back to article Apple's Mac Studio exposed: A spare storage slot and built-in RAM

Apple's latest and greatest – the Mac Studio – has come under the gaze of teardown merchants, iFixit. The good news? There might be hope for storage swappers. The bad news? Everything else. The Mac Studio looks for all the world like a Mac Mini that has enjoyed a growth spurt. The block of aluminum is just over twice the …

  1. TeeCee Gold badge
    WTF?

    "it gives us a lot of hope for a repairable, upgradable, and reasonably priced Mac Pro."

    If such a thing materialises, I'll take a wild punt on it being designed by the Tooth Fairy, delivered by Santa Claus and powered by Unicorn farts.

    1. deadlockvictim

      Reasonably priced Mac Pro

      A Mac Pro is only reasonably priced if your employer is paying for it.

      Otherwise, it only becomes reasonably priced 10 years after it has been released.

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

        The annoying thing is that old mac hardware seems to disappear quite quickly. Either:

        - It breaks because frankly the build quality / repairability sucks

        - Apple buys it and disposes it as soon as possible to not to "confuse" consumers

        - Apple fans keep onto the hardware hoping that one day they can sell it high and unfortunately that day never comes.

        The IBM PowerPC architecture is interesting (for OpenBSD) but unfortunately grabbing an old G5 (in decentish condition) is harder than an actual i.e IBM IntelliStation POWER 185 and the latter has the added convenience of getting to play a little with AIX.

        1. Robert Moore

          Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

          You are wrong on a few points.

          Build quality is decent. Most of the Macs I see are still useable after 3-5 years. PC laptops are about 3 years tops. (Yes Mac repairability sucks.)

          Most Macs are retired because Apple releases a new OS version that make it too slow.

          Those overpriced fanboy machines. They actually sell for those prices. (At least local to me they do.)

          Apple does offer a buy-back plan, but I seriously doubt anyone uses it. They really don't pay well for the hardware.

          Personally I am done with Apple. No RAM upgrades is a total dealbreaker for me.

          My new Linux'ed up Thinkpad is pretty sweet. But I accept it lacks any style.

          1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            Most Macs are retired because Apple releases a new OS version that make it too slow.

            I'm running a Linux home media and mail server on a 2009 Mac Mini that was stuck at El Capitan. Direct boots into Mint; it doesn't even have OSX installed.

          2. Smirnov

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            Build quality is decent. Most of the Macs I see are still useable after 3-5 years. PC laptops are about 3 years tops. (Yes Mac repairability sucks.)

            Huh? PC laptops (the quality ones, i.e. business class, not the crap consumer stuff) easily get 5-7 years or more. All while often being in much better shape as, unlike Apple laptops which are made from a soft and dent-prone aluminum alloy, their housings are made from materials that endure abuse much better.

            Then there's the comedy that every intel Mac ever made was supported much longer by Apple's direct competitor (Microsoft) than by Apple itself.

            Apple does offer a buy-back plan, but I seriously doubt anyone uses it. They really don't pay well for the hardware.

            No, they really don't. Just for fun I checked what I would get for my 6 month old Mini M1 (16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, 10GBE) which did cost me $1399, and Apple's trade-in website graciously offered me $330 for it.

            1. Stork Silver badge

              Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

              So do (did?) MacBooks. I write this on a 2014 MBP, admittedly a bit of a mashup of two machines* with new battery and extra storage. I think it can run current OS if I feel like.

              *) spilled liquids; changing battery was a pig, sloshing acetone around. But the machine runs ok

          3. rajivdx

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            > PC laptops are about 3 years tops

            You obviously haven't heard of Thinkpads - I have 7 of various ages and all are still going strong with the oldest being 18 years old and running the geriatric XP. All have been abused, thrown about, sat on, rained on, spilled on and not coddled in glass cases the way Macs are.

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

              "All have been abused, thrown about, sat on, rained on, spilled on and not coddled in glass cases the way Macs are."

