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Mac Studio vs iMac: Which Desktop Computer Is Right For You?

Apple recently shook up their desktop computer lineup with the release of the Mac Studio in March 2022. This small but mighty modular machine is aimed at creative professionals and those needing workstation-level performance. But how does it compare to Apple‘s sleek all-in-one option, the redesigned 24-inch iMac released in 2021?

There are some key differences that may make one desktop better suited for your needs and budget over the other. This expert guide will compare the Mac Studio and latest iMac across all specs – from design and displays to performance, ports, pricing, and more. Read on to find out which of these impressive Apple desktops reigns supreme!

An Introduction to the Mac Studio and iMac

First, let‘s briefly introduce both desktop computers:

Mac Studio – Released March 2022, this powerful machine packs the high-end M1 Max or M1 Ultra chip into a compact, modular design reminiscent of 3 stacked Mac Minis. Designed for pros and creatives needing workstation-class performance. Sold as just the computer tower without accessories.

24-inch iMac – Sleek all-in-one with 4.5K Retina display, thin bezels, and 7 color options. Redesigned in 2021 with Apple‘s impressive M1 chip that delivers both speed and efficiency. Also includes keyboard, mouse and built-in 1080p webcam.

Comparing Designs: Bold vs Sleek

In terms of design, these desktops appeal to different sensibilities. The Mac Studio is bold and modular, allowing for easy customization. Meanwhile the iMac is an elegant all-in-one with a brighter range of color options.

Mac Studio

  • Small and modular silver tower, about 3 Mac Minis stacked
  • Industrial design with perforated aluminum casing
  • Base is raised for improved airflow and cooling
  • No stand or option to mount behind display

24-inch iMac

  • Thin, sleek all-in-one design with chin removed
  • Vibrant range of 7 colors including pink, blue, green
  • Overall footprint slimmer than previous 21.5" iMac
  • Can tilt screen but cannot adjust height

Both share an uniquely Apple aesthetic, but the iMac definitely stands out visually – for better or worse. Minimalists may still prefer the Mac Studio‘s unassuming look blended amidst other desk peripherals.

Performance – M1 Max vs M1 Chips

Performance is where we really begin to see a significant difference between the Mac Studio and latest iMac.

Apple‘s new M1 Max and M1 Ultra custom silicon delivers absolutely game-changing speed and efficiency. The M1 Ultra features a 20-core CPU and up to 64-core GPU – specs that rival top-of-the-line Windows workstations.

Comparatively, the 24-inch iMac released the year prior is still impressive but utilizes a standard M1 chip. This comes with an 8-core CPU and up to 8-core GPU.

Let‘s compare benchmarks:

Specs 24-inch iMac (M1 Chip) Mac Studio (M1 Max) Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)
CPU Cores 8 10 20
GPU Cores Up to 8 Up to 32 Up to 64
Geekbench 5 Score (Single / Multi) 1,705 / 7,813 1,755 / 12,333 1,936 / 24,055

As you can see, there is an absolutely massive difference in multi-core performance which greatly accelerates video editing, 3D modeling, code compiling and other demanding creative workflows.

While the standard M1 chip in the iMac is no slouch, it begins to choke and overheat when pushed to the extreme limits that the Pro and Max chips can handle.

If your workloads demand uncompromising desktop-class power, the Mac Studio and its next-gen Apple silicon simply outclasses the 24-inch iMac by a significant margin.

That said, for light everyday tasks like web browsing, word processing and simple editing, both desktops deliver ultra-fast speeds with the renowned efficiency of Apple‘s Arm-based chips.

Display Options: Built-In vs Modular

One of the sacrifices made with the Mac Studio’s modular design is that it does not actually include a display. So you‘ll need to factor in the additional cost of a monitor like the Apple Studio Display.

Let‘s quickly compare displays:

24-inch iMac

  • Bright 24-inch 4.5K Retina display (4480 x 2520 pixels)
  • 500 nits peak brightness, P3 wide color, True Tone
  • Thin bezels with anti-reflective coating

Apple Studio Display

  • 27-inch 5K screen (5120 × 2880 pixels)
  • 600 nits brightness with P3 wide color
  • True Tone, nano-texture glass optional

Both monitors feature fantastic image quality covering millions of colors and 500+ nits of peak brightness for HDR content. You gain more screen real estate with the Studio Display but lose the sleek integration of the iMac‘s svelte chassis.

