Apple M1 Ultra vs M1 Max – Which is the ultimate desktop chip

Apple M1 Ultra vs M1 Max – Which is the ultimate desktop chip. Apple has unveiled an unparalleled desktop chip, the Apple M1 Ultra, at its Spring Event today. The Apple M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max were already revolutionary chips, but the M1 Ultra has again redefined the boundary. But how good is the new Apple M1 Ultra chip compared to the recently-released M1 Max? 

In this article, we compare Apple M1 Ultra vs Apple M1 Max to find out the CPU and GPU gains, power efficiency numbers, and more. On that note, let’s go ahead and pit Apple M1 Ultra against its sibling, Apple M1 Max. The Apple M1 Max was crowned as the most powerful Apple Silicon processor just a few months ago, but that title has already been taken by the newly unveiled M1 Ultra.

Apple has just announced the new M1 Ultra chip as part of its Apple Peek Performance spring event. Joining the family of successful Apple silicon, the chip ushers in a new generation of computing performance. The M1 Ultra is available in the newly announced Mac Studio, a device that can simultaneously be seen as a beefed-up Mac mini or a smaller Mac Pro. When it comes to performance, the Mac Studio blows the latter Mac out of the water, thanks to the M1 Ultra chip.

In this comparison between Apple M1 Ultra and M1 Max, we have mentioned the specs difference and discussed CPU, GPU, and power consumption behavior. Here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s latest M1 Ultra chipset, and how it stacks up versus the company’s previous M-series offerings.

Apple M1 Ultra vs Apple M1 Max: Specifications Comparison

Here is a quick specs comparison between Apple M1 Ultra and Apple M1 Max. You can glance over the spec sheet to get a rough idea about how powerful the new M1 Ultra chip is against the M1 Max.

Apple M1 Max (2021)Apple M1 Ultra (2022)
CPU Cores (Total)1020
CPU Performance Cores816
CPU Efficiency Cores24
GPU Cores24 or 3248 or 64
Neural Engine Cores1632
Transistors57 billion114 billion
Foundry process5nm5nm
Unified Memory Capacities32GB,
64GB
64GB,
128GB
Memory Bandwidth400GB/s800GB/s
Media EngineVideo decode engine,
2 Video encode engines
2 ProRes encode and decode engines
Video decode engine,
4 Video encode engines
4 ProRes encode and decode engines

Apple M1 Ultra vs Apple M1 Max: Pricing and availability

The M1 Ultra chip has only just been announced, but we already know the device in which it will make its first appearance: The Mac Studio. Both the M1 Max and M1 Ultra chips are available in the new Mac Studio desktop PC, but the former demands a lot more money.

The M1 Max with a 24-core GPU is the base option in the Mac Studio and has a starting price of $1999/£1999. Meanwhile, the cheapest configurations of the Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra chip costs a whopping $3799/£3999. And at that price you’ll only get a 48-core GPU – you’ll have to cough up an additional £1000 for the 64-core GPU. This means the base M1 Ultra is £1400 more expensive than the base M1 Max. With such a huge price difference, you’ll really need to make the most out of the performance uplift in order to get your money’s worth.

Apple doesn’t sell its proprietary M1 chips by themselves, so below we’ll list the devices that run on the M1 Max, M1 Pro, and, soon, M1 Ultra.

Apple M1 Max and Pro

  • 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 — starting from $1,999
  • 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 — starting from $2,499
  • Upcoming Mac Studio (M1 Max) — $1,999

Apple M1 Ultra

  • Upcoming Mac Studio (M1 Ultra) — $3,999

Apple M1 Ultra vs Apple M1 Max: CPU

Beginning with the CPU, the Apple M1 Ultra comes from the same M1 family of processors, so the architecture, fabrication process, etc., are all the same. Both M1 Ultra and M1 Max are built on a 5nm process and based on ARM’s v8 architecture. The M1 Ultra packs a total of 20 CPU cores with 16 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores. Whereas the M1 Max features 10 total cores, including 8 performance and 2 efficiency cores. In terms of transistors count, the M1 Ultra has a whopping 114 billion transistors, twice the number of transistors on the M1 Max (57 billion).