              That's true. But there are ugly from the get-go, so one wouldn't notice wear all that much. Which is a plus, in a business setting.

          4. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            -- PC laptops are about 3 years tops.--

            Thanks for that info I'd better dispose of my 7 year old laptop quickly then.

            1. Richard Pennington 1

              Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

              Currently running:

              2010 MacBook, 2014 iMac

              2* 2015 Windows boxes.

              Recently retired:

              2013 iMac (became wildly unstable; crashed on shutdown and more recently on startup; tried all the usual fixes without success)

              2009 Windows box (underpowered for Win10; finally the battery died).

              I note that none of my machines is upgradeable to the current systems (Win11 / OSX Monterey). The 2014 iMac [bought as a replacement for the dying 2013 iMac] is currently running Catalina and will in due course upgrade to Big Sur.

          5. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            I'd better tell my 10 year old Thinkpad it's dead, then. It will be a shock to us both. We thought it was doing a good job running Opensuse.

          6. RobDog

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            I’ve sold two iMacs in the past of year and both of them were at least 8 years old when they were re-sold. Both were immaculate and had never given me a lick of trouble. In both cases the buyers said they had got them at a very reasonable price - shows what I know - and both emailed me subsequently to say Thanks.

            My wife still uses the 2011 MBA I got her (in 2011 for clarity). My brother has a second-hand 2014 iMac and converted from Windows.

            In other words 100% of the 5 Macs I have known, have been 100% reliable and never let their disappointed their owners. Interestingly none had needed an upgrade, same spec they came with from day 1. Performed most acceptably.

          7. PriorKnowledge
            Meh

            I bought a Mac Studio

            …and I have already returned it because it likes to emulate an untuned analogue TV with my 2nd screen when the monitor resumes from sleep. This is the exact same bug I reported with the original M1 Mac Mini and they still have not fixed it with their latest hardware. Apple claimed it must be the screens, yet the same screens work with every other bit of hardware I’ve used (including Intel integrated, AMD and NVIDIA GPUs across different machines). Even running dual 1440p with a Raspberry Pi 4 works just fine.

            Also, I tried running a VPN alongside Little Snitch, Sophos and AdGuard. Random parts of the filtering stack will just stop filtering at random because their new APIs totally fail to replace what decent kexts offered. Windows by comparison handles using a VPN with outbound per-app firewalling, Windows Defender and AdGuard gracefully.

          8. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            Only *one* of my probably 10+ laptops (running various versions of Windows, Linux and BSD) is newer than 3 years old.

        2. Snapper Bronze badge

          Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

          Still upgrading Mac Pro's from 2006 here. 2009 to 2012 cMP's running off NVMe drives with Thunderbolt and macOS 12 Monterey.

          I've upgraded over 100 cMP's (classic Mac Pro's) since 2013.

          Guess how many power supplies I've had to replace? 4, with 2 of those due to a mains power spike.

          Guess how many backplanes/logic boards? 1

          I think your comment is vindictively inaccurate, and basically shows you don't know what the hell you are whingeing about.

      2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

        Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

        A Mac Pro is only reasonably priced if your employer is paying for it.

        That's the target market, after all. I mean, as a manufacturer, if you can sell at least some machines for that price, why wouldn't you?

        No one needs a high-end luxury car, either; a base trim hatchback will get you places just as well. But that doesn't mean high end cars shouldn't exist, for those who choose to spend their money on such things.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

          Uni that I work at are currently doing a Mac refresh, and lots of people who did have Mac's now won't be! It'll save the Uni a considerable sum, we're now seeing all the excuses from the users as to why they should still have a Mac. Very very few excuses are valid! And its not just the expense of the box its the extra expense you require to manage them with often separate bits of software outside of what you have to manage thousands of windows boxes, then you require the staff with Mac experience, the extra costs go on and on just to enable a few users to have an over priced shiney shiney.

