Mac Mini vs. Mac Studio Buyer's Guide

The Mac Studio debuted in 2022 as Apple's most powerful custom silicon standalone desktop computer. Now, with the launch of the latest Mac mini models, the ‌Mac Studio‌ faces a formidable competitor that offers "Pro" capabilities at a substantially lower price point.

mac studio vs mac mini
The ‌Mac Studio‌ starts at $1,999, dwarfing the $599 starting price of the M2 ‌Mac mini‌ and even the $1,299 starting price of the ‌M2‌ Pro ‌Mac mini‌, so do you need the highest-end Apple silicon Mac, or is the humble ‌Mac mini‌ sufficient for your needs? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two desktop Macs is best for you.

Comparing the Mac Mini and the Mac Studio

The ‌Mac mini‌ and the ‌Mac Studio‌ share some fundamental features, including a familiar, boxy silver aluminum design, Apple silicon chipsets, and two USB-A ports. That being said, the two machines have much more in contrast than they do in common, including different chip options, memory capacities, ports, and external display support capabilities.

Key Differences


Mac mini

  • Height of 1.41 inches (3.58 cm)
  • ‌M2‌ chip or ‌M2‌ Pro chip
  • Up to 12-core CPU
  • Up to 19-core GPU
  • Media engine with video decode engine, video encode engines, and ProRes encode and decode engine
  • Up to 200GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Up to 32GB unified memory
  • Support for up to two displays (‌M2‌) or three displays (‌M2‌ Pro)
  • HDMI 2.1 port
  • Up to four Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet or 10Gb Ethernet port
  • Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Starts at $699 for ‌M2‌ model or $1,299 for ‌M2‌ Pro model


Mac Studio

  • Height of 3.7 inches (9.5 cm)
  • M1 Max chip or M1 Ultra chip
  • Up to 20-core CPU
  • Up to 64-core GPU
  • Media engine with two video decode engines, up to four video encode engines, and up to four ProRes encode and decode engines
  • Up to 800GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Up to 128GB unified memory
  • Support for up to four Pro Display XDRs and one 4K display
  • HDMI 2.0 port
  • Six Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • SDXC card slot (UHS-II)
  • 10Gb Ethernet port
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)

  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Starts at $1,999 for ‌M1 Max‌ model or $3,999 for ‌M1 Ultra‌ model

Desktop Apple Silicon Chips Compared

In single-core tasks, the ‌M2‌ and ‌M2‌ Pro ‌Mac mini‌ models perform distinctly better than either of the ‌Mac Studio‌ configurations. In multi-core, the picture is less clear-cut. The ‌M2‌ ‌Mac mini‌ is less powerful than either of the ‌Mac Studio‌ models, but the ‌M2‌ Pro ‌Mac mini‌ is more powerful than the ‌M1 Max‌ ‌Mac Studio‌. The ‌M1 Ultra‌ ‌Mac Studio‌ remains the most powerful in multi-core tasks. In GPU tasks, the chips scale as one would expect, with progressively better performance through the ‌M2‌, ‌M2‌ Pro, ‌M1 Max‌, and ‌M1 Ultra‌. As such, users who need maximum GPU power should still buy the ‌Mac Studio‌ over the ‌Mac mini‌.

See the approximate Geekbench 5 scores for each ‌Mac mini‌ and ‌Mac Studio‌ below, including the scores for the now-discontinued M1 ‌Mac mini‌ for reference:


Single-Core Scores

  • ‌M1‌: ~1,700
  • ‌M2‌: ~2,000
  • ‌M2‌ Pro: ~2,000
  • ‌M1 Max‌: ~1,750
  • ‌M1 Ultra‌: ~1,750

Metal GPU Scores

  • ‌M1‌: ~22,500
  • ‌M2‌: ~30,500
  • ‌M2‌ Pro: ~52,700
  • ‌M1 Max‌: ~64,700
  • ‌M1 Ultra‌: ~94,500


Multi-Core Scores

  • ‌M1‌: ~7,500
  • ‌M2‌: ~9,000
  • ‌M2‌ Pro: ~15,000
  • ‌M1 Max‌: ~12,350
  • ‌M1 Ultra‌: ~23,350

Unless you plan on buying the ‌M1 Ultra‌ ‌Mac Studio‌ with a focus on multi-core and GPU performance, the ‌M2‌ Pro ‌Mac mini‌ should be the best all-round choice in terms of performance for most users.