As you can notice, Apple has merely doubled the specs of M1 Max to build the M1 Ultra. While in multi-threaded tasks, you will find a great difference on the M1 Ultra, but as far as single-core CPU performance is concerned, both M1 Max and M1 Ultra are on the same level. In fact, M1 Ultra’s single-core performance is similar to the base Apple M1 chipset.

Having said that, it does not take away Apple’s incredible feat at combining two M1 Max chips to get a single integrated M1 Ultra to die. Apple says it is impossible to create a large die to pack 114 billion transistors, so it developed an interposer architecture called UltraFusion to connect two M1 Maxes together. The UltraFusion tech is incredibly fast and has an interposer bandwidth of 2.5TB/sec, making the whole die-to-die connector a single integrated circuit.

To sum up, the CPU performance of the M1 Ultra is indeed twice as fast as M1 Max as M1 Ultra is basically two M1 Max chips bonded together. However, Apple has done a marvelous job at strapping two M1 Maxes together.

Apple M1 Ultra vs Apple M1 Max: GPU

Similar to the CPU, the M1 Ultra GPU has also seen double gains with no foundational changes to the GPU cores. The M1 Ultra comes with 64 GPU cores, whereas the M1 Max features 32 GPU cores. Naturally, the GPU performance is 2x better than the M1 Max. And due to the combined M1 Maxes, you get two Media engines on the M1 Ultra. So essentially, the M1 Ultra has 2 video decoders, 4 videos encoders, and 4 ProRes encoder/ decoder engines, making it one of the rare chipsets to have such an incredible GPU.

Further, the company says the GPU on the M1 Ultra can drive four Apple’s 6K Pro Display XDR and one 4K screen, which is bonkers. Effectively, the M1 Ultra can simultaneously drive around 90 million pixels, and that is unbelievable. Not to mention, due to the combined chipset, you get access to 128GB of Unified Memory, be it for GPU tasks or CPU. You can say that M1 Ultra has 128GB of graphics memory which is again unprecedented. Overall, the M1 Ultra’s 64-core GPU is twice as good as the M1 Max’s 32-core GPU.

Apple M1 Ultra vs Apple M1 Max: Power Consumption

Talking about power consumption, Apple demonstrated that its CPU is quite power-efficient, as has been the case with other Apple M1 chips, including the M1 Max. The Cupertino giant didn’t compare the M1 Ultra’s power consumption to its in-house M1 Max chipset since both are fundamentally the same chips. However, Apple did compare M1 Ultra’s power behavior against dominant and high-end PC chips.

Apple says M1 Ultra’s CPU takes 100W less power, all the while performing similarly to the 12th-Gen Intel Core i9-12900K processor. And in the same power envelope, it can perform 90% better than the 12900K which is mind-blowing. In terms of GPU, the M1 Ultra offers the same level of performance as Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 but while utilizing 200W less power. Granted, the Nvidia RTX 3090 is not the best benchmark to judge a GPU in 2022, but still, 200W is a wide margin. It’s safe to say that M1 Ultra is very power-efficient and can offer high performance on par with PC chips at a much lower power profile.

M1 vs M1 Pro vs M1 Max vs M1 Ultra – Essentially Double the Power

The M1 Max is a powerhouse that allows devices equipped with it — like the MacBook Pro — to deliver best-in-class performance. Apple’s latest M1 Ultra essentially takes the M1 Max and doubles it across the board.

What that means, essentially, is double the CPU and GPU performance across a variety of professional tasks. Apple calls the M1 Max a “leap forward in the transition to Apple Silicon,” and says it unleashes a plethora of new abilities for the company’s Mac lineup.

Interestingly, Apple also notes that the M1 Ultra “completes the M1 family of chips.” With one last Mac on the horizon — the Mac Pro — the signs of where Apple might go with that machine are starting to materialize. With Apple’s UltraFusion technology, it could theoretically stitch multiple M1 Max or M1 Ultra chips together in that desktop tower — but there are no signs of that in the existing chips.

In the meantime, the M1 Ultra really does provide best-in-class performance for not just per-watt, but for the price as well.

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