          1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            Not the first time that Apple's pricing has cost them Mac sales, nor will it be the last. It's the same strategy they use with iPhones vs Android: let the other guys fight over the low-margin, price-sensitive end of the market, while they cherry-pick the most profitable sales.

            Say what you will, but it seems to work for them. iPhones are a small percentage of total smartphone units sold, but Apple pockets a massive share of the global revenue and profits.

          2. Snapper Bronze badge

            Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

            Do you think you might be a bit biased?

      3. Kev99 Silver badge

        Re: Reasonably priced Mac Pro

        "otherwise, it only becomes reasonably priced 10 years after it has been released."

        And by then Apple has rewritten the EFI, BOS, and OS so that it's totally unusable and not upgradable.

        Again.

  2. DarkwavePunk

    Bloody hell...

    Given the price of the top end Studio Ultra I doubt we'll see "upgradable, and reasonably priced Mac Pro.". The Studio is weird. Being completely locked in (okay the SSD might be upgradable with a software tweak) to the configuration you bought seems stupid. Soldered RAM on a chassis that big is outright retarded. They get points for useful ports though I guess. It's a shame as I really like the Ultra CPU architecture on paper for thread heavy tasks. Oh well.

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Bloody hell...

      The RAM isn't soldered, well, not to the motherboard. That would be far too easy to get around for a skilled iron-wielder. Oh no, it's part of the CPU package. I suppose it's conceivable that someone could swap out the entire module, potentially upgrading the processor at the same time.

      -A.

      1. DarkwavePunk

        Re: Bloody hell...

        I'd completely forgotten about the whole SoC style of it with the shared memory etc. I stand corrected.

      2. andy 103

        Re: Bloody hell...

        I don't know whether un-upgradeable RAM is really an issue for this machine though.

        There are only 2 variants you can buy: one has 32 Gb of memory (upgradeable to 64). The other has 64 Gb and is upgradeable to 128 Gb. Of course you choose this "upgrade" at the time of purchase and then it comes with whatever you picked. It's not really "upgradeable" per se.

        The different CPUs between the machines are orders of magnitude different: a 10-core M1 with a 24-core GPU, whilst the next model up has a 20-core M1 with a 48-core GPU.

        The prices are £2000 and £4000 respectively. That's at the base spec, before applying any "upgrade" to either model. If you go for the top-end (without buying software like Logic Pro) it comes out at £8000. Nobody spending this kind of money buys a machine and goes "I'll probably need to upgrade the RAM in 12 months though...".

        Basically I'm not sure how often somebody buying these types of machines would want to upgrade *just* the RAM at some point after purchase. I'd imagine it's more likely they'd just buy the machine in the configuration they wanted (and could afford) at the time. Their next upgrade would likely be a completely different machine.

        On lower spec machines, upgrades to RAM would be fair enough, but I don't think many people would have a need to upgrade a machine with 32 Gb of RAM a year or two into using it. It's either good enough for the lifetime you're thinking of using it for, or it's not. Certainly at this end of the market.

        1. oiseau Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Bloody hell...

          Their next upgrade would likely be a completely different machine.

          Bloody indeed ...

          When that time comes (it does, always) they may finally manage to understand that they should have purchased a different, upgradeable brand/model machine.

          That much different.

          Probably more than one for the price they would have to put up for another Apple thingy.

          O.

          1. Shrek

            Re: Bloody hell...

            I'm not convinced. It's been a long time, but my experience of upgrading machines was a pain in the posterior.

            Biggest bang for buck back in the day was drop in more RAM, sure, then everything else was nibbling at the edges (SSD wasn't a thing then, so the difference between 5400 and 7200RPM disk was noticeable but not night and day).

            Beyond RAM upgrades however, my experience generally has been that I'd decide on a new processor, oh but hold on, you need DDR3 (or whatever it was), and in pairs, so that required a new mobo as well as the new RAM. That would then probably need a new PSU...

