Apple may have once again struck gold with the release of the Mac Studio – a shockingly tiny machine for creatives that may beat out the much larger and more expensive Mac Pro from just a few years ago. Equipped with Apple’s latest M1 series chips it is promising huge gains for creative workflows like video editing.
Can that new Apple Silicon in the base Mac Studio stand up against a desktop PC that costs three times as much? That’s what Elevated Systems aims to find out as it pits the cheapest Mac Studio with M1 Max up against a $6,000 PC in real-world editing tests.
It is interesting to note that they opted for the most affordable Mac Studio. This is the one that sports the same M1 Max chip as the latest MacBook Pros. The full specs are:
- M1 Max w/ 10-Core CPU
- 24-Core GPU
- 32GB Unified Memory
- 312GB SSD
There is plenty of room to upgrade here with the M1 Ultra being available and up to four times as much RAM.
They are mainly a Resolve user so that is where the tests will begin. It is a nice example as Blackmagic has optimized the software for the M1 chips. In the project there are a few clip types, including 6K 30p Blackmagic RAW 8:1, 4K 30p ProRes 422 HQ, and then a mix of ProRes, HEVC, and H.264. No optimized media or proxies here. The timeline is set to UHD 4K at 30p.
Initial tests were not great. Starting off on the cut page with the Speed Editor he encountered a lot of freezing and hang ups. This is how he normally edits on his PC so it was frustrating. The suspicion was the external SSD. Changing to a Samsung T7 or the internal SSD it seemed to work well though.
After putting down a basic timeline it was time to get into the heavier work. Moving to the Fusion tab there was some weird behavior. Using some trackers it ended up locking up Resolve a few times. Manual keyframing was the solution. The PC handled all this just fine.
Interestingly, on another Fusion clip everything worked well. It’s a bit weird and likely the result of optimizations for the M1 chip not being perfect just yet.
Next was doing some basic audio work and then some color grading. He uses LUT and a few other nodes to refine the color. Then he popped on a noise reduction node to put a heavier load on the system. It still played back though it did get a little slowed down. This was resolved by dropping down to half resolution on playback.
Time to render. Using H.265/HEVC is a practical and difficult rendering option for many PCs. The Mac Studio froze up at 1%. Restarting everything and then starting up again it worked just fine but took 42 minutes. Moving the same project to the PC he actually got a failure on the export. It took a few attempts and re-rendering of some footage but it did work. And… it was about 5 minutes slower than the Mac.
Graphics-heavy rendering puts a lot of load on the GPU and this is where the Mac Studio surprises. It is doing work with the M1 Max. The main differentiator is the regular editing process. That’s where you spend most of your time and that being smoother is going to be more important.
Everyday editing was a better experience on the Mac Studio. DaVinci Resolve is better on Mac and things like Fusion were a lot better.
Moving over to Premiere Pro with a similar project the performance was very good. Everything ran well. The render took around 25 minutes for a similar H.265 export. Moving to the PC once again the render took 36 minutes. That’s a notable improvement. The Mac Studio just did better all around.
How about 8K?
No issues on a 4K timeline at half resolution even with a slight grade applied. Even an 8K resolution, though at a quarter resolution, played back just fine. This may not be a workflow needed today, but 8K could be a little more common in the coming years. If you are worried about future proofing this is an interesting test.
If you need a decent machine today the Mac Studio, even the base model, is going to be an amazing pick. There is some room for upgrading for some extra cash though if you are looking for some more power or to get more life out of the machine.
What do you think about these tests?
[source: Elevated Systems]
- Apple Mac Studio (B&H)
- Apple Mac Pro (B&H)
- Apple 16” MacBook Pro (B&H)
- Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Studio (B&H, Amazon)
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