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Mac Studio vs. 24-inch iMac: Which one is right for you?

Do you need an all-in-one desktop or a performance powerhouse?

Left: someone uses the Mac Studio with a separate monitor. Right:  Someone uses a pink iMac. Credit: Apple

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Apple has long been the favorite for desktop users who want a machine that’s a little more aesthetically pleasing than the big, boxy towers that permeate the market. From versatile all-in-one options like the Apple iMac to powerful professional workstations like the Mac Pro, Apple wants to make a desktop option for everyone.

To replace the aging 27-inch iMac and bridge the gap between the M1 Macs and the Mac Pro, Apple introduced the Mac Studio, a little square box of a computer with some insane specs that make it a top contender for creative professionals.

Meanwhile, the 24-inch M1 iMac stands strong as a great-value all-in-one desktop with enough power for most people, but if you’ve been hungry to know how its 8-core processor stacks up against the Mac Studio’s M1 Max or the monstrous 20-core M1 Ultra, we’ve broken down the differences between the iMac and the Mac Studio in this specs only comparison.

Buy the Apple iMac 24-inch from Amazon

Buy the Apple Mac Studio from Best Buy


Someone uses the Mac Studio and a display to do work while hunched over a desk
Credit: Apple

The Mac Studio's new M1 Ultra chip is one of the most powerful processors available to consumers at the moment.

While we have yet to test the Studio, if you’re in need of an uber-powerful Apple desktop there is no contest here when it comes to the specs. The iMac’s M1 processor is a fast performer for common productivity tasks, from editing quick 1080p videos in Premiere to multitasking with various web-based apps, but the Mac Studio’s M1 Max and M1 Ultra processors leave it in the dust.

The base Mac Studio comes with an M1 Max processor, which was previously only available in the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros. While the iMac’s base M1 processor has eight CPU cores and seven GPU cores, the base M1 Max has ten CPU cores and 24 GPU cores.

While the M1 Max’s two extra CPU cores don’t give the Mac Studio that much more processing speed over the M1, the M1 Max’s graphics performance is off the charts. With more cores, the M1 Max can perform graphics-heavy tasks (like film editing or 3D modeling) way faster than the M1.

Meanwhile, the top-spec Mac Studio has an M1 Ultra processor, which is basically two M1 Max processors smashed together with a whopping 20 CPU cores and 48 GPU cores. Even very intense creative tasks, like editing an orchestral film score or processing a lengthy 8K video should go smoothly on that beast.

The Mac Studio also comes with dedicated video encoding and decoding engines, making it especially suitable for film work.

As for memory and storage, the iMac starts with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage, but you can configure it with up to 16GB of memory and 2TB of storage. The Mac Studio starts with 32GB of memory and 512GB of storage, with its top configuration maxing out at 128GB of memory and 8TB of storage.

Most people are not going to need the speed that the Mac Studio offers, but if you’re a creative professional, the iMac probably isn’t enough computer for what you need to do.

Our pick: Mac Studio

Ports and Features

A closeup of the iMac's rear ports
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The iMac 24-inch comes with a MagSafe power adapter and four USB-C/Thunderbolt ports on the back of the display.

While the Mac Studio has many more useful ports than the iMac, the iMac does ultimately win out in terms of included features and accessories (it is an all-in-one, after all).

The back of the Mac Studio has four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10Gb/s Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack. The front has an SD card slot and two USB-C ports (the M1 Ultra upgrade trades them for Thunderbolt 4 ports).

The base iMac has two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack but upgrading gets you to two extra USB 3 ports and an Ethernet port on the Mag-safe power adapter.

However, the iMac has everything you’d need right out of the box: the iMac has an integrated 4.5K 24-inch Retina display, a 1080p webcam, and a fantastic speaker bar. A Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard are included with the iMac, too, which cost $450 if you were to buy those separately.

The Mac Studio is barebones by comparison. The computer only comes with speakers built into it, and the package does not come with a monitor, keyboard, or mouse. You could pair it with the Apple Studio Display (a $1,500 monitor), but you can use whichever display you prefer so long as it connects to Thunderbolt 4 or HDMI.

Our pick: iMac


Someone hunches over the keyboard on a desk to use their computer
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The iMac 24-inch provides an excellent value for just $1,299: a 4.5K display, an awesome keyboard and mouse, and a powerful processor.

The 24-inch M1 iMac starts at $1,299 and the M1 Max Mac Studio starts at $1,999, not including peripherals and accessories.

While the base iMac’s M1 processor has 7 GPU cores, you can upgrade to an M1 processor with 8 GPU cores for $200 more. You can also upgrade the 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage to 16GB of memory and 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB of storage for a total of $2,500. The iMac comes with a Magic Keyboard, Mouse, and Trackpad out of the box.

Meanwhile, the base M1 Max Mac Studio includes 32GB of memory and 512GB of storage, upgradeable to 64GB of memory and 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB of storage. The M1 Ultra Mac Studio starts at $3,999 and includes 64GB of memory and 1TB of storage, configurable up to 128GB of memory and 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB of storage. A topped-out unit will set you back by $8,000.

Regardless of the configuration, you also must add on the cost of a monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard. Something like the 24-inch iMac’s 4.5K Retina display could cost north of $500—the Dell UltraSharp 27-inch 4K U2723QE monitor, for example, costs $650. Meanwhile, you can get great wireless keyboards and mice these days for $100 or less.

Our pick: iMac

And the winner is...

The iMac sits on a desk with its keyboard and mouse
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The M1 iMac is the better choice for most people, but the few who need the extra umph on the Mac Studio will deeply appreciate its M1 Ultra processor.

With such a large price gap, performance gap, and feature gap, it’s clear that the iMac and the Mac Studio are for different crowds. For most people, a $1,299 all-in-one 24-inch iMac is a complete package with tremendous value. It will provide the power you need to get all your work done, and it has a great display and audio to enjoy your favorite 4K content.

Meanwhile, while we have yet to put it through its paces, the specs of the $1,999 Mac Studio suggest it packs the power creative professionals need to get work done quickly and efficiently. It does not come with a monitor, keyboard, or mouse, but creatives who need the Mac Studio’s beefy M1 Max or the blazing-fast $3,999 20-core M1 Ultra version probably prefer to pick a monitor that meets their specific needs. If you plan to master orchestra film scores, edit character models in Blender, or run liquid physics simulations daily, the Mac Studio is well worth the investment.

Buy the Apple iMac 24-inch from Amazon

Buy the Apple Mac Studio from Best Buy

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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