Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
59,230
23,152


The Mac Studio debuted in 2022 as Apple's most powerful custom silicon standalone desktop computer. Now, with the launch of the latest Mac mini models, the Mac Studio faces a formidable competitor that offers "Pro" capabilities at a substantially lower price point.

mac-studio-vs-mac-mini.jpg

The Mac Studio starts at $1,999, dwarfing the $599 starting price of the M2 Mac mini and even the $1,299 starting price of the M2 Pro Mac mini, so do you need the highest-end Apple silicon Mac, or is the humble Mac mini sufficient for your needs? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two desktop Macs is best for you.

Comparing the Mac Mini and the Mac Studio

The Mac mini and the Mac Studio share some fundamental features, including a familiar, boxy silver aluminum design, Apple silicon chipsets, and two USB-A ports. That being said, the two machines have much more in contrast than they do in common, including different chip options, memory capacities, ports, and external display support capabilities.

Key Differences


Mac mini
  • Height of 1.41 inches (3.58 cm)
  • M2 chip or M2 Pro chip
  • Up to 12-core CPU
  • Up to 19-core GPU
  • Media engine with video decode engine, video encode engines, and ProRes encode and decode engine
  • Up to 200GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Up to 32GB unified memory
  • Support for up to two displays (M2) or three displays (M2 Pro)
  • HDMI 2.1 port
  • Up to four Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet or 10Gb Ethernet port
  • Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Starts at $699 for M2 model or $1,299 for M2 Pro model


Mac Studio
  • Height of 3.7 inches (9.5 cm)
  • M1 Max chip or M1 Ultra chip
  • Up to 20-core CPU
  • Up to 64-core GPU
  • Media engine with two video decode engines, up to four video encode engines, and up to four ProRes encode and decode engines
  • Up to 800GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Up to 128GB unified memory
  • Support for up to four Pro Display XDRs and one 4K display
  • HDMI 2.0 port
  • Six Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • SDXC card slot (UHS-II)
  • 10Gb Ethernet port
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
    Bluetooth 5.0
  • Starts at $1,999 for M1 Max model or $3,999 for M1 Ultra model


Desktop Apple Silicon Chips Compared

In single-core tasks, the M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini models perform distinctly better than either of the Mac Studio configurations. In multi-core, the picture is less clear-cut. The M2 Mac mini is less powerful than either of the Mac Studio models, but the M2 Pro Mac mini is more powerful than the M1 Max Mac Studio. The M1 Ultra Mac Studio remains the most powerful in multi-core tasks. In GPU tasks, the chips scale as one would expect, with progressively better performance through the M2, M2 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra. As such, users who need maximum GPU power should still buy the Mac Studio over the Mac mini.

See the approximate Geekbench 5 scores for each Mac mini and Mac Studio below, including the scores for the now-discontinued M1 Mac mini for reference:


Single-Core Scores
  • M1: ~1,700
  • M2: ~2,000
  • M2 Pro: ~2,000
  • M1 Max: ~1,750
  • M1 Ultra: ~1,750
Metal GPU Scores
  • M1: ~22,500
  • M2: ~30,500
  • M2 Pro: ~52,700
  • M1 Max: ~64,700
  • M1 Ultra: ~94,500


Multi-Core Scores
  • M1: ~7,500
  • M2: ~9,000
  • M2 Pro: ~15,000
  • M1 Max: ~12,350
  • M1 Ultra: ~23,350


Unless you plan on buying the M1 Ultra Mac Studio with a focus on multi-core and GPU performance, the M2 Pro Mac mini should be the best all-round choice in terms of performance for most users.

Memory

If you need more than 32GB of memory, the Mac Studio can provide greater quantities up to 128GB. Likewise, the Mac mini's memory bandwidth maxes out at 200GB/s memory bandwidth. The Mac Studio, on the other hand, offers up to 400GB/s or 800GB/s memory bandwidth. As such, if you need extreme quantities of memory and a large amount of memory bandwidth for professional tasks, only the Mac Studio can meet these requirements. It is still worth noting that the M2 Pro Mac mini's 32GB memory option, along with 200GB/s memory bandwidth, should be more than enough for most users.