            Or perhaps get that shiny new GFX card, oh but that needs a motherboard capable of 'X', which needs a new CPU.... etc.

            It was rarely ever just a single component upgrade.

            That's even after I'd spent hours researching the most "future proof" motherboard. So I've given up on the idea that easily upgradeable PCs are the way to go other than for fun/tinkering. Sure it works for some, but many people will buy it and just use it until it dies. So my advice to people buying PCs is prioritise RAM (min 8GB, ideally 16GB) as much space as you need, then the CPU. Unless you are after a gaming rig and/or tinker for fun.

            1. Smirnov

              Re: Bloody hell...

              I'm not convinced. It's been a long time, but my experience of upgrading machines was a pain in the posterior.

              I'd say that's more down to your choice of hardware.

              I can't remember the last time I really had a major problem with upgrading a PC, but then I just buy business class PCs, laptops and workstations (mostly HP, some Dell), so I don't have to deal with filtering out crappy mobos or bad PSUs. I just upgrade RAM, CPU, storage and GPUs when needed, and that's normally just a breeze.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bloody hell...

            As others have pointed out above the RAM isn't upgradable because it isn't attached via the motherboard. Leaving the CPU chip and crossing the motherboard takes bleeding ages, whole eons of CPU time which is why modern CPUs have large caches. The M1 processor has its memory on board because it makes accesses to RAM a whole lot faster. Most non HPC workloads spend most of their time waiting for data to make its slow way from the DIMMs to the CPU, integrated memory controllers helped a lot, but not having to go near the motherboard helps a lot more.

            This is the main reason why these chips are as fast as they are.

        2. _andrew

          RAM upgrades? More than twenty years since that was a thing.

          I don't get the hand-wringing about RAM upgrades. I think that the last time I actually upgraded DRAM on a system was mid-90s, and that was because I had under-spec'd it in the first place, due to being a poor student at the time. Ever since then I've found that by the time a machine started to feel as though more DRAM might be a good idea the technology had changed to the point where a motherboard and CPU replacement would also be necessary.

          These days, DRAM is big enough. 32G is bigger than the hard drives you could buy back in the 90s, and since close-storage is flash and really, really quick itself, you don't really need to have all your files cached. So buy the 64G model and be happy.

          The only workloads I know of that really chew through RAM are virtual machines (because they're stupidly inefficient that way), and these M1 systems can't do VMs anyway, so that's not a problem.

    2. Snapper Bronze badge

      Re: Bloody hell...

      It doesn't have 'soldered' RAM, so do you actually know what you are talking about?

      The CPU has the RAM as part of the architecture of the SoC, so very different from the Intel CPU's of yore. Watch all the other CPU builders >cough< realise that their hot and power-hungry ageing designs are going to need a serious amount of work to keep up.

      Do Apple get it right all the time? Hell no, I really hated the 2013 Mac Pro (trashcan/spittoon) and the 2016-2020 MacBook Pro's for their soldered storage and RAM.

      But hell, unplug a top-of-the-range windows laptop and see it do battle with an M1 powered MacBook Pro for speed and battery life when doing something really heavy!

  3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    The other storage slot ...

    This has been solved elsewhere.

    Your standard off-the-shelf flash parts are not going to work because they include a flash chip controller and probably some cache RAM. Apple included the flash controller on the CPU (saves part of $1 by not having a separate chip) and use some of the system RAM as cache (probably saves the rest of that $1). Your new storage card will need chips that Apple has created software for, and probably the same type and number of chips as the card in the first slot. Have fun sourcing those.

    Your next problem is all the data in the chips is encrypted and the decryption key is in the CPU. If you swap the storage cards between computers the CPU will try to decrypt the data with the wrong key, notice there is a problem and refuse to boot. This is fixable: connect a working Apple computer and it will be able to fix the borked one - by erasing all the data and installing a clean copy of the OS.

