What What Will the New Powerful Apple Desktop Mac Do for Photographers?

Apple just held their Peek Performance event. How does the newly announced Apple Hardware compare to the existing lineup and the competition? What does the future hold for creatives using Apple hardware?

As expected, Tim Cook walked out onto the stage at the start of this virtual Apple event, and after the customary "Good Morning," we were treated to some information on new Apple TV+ content followed by two new shades of green for the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro models. Nothing too exciting so far, but Tim Cook is known for leaving the best for last.

Next up after the new iPhone colors were the changes to the iPhone SE and iPad Air models. Both will retain their existing form factor but receive processor updates and 5G connectivity. The iPhone SE is a decent and affordable entry-level iPhone starting at just $429. The iPad Air will also get a faster USB-C port, and an updated front-facing 12-megapixel Ultra Wide camera, which now features Center Stage to intelligently track you during video calls. This is a nice addition that I frequently use when on video calls using my iPad Pro, and the iPad Air will now run on the same M1 chip as the 2021 iPad Pro models. Both of the new devices will look the same as before, with some fresh new color options on the iPad Air.

New Apple Silicon

That's more like it, thank you Apple! After the super-fast and efficient MacBooks Pro, which launched last October, we've been waiting for something with a little more power to match the desktop competition. The M1 Pro and M1 Max processors are exceptionally powerful considering their low power consumption, this makes them perfect for powerful creative laptops such as the new MacBook Pro models, but many commentators have pointed out that these processors are still not as powerful as some new Intel processors or high-end Intel and Nvidia based desktop setups, which use significantly more power.

M1 Ultra

As rumored, Apple introduced us to the new M1 Ultra for future Mac desktops. The M1 Ultra is essentially two M1 Max chips connected using Apple's new Ultra Fusion technology, resulting in a dual die system that acts as a single processor. The custom Apple silicon architecture means that these two M1 Max chips behave as one chip, preserving the benefits of unified memory, Apple's answer to conventional RAM, with a memory bandwidth of 800 GB/s up to 128 GB. The M1 Ultra SOC features a 20-core CPU with 16 high-performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, 64 GPU cores, 4 media engines, plus a 32-core neural engine, and the secure enclave found in the other chips in the M1 family.

Apple claims the M1 Ultra is 90% more power than a similar Intel chip while still using 100 watts less power. We'll have to wait for the independent reviews to find out how these processors perform in benchmarks and real-world use cases, but it could be quite a powerful chip that is still more efficient, cooler, and therefore quieter than the competition.

This could be great news for independent creatives, especially filmmakers, who want more power than the 2021 MacBook Pro models or those who don't care about efficiency and just want the most powerful editing tool available. This could be a great chip for a new pro-level Mac desktop machine that doesn't need to worry about battery life. 

Mac Studio

As expected, there's also a new Mac to make use of the new Apple Silicon. Aimed directly at creatives, Apple has announced the Mac Studio and Studio Display with emphasis put on a performance, connectivity, and modularity. The Mac Studio looks like a taller Mac Mini and will be available with the M1 Max chip found in the late 2021 MacBooks Pro or the new M1 Ultra. The Mac Studio sits at 3.7” high with the same 7" square footprint as the Mac Mini. Interestingly for such an efficient system, around half of the internal space of the unit is dedicated to active cooling with air intakes all around the bottom. Unlike the Mac Mini, there's now an SDXC card reader on the front of the unit and two Thunderbolt ports also on the front of the units, which contain an M1 Ultra chip; these ports are USB-C on M1 Max systems. 

On the back of the Mac Studio are four Thunderbolt ports, a 10 Gb Ethernet port, two USB-A ports for those legacy peripherals, as well as an HDMI port and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

This could be a great addition to creatives who already have well-kitted out studios that don't want to spend upwards of $6,000 per machine on laptops that may never be used unplugged. As good as the mini-LED MacBook Pro displays are, they don't have as much value if the laptop stays plugged into a reference monitor all the time. The new Mac Studio gives the option of all the power and more connectivity, without requiring the consumer to pay for a keyboard, trackpad, and screen that they don't need.

