Apple Mac Studio 2023 (M2 Max) review: All the computing power a creative needs

We may earn income from products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more

I’ve been impressed with nearly every machine Apple has put its proprietary chips into. The MacBook Pro is awesome. The MacBook Air is probably the best laptop for most people right now. And I also really liked the first iteration of the Mac Studio with the M1 Max chip inside. Now, Apple has upgraded the M2-series silicon Mac Studio, including the M2 Max (which I’m reviewing here) and the even more powerful M2 Ultra (which is probably overkill for all but the most serious users). While the M2 Max isn’t a revolutionary leap over the M1 flavor (as the M1 of Intel Macs was), the new generation provides a very noticeable speedup, plus some welcome features for advanced users.


  • The chassis has remained the same, but the computer now switches to the M2 Max and M2 Ultra series chips.
  • The base M2 Max model starts at $1,999 with a 12-core CPU, 30-core GPU, 32GB unified memory, and 512GB storage.
  • M2 Ultra models start at $3,999 with a 24-core CPU, 60-core GPU, 64GB unified memory, and 1TB onboard storage.
  • M2 Max models support up to five high-resolution displays simultaneously.
  • Apple promises a 1.8x CPU performance improvement over the M1 Max and 3.8x GPU performance improvements.


  • The design is still great
  • Super silent
  • Noticeably faster than the previous model in every task
  • Solid set of ports for a small computer


  • Costly
  • Takes Truly expensive as it adds to the specs

Verdict: The second Mac Studio provides a solid upgrade over its still worthy predecessor and is a huge leap from the older Intel Macsso, if you’re still on one of those then now is a great time to upgrade.

The Mac Studio 2023 (M2 Max) build.

Our review unit has an M2 Max chip inside with 12 CPU cores, 38 GPU cores, 64GB of shared memory, and 4TB of onboard storage. This configuration is a step up from the $1,999 base model in terms of chips, which adds $200. Extra shared memory (base model offers 32GB) adds $400. And upgrade to 4TB of storage adds a pretty gnarly $1,200. The base model offers just 512GB of built-in storage. And while many creative professionals rely heavily on super-fast external storage, I think 1TB is the basis for a work computer at this point.

The performance of Mac Studio 2023 (M2 Max).

I’ve been using Mac Studio as my primary computer for most of the week at the time of this review. This includes heavy photo editing with large raw files, 4K video editing, and lots of browser tabs. As you might expect, Mac Studio handles everyday computing tasks very easily. The windows open quickly. The window change takes place without delay. Tons of tabs also don’t seem to tax the machine too seriously. I’ve noticed that the machine is essentially silent at all times, even when I’m doing something that puts a heavy load on the hardware. This has been the boast of Mac Studios since it debuted, but it’s still impressive for the little box to churn out 4K video edits without taking a look.

You bring

The port layout should look familiar from the first Mac Studio. Stan Horaczek

The rear of the machine features four Thunderbolt USB-C ports, an Ethernet port, the power connector, two USB-A ports, one HDMI, and a headphone jack. The front of the machine rocks another pair of USB-C ports and an SDXC card reader. In addition to the physical ports, the new Mac Studio now features Bluetooth 5.3 and WiFi 6E connectivity.

It’s a really solid arsenal of connectors for such a small machine. The ports on the front are often useful, and I’m a big fan of the SDXC card slot. As more high-end cameras move to CFExpress cards, however, it may start to look outdated depending on the upgrade path of your camera equipment.

While this doesn’t really affect how the computer works or what you can do with it, the Mac Studio still comes with one of the best looking power cords I’ve ever seen. It is wrapped in fabric and nicely rounded on the edges. This is the kind of thing you like to see when you’re spending big bucks on a car.

Photo editing on Mac Studio M2 Max

You can see single-core CPU performance (left) and multi-core CPU performance (right). Cinebench

This isn’t a benchmarking site, so we won’t bombard you with a bunch of inscrutable graphs and test results. I ran Mac Studio through Cinebench and it exceeded 14,000 in the multi-core CPU test. This easily beats the previous M1-series Mac Studio that I tested last year, which scored a 12,000. The new M2 Max machine finished single-core testing in the mid-1700s.

The real-world practice tests were more informative for me. I uploaded a batch of about 5,000 45 megapixel Canon R5 raw files into Adobe Lightroom Classic. I used the arrow key to move quickly through the images, marking the ones I wanted to edit and turn in. My M1 Pro powered MacBook Pro (which I absolutely adore) moves noticeably slower than the Mac Studio. It’s not surprising, but it quickly spoiled me. It’s easy to forget how many fractions of a second add up when dealing with thousands of images.

