-core neural engine options (combinations tied to choice of CPU cores).
- Up to 128GB memory with 20-core CPU having 800 MB/sec bandwidth.
- 512GB to 8TB SSD options.
- 10Gb ethernet
- 4 X Thunderbolt 4 ports + either 2 USB-C ports (M1 Max) or 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports (M1 Ultra)
- SDXC card slot
For me, the only choice here is the 20-core CPU M1 Ultra because:
- 20 CPU cores is a huge deal for things like focus stacking, data validation, etc.
- 128GB memory available only with M1 Ultra 20-core CPU (128GB is the bare minimum for my work).
- Double the memory bandwidth with M1 Ultra.
- 48 core GPU instead of 24/32 core.
- 6 Thunderbolt 4 ports instead of only 4 + 2 USB-C. Three Thunderbolt busses matters for lots of peripherals and two displays.
As a $900 upgrade, it would be crazy for any power user to not go to the 20-core M1 Ultra. At least if you see this being a 3-5 year machine. OTOH, for my uses, 128GB memory and 4TB SSD are just as critical, so I’m stuck ratcheting up the price to $5799 as shown below.
NOTHING is upgradeable after purchase. The Mac Studio follows the annoying trend of forcing you to pay premium prices up-front for the maximum you might ever need, or regret it later and then have buy a whole new machine all over again. Comes with a pathetic insulting 1-year warranty, so pay up for the AppleCare too.
- Memory is non-upgradeable, so order either 64GB or 128GB or regret it later. When you can buy 128GB of memory from OWC for $600, Apple charges you $820 for just 64GB more. Huge rip-off.
- 128GB is a bare minimum memory for my work. I need more than that for some jobs.
- No internal PCie slot, not even a half-length slot. So no way to install my 16TB OWC Accelsior 4M2 PCIe SSD or similar.
- No additional internal storage of any kind.
I would NOT pay +$1000 for 64 GPU cores over 48 GPU cores with the M1 Ultra—at best a 1/3 performance increase but only for transient GPU usage—itt won’t matter to much of anything for photographers. Whereas 48 cores is twice 24 and 50% more than 32.
Not for me because...
If it were just for my home/work office, the Mac Studio would be fine.
But the ideal machine for me because of travel in my Sprinter van would have the same capabilities in an iMac 5K form factor. It’s too much of a hassle to attach a separate display to a separate computer—setup/teardown/storage hassle and one more thing to go wrong (cabling), two power cords, etc. Plus I’d have to buy and hook up even more stuff just to connect a display—yet another power cord, more power drawn, and even more cables—what a mess.
The ports on the Apple Mac Studio are fairly good, but right away not enough for my setup. So that means port expansion.
There are only two USB-A ports on the Apple Studio Mac, so you’ll likely want more ports. For me, one of those goes to a wired keyboard+mouse (the current Apple mouse is an ergonomic and usability POS and the keyboard is little better, so I use the decade-old wired ones).
Get the 14-port OWC Thunderbolt Dock for more USB-A ports, plus it offers a Mini DisplayPort port, the best way to attach a display with a DisplayPort port, such as my workhorse NEC PA302W and other professional color displays. HDMI does not cut it for calibration with many displays, so the HDMI port on the Mac Studio does not suffice.
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