Adding water cooling to the Mac Studio does surprisingly little

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A YouTube video shows how a tough attempt to add water cooling to the Mac Studio ultimately doesn’t improve performance much.

Experienced PC builders will be familiar with the benefits of water cooling, including the potential to provide better thermal conditions than air-based methods, the possibility of improved chip performance, and reduced noise. In a YouTube video posted on Monday, an attempt was made to install a water cooling system on Apple’s Mac Studio with an M1 Max processor.

Linus Tech Tips’ plan was to remove the existing cooling system from a Mac Studio, replace it with a water-cooling based version and see how it performed. The chain had two identical Mac Studios, which allowed for a more direct comparison with similar base units.

Replacing the cooling system in the Mac Studio seemed relatively simple, since the existing system is a heatsink and a large fan section taking up half the internal volume of the case. Removing the component was not difficult, but involved disconnecting a proprietary connection that powered the system.

After removing the heatsink and fans from a large section that contacts the M1 chip using tools ranging from a heat gun to a milling machine, a water block was attached to the plate remaining.

To actually pump water around the system, the plan involved milling numerous holes in the top of the Mac Studio’s aluminum casing, allowing cables and pipes to pass through. Due to the lack of space inside, most of the water cooling loop had to be outside of the Mac Studio itself.

Since the channel mainly deals with gaming-centric videos, RGB lighting was included in the water cooling system. Corsair components were chosen for the RGB elements because they had a controller app running on macOS.

After several days, including repeated disassembly and reassembly, the water-cooled Mac Studio finally worked. It was also capable of running side-by-side with an original Mac Studio of the same specification.

On the plus side, the Mac Studio has been cooled by 30 degrees compared to stock. However, in Cinebench R23, the water-cooled Mac Studio scored 12,056 while the regular model managed 12,016. A second test gave a score of 12,104, which is a performance improvement of 0.7. % – well within the margin of error of each reference.

The small change in performance was cited as the M1’s “turbo boost” being “really terrible”, but that it ultimately didn’t matter “because they are power-draining and well-cooled”.

Obviously, the process of adding water cooling is expensive, difficult, and issues generated by the process will not be covered by Apple’s warranty or AppleCare. At the very least, questions would be raised by Apple support about the holes in the case.

While we’re glad the channel gave the mod a try, given how difficult it is for the average user to acquire spare parts and install them in the event of a breakdown, as well as the whole process and minimal payoff, AppleInsider strongly advise against attempting what the video demonstrates.


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