Apple is ready to take Mac performance to the next level with Apple Silicon, and the end result was hinted at late last year. While the general consensus was that Apple would introduce an all-new M2 chip to leap ahead of the M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max, what we got was something that is not only more powerful but also quite familiar: M1 Ultra.
The M1 Ultra is Apple's latest flagship SoC that will make its way into the all-new Mac Studio desktop. When Apple introduced the M1 Max last year, it didn't tell us that it had a hidden feature: a silicon interposer that allows two M1 Max SoCs to be joined together, delivering interprocessor bandwidth of 2.5 TB/sec.
Apple calls this UltraFusion architecture, and it promises performance that was never before possible on the Mac platform (with Intel processors) with incredibly low power draw. The result is an effective doubling of the maximum specs of the already powerful M1 Max. That means that you'll get up to 20 CPU cores (four efficiency cores, 16 high-performance cores), up to 64 GPU cores and up to 128GB of unified memory on-tap for users. Total memory bandwidth comes in a staggering 800 GB/sec. Oh, and the total transistor count jumps to 114 billion, the highest in the industry.
All of this would be for naught if we didn't have an idea of how M1 Ultra will perform against modern processors from AMD and Intel. Regarding relative performance, Apple says that the M1 Ultra can operate at the same performance level as the Alder Lake-based Core i5-12600K (paired with DDR5 memory) while using 65 percent less power. When running full-bore, the M1 Ultra allegedly delivers 90 percent higher multi-core performance compared to the flagship Core i9-12900K while consuming just a third of the power.
When it comes to the 64-core GPU on the M1 Ultra (8,192 execution units, 21 TFLOPs), Apple says that it offers performance on par with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090, while consuming 200 fewer watts. These performance figures for the CPU and GPU are quite spectacular, but we wish that we had more information on what benchmarks Apple is using to compare more PC-centric hardware. That would allow us to determine how much of this is marketing fluff and how much is raw computing power.
Rounding things out are a 32-core Neural Engine which can pump out 22 trillion operations per second, while media engine capabilities also double compared to the previous flagship M1 Max (the company says that the M1 Ultra-powered Mac Studio can play back up to 18 streams of 8K ProRes 422 video, which is unprecedented).
And so you don't think that all of this power would go to waste, Apple says that all of the APIs built into macOS Monterey allow app developers to take full advantage of both the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine and available memory bandwidth.
The first product to ship with M1 Ultra, including the Mac Studio, are available to preorder today and ship on March 18th.
"M1 Ultra is another game-changer for Apple silicon that once again will shock the PC industry. By connecting two M1 Max die with our UltraFusion packaging architecture, we’re able to scale Apple silicon to unprecedented new heights," said Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies. "With its powerful CPU, massive GPU, incredible Neural Engine, ProRes hardware acceleration, and huge amount of unified memory, M1 Ultra completes the M1 family as the world’s most powerful and capable chip for a personal computer."