Apple M1 Ultra: Everything you need to know about Apple’s workstation chip

Apple M1 Ultra: Everything you need to know about Apple’s workstation chip

Just a couple of months after unveiling the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, Apple decided to take the wraps off yet another member of the M1 family of Apple Silicon SoCs at its Spring “Peek Performance” product event. Called the M1 Ultra, this new chip is the fourth and final member of the M1 family. The M1 Ultra is aimed specifically at desktops and it’s going to make a debut inside Apple’s new Mac Studio. In this article, we’re going to take a detailed look at everything you need to about the new Apple M1 Ultra SoC.

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Apple M1 Ultra: Release date & Availability

Apple announced the new M1 Ultra chip at its Spring “Peek Performance” event alongside the new M1-powered iPad Air and the new iPhone SE (2022). The company also confirmed that the new chip will make its debut inside the Mac Studio machine, which was also announced at the same event.

Apple M1 Ultra die shot

The M1 Ultra-powered Mac Studio desktop computer starts at $3,999 and it’ll be available to purchase from March 18. It’s worth pointing out that the new Mac Studio is the only computer to have the new M1 Ultra chip. While we expect Apple to bring this new SoC to some of its other machines in the future, there’s no official info on that just yet.

Apple M1 Ultra: What is UltraFusion architecture?

So how do you make a new SoC that’s more powerful than the M1 Max chip which is already pushing the limits in the chipset space with its incredible set of specifications? The answer, according to Apple, is by using UltraFusion. This new packaging architecture essentially links two M1 Max dies with the help of a very high-speed interface. Apple has been keeping this interface under the wraps until now. It also uses a silicon interposer to route signals between the two chips. Apple says it can route a large number of signals between the chips, thereby allowing an ultra-wide, ultra-high bandwidth connection between the two M1 Max dies. Here’s a mockup animation that Apple presented as a part of its M1 Ultra keynote:

The animation, as you can see, appears to show some sort of a bridge to connect the two chips. While Apple says it’s using silicon interposer to establish a connection, it remains to be seen exactly what component is at play here to make the high-bandwidth connection possible. Thanks to UltraFusion, the M1 Ultra can offer an incredible 2.5TB/second bandwidth between the two interconnected dies. This also enables the M1 Ultra to produce two separate GPUs as a single unit to the applications. More on this a bit later in the article.

Apple M1 Ultra: Hardware Overview

Now that we know how Apple is shipping two separate M1 Max chips as a single unit, it shouldn’t come as a surprise how the new M1 Ultra has virtually double the hardware. This also extends to the numbers in the specs sheet, which means the M1 Ultra has twice as many CPU and GPU cores as the M1 Max SoC. The same goes for the number of neural cores, LPDDR5 memory channels, and even I/O for peripherals.

Apple M1 Ultra CPU performance

As far as the CPU is concerned, the M1 Ultra offers a total of 20 cores which includes 16 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores. The performance cores, in case you didn’t know, are Apple’s Firestorm cores whereas the efficiency cores are their Icestorm cores. This hybrid core architecture is very similar to how Intel is distributing its cores in the new 12th-gen chips.

While Apple isn’t revealing the clock speeds of the cores, we’d assume Apple will push the speeds higher than what we saw in M1 Max chips. We say that because the M1 Ultra is specifically aimed at desktops, which means Apple doesn’t necessarily have to put much effort to save energy. Not to mention, the high-efficiency Icestorm cores will continue to do their job to keep power consumption in check too. According to the company, the M1 Ultra performs better than the 16-core Intel Core i9-12900K desktop CPU while consuming relatively less power.