Apple claims that the new Mac Studio with M1 Max is 2.5x faster than the old higher-end Mac Mini with an Intel processor and 50% faster than the current Mac Pro. Apple also claims the Mac Studio with M1 Ultra is 90% faster than the existing Mac Pro with up to 80% more graphics performance than the fastest Mac Pro. The M1 Ultra also allows for up to 128 GB of unified memory. A big advantage to unified memory is that the memory is available to both the CPU and the GPU; this means the M1 Ultra Mac Studio can have up to 128 GB of memory available to the GPU, compared with only 48GB of video RAM available in the highest-end graphics cards available right now. The Mac Studio is also configurable with up to 8 TB internal SSD storage, which I'm sure Apple will put quite the premium price on.

As someone who edits photos on a 14" M1 Pro MacBook Pro, I don't think my needs warrant a computer four times as fast as this one, although I did pay extra to get a model with 32 GB of unified memory. I have no issues with slowdown in Photoshop or Lightroom, even with tens of images or multi-layered projects open. I've also experienced no issues editing 4K footage with multiple codecs and color correction in the same timeline. But I am not a filmmaker shooting 8K ProRes with tight deadlines to meet; those working with multiple huge files that need to be edited and exported with no time to spare will be interested in a new desktop that has at least twice the power of the fastest Apple computer available.

The Mac Pro with M1 Ultra is claimed to be able to run 18 streams of 8K ProRes 422 video, and this will be a huge time saver for any independent videographers who want to save time and edit without proxies.

Apple claims, in addition to better performance than competing systems, the new Mac Studio uses significantly less power use than competitors, up to 1,000 kWh less per year than the comparable Intel-based system. This will certainly be of interest to any studios who are concerned about the increasing cost of energy bills. In the modern world, we could all do with making some financial savings, especially if it can also lower our carbon footprint.

Prices for the Mac Studio with M1 Max start from $1,999, and M1 Ultra models start from $3,999. Those prices are significantly lower than most of the M1 Max MacBook Pro models, meaning this could be a great option for a studio looking to upgrade aging Mac Pro models for something running on custom Apple silicon.

Apple Studio Display

Since Apple discontinued its Apple Cinema Display in 2014, the only Apple-branded display available has been the $,5000 Pro Display XDR, with an optional $1,000 stand, which is hardly a product aimed at the average Mac owner. I was excited to see what a modern Apple consumer display would look like, and I wasn't disappointed. The Studio Display is designed to complement any of the new Mac devices, including the new MacBook Pros and the Mac Studio. Although after this product announcement, I'm still looking forward to seeing what Apple replaces the Pro Display XDR with.

The Studio Display is a 27” monitor with 14.7 million pixels, making it a 5K Retina display with a peak brightness of 600 nits, P3 color gamut, anti-reflective coating, and True Tone. There's also Nano texture glass as an option, this further reduces glare in bright studio environments. The Studio Display features a small bezel and comes on a stand that can tilt up to 30 degrees. Apple also announced a tilt and raise stand, and Vesa mounts are available as optional extras. 

Most interesting is the A13 Bionic processor built into the display. I'd heard rumors on what this processor in the display might be for, with many suggesting it could be used for upscaling content or matching refresh rates. I had hoped it could be used to bring some Apple silicon functionality to older machines by introducing the neural engine in the way an external GPU can be used to boost the graphics performance of a computer. I was impressed to hear that this custom Apple Silicon allows the built-in 12-megapixel Ultra Wide camera in the Studio Display to use Center Stage, just like all the iPad models, but this is a first for a Mac. In the age of endless video calls and virtual meetings, this is a very useful, modern feature. There's also a three-mic array for clear recording and streaming of your voice, as well as a six-speaker sound system, featuring four woofers and two tweeters; this audio system also supports Apple's spatial audio, powered by the A13 chip inside. The Studio Display can also work as a Thunderbolt dock for an Apple MacBook, as the Studio Display has three USB-C ports on the back with a data transfer speed of 10 GB/s. There's also one Thunderbolt 4 port, which can deliver 96 watts of power that can fast-charge the 2021 14” MacBook pro. This Studio Display is starting to look like a very enticing prospect for any Mac users in the market for a new display, especially those who recently purchased a new MacBook Pro, like me.

