Mac Studio hands-on: Unboxing and first impressions

By | March 18, 2022

The new Mac Studio has officially arrived. Whether you look at it as a ‘mini Mac Pro’ or a ‘Pro Mac mini,’ it’s an impressive machine that packs a major punch. Head below for our very early and quick look at the new Mac Studio in the real world.

The Mac Studio features what has turned out to be somewhat of a polarizing design. It’s essentially the size of three Mac minis stacked on top of each other. Think of it as a Mac mini, but stretched. It’s a bit odd-looking in real-life, but not necessarily in a bad way. Just different.

On the back of the Mac Studio, you’ll find a really unique perforated cooling design. I didn’t count them, but Apple says there are over 4,000 perforations on the back and bottom of the Mac Studio “to help cool the high-performance chips” inside the machine.

But where the Mac Studio really shines is with its I/O options. On the front, there are two USB-C ports and an SD card slot. If you opted for the M1 Ultra (which I did not), those USB-C ports on the front are also Thunderbolt 4 capable.

As I said when I wrote about the new 14-inch MacBook Pro last year, I don’t really need an SD card slot, especially on the front side of my Mac Studio. Selfishly, I wish Apple would have used this space for a pair of additional USB-C ports, but I’m aware I might be in the minority.

On the back, the Mac Studio features four Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A ports, a 10Gb Ethernet port, and a “pro audio jack” designed for high impedance headphones or external speakers.

9to5Mac’s Take

It’s only been a few hours, but I’m already wildly impressed with the Mac Studio. For those wondering, here’s the exact configuration I ordered:

  • Apple M1 Max with 10-core CPU, 24-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
  • 64GB unified memory
  • 1TB SSD storage

I know that the Mac mini has long been the “bring your own mouse and keyboard” machine in Apple’s lineup. Given the $2,000 starting price of the Mac Studio, however, I think Apple should include a Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse/Trackpad in the box, as well as a Thunderbolt 4 cable. Instead, all you get is the Mac Studio itself and the power cable. The unboxing experience definitely feels like a bit of a letdown for that reason.

I’m personally very glad the Mac Studio is silver rather than space gray. There’s also a status light on the front of the Mac Studio that’s awkward and “in your face” if you plan on putting the Mac Studio in your line of sight on your desk.

The set up and transfer process for a new Mac continues to impress me. The ability to easily setup a new Mac from another Mac using a Thunderbolt 4 cable is very easy and very fast. There are some quirks to work out here, particularly when it comes to Apple ID authentication, but the overall experience is about as seamless as can be.

In terms of performance, I’ll be the first to admit that the M1 Max is overkill for most of my needs. That being said, I am already noticing the vast benefits of 64GB of united memory versus the 16GB in my 14-inch MacBook Pro.

The connectivity options on the Mac Studio are perfect, aside from the SD card slot preference I mentioned earlier. I have almost fully transitioned to USB-C, but I’m excited to have those two USB-A ports — and one will be dedicated to Logitech’s stupid Unifying Receiver that continues to annoy me.

So why did I buy a Mac Studio? It really boils down to my preference to have an always-on Mac as part of my setup. For the past several months, I’ve been living the MacBook Pro + external display lifestyle. This has its benefits, but to me, those benefits don’t outweigh the benefits of an always-on, 100% reliable Mac.

Have you gotten your hands on a new Mac Studio today? If so, what do you think of it? Let us know down in the comments. We’ll have a ton more coverage on the new Mac Studio over the coming days, as well as its Studio Display counterpart.

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