Mac Studio vs. Mac Pro: Which should you buy?

Apple Mac Studio
Apple Mac Studio (Image credit: Apple)

There will almost certainly come a time when the Mac Pro is once again Apple's most powerful Mac on the market. That time isn't now, however. Instead, the Mac Studio, the newest Mac, is currently the top dog even though the Mac Pro still has plenty going for it as Apple's final Intel-based computer. So it's time to take a look at the Mac Studio vs. Mac Pro and see which one is the choice for you.

Mac Studio vs. Mac Pro: Breaking down the specs

Time has not been kind to the Mac Pro, which hasn't received an update in over three years. That upgrade is coming. However, until then, carefully examine the specs of the Mac Studio and see if it's the right choice for you and your organization. If it's not, wait until the end of the year, when Apple will most likely drop a new Mac Pro.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Mac Studio (2022)Mac Pro (2019)
CostFrom $1,999From $5,999
ProcessorApple M1 Max
Apple M1 Ultra
Intel Xeon W processor
CPUUp to 20-coreUp to 28-core
GPUUp to 64-coreAMD Radeon Pro W6800X Duo GPU
MemoryUp to 128GB unifedUp to 1.5TB
StorageUp to 8TBUp to 8TB
PortsFour Thunderbolt 4 ports (M1 Max)
Six Thunderbolt 4 ports (M1 Ultra)
Two USB-A ports (M1 Max and M1 Ultra)
Two USB-C ports (M1 Max)
Up to 12 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports depending on configuration selected
Two USB 3 ports
Display supportSupport for up to four Pro Display XDRs and one 4K displayUp to 12 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports depending on the configuration selected
Two USB 3 ports
HDMI supportYesNo
Ethernet10Gb EthernetDual 10Gb Ethernet
Other slotsSDXC card slot (UHS-II)Eight PCI Express expansion slots (open slot availability depends on the configuration selected)
Keyboard/MouseNoYes
Wi-Fi802.11ax Wi-Fi 6802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth5.05.0

Once you get past the "do I want Apple silicon or Intel?" part of your decision-making, you must consider the price. Both masterpieces are expensive, but the Mac Pro is even more so. The most costly Mac Studio will run you about $8,000, while a fully-maxed Mac Pro will set you back ... $20,000. This price difference doesn't make much sense when you consider the least expensive M1 Ultra Mac Studio is $4,000 and that M1 Ultra is much more powerful than the older Intel-based Xeon processor and AMD Radeon Pro GPU that's found on the Mac Pro.

Mac Studio vs. Mac Pro: Performance and design

Mac Studio Lifestyle

Mac Studio Lifestyle (Image credit: Apple)

There are lots of differences between the two computers on the design side. The Mac Pro comes as a tower or rack and weighs at least 39 pounds. The larger size allows the Mac Pro to offer expansion with MPX modules, as needed. By contrast, the Mac Studio looks a lot like two Mac minis stacked on top of each other and is made to sit somewhat discretely on a desktop. It weighs just 5.9 pounds (M1 Max) or 7.9 pounds (M1 Ultra).

Although no one outside of Apple has tested the Mac Studio at the time of writing, we already know it will blow away the Mac Pro in terms of performance. Apple has already told us this. At its March Peek Performance event, the company said the Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra is up to 60% faster than a Mac Pro with a 28-core Intel Xeon CPU. Elsewhere, the Mac Studio is 5.6 times faster when working with transcoding video and up to 80% faster than the fastest Mac graphic card available for the Mac Pro.

You might think the Mac Pro's larger footprint would mean more ports, but that isn't the case. It offers two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two for USB 3.0, and two 10GB Ethernet ports. The Mac Studio offers four Thunderbolt 4 ports alongside two for USB-A and one 10GB Ethernet. The newer machine also includes ports on its front; two Thunderbolt 4 ports with the M1 Ultra model and two USB-C ports on the one with M1 Max. There are no ports located on the front of the Mac Pro.

On the plus side, the Mac Pro does come with a keyboard and mouse, while the Mac Studio does not.

Mac Studio vs. Mac Pro: Ability to upgrade post-purchase

With its MPX modules system, the Mac Pro is upgradeable as your needs expand. Unfortunately, upgrade options primarily focus on GPUs and graphics cards, not CPUs. The Mac Studio, like nearly every other modern Mac, offers no upgrade path once you purchase the machine. This is certainly a pain, but somewhat less so when you consider some MPX modules cost more than a new Mac Studio.

Mac Studio vs. Mac Pro: Which should you buy?

2019 Mac Pro

2019 Mac Pro (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

Even with its ability to expand, the Mac Pro in its current version doesn't come recommended since it's about to be replaced with a new model made with Apple silicon. So you have two choices right now in the Mac Studio vs. Mac Pro debate. You can build a Mac Studio that matches your needs and budget constraints or hold on to your wallet and wait until the next Mac Pro.

Have we been clear enough in our opinion not to buy the current Mac Pro?