The seeds of the Mac Studio were sown five years ago when Apple admitted to pushing the reset button on the Mac Pro. Apple realized that it had to burn down the architecture it had created and start over.

One year later, it said that it had created the Pro Workflows Team, a group designed to interact with and gather information from professionals in creative, scientific and other fields to understand their work processes better. The information would be used to develop the new Mac Pro, a heavily modular system with some highly specialized optional components tailored to high end 3D design, music and film work.

The Mac Studio is a child of that process, designed to introduce a brand new kind of desktop to Apple's lineup that combines pinnacle-level power, accessibility and port-rich extensibility with a modular approach.

We look at Mac studio for a completely new Mac product line. Which is very rare. We don't add product lines to the Mac very often. Allow it to live on people's desks so it is easy to reach. That is what we delivered.

I spoke to Boger, along with other people, about the design and development of Mac Studio.

There was a clear signal from its users that there was a need for a modular system between the iMac and the Mac Pro. The Mac Studio has two levels of M1 chip and a display.

There is a clear line from the Mac Pro reset to the formation of the Pro Workflows team to the development of Mac Studio. This is a port rich offering that provides users a lot of what they have been asking for both publicly and in meetings with the team.

The Mac Studio is an homage to Apple's creative customer, the ones that kept Apple afloat through the lean years when they were the only users that saw the value in Apple's approach to a design-forward suite of software and hardware.

The group of Mac loyalists hasn't always been treated to rapid-fire releases. For a while, that group was left to wonder if Apple cared about the Mac at all, given the success of itsiOS suite of products.

When the Mac Pro hit the market there were a lot more questions than answers given the high price and narrow market for such a machine.

The Mac Studio fills in the gap between the iMac and the all-in-one with a machine that can be used with Apple's monitor or any other. The performance that it offers is very good.

I have had the Mac Studio for a week or so and have been using it, running benchmarks and pushing it in various ways as well as just trying to see what this new shape of computing feels like to live with.

I'm happy to say that most of the impressions are correct, with one unfortunate exception. If you want to see what kind of benchmark and testing results we got and a more in-depth look at Mac Studio, you should read Brian Heater's piece here.

Mac Studio review: emerging from the Mac’s midlife crisis

In my testing, the Mac Studio with M1 Max that I am trying out is 3 times as fast as the 2020 M1 MacBook and only 3 minutes slower than a near- completely-maxed-out Mac. The Mac Studio will cost you around $3,200. I used to perform this test on the Mac Pro, but it's only $20,000 cheaper now.

This is an enormous performance delta, and one that Apple is leaning into hard with this offering for pros.

Soren says that peak performance of its pro apps is for Apple.

Things can get expensive when it comes to pro technologies. You need a lot of different things. There is a specific kind of professional space that you need. Soren says that in the past you needed big teams. The last couple years have accelerated because of Apple.

We are talking about how many screens you can have of 8k or 96k audio and the performance meter is hitting 30%. You don't need a super expensive facility and long term rent if you don't want to. We are seeing incredible productions being done from a desk or the corner of a desk, and it is pretty inspiring.

It will take some time for people to get used to the idea of having a separate desktop option in Apple's lineup. Apple hopes that these will become a cornerstone device in many studios. The machine had to provide optionality in order to serve the needs of the more flexible workers.

The way we look at it is that we are happy to provide multiple ways for our users to work. It's great if that's the way you choose to work. Users prefer to have their desktop on their desk.

The research that led to the number of ports on the Mac Studio was done with its pro customers, asking them how many devices they use. I was surprised by the options, but they showed that there was still a need.

We are trying to give our users that dynamic range of choice. When it comes to deciding on the array of ports, it's really just talking to customers and seeing how many devices they use. There are some legacy devices that people can only connect to theusb-a ports, and some software that still requires software keys.

He says that the Mac Studio was about giving them an extensive array of connections while still hitting what they feel like a sweet spot in number of ports for the vast majority of users.

The accessibility of those ports was a big design priority for the team building the Mac Studio. The M1 Max and M1 Ultra are powerful chips that are 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 are 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 888-282-0465 It was designed to make all of the ports accessible, even the ones in the back.

The team thought about being able to reach the front and back of the Mac Studio at any given moment. The Mac Studio was designed to be a desktop.

Even if you need to get to the back, you just spin it around. We are giving users something they have never had before. They have always had to trade off. I had to give up performance in order to get a smaller form factor computer. We wanted to give people something that they don't have to do. You can do things that other computers can't do, like 18 streams of 8k video, or a massive 3d scene that takes up nearly 128 gig of video memory.

It was an engineering challenge to fit that kind of power into the Mac studio. The thermal situation alone was a huge endeavor that posed unique challenges from the Mac Pro where there was so much room for large fans and tons of vent.

Since the Mac Studio was designed to be a true desktop machine, Apple imagined it operating close to the user.

Goldberg says that it was a fun challenge from a hardware perspective, because they were trying to deliver like this massive amount of performance, but were really constrained on the form factor. The team did hundreds of thermal simulations for the airflow to try to figure out what is the best pattern of airflow through the system to maximize performance and acoustics.

