Mac Studio Vs. iMac - Reasons You Should Upgrade

Last year, Apple released the M1 iMac, a powerful all-in-one computer that made use of the company's exceptional in-house chipsets. Now, Apple has officially revealed the Mac Studio, the latest addition to its computer lineup. This leaves consumers with a big question: is the new Mac Studio worth upgrading to, or should you stick with your M1 iMac for a while longer?

To help you find the answer, we've taken a look at both the M1 iMac from 2021 and the new Mac Studio, comparing them to highlight their biggest differences, as well as what you should expect from the latest model. As well, we've touched on how to decide which new Mac fits your style best. Just because both computers use Apple's new M1 chips doesn't mean there aren't differences — and, of course, you're going to want to be aware of those differences before you make your next purchase. 

Display and size

One of the first differences to take note of between the iMac and the Mac Studio is the display. Where the iMac is considered an all-in-one – meaning it has all of its components in one package, including the display – the Mac Studio is simply a computer. This means you'll need to pair it with a monitor, like the new Apple Studio Display, in order to use it. Both the Apple Studio Display and the M1 iMac's display are absolutely beautiful, so you won't regret using either in your day-to-day work.

Now, let's talk a little bit about the sizes of these devices. Because the iMac is an all-in-one, it's technically a bigger piece of tech. However, when you start adding monitors to the Mac Studio, you'll need to account for the space that the small form computer takes up, as well as the space that any monitor you choose to go with takes up. So, if you have a small amount of space, going with an all-in-one like the M1 Mac might not be a bad idea. However, the iMac can't live up to the Mac Studio's performance, as we've detailed below, and that more powerful hardware is a really good reason to make some extra room on your desk and upgrade.

Performance and hardware

Hardware and performance are honestly the places where you're going to see some of the biggest differences between the M1 iMac and the new Mac Studio, and it'll likely be your biggest reason for upgrading. While Apple's M1 technology is impressive, the M1 iMac utilizes the company's first M1 chip. This means that it isn't nearly as powerful as the M1 Max or even the M1 Pro that Apple released in later MacBook Pro models. The M1 chip is perfectly capable, though, so it shouldn't be written off.

However, if you want to make the most of your performance and hardware, the Mac Studio comes with both the M1 Max and the new M1 Ultra as chipset options when ordering the computer. The M1 Max brings a lot more performance to the table compared to the regular M1 chip found in the iMac, but that gap is made even bigger when you start talking about the new M1 Ultra.

The M1 chip included in the iMac features a powerful 8-core CPU. However, the M1 Ultra chip included in the Mac Studio sports up to a 20-core CPU, and a 64-core GPU. This means more raw performance and speed directly from the hardware itself. Combine that with the maximum 128GB of unified memory the M1 Ultra offers, and this chip is set to blow the iMac's M1 completely out of the water.

If you're looking for the best hardware and performance that Mac has to offer, the Mac Studio wins every time.

Price and release date

Not all comparisons come down to sheer performance, though. Price and availability are also important factors to put into the equation. Since the M1 iMac has been out since 2021, it's readily available from Apple and other retailers right now. The iMac also retails starting at $1,299, though more powerful variations can be purchased for increased prices.

This price tag is modest compared to the much more expensive tag on the Mac Studio, which will start at $1,999 for the M1 Max variant. However, those who want to purchase the most powerful configuration will find that price tag jump to $3,999. Additionally, if you wish to add the purchase of the Studio Display to your cart, you're going to need to shell out another $1,599. The Mac Studio also isn't available to purchase yet. Preorders for the new computer open on March 8, 2022, but it won't be fully released until March 18, 2022.

If you're looking for the cheapest option between the two, then the 2021 iMac is still a great piece of hardware to work with. However, if you find yourself needing something stronger, then upgrading to a Mac Studio could be worth the price.

Wrapping up

Ultimately, you'll need to look at a few different factors to determine whether or not the upgrade to the Mac Studio is worth dropping several thousand dollars. Both the iMac and the Mac Studio are exceptional computers, and both offer great performance in their own ways. Apple previously set the bar with the M1 chip, and then set it again a year later with the release of M1 Max. Now that M1 Ultra is hitting the Mac Studio, though, the company continues to push its computers to higher levels of performance and capability, and the hardware will no doubt justify the upgrade for professionals who need top performance from their work machine.

Is the Mac Studio worth upgrading to? Apple has delivered one of the most powerful processors that we have ever seen, and all that power is something you can put to work in your daily life. With rumors about an M2 chip swirling, though, those who don't need the raw power the M1 Ultra offers right now may find it beneficial to wait a little bit longer, just to see what else Apple has up its sleeve.