    I am sure all Apple users are happy with Apple making an extra $1 profit on their new computers and will be overjoyed to pay Apple's monopoly prices for storage upgrades.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The other storage slot ...

      https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2022/03/explaining-the-mac-studios-removable-ssds-and-why-you-cant-just-swap-them-out/

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: The other storage slot ...

      At least a defective storage module can be replaced without swapping out the entire motherboard.

      Baby steps.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: The other storage slot ...

      saves part of $1 by not having a separate chip

      You seem to be implying Apple did this to save money. Apple has included a controller on iPhone SoCs for over a decade, and during that time have shipped more SSD controllers than anyone else. Because of its tight integration with the SoC it performs better than all but the highest end NVMe SSDs.

      Why should they choose an inferior third party product instead of their own?

      1. redpola

        Re: The other storage slot ...

        Careful! Your rational and objective analysis means you’re now going to be accused of being an apple fanboi by the apple haterzzz.

        Seriously though, aren’t we past this crap? Twenty years ago I was working at M$ and bought my first Apple, because I wanted a BSD/Mach based laptop. Back then Apple were the cool guys and everyone loved to hate Microsoft. Now everyone is hating on apple. It’s a cycle of fashion and little to do with engineering.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: The other storage slot ...

          Some of the people who liked Apple back then did so because they were the little guy fighting against the biggest company on Earth. Now Apple is the biggest company on Earth.

          There used to be a lot more love for Google back in the day, for the same reason. Even Facebook got in on that for a hot minute, when they were the upstart fighting the evil Myspace lol!

  4. andy 103
    WTF?

    A contradiction of ports

    From looking on the Apple website the Studio has these ports:

    -- 4 x Thunderbolt 4

    -- 2 x USB‑A ports

    -- HDMI port

    -- Ethernet

    -- 3.5mm headphone jack

    I'm saying this as somebody who is partial to Apple kit... sorry, but when I bought my iPhone 12 or 2020 Macbook Pro, I was reassured that things such as a 3.5mm headphone socket (in the case of the iPhone), or a HDMI port (in the case of the Macbook) were old fashioned and nobody had a use for these things anymore. If I wanted such connectivity I could either buy an adaptor, or make expensive upgrades, e.g. change my perfectly good Samsung HDMI monitor to a USB-C/Thunderbolt one.

    If somebody has £2,000+ to spend on a desktop, surely - SURELY - these *are* the people with the newer, more expensive kit to connect it to?

    It's almost like an admission that things such as 3.5mm jacks, ethernet and HDMI ports are still incredibly useful... Which is it, Apple?

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: A contradiction of ports

      Which is it, Apple?

      Both. By including them in a high-end machine they can stretch the price a bit further and the buyers will pay it without flinching. By leaving them out of a lower-end product they can nickel-and-dime the more price-sensitive end of the market. The more useful these things are, the more you're prepared to pay for them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A contradiction of ports

      @Andy 103

      Ask Motorola and Qi (I think that is it's name) about the headphone socket. They did away with them before Apple.

    3. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: A contradiction of ports

      "It's almost like an admission that things such as 3.5mm jacks, ethernet and HDMI ports are still incredibly useful... Which is it, Apple?"

      Both. On a machine for a static workspace, they're useful. On a mobile device, far less so.

  5. VoiceOfTruth

    Built in RAM question

    -> Building in the RAM, while perhaps understandable from a performance standpoint

    Is that true, that soldered in RAM is faster than RAM in slots? If so, can you point me to a study showing that?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Why do people keep thinking the memory is soldered? It's inside the "CPU" chip package itself. And nobody's pretending that won't give you lots of performance. But presumably one of the downsides of this is the massive cooling needed when you have lots of memory.

      1. VoiceOfTruth

        -> Why do people keep thinking the memory is soldered?

        I think you know exactly what I mean. Built in/soldered on are pretty much interchangeable terms when it comes to chips. The RAM in the CPU chip package is not just held in by paper clips, is it?

