At the Peak Performance Event, 2022, Apple announced the new M1 Ultra chip, the next breakthrough chip for the Mac. Building on M1 Max’s transformational architecture, M1 Ultra is claimed to be the world’s most powerful chip for a personal computer.
Apple says that with the M1 Ultra, it did “something truly groundbreaking.” The chip’s architecture interconnects the die of two M1 Max chips to create a system on a chip (SoC) with unprecedented levels of performance and capabilities, explained Johny Srouji, SVP, Hardware Technology at Apple. Apple calls it the ‘ultra-fusion architecture.’ The technology uses a silicon interposer that connects over 10,000 signals and provides 2.5TB/s of low latency, inter-processor bandwidth between the two dies while using very little power. Apple asserts this to be more than 4x the bandwidth of the leading multi-chip interconnect technology.
The high-end M1 Mac processor is a model that links two M1 Max chips together into a single package with 20 processing cores, 64 graphics cores, and support for up to 128GB of memory, making its performance suitable for developers and artists in 3D environments. The company welcomed developers from Adobe, Vectorworks, Ableton and CLO who vouched for these capabilities. The chip has a remarkable 114 billion transistors and powers the $3,999 configuration of the new Mac Studio desktop computer.
The chip uses dedicated circuitry on last year's M1 Max with a high-speed silicon link called UltraFusion to marry the two processors together without a complicated design that would mean problems for programmers, Apple said. It's emblematic of the increasing push across the semiconductor industry to use packaging technology to link smaller chip elements into one larger processor.
UltraFusion employs a technique called a silicon interposer, essentially a layer in the chip package 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. Compared to the first-generation M1, the M1 Ultra has seven times as many transistors, the basic electronic building block in a processor.
Apple said a Mac Studio powered by the M1 Ultra is 1.9X faster than an Intel-powered Mac Pro with a 16-core Intel Xeon processor and 1.6X faster than a Mac Pro with a 28-core Xeon, though it didn't detail what speed tests it used. The Mac Studio's high performance comes with a high price tag, but creative pro customers who need to wrestle huge video files or programmers building new software can be willing to pay for top computing horsepower.
Although the M1 Ultra is a new high-water mark for Apple's processor family, it's a step short of an expected M2 processor that eventually should revamp the core engines in Apple's Mac chips. Even though Apple boasted that the new Mac Studio is faster than the existing Intel-powered Mac Pro, it also said a new Mac Pro based on Apple silicon remains in the works.
The 32-core Neural Engine in M1 Ultra runs up to 22 trillion operations per second, speeding through the most challenging machine learning tasks. And, with double the media engine capabilities of M1 Max, M1 Ultra offers unprecedented ProRes video encode and decode throughput. In fact, the new Mac Studio with M1 Ultra can play back up to 18 streams of 8K ProRes 422 video, a feat that Apple claims that no other chip can accomplish. 4 M1 Ultra also integrates custom Apple technologies, such as a display engine capable of driving multiple external displays, integrated Thunderbolt 4 controllers, and best-in-class security, including Apple’s latest Secure Enclave, hardware-verified secure boot, and runtime anti-exploitation technologies.
Deep integration between hardware and software has always been at the heart of the Mac experience. macOS Monterey has been designed for Apple silicon, taking advantage of M1 Ultra’s huge increases in CPU, GPU, and memory bandwidth. Developer technologies like Metal let apps take full advantage of the new chip, and optimizations in Core ML utilize the new 32-core Neural Engine, so machine learning models run faster than ever.
Users have access to the largest collection of apps ever for Mac, including iPhone and iPad apps that can now run on Mac, and Universal apps that unlock the full power of the M1 family of chips. Apps that have not yet been updated to Universal will run seamlessly with Apple’s Rosetta 2 technology.
Apple unveils M1 Ultra, the world’s most powerful chip for a personal computer.