The Studio Display is available for $1,599, which is a little more than I would like to pay for a consumer monitor, even if it doubles as a Thunderbolt dock for my MacBook. Looks like I'll be spending this week investigating resale values on my current Thunderbolt dock.

The Apple Studio Display doesn't seem anywhere near as targeted at the professional market as the Mac Studio is. It's doesn't appear to be mini-LED, so the contrast ratio, blacks, and peak brightness can't even compete with the MacBook Pro or iPad Pro mini-LED displays. There's still a lot of scope for Apple to release a more professional display to meet the needs of those who have been using the Pro Display XDR for several years and would likely be glad to see a new monitor that isn't as expensive as a fully fledged reference monitor. I imagine this will come when we eventually see the new Apple Silicon Mac Pro.

Both the Mac Studio and Studio Display are available to order today to ship on March 18th.

What Next?

After a quick round-up of the announcements from Tim Cook, we've reached the end of the first Apple event of 2022.

Following a quick summary of the M1-powered machines released so far, Apple cryptically left us with the fact that the Mac Pro is still to be revealed at another time, proving that this super powerful M1 Ultra Mac Studio is just a peek at the power of Apple Silicon. When the M1 processor was first announced in 2020, Tim Cook told us that the transition to Apple Silicon would take two years, which gives Apple another nine months to show us what their processors are truly capable of.

Are you interested in any of the hardware announced today? Do you think the Studio Display is priced fairly for the target audience? Are you excited about what might come next? Let me know in the comments.

Brad Wendes's picture

Brad Wendes is a British photographer and travel lover.
He began photographing parkour and acrobatics in 2010 and has since taken to portraiture and fitness photography.
Brad is a self-confessed geek, Star Wars fan, tech enthusiast, cat lover and recently converted Apple Fanboy.

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What Will the New Powerful Apple Desktop Mac Do for Photographers?
Absolutely nothing

well, it will provide a machine to reliably work with for many years, with a much faster performance for adobe apps like LR and PS than on windows machines. isn't that enough?

I'd have to agree, while the new machines aren't right for everyone, the power usage and performance are very promising for Apple silicon.

I thought the same when I took a shiny new Air Pro M1 but real life is so different than synthetic benchmarks. :(

That's a very good point. As much as I love shiny new toys, I'd never buy anything on manufacturer claimed power. I'm waiting for the independent real world tests, not benchmarks or power on paper

I love my MacBook Air M1. It's nearly one year old already but it hasn't failed me. In comparison, the brand new I Mac M1 I purchased a month ago is okay but at time I have to restart it. Something with the music player seem wrong too, jumps and makes crack sounds when I make clipping path on large CMYK files.

--- "I thought the same when I took a shiny new Air Pro M1"

I don't think they have an "Air Pro". It's either Air or it's Pro. Not both.

It's not really much faster though, is it? Don't drink the marketing koolaid.

I don’t think you put enough internet trolling buzzwords in your comment, should have included a few more.

If it's not affordable then it becomes theoretical and thus irrelevant...

What will it do for us photographers? Ummm, make us broke(r).

Agreed! LOL.
I've been waiting for a replacement for my 2015 27" iMac. I paid $4200 cdn for that maxed out. Now the studio/monitor combo is about $2000 more for entry level, and that's without a keyboard or mouse. Ugh.

You're not wrong there! I went to sleep last night happy that I didn't need any of the new Apple products. I definitely don't "need" them, but I might pick up a Studio Display once the independent reviews are out

I don't need half the crap I have, but I sure want it. LOL

It will do absolutely nothing for me, but, I have a thing for tech and wasting money. I ordered a 64 core version with a 128gb ram and only went with the 1tb drive because I have a petabyte server at home for everything. My windows workstation is also a AMD 5950x with 2x rtx 3090s and 128gb ram, I use 2 x 3090s not for non SLI because that's not a thing anymore really but because I can assign one for multiple rendering tasks and still have another for other stuff. I have also been using Final Cut a lot more these days so I guess that's a good excuse...