        1. Shrek

          Built in and soldered may, arguably, be interchangeable but this isn't really either of those things, it's part of the silicon the CPU itself is built on. It's more akin to upgrading the L3 cache of a (for example) Intel CPU.

          So whilst not literally built into CPU directly it's pretty close to it.

          I'd argue these days that the RAM the Studio's come with (32GB minimum) should see it remain useful for its working life. Never say never of course (who needs more than 640KB etc) but for me at least the requirements to add RAM every couple of years just to get reasonable performance are long gone. I specced 32GB for my last laptop (in 2018) and as I type this ~24GB is used, but 8GB of that is for file cache.

          Of course YMMV.

          1. Korev Silver badge
            Alien

            Chrome and MS Office seem to take up most of this Mac's 16GB of RAM. If you'd have told me that 16GB wasn't enough when I first got the machine from work then I'd have laughed...

            1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
              Trollface

              My first Apple had 48k of memory and it was enough to use any browser that didn't exist at the time!

        2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          @VoiceOfTruth

          "Built in/soldered on are pretty much interchangeable terms when it comes to chips"

          Not in this context. Soldered on may have manufacturing advantages but offers little or no performance improvement. Built in - as in: on the same silicon die as the CPU - offers HUGE performance improvements due to the astronomically fast IO bus between CPU and memory. It also makes it absolutely impossible to selectively replace, but that's the price you pay for performance.

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        massive cooling needed

        Where do you get this idea? This is LPDDR5, the key is in the "LP" letters which mean low power. These run at a lower voltage than DDR5 (let alone DDR4) DIMMs, and tightly coupling them with the SoC means further savings.

        Other than extreme overclockers, no one uses special cooling for their DIMMs. For the even lower voltage LPDDR5 chips, so long as the heat sink designed primarily to cool the SoC(s) covers them that's more than enough.

        The only real downside to Apple's use of LPDDR5 is the inability to upgrade after purchase.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          "Where do you get this idea?"

          The article itself:

          Looking for all the world like a quadcopter, "these fans are just so much more massive than other Mac fans," said iFixit, "and the heat sink positively dwarfs the M1 Mini with more than six times the weight."

          The Ultra version of the Studio is beefier still, thanks to a hulking copper heat sink.

          Undoubtedly the CPU and GPU elements contribute a lot of the heat. But I don't care how low power the RAM is: if you put that much in that small a space at the kind of speeds its running then the heats going to build up; regular M1s don't need cooling that epic.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Apple does that "epic" cooling so the thing runs virtually silent. In testing with both the CPU and GPU under full load, the CPU only hits 60C and the GPU low 40s C, and the fan remains barely audible at idle speed. Probably the only way you can get that fan to kick into a higher gear would be to try to run your Mac Studio in a sauna.

            That cooling system is massive overkill. Whether that's for silence or for future expansion (i.e. getting a four SoC version of the Mac Studio someday) is unknown, but it is not designed that way because it is necessary.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              They did it like that because of Google Chrome only

      3. Snapper Bronze badge

        Perhaps if you looked at impartial tests that showed the M1 powered Macs run far cooler and therefore far longer on batteries your mind would be changed, or is that a tad difficult?

        We won't mention what happens to high-end PC's when running off battery will we, spoil the fun!

      4. -tim
        Facepalm

        Why do people keep thinking the memory is soldered?

        Because it is. It is soldered to the same substrate that the CPU is attached to and a few people have upgraded them, it just needs more specialized equipment than any low end repair shop happens to have as well as donor ram chips which can't be sourced new.

        The real reason the M1 chip's memory is so fast is they use about 877 pins to transfer more data in parallel compared to the 288 pins of a DDR5 DIMM. That allows the chips to transfer the address and more data in parallel without wasting cycles.

    2. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

      Re: Built in RAM question

      If so, can you point me to a study showing that?

