Ports over portability: Two years with the Mac Studio

Mac Studio M2
Pictured: Mac Studio on a desk
// A defence of the desktop PC in the laptop era
Alex Choros
May 27, 2024
Icon Time To Read3 min read

Published on May 27, 2024

We're well and truly living in the laptop era. When you think of a computer, you're probably thinking about a laptop. Laptops have become the standard for computers out of sheer practicality. If you look at the consumer space, there are very few options for a non-portable desktop PC.

Despite all this, I love the Mac Studio. I've been using a Mac Studio as my primary computer since the M1 model launched and swapped over to an M2 variant shortly after it was announced last year. While I can achieve pretty much everything the Mac Studio can do on a MacBook, it's more about the vibe.

As someone who predominantly works from home, I love having my main computer live in my study, like a computer room of old. It's nice to leave it behind at the end of the workday, in a very physical way. It creates a clear distinction between work and leisure, in a way that can blur a lot more with a laptop.

It's so easy to take a laptop onto the couch and do a little more work while watching TV in the evening, or start the daily grind in bed first thing in the morning. The Mac Studio isn't some sort of miracle cure for work-life balance, but it helps.

Similarly, the fixed nature of the Mac Studio means it's also always ready to go. My standard accessories - mouse, keyboard, and monitor - as well as more boutique tools - like my MIDI keyboard - are always connected. I don’t have to mess around with dongles or docks. It's nice not to think about what I've got plugged in and constantly juggle cables. While I'd never say no to more ports, the Mac Studio is more generous than most.

There's also flexibility in terms of accessories; you get to pick your screen, mouse, and keyboard. I quite like the Apple trackpad and keyboard, my partner prefers an ergonomic keyboard, for example. You can upgrade your display without upgrading the computer, or similarly, upgrade the computer without needing a new screen.

This modularity can be a boon in the worst-case scenario. A few months ago, an exploding toastie situation covered my keyboard with a mix of kewpie and kimchi. I was able to clean it out with a bit of effort, thankfully, but I could have easily swapped to another keyboard in the event of damage. Kimchi'ing a laptop keyboard may have meant the entire device having a stint away from home for repairs.

Mac Studio M2

Despite the freedom and flexibility you get from ports and BYO accessories, it is worth noting the Mac Studio makes the standard Apple compromises. You can't upgrade your storage or RAM post-purchase, so you have to anticipate your future needs upfront. Naturally, this can mean springing for a more expensive model. At the least, keeping an external drive connected to a Mac Studio is much less annoying than to a laptop

Sure, you can make a MacBook into a faux-desktop experience with a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, and it will be just as capable as the Mac Studio. If anything, Apple's desktop computers have lost some relevance thanks to how powerful it's made its laptops. Apple's fastest chips - the Ultra variants - may be reserved for the Studio and Mac Pro - but the M3 Max in a MacBook Pro is still going to give all but the most demanding creative professionals more than enough power.

And don't get me wrong, that absolutely rules. For most people, I'd recommend just getting the best-specced MacBook for your needs rather than budgeting for two computers. After all, I still have a work-issued laptop that I need when for days in the office and travel. Having a Mac Studio doesn't replace the need for a portable computer. It may be light enough to take most places, but you still need mains power, a mouse and keyboard, and mains power.

This fundamentally makes a Mac Studio - or any desktop computer - a luxury in many cases. A Mac Studio isn't the right Mac for most, but it's the right computer for me. I like that it's not portable. I like that I don't have to think about dongles or make choices about the devices I connect. I like that I wouldn't need to send it in for repair if the screen, keyboard, or mouse gets damaged.

If those concepts appeal to you, maybe a Mac Studio could be right for you too. Or a Mac Mini, if you're looking for something a little cheaper. But in an era of ultra-portable laptops that inevitably go everywhere with you, it's nice having a computer that can't.

Alex Choros
Written by
Alex Choros
Alex Choros is the Group Reviews Editor for Clearlink Australia's local websites - Reviews.org, Safewise, and WhistleOut - and the Managing Editor for WhistleOut Australia. He's been writing about consumer technology for over eight years and is an expert on the Australian telco sector, to the point where he knows far too many phone and internet plans by heart. He also contributes to Gizmodo and Lifehacker, and makes regular appearances on 2GB. Outside of tech, Alex loves long hikes, red wine, and death metal.

Related Articles