Friday, April 8, 2022

Upgrading to a 14-inch MacBook Pro With a Studio Display

I upgraded my 27-inch iMac (2017) to a 14-inch MacBook Pro (10-core M1 Pro, 32 GB of RAM, 2 TB SSD). Most of the time, I plan to run it in clamshell mode, sitting in a BookArc, connected to a Studio Display and a 30-inch Dell display (non-Retina).


Update (2022-04-09): Oddly, LaTeX does not seem to be any faster when running natively vs. in Rosetta. The MacBook Pro kernel panicked when logging in from the screen saver. After rebooting, XProtect hung waiting on XPC, and most apps would not respond to clicks until I rebooted again. That fixed the clicking problem, but then TCC said that various apps didn’t have Automation access, even though System Preferences showed them as checked.

Update (2022-04-11): Sir Ruben:

I have dual studio displays and I have noticed (when the screens are off) that the glass is coated with a different colour. One is green tinted and the other is purple tinted. I have looked at my old iMac and that had a purple tint to it also.

I have also found that when wiping the screens with a microfibre cloth the green tinted one grips the microfibre more, but it glides across the purple tinted one more easily.

Update (2022-04-13): I’m having problems with the Studio Display as a USB hub. While cloning to drives that are plugged into a hub attached to the display, my wired keyboard (also plugged into the display) delays some keypresses for a few seconds and repeats others. These are low-RPM spinning hard drives, so I don’t think they are using very much bandwidth. This does not occur when the keyboard is plugged directly into the MacBook Pro, however that uses up its last Thunderbolt port and makes it more ungainly as it now has cables sticking out of both sides of the BookArc. I also had a drive spontaneously unmount when moving the keyboard from the display to a direct connection.

Pierre Igot:

You can defend Apple’s current focus on core hardware performance by saying “a rising tide lifts all boats”, but how do you defend “drives sometimes take an hour to mount” and “up to 5 minutes before it shows a non-blank window”? (My experience too.)

Update (2022-04-19): I’ve now had three spontaneous logouts in less than two weeks. They occurred in different apps, sometimes with the Mac almost idle, so it’s not clear what might have triggered them. I don’t recall this ever happening with the iMac.

See also: Jeff Johnson.

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I'm using my 2014 5K Retina iMac as secondary monitor for my 2020 5K Retina iMac without Target Display Mode.

I've tried two solutions: AirServer (limited to 1080p) and the USB-C Luna Display dongle.

Even though the Luna Display offered 5K resolution for the secondary monitor, the connection was too unstable, so I'm OK using AirPlay despite being limited to 1080p.

To be honest, AirPlay is not 100% stable either but good enough for my needs and much easier to manage than having to launch two separate apps, one on the main computer, the other on the secondary one.

Have you ever tried any of those options?

@Damien No, I looked into the Luna but it didn’t sound like a good fit for a primary display.

With regard to the migration speed, there was just some discussion in TidBITS Talk about how host-to-host transfers are limited to 10 Gbps by the Thunderbolt spec, rather than the 20 Gbps or 40 Gbps, you get with host-to-peripheral.

It spent a long time deleting old backups, even though there should have been plenty of free space…

This would have scared the shit out of me and caused me to abort whatever Time Machine was doing.

The unexpected slowness sounds like issues I had with BlockBlock when first using my M1 Pro. Disabling it made everything quick again.

@Adam Interesting. I think that’s still faster than the USB 3 hub that I’ve been using when making clones. So to me it seems like a software issue or overhead due to target disk mode.

@vintner Fortunately, I don’t really trust Time Machine. I have multiple target drives, one of which got rotated to cold storage just before this migration. It’s not clear there would have been a way to fix it, so I just let it finish what it was doing.

@Simon Good to know, but I am not using BlockBlock or any similar utility. My best guess is that it’s related to an APFS snapshot being in use.

Spotlight indexing kept mine slower than usual for a few days then it finished and was up to par with speed reports.

Alexander Browne

Apple says the Studio Display has "Three downstream USB-C ports (up to 10Gb/s) for connecting peripherals, storage, and networking" (, which I think is their way of saying those ports only do USB, not USB-C Alternate Modes, such as DisplayPort, so I'm not surprised it didn't work with USB-C-to-DisplayPort. But the fact that technical people like us are discussing this is a failure of the USB group and Apple to make it clear.

The login background is now part of the Signed System Volume; it unfortunately can't be changed without going through a whole rigamarole of unsealing, modifying, booting a snapshot, and not being able to go back. Sadly.

The lack of Target Display Mode on 5K iMacs is a huge bummer. There’s hundreds of thousands if not millions of them that are going to be dumped. I wish there was a better way to repurpose them.

You can find old 5k iMacs for $500 on Craigslist!

$500 for an apple 5K screen eh? Maybe that's why you can't use them as external monitors.

@Eric Any idea why the login background is different on different Macs (with the same macOS version) if it’s part of the SSV?

I have similar thoughts about the performance of the M1.

I have been impressed with what it does in my personal MacBook Air.

When it comes to the MacBook Pros, I'm not sure the Pro/Max/Ultra really does much except help with highly parallelized workloads, which is not really what either of us are doing/needing. Everything seems snappy, no complaints (except docker, but I can't fault the M1 Pro/Max/Ultra for that). Somehow the MBP Max I have used doesn't seem like it's all that much better than the Air. It kind of makes sense given the clock speeds are the same, but the marketing is a little misleading imo. The Max/Ultra chips seem like an over-purchase for anyone other than video editors or animators.

