When Apple rolled out the first M1 chip in late 2020, it seemed like a pretty big jump forward. Then the new M1 Pro and M1 Max in MacBook Pro models blew people away in October 2021. Now the Cupertino tech giant calls its latest M1 Ultra chip in the new Mac Studio desktop computer “the next giant leap for Apple silicon and the Mac.”
It’s almost like when Neil Armstrong got back from taking “one giant leap for mankind” on the moon in 1969 — if someone had told him, “you can toss that jalopy you went up in. Now we’ve got a real spaceship for ya.”
Apple said at its “Peek Performance” event Tuesday that the M1 Ultra is “the world’s most powerful chip for a personal computer.”
M1 Ultra chip brings ‘unprecedented’ desktop performance
Apple said the new M1 Ultra chip in the new Mac Studio desktop features “UltraFusion” — the company’s architecture that interconnects the die of two M1 Max chips. That creates a system on a chip (SoC) with industry-leading performance per watt, the company said.
How? In part because the new SoC consists of 114 billion transistors, the most ever in a personal computer chip, Apple said. M1 Ultra can be configured with up to 128GB of high-bandwidth, low-latency unified memory. The 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine accesses that memory to complete complex tasks like 3D rendering and video transcoding.
“M1 Ultra is another game-changer for Apple silicon that once again will shock the PC industry,” said Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies. “By connecting two M1 Max die with our UltraFusion packaging architecture, we’re able to scale Apple silicon to unprecedented new heights.”
He also indicated this will be the last chip added to Apple’s M1 lineup, which includes the original M1, the M1 Pro and the M1 Max.
“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,” Srouji said.
‘Groundbreaking’ UltraFusion architecture
Apple’s new M1 Ultra chip uses a custom-built architecture to connect two high-performance M1 Max chips. But rather than using a motherboard to house them — which would increase latency, reduce bandwidth and use more power — UltraFusion employs a silicon interposer that connects the chips across more than 10,000 signals, Apple said.
That connection provides 2.5TB per second of low -latency, inter-processor bandwidth — more than four times the bandwidth of the leading multi-chip interconnect technology, according to Cupertino.
“This enables M1 Ultra to behave and be recognized by software as one chip, so developers don’t need to rewrite code to take advantage of its performance,” the company said. “There’s never been anything like it.”
High performance with efficient power usage
M1 Ultra features a powerful 20-core CPU with 16 high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. It delivers 90% higher multithreaded performance than the fastest available 16-core PC desktop chip, Apple said.
Additionally, M1 Ultra reaches the PC chip’s peak performance using 100 fewer watts. That efficiency means less energy is consumed and fans run quietly. And that’s the case even as apps like Logic Pro rip through demanding workflows, such as processing massive amounts of virtual instruments, audio plugins and effects, Apple said.
And for the most graphics-intensive needs, like 3D rendering, M1 Ultra packs a 64-core GPU — eight times the size of M1. Apple said it delivers faster performance than the highest-end PC GPU available while using 200 fewer watts of power.
Apple’s assessment of its new M1 Ultra chip can be read in greater depth here.