If using Apple‘s Pro Display XDR monitor (starting at $4,999), the differences become even more profound cost aside. This ups the ante to over 1,000 nits sustained brightness across a massive 32-inch 6K canvas.

So if you prioritize Monitor capabilities, you‘ll pay a premium for the Mac Studio‘s modularity and compatibility with Apple‘s cutting-edge external displays. For most users though, the 24-inch iMac‘s stellar built-in screen hits the sweet spot.

A Breakdown of Ports and Connectivity

Connectivity can also set these desktops apart. Let‘s compare ports below:

24-inch iMac Ports:

  • 2x Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • 2x USB 3 ports
  • HDMI
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

Mac Studio Ports (M1 Max Model):

  • 4x Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • 2x USB-A ports
  • HDMI
  • 10 Gb Ethernet
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack

Both offer Thunderbolt 4 support for blazing 40Gbps transfer speeds to fast external drives and accessories. But the Mac Studio adds two additional Thunderbolt ports plus faster Ethernet networking.

The iMac differentiates itself with USB 4, USB 3 and HDMI ports conveniently located on the side for easier access. So while the Studio wins for sheer number of cutting-edge ports, the iMac’s simplified connectivity may suit those not concerned with the fastest speeds possible.

Pricing Breakdown: Over Double the Cost?

As you might expect, increased performance and modularity comes at a cost. Let‘s compare pricing configurations below for the Mac Studio vs 24-inch iMac:

Config 24" iMac Mac Studio (M1 Max) Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)
Base Model $1,299 $1,999 $3,999
Monitor Built-In $1,599 (Studio Display) $1,599 (Studio Display)
Storage 256GB SSD 512GB SSD 1TB SSD
Memory 8GB 32GB 64GB
Total Price $1,299 $3,598 $5,598

As configured above with the same monitor and baseline storage, even an M1 Max-equipped Mac Studio costs over 2.5x times more than the 24-inch iMac.

And that‘s not even maxing out the Ultra‘s specs at 128GB memory and 8TB storage, which can push the total price over $8,000!

It‘s certainly a bitter cost pill for many buyers to swallow. But for working professionals where time is money, the Mac Studio pays for itself many times over by accelerating workflows and instantly paying dividends.

Casual users should steer towards the much more affordable 24-inch iMac that still flies through daily tasks. But power users will covet the Mac Studio’s best-in-class performance.

Recommendations: 6 Key Factors To Consider

With prices, designs and specs covered, let‘s wrap up with key factors to consider when deciding between purchasing the Mac Studio or 24-inch iMac:

1. Budget – With over double the cost, the latest iMac provides incredible value for most mainstream users that don‘t need massive computing power.

2. Display Needs – Those wanting more than 24 inches should consider the Mac Studio paired with the 27-inch Studio Display or 32-inch Pro Display XDR.

3. Power Requirements – Opt for the Mac Studio if you regularly test the limits of computing with 4K video editing, 3D rendering and advanced design applications.

4. Style Preference – Choose the sleek colors of the iMac or the bolder modular look of the desktop Studio tower.

5. Desktop Setup – Mac Studio if you want to customize your full deskscape. iMac for minimal all-in-one aesthetic.

6. Future-Proofing – Mac Studio overpowers both current AND next-gen demands if you want top-tier specs that should last 5+ years.

Analyze your budget, workflow needs and aesthetic tastes using the above considerations. Overall there is no universally "better" option – one of these phenomenal desktops likely suits your preferences more.

Both Apple silicon-powered machines represent the pinnacle of desktop computing. Shoppers can rest assured they’re investing in products at the cutting edge of speed, design and innovation.

Let us know your verdict between the Mac Studio vs iMac below! And for more comparisons check out our expert guide pitting the [Mac Studio vs Mac Pro](insert url).