I'm very curious how these chips feel inside of a Mac Studio, given the cooling system. From what I could tell at the Apple Store, it seems like it moves A LOT of air even when idling. There were already dust bunnies building up on the intake vents on the bottom of the unit.

Wasn't expecting to care much about the Studio display, but I was ended up impressed in person.

Strange that you can't wake your MBP when it's in clamshell mode. I just bash away at the spacebar a couple of times until it wakes. Might be because I have a wired keyboard connected to the monitor that also provides power for the MBP.

Not a Studio Display though.

@ Kristoffer: I think he's saying he shut it off entirely and wants to turn it on externally. Not sleep/wake; shut down/power on.

> When it comes to the MacBook Pros, I'm not sure the Pro/Max/Ultra really does much except help with highly parallelized workloads

They don't — even the M1 Ultra has the same Firestorm cores at the same 3.2 Ghz clock as the regular M1. However, the memory bandwidth is higher, and even a single core will benefit from that slightly. So in memory-heavy stuff, it'll be a tad faster. (The regular M1 has about 67 GiB/s, whereas the higher ones have hundreds of GiBs/s. AnandTech's measurements show a single core using ~102 GiB/s.

But yes, unless you have very highly parallelized (and/or GPU-focused) workloads, there's really no point in the Ultra. And unless you use the GPU much, there's no point in the Max over the Pro either.

@Kristoffer I use a wired keyboard and can wake it in clamshell mode. But I can’t turn it on if it was shut down.

Ghost Quartz

> Opening OmniOutliner documents is still slow, mostly due to file coordination overhead, though I don’t have them stored in iCloud Drive. Mail’s interface still sometimes locks up for 5 seconds when switching between messages. I still get random system-wide freezes, beachballs, and times where the network and storage stop responding for 10–60 seconds. Tiny Mail and OmniFocus AppleScripts that normally take a fraction of a second to run still sometimes take 5–10 seconds of showing red in FastScripts. Finder still beachballs all the time and gets minutes behind at showing the contents of a folder. Disk Utility takes up to 5 minutes before it shows a non-blank window. Drives still sometimes take an hour to mount. Photos still sometimes takes an hour to show new photos that my iPhone had uploaded long ago. Overall, it feels like the software is letting down the hardware.

I realize this maybe isn’t a particularly helpful comment, but these performance issues seem way outside what I’ve come to expect on an M1 Air. It’s probably not an underlying issue with the Mac’s hardware since it has persisted across machines. How many drives do you normally have connected? Admittedly I normally use the machine without external storage attached.

For comparison, here’s the kind of performance I usually see:
· OmniOutliner documents open instantly
· I haven’t used Apple Mail for the past year; MailMate never locks up though
· Rarely see system freezes or beachballs. Haven’t seen any storage responsiveness issues. But I have had the system lock up completely (without a kernel panic) 4 or 5 times on Big Sur
· Finder seems to update folder contents promptly (can’t remember the last time I noticed it not updating)
· Disk mounting usually occurs in seconds, and never takes more than a minute. For example, plugging in a 2TB SanDisk USB-C SSD, with 4 encrypted APFS volumes: each password prompt appears in ~6 seconds. Skipping the first three volumes and mounting the fourth, takes ~6 seconds after entering my password. The mounted volume is ~800 GB with 18 snapshots.
· With the same SSD attached, Disk Utility is ready in under a second.
· I have had issues with Photos before, but none in recent memory

@Ghost I normally have 5 external storage devices attached to the iMac or new MacBook Pro. They are a mix of SSD and spinning hard drives, APFS and HFS+. I also see these issues with my Intel MacBook Pro, which has either zero or one (different) device attached and with the Intel MacBook Air that I use as a server. IIRC, most of the problems started with Big Sur; I think the Apple Mail one may date to Catalina. I didn’t start using Photos until recently (because of problems introduced with Image Capture).

Hi Michael. Thanks for SpamSieve – it makes life better. Looking forward to a native M1 EagleFiler.

I had all kinds of trouble with my M1 Max MBP (got the Max for the 32GB of RAM for serious multitasking including media applications) until I stopped trying to use USB video. I have my M1 Max plugged into a WD D50 dock (both at home and work; the NVME slot is very fast 2.6 MB/sec but make the dock too hot, remove it) and at home where I have three monitors, I've daisychained an Akitio ThunderDock 2 to the WD D50.

The reason to do this is to run two monitors, power and almost unlimited USB via a single cable – theoretically with USB-C video one could have two monitors with a single dock. But then everything gets buggy (as you've noted). For the third monitor in clamshell mode (you could use your M1 Pro built-in screen as the third screen), I use the built-in HDMI port.

What do I do with the other two Thunderbolt ports on the M1 MBP? I use them for Thunderbolt drives.

The single cable for regular use is extremely important as I take the M1 Max back and forth between home and office daily. Dealing with more than a single cable to undock a laptop has always been awful, although MagSafe helped make at least the power part bearable (with a dedicated charger brick at each primary location, and an extra for travel).

My experience has been that any new Mac setup with Migration Assistant always has weird lingering issues.

Have you tried setting up a secondary new user account and testing mounting, etc there?

@CM Yes, I see the same issues in a fresh user account and also on a brand new Mac where I didn’t use Migration Assistant.

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