Thanks to the M1 chip, we’re finally living in a world where no Mac user has to suffer because of their budget.
Every Mac, from the base-level M1 to the hold-onto-your-trousers maxed-out M1 Ultra will deliver, big time, for its intended use. The only way you can screw this up is if you’re a true power user who doesn’t reach for the spec you know you need.
I see this all of the time in the comments section of my YouTube videos. “I’m unsure about whether or not to go with the 16GB M1 chip,” they’ll say. “I undertake lots of video editing work and use Photoshop regularly. I’m worried that the 8GB version won’t be enough.”
My response is always the same: spend as much as you can afford to avoid any form of buyer’s remorse. Then, enjoy the machine that arrives – because it’ll exceed your expectations, regardless.
But what if you’re saddled with the choice of a MacBook Pro or the new Mac Studio? Let me help you make that decision with five super-simple questions.
Question 1: What is your budget?
This might be where your conundrum started, because the base-level 14-inch MacBook Pro and the base level Mac Studio share the same price – $1,999 (unless you’re in the UK, where the former starts at £1,899, for some unfathomable reason).
If you spec either of these Macs up, you can spend well beyond $6,000.
On that basis, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we really are playing in the same ballpark with these machines. But there’s one crucial difference: the MacBook Pro comes complete with a display, keyboard, and trackpad. The Mac Studio comes with… a power cable.
This immediately changes the outlook somewhat and makes question 4 absolutely unavoidable.
But, first, set yourself a budget that you’re comfortable with. Write it down, make peace with that number, and move on to the next question.
Question 2: Do you need shed loads of multi-core performance?
If there’s one consistent theme among the Mac Studio coverage on YouTube – including my own – it’s the conclusion that very few people need the universe-bending power of the M1 Ultra chip.
This is the first thing you’ll need to think about, though. Because you might sit within that camp. For instance, if you want to use your Mac to edit multiple streams of 8K video, or regularly push the boundaries of audio production, and if every single second counts during your production process, then the M1 Ultra is probably for you.
If that’s the case, the Mac Studio is your only option. But, trust me – you sit within such a small category of users. Indeed, I would guess that most people reading this buying guide will know, deep down, that they do not need the power offered by the M1 Ultra.
So, I’m going to assume that you’ve stopped reading if you’re currently redesigning the universe.
If you’re still reading, let’s crack on.
Question 3: How mobile are you?
I noted recently that the 16-inch MacBook Pro is a questionable daily carry due to its rucksack-bending size and occasionally irritating heft. By comparison, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is wonderfully portable. It slots perfectly onto virtually any desk and feels very satisfying when slung beneath your arm.
The Mac Studio isn’t portable. Well, forgive me – you can move it around pretty easily thanks to its minuscule footprint, but you’re probably not going to take it with you to the local coffee shop.
I purchased my 16-inch MacBook Pro before the Mac Studio was announced, but if I was buying a Mac now, I’d still opt for the former. The ability to edit videos either at my studio or on the dining room table with the same Mac is absolutely essential for me.
Could you live with a powerful Mac in a fixed position? Or do you need it to be more mobile?
Question 4: How much do you want a retina screen?
As noted earlier, the Mac Studio isn’t exactly adorned with extras. In order to actually use it, you’ll need a keyboard, a mouse or trackpad, and a display.
The peripherals shouldn’t halt your decision-making process too much. Whether you want Apple’s overpriced ‘magic’ devices, or prefer to shop third-party, there are options for every budget.
But the display is a different matter.
If you’re used to a retina display – be it on an iMac, MacBook, iPad, or iPhone – and want one on your new Mac, you have two options:
- buy the MacBook Pro and bask in the glory of its Liquid Retina XDR ProMotion display; or
- get yourself a Mac Studio and a Studio Display.
Just bear in mind that the latter option will add $1,599 to your bill.
The Studio Display has garnered much derision since its release in March. But if you want a big display that features a 5K resolution and super sharp pixel density that isn’t the Pro Display XDR, there is literally no other option. It holds the keys – and Apple knows that’s the case.
Trust me – if you go for the Mac Studio and opt for a 4K monitor, it won’t look as good as the retina displays you’re used to. And that might hurt a bit.
So, we’re back to the budget question. If you need or want a Retina display, can you stomach adding such a costly extra to the price of your Mac Studio? Or does the MacBook Pro represent better value?
Only you can answer that.
Question 5: Should you be looking at an alternative?
It bears repeating what I said at the start of this buying guide: every Mac, from the base-level M1 to the hold-onto-your-trousers maxed-out M1 Ultra will deliver, big time, for its intended use.
Apple silicon has democratised computing power if you’re a Mac user. If I didn’t have my M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro, I could still happily edit my 4K YouTube videos on the M1 Mac mini. I could even do so on the base-spec M1 MacBook Air if I had no other choice.
I know you have your sights set on the MacBook Pro or Mac Studio, but there’s a chance you could save yourself a huge amount of cash by opting for either the Mac mini, 24-inch iMac, or MacBook Air.
So, before you commit to that big purchase, check out my other guides, below:
If I’ve done my job properly, you should now have a decent idea about whether or not you need a notebook or desktop Mac.
With that settling in your mind, it’s time to return to the budget you wrote down earlier and put it to work. Remember – spec up your new Mac to a level at which you feel comfortable, and commit to that ‘buy now’ button. Do that, and you’ll avoid any form of buyer’s remorse, whatever arrives come delivery day.
Enjoy your new Mac!
Mac Studio image courtesy of Pulse8 Media