Memory

If you need more than 32GB of memory, the ‌Mac Studio‌ can provide greater quantities up to 128GB. Likewise, the ‌Mac mini‌'s memory bandwidth maxes out at 200GB/s memory bandwidth. The ‌Mac Studio‌, on the other hand, offers up to 400GB/s or 800GB/s memory bandwidth. As such, if you need extreme quantities of memory and a large amount of memory bandwidth for professional tasks, only the ‌Mac Studio‌ can meet these requirements. It is still worth noting that the ‌M2‌ Pro ‌Mac mini‌'s 32GB memory option, along with 200GB/s memory bandwidth, should be more than enough for most users.

Ports and External Display Support

The ‌Mac Studio‌ offers a more versatile selection of ports, with two extra Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports and a SDXC card slot compared to the ‌M2‌ Pro ‌Mac mini‌, which could be an important consideration for users with a lot of peripherals.

The ‌Mac mini‌ has an HDMI 2.1 port, meaning that it will be better for a small number of users who work with 8K and high refresh-rate external displays, but otherwise the ‌Mac Studio‌ offers better external display support.

Final Thoughts

To some extent, purchasing decisions should be driven by budget, but it is worth bearing in mind that any savings on the desktop computer itself can be put toward a good external display such as Apple's Studio Display, which starts from $1,599. For example, an ‌M2‌ Pro ‌Mac mini‌ paired with a Studio Display comes to $2,898, which is just $899 more than a lone base model ‌Mac Studio‌ and $1,101 less than the ‌M1 Ultra‌ ‌Mac Studio‌ with no display.


Buy Mac Mini if...

  • You need a high-level of performance and versatility at a comparatively low price
  • You need maximum single-core CPU performance
  • You need maximum multi-core CPU performance and cannot afford the ‌M1 Ultra‌ ‌Mac Studio‌
  • You need HDMI 2.1 and support for 8K external displays
  • You need Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) or Bluetooth 5.3


Buy Mac Studio if...

  • You need maximum multi-core CPU performance and can afford the ‌M1 Ultra‌ model
  • You need maximum GPU performance
  • You need amounts of memory over 32GB and high memory bandwidth
  • You need more than four Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • You need support for more than three external displays
  • You need a built-in SDXC card slot (UHS-II)

You should only consider the ‌Mac Studio‌ if you have a professional workflow that can leverage the extreme power of ‌M1 Ultra‌, as well as its additional ports and memory options. If you need the ‌Mac Studio‌, you will likely know that you are looking for a highly powerful machine that is capable of supporting specific intense workflows. Most customers should choose the ‌M2‌ Pro ‌Mac mini‌ over the ‌M1 Max‌ ‌Mac Studio‌, saving $700 when looking at the base models. There will likely still be substantial savings when it comes to custom configurations.

Related Roundups: Mac mini, Mac Studio
Related Forums: Mac mini, Mac Studio

Top Rated Comments

temende Avatar
12 months ago
If you need to read a buyer's guide to decide if you need the power of the Mac Studio, you probably don't need the power of the Mac Studio.
Score: 64 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HazardousT Avatar
12 months ago

I'd argue Mac Studio is the middle ground choice.

Mac mini is the lower ground (I hate calling it "low end" because it can handle serious workloads in certain areas) and Mac Pro is the "no limits" high ground.
Mac Studio + Display is $3500 with the minimum configuration. To me that's not a middle ground
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
steve217 Avatar
12 months ago
I like the option of being able to devote more to the monitor than the CPU. The monitor to me is a much longer term acquisition. Swapping out a lower model CPU (Mini or low-end Studio) and upgrading that more frequently makes a better fiscal strategy.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CWallace Avatar
12 months ago