Ports and External Display Support

The Mac Studio offers a more versatile selection of ports, with two extra Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports and a SDXC card slot compared to the M2 Pro Mac mini, which could be an important consideration for users with a lot of peripherals.

The Mac mini has an HDMI 2.1 port, meaning that it will be better for a small number of users who work with 8K and high refresh-rate external displays, but otherwise the Mac Studio offers better external display support.

Final Thoughts

To some extent, purchasing decisions should be driven by budget, but it is worth bearing in mind that any savings on the desktop computer itself can be put toward a good external display such as Apple's Studio Display, which starts from $1,599. For example, an M2 Pro Mac mini paired with a Studio Display comes to $2,898, which is just $899 more than a lone base model Mac Studio and $1,101 less than the M1 Ultra Mac Studio with no display.


Buy Mac Mini if...
  • You need a high-level of performance and versatility at a comparatively low price
  • You need maximum single-core CPU performance
  • You need maximum multi-core CPU performance and cannot afford the M1 Ultra Mac Studio
  • You need HDMI 2.1 and support for 8K external displays
  • You need Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) or Bluetooth 5.3


Buy Mac Studio if...
  • You need maximum multi-core CPU performance and can afford the M1 Ultra model
  • You need maximum GPU performance
  • You need amounts of memory over 32GB and high memory bandwidth
  • You need more than four Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • You need support for more than three external displays
  • You need a built-in SDXC card slot (UHS-II)


You should only consider the Mac Studio if you have a professional workflow that can leverage the extreme power of M1 Ultra, as well as its additional ports and memory options. If you need the Mac Studio, you will likely know that you are looking for a highly powerful machine that is capable of supporting specific intense workflows. Most customers should choose the M2 Pro Mac mini over the M1 Max Mac Studio, saving $700 when looking at the base models. There will likely still be substantial savings when it comes to custom configurations.

Article Link: Mac Mini vs. Mac Studio Buyer's Guide
 
Last edited:

CWallace

macrumors G4
Aug 17, 2007
10,897
8,714
Seattle, WA
I need to say that I am confused now. Nothing negative, just not very clear. We now have Mac Mini, Mac Studio and Mac Pro. How to really understand it?

Mac mini is capable of handling less-demanding workloads.
Mac Studio is a mid-ranged system that is capable of handling demanding workloads.
Mac Pro is a "no limits" system, capable of handling the most demanding workloads.
 

ixxx69

macrumors 65816
Jul 31, 2009
1,234
811
United States
Mac mini is capable of handling less-demanding workloads.
Mac Studio is a mid-ranged system that is capable of handling demanding workloads.
Mac Pro is a "no limits" system, capable of handling the most demanding workloads.
Yeah, really. It's not that complicated. Folks just want to be confused so they have something to complain about.
 

AppleTO

macrumors 6502a
Oct 31, 2018
616
1,354
Toronto, Canada
So the only thing that we are missing is either an M1 Pro Mac mini or Mac Studio (this slot is currently taken by the Intel Mac mini).

It seems obvious that this will come eventually, but for now Apple would probably rather see who is willing to shell out for the $1999 Mac Studio, given that a $1299 to $1499 Mac mini M1 Pro is probably what most people want or need.
 

icanhazmac

Contributor
Apr 11, 2018
1,799
6,198
I don't know that the $699 config is worth comparing to as with only 8 gigs of shared memory it really cannot do much other than light surfing, email and pages, numbers, etc.

A far more relevant comparison would be the $1099 config of the mini with 16 gigs. Then the extra $900 for a $1999 Studio Max you get 2 more cpu cores, 16 more gpu cores, 32 gigs of shared memory and the upgraded ethernet / wireless.