Apple M1 Ultra comparison to M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max

Since Apple is using two M1 Max dies on the chip, the M1 Ultra gets double the number of memory channels. This means we’re now looking at double the memory bandwidth too. The M1 Ultra has 32 LPDDR5 channels and 800GB/second of memory bandwidth, whereas the M1 Max had 16 LPDDR5-6400 channels for a total of 408GB/second of memory bandwidth. For those who care about the raw numbers on a specs sheet, the M1 Ultra now has 128GB of unified memory as opposed to just 64GB on the M1 Max. It’s crazy how the new chip makes 64GB of unified memory sound like it’s not a big deal.

That being said, it’s worth pointing out that 128GB unified memory is still nowhere close to what a lot of other high-end desktop workstations can have. It’s still definitely a lot more than what most high-end consumer-grade PCs will have though, so that’s something to consider. But is having double the memory bandwidth going to offer any meaningful performance improvement over what the M1 Max already offered? Well, that’s something we’ll only be able to tell after getting our hands on the new chip for a detailed comparison.

M1 Ultra GPU performance

On the GPU side, the M1 Ultra has as many as 64 GPU cores with up to 8192 execution units. The M1 Max with 32 GPU cores was already an overkill, so it’s safe to say the M1 Ultra should be able to handle just about any kind of 3D workload without flinching. We’ve seen multi-die CPUs in the past but multi-die GPU isn’t exactly commonplace in the silicon industry. In most multi-GPU systems, each GPU acts as an individual unit mainly because of a very high internal bandwidth requirement.

Apple has essentially managed to pull off something incredibly complex and manufacture a chip that combines two separate GPUs. Apple is making some bold claims by comparing the M1 Ultra with an RTX 3090, one of the most powerful discrete GPUs. But only time will tell how the new M1 Ultra performs in GPU workloads. The GeForce RTX 3090, as you probably already know, is known to deliver impressive performance at the expense of power efficiency. An M1 Ultra-powered system, on the other hand, is said to perform better and consume less power when compared with a high-end desktop running an Intel Core i9-12900K and an RTX 3090. We’ll have to take a close look at the M1 Ultra and compare it with discrete GPUs to present our verdict on the GPU performance.

In case you want to know more about the new M1 Ultra chip, then here are a few links that’ll help get you up to speed on what’s happening:

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve managed to curate some of the most frequently asked questions about the Apple M1 Ultra here. Feel free to drop more questions in the comments below, and we’ll try to answer them here with future updates to this page:

Is M1 Ultra the fastest chip?

The M1 Ultra is said to be Apple’s most powerful chip to date. The company has connected two M1 Max dies to double the hardware specs on this chip. We’ll have more to talk about the performance of this once we get a chance to test it.

How fast is the M1 Ultra?

In typical Apple fashion, the company didn’t share the official clock speed numbers of the M1 Ultra. The new chip, however, has 16-performance cores and four efficiency cores to handle the workloads you throw at it with ease.

Has Apple launched a MacBook with the new M1 Ultra chip?

No, there is no M1 Ultra MacBook, at least at the time of writing this article. The new chip is exclusive to the new Mac Studio desktop for now.

Is Mac studio a CPU?

No, the Mac Studio is Apple’s new desktop computer that runs on the new M1 Ultra chip. You can also buy a variant of Mac Studio that packs the slightly older M1 Max chip.

Apple M1 Ultra: Should you buy it?

There’s no doubt the M1 Ultra is more powerful than the M1 Max chip that debuted a few months back. Apple has used UltraFusion to link up two M1 Max chips to double the numbers on the specs sheet. On paper, the M1 Ultra surely looks like it’s the most powerful chip out there right now. However, we’ll have to wait for the Mac Studio to hit the shelves to find out how much of an improvement the new chip offers over the older one. In the meantime, you can check out our collection of the best Macs to see if you want to buy some other Mac computers that may suit your needs and budget better.

We’ve added the link to purchase the new Mac Studio below but you might want to check out our Mac Studio deals page to see if you can save some money on a fully decked out $8,000 desktop computer.

    The Apple Mac Studio powered by the new M1 Ultra chip starts at $3,999. It comes with 64GB of unified memory and up to 1TB SSD.

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.

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