We all want to treat ourselves to a tech upgrade sometimes, especially during the holidays. With a few new Apple computers being released over the last couple of years, it can be hard to make a decision. Generally, the new Mac Studio is the most expensive, with the iMac and Mac Mini coming in at a lower price.
Since the 27” iMac was discontinued, the Mac Studio essentially fills this gap. And it fills this gap well, especially if you opt for the new and improved M1 Ultra chip. The performance given is unparalleled, but some key differences may influence which computer you go for. Find our full Mac Studio vs iMac comparison below, and see which suits your needs best.
Mac Studio vs iMac: Side-By-Side Comparison
|Mac Studio||iMac (2021)|
|Price||From $1999||From $1299|
|Dimensions||9.5 x 19.7 x 19.7 cm||46.1 x 54.7 x 14.7 cm|
|Weight||2.7 kg (M1 Max), 3.6 kg (M1 Ultra)||4.46 kg, 4.48 kg|
|Colors||Silver||Blue, Green, Pink, Silver, Yellow, Orange, Purple|
|Camera||N/A||1080p FaceTime HD|
|Display||N/A||24” 4.5K Retina display, 4480 x 2520px resolution|
|RAM||32 GB or 64 GB (M1 Max), 64 or 128 GB (M1 Ultra)||8 GB or 16 GB|
|Processor||Apple M1 Max, Apple M1 Ultra||Apple M1|
|GPU||Apple 24-core or 32-core (M1 Max), Apple 48-core or 64-core (M1 Ultra)||Apple 7-core or Apple 8-core|
|Connectivity||4x Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB-A, 2x USB-C (M1 Max), HDMI, Ethernet, headphone jack||2x Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB 4, 2 x USB 3, HDMI, DVI, VGA, Ethernet, headphone jack|
|Storage||512 GB, 1, 2, 4 or 8 TB (M1 Max), 1, 2, 4 or 8 TB (M1 Ultra)||256 or 512 GB, 1 TB (M1 7-core GPU), 256 or 512 GB, 1 or 2 TB (M1 8-core GPU)|
Mac Studio vs iMac: What’s the Difference?
Comparing these two products in terms of their design isn’t the easiest job, since the iMac has a built-in monitor and comes with a keyboard and Magic Mouse. The Mac Studio, on the other hand, is just a desktop computer; all accessories and monitors must be bought separately.
Design-wise, both have the typical sleek and minimalistic look that we’ve come to expect from Apple. It’s easier to make a statement with the iMac, though, since there’s a lovely range of seven vibrant colors to choose from. The Mac Studio is, unfortunately, only available in silver.
- Compact and sleek design
- Wi-Fi wireless connectivity
- 8TB of SSD storage for your apps, games and more
- M1 Max/M1 Ultra chip for ultrafast performance
- Up to 32-core Neural Engine for AML
Those familiar with a Mac Mini will see the similarities present with the Mac Studio. Essentially, it looks like a larger and taller Mac Mini – approximately the size of three Minis on top of each other. The Mac Studio is significantly heavier as well, but still fairly easy to fit into your desk setup – it’s only just over two inches taller than a Mac Mini.
Strangely, the Mac Studio almost looks like it hovers above the surface due to its base, designed to improve airflow and cooling. As expected, the Apple logo is found right on the top, so anyone with a collection of Apple products will find the Studio fits in nicely.
Overall, the weight of the iMac isn’t much heavier than the Studio, especially considering it’s an all-in-one desktop solution. There isn’t too much of a difference compared to older iMac models, as we still see the seamlessly slick design we’ve come to know and love.
Why exactly would you opt for a standalone desktop PC over the convenience of an iMac? Well, the answer lies mostly in the performance. At its best, the Mac Studio comes with the powerful new M1 Ultra chip. With its highest-tier specs, you get a 20-core CPU and a 64-core GPU, which is simply miles ahead of the standard M1 chip.
The M1 that comes with the iMac pales in comparison, having only an 8-core CPU and GPU. While this chip is still very capable, the M1 Ultra’s performance is barely on the same scale. Even the standard M1 Max chip can give up to four times the performance of the standard M1, so this gives some idea of the sheer power present in the M1 Ultra.
Memory-wise, the Mac Studio still takes the lead by a big margin. There are only 16 GB of unified memory possible with the iMac, whereas a huge 128 GB is available with the Mac Studio. There’s also a large difference when it comes to storage – the maximum storage for the Mac Studio is a gigantic 8 TB, four times what is possible with the iMac.
Generally, the iMac is suitable for most uses, but the Mac Studio provides a much better solution for professional creatives. Intensive tasks like video editing and 3D rendering will be much smoother with the Mac Studio. If you’re used to using a Mac Pro, you’ll be impressed with the Mac Studio’s performance and much smaller size.
Essentially, the M1 Ultra chip gives almost double the performance of the most powerful M1 Max chip and is superior to some high-end gaming computers concerning multi-threaded workflows. As expected, a lot of PC games aren’t optimized to run on Macs, so even though gaming performance is excellent, this is a drawback.
As previously mentioned, it’s obvious you’ll need to buy a monitor separately to go with the Mac Studio. A good choice for this would be an Apple Studio Display, which is designed for this use, as the name suggests.
