Apple M1 Ultra or M1 Max: Which chip is right for you?

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Apple has revolutionized the custom silicon market with the introduction of the M1 SoC. Next, we introduced the M1 Pro and M1 Max SoC for power users, especially creators. But Apple didn’t stop there! We have released the M1 Ultra, the godfather of all these SoCs. This is the last chip in the M1 lineup.

The M1 Ultra is the latest and greatest product in the M1 lineup, with two M1 Max chips, and it’s not ashamed of its name. But should you really spend on the M1 Ultra-powered device, or is the M1 Max (still powerful enough) enough? Let’s understand the difference between M1 Max and M1 Ultra more deeply.

M1 Max and M1 Ultra: Spec Sheet

Since these are SoCs (system on chips), the CPU, GPU, and memory (RAM) are set up on a single chip. All the specifications needed for a better comparison are:

M1 Ultra M1 max
CPU 20 cores
(16 performance + 4 efficiency)
10 cores
(8 performance + 2 efficiency)
GPU 48 cores 24 cores
Neural engine 32 cores 16 cores
Memory bandwidth 800GB / sec 400GB / sec
RAM (Unified Memory) 64GB, 128GB 32GB, 64GB
Storage 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB
Up to configurable 20 core CPU
64-core GPU
32-core neural engine
10 core CPU
32-core GPU
16-core neural engine

It is already established that the M1 Ultra is connected to two M1 Maxes. This is usually not preferred by chip makers as it increases latency, but Apple makes this possible, with bandwidth between processors of 2.5TB / s, and I don’t think there is significant latency.

All M1 SoCs are based on the 5nm architecture. The M1 is made up of 16 billion transistors, the M1 Max contains 57 billion of these transistors, and the M1 Ultra has 114 billion transistors. All of this is thanks to Apple’s UltraFusion technology.

The difference in single-core CPU performance on all M1 chips is negligible. Differences begin to appear in the multi-core performance of these chips. See the benchmark scores below.

Benchmark scores for M1 Max and Ultra chips

Does the M1 Ultra consume super power?

CPU and GPU performance with power consumption

The USP for an M1 chip is the ratio of power to performance. These SoCs consume less power, even when compared to compatible PCs. The M1 Max CPU consumes 65% less power than the Intel i5-12600K and offers similar performance.

The M1 Ultra CPU directly competes with the Intel i9-12900K processor, consuming the same amount of power while delivering 90% higher performance.

The GPUs in both of these SoCs are also very power efficient. M1 Max delivers the same performance as the RTX3060Ti while consuming 1/3 of the power. The M1 Ultra consumes 200 watts less power than the RTX 3090 with similar performance. Given the size of the Mac Studio, this is a great design and engineering feat.

Price and availability

The M1 Max is available on the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the newly launched MacStudio, while the M1 Ultra is for MacStudio only. And that makes sense because it doesn’t seem feasible to fit the M1 Ultra SoC in a MacBook.

Again, the M1 Ultra is literally a combination of the two M1 Max, so the price seems reasonable. Mac Studio with M1 Max starts at $ 1,999 and M1 Ultra Mac Studio starts at $ 3,999.

In addition, MacStudio comes with a number of ports. Both M1 Max and M1 Ultra Mac Studio have four Thunderbolt 4 ports on the back, supporting:

  • Thunderbolt 4 (up to 40Gb / s)
  • DisplayPort
  • USB 4 (up to 40Gb / s)
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb / s)
  • Two USB-A ports (up to 5Gb / s)
  • HDMI port
  • 10Gb Ethernet
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

In front of Mac Studio with M1 Ultra I have

  • Two Thunderbolt 4 ports (up to 40Gb / s)
  • SDXC card slot (UHS-II)

And that Mac Studio with M1 Max I have

  • Two USB-C ports (up to 10Gb / s)
  • SDXC card slot (UHS-II)

These can be pre-ordered now from the Apple Store and will be available from March 18th. Please note that it will take 6-8 weeks to ship.

Need to get M1 Max or M1 Ultra?

Million dollar question, wait a minute! The $ 2,000 question here is which Mac Studio should I get? Can the $ 1,999 Mac Studio with M1 Max SoC meet your needs? Or do I need to put another $ 2,000 to get the $ 3,999 M1 Ultra Mac Studio? It’s a question that only you can answer.

If you focus on very heavy tasks and running multiple 4K displays, the M1 Ultra seems to be a better choice. However, you can’t underestimate the M1 Max Mac Studio. Consider use cases and make informed decisions.

The M1 chip has disrupted the custom silicon market, and the M1 Ultra continues to follow suit. There is a lot of power to use the M1 Ultra, but it seems overkill for the average consumer.

If you are considering an upgrade, list your needs and upgrade accordingly. The M1 chip itself is powerful and efficient for everyday tasks, and I’m talking from my personal experience. What do you think of the M1 Ultra? Please share in the comments below.

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