      Not a study per-se, but this is exactly what layer 1 and layer 2 cache is. What apple have done is put the ram on the same die as the CPU. The up side is that they can clock it faster and have more lanes. If you search for more info on the specs there's a bunch of places with more detailed info.

    3. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Built in RAM question

      Not true, but irrelevant. The RAM is integrated directly in the SoC package. The bus is thereby both faster and physically shorter.

      -A.

  6. Gene Cash Silver badge

    always a bummer to see repair and upgrades at the end of the priority list

    Always a bummer to see upgrades actively and maliciously blocked by the manufacturer.

  7. Dave 126 Silver badge

    >A farewell to the "dongleverse" that has blighted the life of many an Apple fan.

    A farewell? Which recent Mac desktop has not had USB A sockets?

    The dongleverse may be a thing for some laptops, but why bring it up in an article about a desktop?

  8. John Robson Silver badge

    RAM

    "Frustrating for sure, although more annoying is the built-in RAM"

    It's a bloody SOC - what do you expect to see?

    I'm still expecting someone to release TB4 based RAM - after all if we can accelerate using GPU memory over PCIe and TB carries PCIe natively... it ought to be a close second best, and portable.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: RAM

      TB4 has a bandwidth of 80 Gbps, or 10 gigabytes per second. The LPDDR5 in the Studio with the M1 Ultra has 800 gigabytes per second memory bandwidth, or 80x faster. That doesn't even get to the orders of magnitude worse latency you get over TB4.

      The reason accessing GPU memory over a PCIe bus (which is faster than TB4 though still far slower than the M1 Mac's memory bandwidth, and still quite problematic for latency) isn't a problem for GPGPU because when the CPU needs to access GPU memory it isn't latency sensitive - i.e. you are shoving a bunch of data over to the GPU for the GPGPU program to crunch on, or shoveling it back from the GPU for the CPU to operate on (i.e. save it, show it to the user, whatever)

      If you ran a program on your CPU operating on memory in a PCIe attached GPU you'd think you'd been transported back in time 30 years from how slow it would run.

      Some GPUs have a lot of memory bandwidth - Nvidia's latest announced yesterday even tops the M1 Ultra's. But that's only for GPGPU programs. Running anything on a CPU trying to access that memory over the PCIe bus it is like trying to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool with a 500 foot long garden hose.

      1. Kev99 Silver badge

        Re: RAM

        And how often is that speed difference even noticeable?

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: RAM

          "And how often is that speed difference even noticeable?"

          PCIe attached memory vs on-die SOC? You'd notice it literally everywhere. From boot to app startup to runtime and probably even screen refresh. Like the difference between walking and driving.

      2. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

        Re: RAM

        Thunderbolt 4 has 40Gbps according to Intel.

        If you check you will see that Intel owns the Thunderbolt brand so if Apple are claiming 80Gbps then it's not TB4

      3. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: RAM

        "The reason accessing GPU memory over a PCIe bus (which is faster than TB4 though still far slower than the M1 Mac's memory bandwidth, and still quite problematic for latency) isn't a problem for GPGPU because when the CPU needs to access GPU memory it isn't latency sensitive"...

        And we've never had multiple levels of cache, memory, disk - tiered storage works for memory as well as archives.

        The memory on the M1 is stupid fast, clearly no comparison with anything external - but even DDR4 3200 was only 25GB/s, well under the speed available with TB4.

        I'd love to have some idea of the intrinsic latency of TB4, but google just shows conversations about audio interfaces, and the latency is so far below the limits of human audio perception that it's been basically irrelevant for many years now. Memory is certainly not something you'd want to run over many metres of fibre based TB (given that we're adding at least* two nanoseconds per foot), but I expect it to provide a pretty good "next best" when mounted close (basically directly attached).

        Again, clearly the onboard memory will have lower latency, but that's not necessarily the only relevant benchmark - and slightly slower, but reusable, memory is something that could reasonably catch on - particularly because we now have an interface that is basically universal. A laptop with some extra memory when docked...