Comparing the 27” Studio Display to the display of the iMac, we can see some differences. Firstly, the Studio Display is larger, and the 5K resolution is better than the iMac’s 4.5K. The peak brightness is also higher by 100 nits, but both displays use the same glare-resistant glass. It is possible to upgrade to a nano-texture glass with the Studio Display, but this will set you back a few hundred dollars.
- SUPERCHARGED BY M1 — M1 delivers exceptional performance for all you do on your iMac desktop. Everyday things like flipping through photos and browsing Safari are faster, and all your...
- FITS PERFECTLY INTO YOUR LIFE — The all-in-one desktop design is strikingly thin and available in seven vibrant colors. And iMac comes with a color-matched Magic Mouse with Magic Keyboard.
- SIMPLY COMPATIBLE — All your go-to apps run lightning fast — including Microsoft 365, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Affinity Photo. You can even run many of your favorite iPhone and iPad apps directly...
- CINEMATIC DISPLAY — The 24-inch 4.5K Retina display features 500 nits of brightness and support for 1 billion colors, so everything from streaming movies to editing photos is sharp, vivid, and...
- CONNECT ALL YOUR ACCESSORIES — iMac features two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, up to two USB 3 ports, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, and a headphone jack.
Other areas where the Studio Display pulls ahead is with its camera. The 12 MP ultra-wide built-in lens is much better than the 1080p FaceTime HD of the iMac. As well as this, you get Center Stage support, keeping you centered during calls. Those with the latest iPhones will likely appreciate this familiar feature.
If you don’t want to shell out even more money, you can easily use the Mac Studio with a cheaper third-party display. But if you’re adamant about beating the performance of the iMac, a Studio Display is your best bet.
An important factor in deciding which computer to go for is always the available ports. Apple managed to pack quite a lot of connectivity into the unassuming Mac Studio. The only real difference the iMac has is the USB 4 ports and DVI and VGA support.
Realistically, you’ll likely use HDMI for most of your video and audio needs, so this may not be a dealbreaker. Both support Ethernet and Thunderbolt 4, which will likely get the most use.
You do get Thunderbolt 4 ports on the front with the M1 Ultra chip, whereas you only get USB-C ports with the M1 Max. You still get some Thunderbolt 4 ports on the back, but if you intend to use many of these, this may be important. Overall, the Mac Studio offers more of these ports, so in most cases will be the winner.
Rather unsurprisingly, the Mac Studio is a pricier beast than the iMac, mostly due to its vast performance improvements. Even the M1 Max version is more expensive than the iMac. The Mac Studio starts at $1999, with an M1 Max chip, 24-core GPU, 32 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. The GPU can be increased to 32 cores for an additional $200.
The iMac, on the other hand, begins at $1299, and this includes a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. So, we can easily see it’s a much more affordable option.
If you want to upgrade the specs of your Mac Studio, it comes at a cost. The first M1 Ultra model comes in at $3999, a massive difference. This will give you 64 GB of RAM and 1 TB SSD; as well as the 48-core GPU.
To upgrade to the highest possible specs, i.e. 128 GB RAM, 60-core GPU, and 8 TB of storage, you’re looking at adding another $4000 to the price. This brings the overall cost to approximately $8000, which is a huge amount and doesn’t include any of the accessories.
Add in a Studio Display, and that increases the cost by around $1600. So, we can see that the cheapest configuration for a 512 GB Mac Studio with a Studio Display is around $3600, whereas a 512 GB iMac comes in at $1699.
This is a lot cheaper, but you’re getting a 24-core GPU with the Mac Studio compared to only 8-core with the iMac. As well as this, you’ll get double the amount of RAM. Overall, with the most affordable specs, you’re still looking at around double the price for a Mac Studio setup with a display included.
Mac Studio vs iMac: 6 Must-Know Facts
- Even the cheapest configuration of the Mac Studio will set you back almost double the price of the iMac, but the performance is much better.
- The iMac is capable of most basic tasks, but for graphics-intensive tasks like 3D rendering and heavy video and image editing, the Mac Studio is vastly superior.
- The iMac is an all-in-one solution, but you’ll have to purchase a keyboard, mouse, and display separately to use the Mac Studio.
- The Mac Studio is small, and approximately three times bigger than a Mac Mini.
- The iMac has a much larger range of available colors than the Mac Studio, which only comes in silver.
- While you get DVI and VGA connectivity with the iMac, you get two more Thunderbolt 4 ports with the Mac Studio.
Mac Studio vs iMac: Which One Is Better?
It really depends on how you use your computer, as well as your budget. Those looking for a budget-friendly and more convenient option for casual use will be more than happy with the iMac.
This is especially true as there’s no need to buy separate accessories. It’s also available in many different colors, so there’s something to suit all aesthetics and office spaces.
Those who like to build their desktop systems more manually, as well as professional creatives looking for peak performance, will largely prefer the Mac Studio. It’s simply on another level performance-wise, and competes well with the best offerings from rivals such as AMD and Intel.
The Mac Studio is arguably more portable as well, as it’s easy to chuck into a backpack if you’re often on the go. Even though it commands an astronomical price, for the excellent specs you’re getting, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
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