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Video: Mac Studio teardown gives us a close look at M1 Ultra

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Update (Monday, March 21, 2022 at 6:30pm ET): The original version of this article stated the Mac Studio had upgradeable SSD storage. While there is an extra port that — at least in theory — should allow for users to add additional storage, Apple has a software block disabling third-party storage at this time. We have updated the headline and a few details in the article to reflect this clarification.

The new Mac Studio is a great computer. In our review, we called Apple’s new M1-powered desktop ‘The Apple desktop we’ve been waiting for.’ The new desktop computer looks like a Mac mini on steroids, and it can be configured to extreme, pro-oriented specifications. The new desktop can be built to include an Apple M1 Ultra with a 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU and 32-core Neural Engine, plus 128GB of RAM and 8TB of SSD storage. That option will set you back $7,999. The base model starts at $1,999.

Gone are the days of being able to order a base model of an Apple computer and upgrading it later as you see fit. The Mac Pro, which still comes with Intel processors, is unique in Apple’s lineup for its user-replaceable components. Or is it? A new Mac Studio teardown video by Max Tech shows that the Mac Studio is, in fact, upgradable by the end user. Sort of. The computer is not designed to be opened and it appears as though software is blocking adding additional storage at this time. In theory though, workarounds could be discovered that would allow you to add your own SSD to Apple’s newest desktop computer.

Max Yuryev of Max Tech decided to disassemble the Mac Studio by pulling up the rubber ring on the machine’s bottom. With the rubber remove, you can see four screws. With the bottom of the case removed, there are more screws to remove. Lo and behold, visible without taking the computer itself apart is a port to put additional SSD storage. If you don’t max out the storage when you buy the Mac Studio, there will be an empty storage slot available.

On the Apple Store, Apple recommends users to configure the Mac Studio with enough storage because it’s not ‘user accessible.’ However, as we can see, storage is user accessible. Granted, it’s not super straightforward, but it isn’t that complicated either. RAM, of course, is not user-upgradable because Apple Silicon is system on a chip (SoC). The RAM is built right into the M1-series chip that you purchase. Of course, that hasn’t stopped a Chinese engineer Yang Changshun from doing it on an M1 Mac. Of course, compared to that incredibly difficult and risky maneuver, upgrading the SSD on the Mac Studio seems like a walk in the park.

As Yuryev continues the teardown, it’s clear that the Mac Studio wastes no space. Everything is tightly packed and designed with purpose. The dense computer doesn’t have a large footprint, but it is quite heavy. The M1 Ultra version weighs 3.6 kg (7.9 lbs). The M1 chip itself is under a heat pipe and cooling system. Once that’s removed, we get to see Apple’s impressive silicon.

If you’d like to learn more about the Mac Studio, read our review of Apple’s impressive desktop. The Mac Studio pairs nicely with Apple’s new Studio Display, too, which we called ‘an excellent monitor at a steep price.’

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