Configure the new Mac Studio with a super-fast M1 Ultra processor and the weight goes up a full 2 pounds. Weight doesn’t matter for a desktop, but people have been curious what about where all the extra comes from.
Apple has an answer. And it all comes down to heat and heavy metal.
Apple M1 Ultra has extra 2 pounds of thermal module
A Mac Studio with an M1 Max processor weighs 5.9 pounds. But the version with the just-announced M1 Ultra tips the scales at a heftier 7.9 pounds.
The Verge asked Apple where the extra poundage came from. The response was, “The additional weight is due to M1 Ultra having a larger copper thermal module, where as M1 Max has an aluminum heatsink.”
Heat is an inevitable and unwanted byproduct of CPUs. And the faster the chip is, the more waste heat it generates. Apple calls its new M1 Ultra the “world’s most powerful chip for a personal computer” so you can be sure it generates some heat. Probably about twice as much as an M1 Max processor because that’s what the Ultra is… two M1 Max chips fused together.
A computer isn’t useful if its CPU melts, so the thermal energy must be dealt with somehow. As Apple noted, the M1 Max needs an aluminum heatsink, but the M1 Ultra requires a big thermal module made of copper.
So not only is the Ultra’s cooling system bigger, its made of a denser metal. About 2.3 times more dense. A cubic foot of aluminum is 168 pounds while that same amount of copper is 560 pounds.
Apple chose copper because it is at least 40% better at conducting heat than aluminum. But it’s heavier. In the case of the Mac Studio with M1 Ultra, it’s about 2 pounds heavier.
For you fans of Judas Priest and Megadeth, that’s about five heavy metal vinyl records.
Not a bigger power supply
Some have pointed out that the higher-performance chip draws so much current that it might require a bigger, heavier power supply in the Mac Studio. In this case, Apple told The Verge that it manufactures the desktop computer ready to handle either processor.
No matter the chip — M1 Max or M1 Ultra — the Mac comes with the same 370W power supply.