M2 Max Mac Studio Thermal and Noise Testing: The Best Silent PC!?

How hot and noisy does the M2 Max Mac Studio get under load? Apple Silicon is known for its efficiency, and combined with the great cooling that the Mac Studio can provide, the results were quite surprising.

Idle Noise and Fan Speed

I previously made a video that talked about the Mac Studio’s fan speed and noise levels at idle. In summary, the 1000 rpm minimum fan speed at idle is much quieter than the M1 Studio, which ran at 1300 rpm, fixing Apple’s big mistake from the first generation. At 1000 rpm, I basically can’t hear it from 2 feet away.

100% CPU Load

To see how it performs under load, I stressed the CPU to 100% and monitored the temps and fan speeds. At the start of the test, CPU temps were around 38 degrees. Right after starting 100% CPU load, temps quickly went up to 50 degrees. At the 1 minute mark, we reach 52 degrees. At 5 minutes, it gets to 55 degrees. However, all this time, the fan speeds have stayed at 1000 rpm.

After 10 minutes, temps have barely risen to 57, and the fan has yet to spin up. At 20 minutes, temps are still in the 58 degree range, with still no fan activity. At the 30 minute mark, it’s the same story. And going to 40 minutes makes no difference, so i decided to stop the test. CPU temps seemed to top out with the performance cores in the low 60’s, all while the fan stayed at the minimum fan speed of 1000 rpm, just as if the computer was at idle.

This result really surprised me in the best possible way.

100% GPU Load

Next, I tested 100% GPU load by booting up Final Fantasy XIV. Before I started, CPU and GPU temps were around 35 degrees. After setting things up and ensuring GPU load at 100%, the CPU quickly reached 48-49 degrees similar to the CPU load test, and the GPU cluster readings about 45. At around 5 minutes, CPU temps are at 56, and GPU temps have risen to around 53. Fan speeds remain at 1000 rpm. Also note that the CPU load is 35-40% throughout this test.

At 10 minutes, the CPU has reached 60 and the GPU around 57. This was around the top CPU temp for the CPU load test. Still no fan speed change. At 15 minutes, CPU temps have risen further to 63, and the GPU is a bit higher at around 59. Again, no change in fan speeds.

However, we do see our first change in fan speeds less than a minute later, as the fans start to ramp up a little bit once the average GPU cluster exceeds 60 degrees. At 16 minutes, fan speeds are around 1025 rpm. At 17 minutes, 1045 rpm. At 18 minutes, 1075 rpm. At 19 minutes, 1080. But at 20 minutes, temps and fan speeds have actually dropped a bit.

Fan speeds did reach up to 1100 rpm briefly, but then would drop back down again. It seems that 100% GPU Load with the CPU at around 40% will max out temps in the low 60’s and fan speeds at just 1100 rpm. At this speed, the fan is barely louder than at 1000 rpm. I don’t think I can capture the difference with my microphone.

However, I did find that at certain rpm in the 1100 range, such as right around 1130 rpm or so, there would be a slight whining noise that isn’t there at slightly higher or lower speeds, so just be aware of that. I’ll have a noise recording test later on to show what I mean.

Near 100% CPU and GPU Load

Finally, I tried to max out both the CPU and GPU. I should note that I was unable to completely stress the CPU and GPU at 100% since putting 100% load on the CPU would cause the game to no longer stress the GPU fully. Therefore, I found a balance where the CPU was near 100% load and the GPU was about 96%.

I started this test right after the previous one, so I’ll just talk about where it ended up balancing out. After about 18 minutes or so, the max CPU temps reached 80 degrees with performance cores mostly in the low 80’s. Max GPU temps was in the low 60’s.

Fans generally stayed in the mid 1200’s, although the max did reach 1300 rpm occasionally. At this speed, it is clearly audible at 2 feet away, but is a soft whirling noise.

Noise Recording

Although my mic won’t capture the noise levels well since they are so low, it may be able to give you an idea of the noise characteristic from up close.

Here is what the Mac Studio fan sounds like from 1000 to 1500 rpm, since the M2 Max Mac Studio probably won’t exceed that during real use.

Keep in mind that the M1 Mac Studio’s minimum fan speed was around 1300 rpm unless you use 3rd party tools, while that appears to be the maximum that the M2 Studio will reach under load. Of course, the fan hardware may not be entirely the same, but the M2 Max Mac Studio can definitely be considered a silent computing beast in my book.

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