I need to say that I am confused now. Nothing negative, just not very clear. We now have Mac Mini, Mac Studio and Mac Pro. How to really understand it?
Mac mini is capable of handling less-demanding workloads.
Mac Studio is a mid-ranged system that is capable of handling demanding workloads.
Mac Pro is a "no limits" system, capable of handling the most demanding workloads.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ixxx69 Avatar
12 months ago

Mac mini is capable of handling less-demanding workloads.
Mac Studio is a mid-ranged system that is capable of handling demanding workloads.
Mac Pro is a "no limits" system, capable of handling the most demanding workloads.
Yeah, really. It's not that complicated. Folks just want to be confused so they have something to complain about.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jasnw Avatar
12 months ago
My own metric is that I've been able to purchase the computer I need for $2,000 +/- $500, including monitor and everything else, for the past several decades. Now Apple is breaking this curve, and not in a good way.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 16

Apple Releases iOS 16.3 With Security Keys for Apple ID, New HomePod Support, Bug Fixes and More

Monday January 23, 2023 10:10 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 16.3, the third major update to the iOS 16 operating system that first came out in September. iOS 16.3 comes over a month after the launch of iOS 16.2, an update that added the Freeform app, Apple Music Sing, Advanced Data Protection, and more. iOS 16‌.3 can be downloaded on eligible iPhones and iPads over-the-air by going to Settings > General > Software Update....
iOS 16

iOS 16.3 for iPhone Launching Next Week With These 4 New Features

Friday January 20, 2023 11:43 am PST by
In a recent press release, Apple confirmed that iOS 16.3 will be released to the public next week. The software update will be available for the iPhone 8 and newer and includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped bigger features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for Apple ID accounts, worldwide ...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Expected Later This Year With These 7 Exclusive Features

Tuesday January 24, 2023 4:53 pm PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are expected to be announced in September as usual. Already, rumors suggest the devices will have at least seven exclusive features not available on the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. An overview of the seven features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17...
watchOS 9 Feature

Apple Releases watchOS 9.3 With New Watch Face, Bug Fixes

Monday January 23, 2023 10:06 am PST by
Apple today released watchOS 9.3, the third major update to the watchOS 9 operating system that first launched in September. watchOS 9.3 comes over a month after watchOS 9.2, an update that added new Workout functionality and Crash Detection optimizations. watchOS 9.3 can be downloaded for free through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone by opening it up and going to General > Software Update. ...
iPhone trade in

Apple Adjusts Trade-In Values for iPhones, Macs, and More

Wednesday January 25, 2023 9:40 am PST by
After announcing new Mac and HomePod models last week, Apple adjusted its trade-in values for select devices in the United States. iPhone trade-in values decreased by up to $80, and most Android smartphones also went down. Mac trade-in values remained unchanged or increased by up to $40 depending on the model, while some Apple Watch models increased in value and others decreased. Trade-in...
Ventura Macs Feature Blue

Apple Releases macOS Ventura 13.2

Monday January 23, 2023 10:09 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Ventura 13.2, the second major update to the macOS Ventura operating system initially released in October. macOS Ventura 13.2 comes more than a month after macOS Ventura 13.1, an update that added the Freeform app and other changes. The ‌macOS Ventura‌ 13.2 update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System...
Mac mini M2 2023

New 256GB Mac Mini and 512GB MacBook Pro Have Slower SSD Speeds Than Previous Models

Tuesday January 24, 2023 1:11 pm PST by
While the new Mac mini with the M2 chip has a lower $599 starting price, the base model with 256GB of storage has slower SSD read and write speeds compared to the previous-generation model with the M1 chip and 256GB of storage. A teardown of the new Mac mini shared by YouTube channel Brandon Geekabit reveals that the 256GB model is equipped with only a single 256GB storage chip, while the...
apple tv 4k red image

Apple Releases tvOS 16.3

Tuesday January 24, 2023 10:10 am PST by
Apple today released tvOS 16.3, the third major point update to the tvOS 16 operating system that originally came out in September. Available for the Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD, tvOS 16.3 comes six weeks after tvOS 16.2, an update that added Apple Music Sing. The tvOS 16.3 update can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the ‌‌‌‌Apple TV‌‌‌‌ by going to System > Software...