To me if you want/need an Apple desktop today then the studio at $1999 is a far better buy than $1099 for the mini in terms of how much mileage you will get from it. The $699 mini would truly be a throw away purchase except for the most basic user.
 
Last edited:
I need to say that I am confused now. Nothing negative, just not very clear. We now have Mac Mini, Mac Studio and Mac Pro. How to really understand it?
  • Mac Mini: cheapest way to run MacOS on (new) Apple Silicon
  • Mac Studio: most powerful option on Apple Silicon (right now)
  • Mac Pro: most powerful way to run MacOS with flexible expansion whenever you like, flexible RAM additions whenever you like and Windows/Bootcamp too.
  • Mac Mini Intel: Besides what was shared in the article, cheapest way to run MacOS and (full) Windows in ONE case. The last non-Pro full macOS + full Windows in one box Mac.
Even simpler: if you want a new Mac and your budget max is $X, let X screen out all options > $X. For the average person looking to maybe spend up to mid-range iMac-like prices, Mac Pro is completely eliminated so the choice is Mini vs. Studio. If you need abundant parallel task power, Studio's extra cores and RAM may win. If you don't, Mini's great relative value may win. The cores in all of the M1 options crank at the SAME speed, so it's mostly how much hardware multitasking/parallel processing do you need and/or does anything you do absolutely need more than 16GB of RAM? If so, Studio. If not, Mini.

As to entry, middle ground, high, that's a bit cloudier because the transition is still unfolding and those are fluid, "eye of the beholder" terms. IMO basically and pretty generically:
  • Configurations of Mac Mini cover Entry to Middle
  • Configurations of Mac Studio cover Middle to High
  • Configurations of Mac Pro overlaps with High to Highest (and flexible expandability, cards, RAM).
There are logical expectations that Mac Mini Intel will probably be replaced with M1 or M2 PRO eventually. Many of us were expecting PRO & MAX at THIS event... and at the OCT event too. If it happens, the lines seem pretty clear to me:
  • Base to Consumer Mid (probably good for ANY consumer for general purpose to low prosumer needs): Mac Mini to Mac Mini Pro at about $600 to about $1800 or so
  • Prosumer to Pro: Studio at $2000 to $8000 or so
  • Pro to MAX Power/Flexibility/Special tech needs via cards Pro: Pro at- guessing- $6000 to $Infinity - 1. 😉
Whether a Silicon Mac Pro will have expandability/flexibility like the current Intel Pro is to be determined. If so, that alone very cleanly differentiates it from a more powerful Studio config. If you need a third-party card in a Mac, it would be the ONLY option (if Silicon version comes with that option).

Primary issue with confusion is mostly driven by some Macs have transitioned and some are still to transition. So there are temporary "holes" easily filled, very likely THIS year... probably in the next 3-6 months. If one doesn't need to see something at every possible price point, it seems minimal Mini to loaded Studio probably covers nearly all (but the most extreme or speciality needs) bases right now.
 
Last edited:

BotchQue

macrumors regular
Dec 22, 2019
179
175
I think if you look at a fully spec'd-out M1 Mac mini compared to the entry level Studio, there isn't really much of a middle ground to fill. Someone's needs would have to be pretty niche and specific to fall between those two.
Yup. I did that comparison two days ago (plus the addition of a CalDigit hub) and when I got within a few hundred dollars of the Studio, went ahead and ordered that.
 

jasnw

macrumors 6502a
Nov 15, 2013
946
996
Seattle Area (NOT! Microsoft)
I've been looking at this very question, but the answer I get is I want something Apple doesn't make, and may never make. That's something between the M1 Mini and the M1 Max Studio. Perhaps a Mini with an M1 Max? I don't really see why the M1 Max can be in a laptop but needs to be in a Studio-like enclosure for a desktop. That $1300 jump between Mini and Studio bothers me.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.