The special design of the vent reduces turbulence inside the case, allowing air to flow smoothly from the bottom, over the components and through the blower without colliding with itself. There is a custom designed Apple machine built for this purpose that bores 3 holes per second in each case.

The dual blower is not standard. Goldberg says that the engineering team was able to make adjustments using the disc that allowed for different pitches of the blades above and below the divider.

We can adjust the height of the divider, the pitch of the blades, and the amount of air drawn from each section of the box so that we can tune the thermal performance based on the cooling needs. Every generation is exciting for my team.

The extra weight that some people noticed on the specs for the M1 Ultra model of Mac Studio, is from a copper fin stack on top of the doubled-up SoC of the Ultra. The blower is the same between the two models.

The thermal performance of the Mac Studio model was something I had to be very good at. I never heard the fans emit anything that was truly audible, even though there was a hint of performance falloff in extended operations. I'm sure some jobs will get it going, but those will have to be very aggressive.

The Studio display is one component that makes the Mac studio an attractive option for anyone. It has been a long time since a replacement for Apple's popular Thunderbolt display was found. The Pro Display XDR is one of the best monitors I have ever seen, but its $5,000 price point puts it out of the reach of many professionals who don't need the reference monitor aspects of its feature set.

The display in the studio is very good. It is not micro-LED, but it is very crisp. Having the ability to run any of your Macs through this display after years of no target display mode on the iMac is a really welcome option. Apple is aware that you might use the Studio Display on other machines. The A13 is doing the heavy lifting on Center Stage and Spatial Audio. It gives older MacBooks a nice upgrade.

It is a great display if you want to hook it up. The magic of Center Stage is made possible by the fact that there are still users out there that are using Intel based Macs and so putting A13 in there processes the audio for Spatial Audio and makes the magic of Center Stage happen.

The Pro Display XDR is an amazing display and, we feel, the best display for pros anywhere, but are also millions of users out there that wanted Apple to offer a mainstream display for whatever Mac they're on.

You can use the display with non-Mac machines, it will light up as a regular display, a webcam and a set of stereo speakers.

The speakers are the second big feature of the studio display, and I found them to sound quite good.

The max peak volume is in the range of the iMac, but with a richer and broader tone. The bass response is very good for a small speaker array. Even though it is a small bass, you still feel it at a distance. The low end has a similar feel to a small chamber speaker setup, but it is not tinny.

Studio Display presents a far broader downstage than I anticipated. You can hear the sound open up to a much more nuanced soundstage if you compare the same track in spatial and non spatial.

I was surprised to be able to hear it and enjoy it, and mark the difference with a casual listen. It's going to be better sound than most people have on their desktop, even though the sound can't compare to my pair of dedicated on-desk monitors. Some people will have more knowledge about it. I think it's pretty darn good. It is a new high water mark for monitor audio.

Goldberg says that the Spatial Audio system in the studio display uses force canceling drivers that were built for the MacBook Pro, a first for a desktop audio system. The specialized drivers act as shock absorbers that prevent the speaker cone from traveling into the shell.

I think that having those opposing drivers makes a big difference in the quality of the sound because they send all the vibration that we create into the intentional vibration that creates the sound instead of into the enclosure and shaking.

We came across a performance issue when it came to the third marquee feature of Studio Display, the Facetime camera.

In our testing, the camera of the studio display produces poor images both locally and remotely. The images that we are seeing are worse than the iMac's camera.

I noticed the quality issues when I first used the webcam. It was better if it was running from a MacBook Pro, but still not great. I assumed that it was a processing error because of the difference. I sent sample images and video of what I was seeing to Apple to see if the results were typical. An Apple spokesman told me that the system was not behaving as expected and that Apple would be making updates to address the camera's performance.

I don't have a timetable for those updates, but Apple is aware of an issue with the studio display's camera quality and they are working on fixes. It's worth knowing this, and it could be a reason to wait to see if those updates improve the quality.

As of now, it does not live up to the otherwise excellent performance of the display itself and the speakers, which set a new standard for in-monitor audio.

The Mac Pro dropped. I think there was a sticker shock because people saw the iMac at one end and the Mac Pro at the other, which is really for a small segment of users. There is a large valley between computing power and price.

The Mac Pro fell victim to a phenomenon that I think explains a lot of chatter about pricing when Apple releases a new machine. Apple's positioning is similar to that of the 80's and 90's in that it is about how accessible its products are while simultaneously positioning them as objects of desire to be strived for. They are aspirational products, to be sure, but the simple fact that you can't buy a better phone than the best one, and that billions of people own one, makes Apple's own messaging even more obvious.

It's definitely an argument worth having about a roughly $3,000 work tool that is, by every measure, one of the most powerful consumer computers ever made. It is a bit harder when the price is $20,000. The audience for a Mac Pros machine is small compared to the other Apple products.

The price tag is not a factor for that audience. It kills the dream for the rest of us.

It is a good problem to have. Every time Apple introduces a new product, it makes me wonder how I can see myself in that Mac. The Mac Studio does a good job of filling the pricing and performance gap, but it also caused some professional frustration. It's a fine machine and, if the webcam issues can be fixed with updates, the Studio Display is a good companion.

The desktop Mac is working again.

Read more about the Apple March 2022 event on TechCrunch