Woah, that's a lot of power and a lot of storage! You'll have to let us know how it performs!

Your 2 sole comments on this website are hilarious... I can smell the bullshit through my PC screen, thats truly groundbreaking.

Only thing Apple still has going for it is the operating system. Their tech always looks great on paper but most Gaming laptops will run circles around a powerbook and save you about $1000-1500. Studio Display double if not triple the cost of comparable alternatives not badged apple. Same display that offers higher resolution and refresh rates for a fraction of cost. I've been a long time Apple user but a year ago decided I was done throwing money at it. Until Apple starts using higher end video cards, and looking into the touch screen market I don't see a need to exist with them anymore. Let them stick to what they are good at phones and airbus these days... Wonder if apple users will still need to run in rosseta even longer with the new chipset if they want all the features of Adobe Products.

"Powerbook" was discontinued 2006. LOL! This shows how out of touch and ill-informed you are.

It’s a good panel, shame it’s LCD, the same as the (very good) 27” iMac. Shame it isn’t a new panel for $1599. Webcam, speakers, microphones, and fast charging are tempting features.
There’s not another 27” 5k option with this feature set, just a little more than I would personally want to spend when I already have a setup with most of the functionality

Actually its the same as the LG, just a new wrapper plus $300...

Apple Pro Display XDR and Studio Display are LG panels. The LG UltraFine 5K would be similar, and Apple sells it on their website.

Alright just got back on here and Black Z Eddie . sorry Apple Laptop MacBook etc... you got me on terminology. I'm forced to work on apple at work and if I have heavy editing I'll work remotely on my ASUS ROG running the AMD Ryzen 9 w/ 32GB and the 3080 card rocking 12gbs of ram. Total Cost $2500 and smokes my work computer. Hell smokes most desktops in the apple line. Alexander Petrenko wish I could help you more on this I run all my 4K for video and photos on a 32: TV, and use a Huoin 22' Touchscreen to edit on. I really wish Apple would build some tech heavy computers that didn't require buying port adapters etc. etc. etc.

I think it's overkill for photographers. But, 'ya know, I wouldn't mind having it. :)

The 13" M1 MacBook Pro with 16gb RAM upgrade that I bought will more than do for 99% of photographer and videographer tasks, its lightning fast, quiet, last ages on a charge and can power a couple of 4K monitors with ease.

Very true! My 14” M1 Pro with 32gb is massively overkill. I keep telling myself it’s “future proof” when in reality I know I spent three times more than I needed to for my photo and video needs

Should get you 10 good years of use though Brad... my 2015 MBP is still going strong as my DJ/Music machine and it only has 8gb of RAM.

When those 14/16 inch models came out I was actually glad id picked up the original M1 a couple of months before because it made me realise I just didnt need that level of power and expense.

Plus im one of the weirdos who actually likes the Touch Bar haha.

I use Apple, looking at your photos, I don’t need to be spending my hard earned money on gear and lessons any more than you do, so what’s your excuse?

But well done on getting some of the much needed attention you were seeking.

Nope, just a photographer, wondering why a grown adult has the mental age of a 12yr old.

For you, a good option. You definitely need some lessons.

I’ve been waiting to replace my old late 2014 27” iMac and the M1 max with extra memory and 1tb will be a great upgrade from that

At this point 99% of us just need a cheap computer with ports to plug monitors, HDD, and other USB items. Most of this stuff would be for video. Show us 100-600 dollar range with 3+ USB C ports on them and an HDMI.

HDD? No.

How much better (or worse) is the new Studio Display than my 5k 27" iMac Pro? I really like my iMac and it runs LR and PP just fine, no lag at all, so I doubt I'll be shelling out more money for a new setup but it sure sounds sweet!

I wouldn’t bother, what you have is a great machine that will last years

Specs look as though Apple are using the same 5k panel from the iMac on the Studio Display.

For most of us the M1 iMac will run Lightroom and Photoshop just fine for a majority of our needs. Shiny toys are nice though 😁