When it comes to exporting full-resolution jpegs from raw files, the Mac Studio M2 Max got the job done about twice as fast as my MacBook Pro M1 Pro. That speed varies, of course, depending on what else is in execution and the type of resizing/refinement necessary for the images. But it’s noticeably faster, and that’s a good thing.


You may have seen wild videos of Photoshop’s new AI-powered content-aware fill system. Use generative AI to add, edit or retouch photos in truly impressive ways. It can feel a bit like magic when it works right. It comes from someone who once made a living as a photo retoucher.

While AI-powered fill is fun, it’s also very resource intensive. While the Mac Studio wasn’t twice as fast as my M1 MacBook Pro, it wasn’t far off. The progress bar on Mac Studio moves seamlessly across the screen as Photoshop extends the background or inserts a random astronaut into an image. This performance boost likely comes in part from Mac Studios’ improved machine learning hardware, which has increased capabilities over the previous generation.

I’ve noticed similar, though less pronounced, speed increases when it comes to other AI-powered image editing processes. Lightroom Classics’ Denoise feature is a good example. This AI-powered feature extracts digital noise (some people mistakenly refer to it as grain) from images without making things fuzzy or ruining the fine details within the image. This process typically takes about 30 seconds per image if you don’t make a lot of strength adjustments. The Mac Studio did it in about 20 seconds. If you’re running this function on a lot of images, this is a big time saver.

Video editing

I typically use an external SSD for editing because it keeps the internal drives clean. Stan Horaczek

While I have a long history of professional photo editing, my video skills aren’t quite as polished. However, I regularly edit 4K video in Final Cut Pro from my Canon R5, iPhone 14 Pro Max, and any number of other cameras I might be reviewing for at the time.

Final Cut Pro has an advantage in fast editing because it was made by Apple and specifically optimized to work great on the company’s proprietary chips. While I have no issues with my M1 Pro MBP and 4K editing, I’ve gotten used to a certain pace of editing that I know won’t block things or cause a crash. With the M2 Max, I can increase that pace substantially. Scrolling through previews, adding transitions, and rendering scenes all move noticeably faster here. Again, this isn’t surprising, but it’s worth noting that Apple has built its own high performance processes.

The Mac Studio M1 Max versus the Mac Studio M2 Max

The transition from M1 chips to M2 hardware is a generational shift. It’s not the same massive revolution you’d experience making the leap from an Intel-based Mac, but it will provide a dramatic speedup, even on a machine barely a year old. If your Mac Studio M1 series keeps up with your current workflow, there’s probably no rush to upgrade. If you’re still using an Intel Mac, you’re really missing out and probably wasting a lot of time waiting for the progress bars to move.

Mac Studio M2 Max versus Mac Studio M2 Ultra

While the Studio M2 Max is a beast, Apple’s lineup includes an even more monstrous setup in the form of the M2 Ultra. It’s the company’s most powerful chip, available only in Mac Studio and the recently announced Mac Pro. If you need sheer horsepower, the Ultra is your go-to, though the base model will start at twice the M2 Maxs $1,999 plan. But make sure you really need all that power. The Mac Studio M2 Ultra can drive up to eight high-resolution monitors. As a gear writer, I have a lot of monitors around here, but I don’t even use four at a time. It’s always tempting to get the best thing you can afford, but it might be more power than you need and more money than you need to spend.

So which Mac Studio M2 Max should you buy?

Upgrading from a 30-core GPU to a 38-core model will only cost you an extra $200 (although this upgrade is only available if you buy directly from Apple). This is a worthwhile investment. The base model comes with 32GB of unified storage, which is decent. However, we always recommend splurging on RAM (or, in this case, Apple’s equivalent) if possible because it makes a tangible difference in performance. And while $200 seems like a steep price to go from 512GB of internal storage to just 1TB, I still think it’s a worthy upgrade. I wouldn’t go any further, though. All you need is a fast external solid-state drive to connect via USB-C.

Considering all the variables, the Mac Studio M2 Max is a fantastic computer, especially if you’re doing creative work or other resource-intensive projects. It sports photo editing programs, chews high-resolution video with ease, and supports all the latest wireless technologies for fast communication. It’s not cheap and can get really expensive fast if you start making upgrades, but be smart about your purchase. If you need the firepower, spend the money and spend less time staring at slow progress bars. Or, if you’ve got a lot of money and you just want a really sleek, fast, and sophisticated desktop, the Mac Studio M2 Max is absolutely perfect.

#Apple #Mac #Studio #Max #review #computing #power #creative

Leave a Comment