The Mac Studio is an impressive machine, but how well does a much lower cost Apple computer like a Mac mini compare, and how much power is really needed? For anyone choosing a desktop computer over a laptop, the implication is that there is serious work to do and intensive gameplay. A slim, little Mac mini could be enough in 2022, or perhaps it’s time to step up to the massive performance of the Mac Studio.

While the Mac Studio and Mac mini share the same 7.7 by 7.7-inch footprint, the Studio is a little over three times as tall at 3.7-inches, making room for more hardware and allowing for greater airflow for cooling. The Mac mini isn’t the smallest computer on the market, but it’s by far the tiniest Mac computer and also the least expensive, costing just $699. Sporting an Apple M1 processor, the Mac mini outperforms similarly priced PC towers and offers all of the benefits of the Apple ecosystem, making this a popular choice.

Apple offers several different configurations for the Mac Studio, and each is dramatically faster than a Mac mini for heavy workloads. While the M1 processor found in the Mac mini zips along with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores for its central processing tasks, the entry-level Mac Studio uses an M1 Max with 8 performance cores and 2 for efficiency favoring speed over energy savings. The more expensive Mac Studio boasts enormous power with its M1 Ultra chip that combines two M1 Max processors for double the speed potential. It’s important to note that last word, ‘potential,’ because not every core is active for many tasks. In some cases, only a single efficiency core is needed. And that’s why the M1 Mac mini might be the right choice for some shoppers.

Do You Need An M1 Ultra Chip?

The truth is that most users would not be able to make use of the full potential of an M1 Ultra chip, and it would be a waste of money to invest $3,999 or more on a super-powerful computer when the $699 Mac mini would be enough. However, it can be hard to make that decision since technology advances rapidly and needs change. While editing 12-megapixel photos, 4K resolution video, working with spreadsheets, taking video calls and browsing the internet might seem sufficient right now, some breakthrough soon might demand much more computing power.

The Mac mini is plenty fast for most users currently. More power is easy to justify when working with multi-layered videos, longer content, or applying special effects. A Mac Studio might be perfect for someone handling large and complex 3D scenes or crunching a massive quantity of numbers or machine learning datasets. The Mac Studio has a tremendous eight times graphics performance advantage over the Mac mini, and when the need is there, it’s great to have this option. For most users, Apple‘s Mac mini provides better value than the Mac Studio and leaves $1,300 or more in the bank account for software and accessories.