Apple revealed the M1 Ultra chip on Tuesday, which combines two M1 Max chips into a single package with 20 processing cores, 64 graphics cores, a 32-core Neural Engine, and up to 128GB of high-bandwidth, low-latency unified memory.
The CPU, which has a staggering 114 billion transistors, was unveiled at Apple’s March 2022 ‘Peek performance’ event and powers the new Mac Studio desktop computer’s high-end $3,999 configuration.
According to Apple, the chip integrates specific circuitry from the M1 Max from last year, along with a high-speed silicon interface called UltraFusion, to links the two processors together without a complicated architecture that would cause complications for programmers.
It’s indicative of the semiconductor industry’s growing ambition to leverage packaging technologies to connect smaller chip parts into a single larger processor.
UltraFusion uses a silicon interposer, which is essentially a chip package layer with 10,000 high-speed links between the two slices of silicon. “This is a super clever approach to maximize a mature design,” said Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin. The M1 Ultra features seven times as many transistors as the first-generation M1 chip, the basic electronic building block in a CPU.
Apple claims that a Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra is 1.9 times faster than an Intel-powered Mac Pro with a 16-core Intel Xeon processor and 1.6 times faster than a Mac Pro with a 28-core Xeon, however, it doesn’t disclose whose performance tests it conducted.
The Mac Studio’s high performance comes with a hefty cost, but creative professionals who need to handle large video files or programmers developing new software may be ready to pay for it.
The M1 Ultra represents a new high-water mark for Apple’s processor family, but it’s still a step behind the M2 processor, which is projected to redesign the core engines in Apple’s Mac processors. Despite the fact that Apple claims the new Mac Studio is faster than the current Intel-powered Mac Pro, the company also stated that a new Mac Pro built on Apple silicon is still in the works.
According to Tirias Research analyst Kevin Krewell, Apple’s Mac chips, which are more powerful variants of the A-series processors in its iPhones and iPads, have been “a huge success for Apple.” “Most people are happy with the performance, compatibility and battery life.”
In November 2020, Apple introduced the M1 CPU in MacBook Air laptops and small Mac minis, followed by a new 24-inch iMac in early 2021. The more powerful MacBook Pro computers with the M1 Pro and M1 Max CPUs arrived in October 2021, with variations with more processing cores, higher graphics performance, and support for 32GB and 64GB of memory rather than merely 16GB.
Analysts believe Apple’s M series chips helped increase Mac profit margins by reducing Intel Core processor purchases over a two-year changeover period.