        * At least - it depends on the medium, but probably closer to 3 because the speed of light is slower in a fibre than in free space, and the signal gets to go both ways.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: RAM

          "I'd love to have some idea of the intrinsic latency of TB4"

          Well, https://www.abaco.com/thunderbolt-3 suggests that the latency is sub microsecond (which I appreciate is an absolute age in CPU time), but compares well with PCIe.

          It also reminded me that TB has DMA capability as well..

    2. Smirnov

      Re: RAM

      "Frustrating for sure, although more annoying is the built-in RAM"

      It's a bloody SOC - what do you expect to see?

      Well, AMD's Ryzen and EPYC processors are SoC's, too, and yet the RAM is external.

      SoC means that the 'glue logic' (chipset) is integrated, not RAM (there are plenty of SoCs with external RAM).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: RAM

        SoC means whatever the person making it meant it to mean really... in this case the memory is part of the SoC, and that is in no small part responsible for the performance we see.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: RAM

          No, SoC has a very specific meaning: "system on a chip". Everything on one die, nothing made up of more than one chip/die qualifies. The LPDDR5 is on separate chips, so it is not part of the system on a chip.

          The term "system on a chip" originated when functions that used to be in separate chips like memory controller, GPU, I/O controllers etc. were all brought onto one chip for really small form factor designs like smartphones.

          The M1 Ultra is not even a system on a chip, it is two SoCs linked together.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: RAM

            Not that I would suggest wikipedia is all knowing, but it's usually a good reference.

            An SoC "integrates all or most components" "on a single substrate or microchip".

            And looking at the M1:

            "RAM is on the M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC). While it’s not located within the processor itself, it’s still part of the same silicon seated to the side of the other fundamental components."

            If there ever was a technical definition that included just the north/south bridges being integrated then I think it's lost the dumbing down war that society seems to be waging against itself.

  9. thejoelr

    Why is everyone surprised?

    This is exactly in line with every previous M1, and just like everyone said, they put two together with an interconnect that was already spotted before with the max chips, Memory is on chip die because it is also graphics memory and unique to the architecture. Previous configs had the same flash storage layout, just not in a socket. They won't sell many of these, so the socket cuts costs. 0 surprises. The real story is how bad the new display is.

  10. Slipoch

    I'm sorry but exposed PSU capacitors in the chassis are a real worry, as is the fact that swapping another validated working mac studio hard drive also caused fails which leads me to believe there is going to be more t2-style shenanigans, the second port also wouldn't work with the original hdd. The ssd also doesn't have the controller most ssds have (it's on the board instead). So what exactly is repairable here?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      "I'm sorry but exposed PSU capacitors in the chassis are a real worry"

      Why?

      They're only exposed if you dismantle something you're not expected to dismantle. i.e. they're as exposed as the exposed capacitors in any ATX power supply, if you take the case off the power supply you have exposed capacitors...

  11. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    The soldered in RAM wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't also Apple's way to charge extortionate amounts for the RAM spec upgrade.

    Some M1 models seem to be almost twice the price going from 8GB to 16GB. Personally I think 16GB is the minimum spec.

    All my Macs are second hand. This is written on the last MacBook Pro 16GB with all the ports (so 2015 model).

    1. Snapper Bronze badge

      The M1 powered Macs use RAM far more efficiently. 8GB on a M1 MacBook Air is roughly equivalent to 24-32GB on an Intel powered MacBook Air.

      Apple M1 RAM should not be compared to slotted in or soldered RAM, it's a different ball-game and it's just the start.

    2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Odd how one can get two downvotes for stating a couple of personal preferences and a fact. Some really sad people hanging about here.

  12. gunshit
    Facepalm

    Why someone would buy a Mac in the first place? It's a mystery we'll never understand as human beings :-\

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Why would someone bother to post such stupid thing in a thread dealing with something he doesn't care about in the first place? Its a mystery we'll never understand as human beings.

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