Home News Apple Silicon Face-Off: M1 Ultra and M1 Max take on high-end PC juggernauts

Apple Silicon Face-Off: M1 Ultra and M1 Max take on high-end PC juggernauts

Apple Silicon Face-Off: M1 Ultra and M1 Max take on high-end PC juggernauts

It is excessive time Digital Foundry took a take a look at Apple Silicon and at this time we’ll be trying on the higher-end chips within the line-up. Our focus is on the monster that’s the M1 Ultra, discovered inside the newest Apple Mac Studio, however we’re additionally going to be testing the MacBook Professional’s M1 Max. It is the M1 Ultra that actually instructions our consideration although: this system-on-chip represents the best finish pc processor Apple has designed to this point, with the agency claiming it needs to be as quick as a high-end Home windows desktop. Packing 20 CPU cores, a 21 teraflop GPU, and 800GB/s of reminiscence bandwidth, it definitely looks as if it could possibly be – however how does it measure up in real-world testing and how nicely does it sport?

The M1 and M2 traces are the end result of a protracted journey that has seen the agency transition away from SoCs primarily based on third celebration design and IP, shifting all chip design in-house to the furthest extent realistically potential. Apple designs its personal GPUs, its personal CPUs, and handles SoC design and integration. This leads to great management over processor design – the sort of management you would wish to scale a telephone processor up for high-end desktops.

Which brings us to the M1 Ultra. Since 2020, Apple has been shifting its Mac desktops and notebooks away from Intel CPUs and AMD GPUs and over to its in-house SOCs, taking the identical basic tech from iPhones and integrating it into computer systems. Apple began with lower-end and lower-power kind elements, however lastly got here round to high-end desktops with the discharge of the Ultra a number of months in the past. The M1 Ultra is not actually its personal distinctive chip, nonetheless. It is truly two M1 Max SoCs linked over a high-bandwidth 2.5TB/s interposer. To the working system and the person it looks as if one monolithic chip with 1 CPU and GPU, however in actuality that is two chips linked by a first-of-its-kind interconnect with the efficiency to assist a dual-chip GPU and CPU.

Digital Foundry’s video evaluation of the M1 Ultra and M1 Max processors, stacked up towards highly effective PC equivalents together with the Core i9 12900K and RTX 3090.

The Ultra packs a whopping 20 CPU cores, cut up between 16 efficiency cores and 4 effectivity cores in a configuration much like fashionable Intel designs. Whereas the clockspeeds could also be decrease than desktop PC CPUs, instructions-per-clock are greater on the efficiency cores, resulting in comparable general performance-per-core. In its highest-end spec, the 21 teraflop GPU options 64 of Apple’s in-house graphics cores, with efficiency much like an RTX 3090 in line with Apple, although we’ll contact on this later. To spherical issues out, the system packs a shocking 800GB/s of reminiscence bandwidth to maintain these GPU and CPU cores well-fed.

M1 Ultra is simply at present out there within the Mac Studio desktop pc, which we examined in its maxed-out configuration, with 128GB of reminiscence and an 8TB SSD. Most apparently, this pc has a quantity of simply 3.7 litres, which is really tiny and solely barely bigger than an Xbox Sequence S. It makes use of two blower-style followers that pull air by a big copper heatsink to dissipate the roughly 200W that the system pulls at load, which is a small fraction of the power utilized by a high-end desktop PC.

So let’s transfer on and truly measure how briskly this machine is. We will begin off with gaming exams earlier than closing with productiveness benchmarks and synthetics. Is that this machine really as quick as a excessive finish desktop PC – or presumably even sooner? Let’s take a take a look at our gaming benchmarks, calculated through video seize as is the Digital Foundry manner. Whereas inside benchmarks are largely correct nowadays, our philosophy is that the one frames that matter are the frames that really make it to the video output of the {hardware}.

M1 Max (MBP 2021) M1 Ultra (Mac Studio 2022) RTX 3080M 150W (MSI GP66 Laptop computer) RTX 3090 (Desktop PC)
Shadow of the Tomb Raider 31.0 49.0 29.0 65.0
Metro Exodus 27.9 34.8 30.3 71.6
Whole Warhammer 3 14.9 25.4 25.3 47.4
World of Warcraft 18.4 36.2 32.9 81.6
Wildlife Excessive Bench 20215 35498 24247 42451

It is not a very massive desk as a result of, sadly, there aren’t many high-end Mac video games that we will truly take a look at, significantly in terms of big-budget video games. However we do have a number of titles right here – and the outcomes are intriguing. For our gaming exams, we have got a 16 inch Macbook Professional with the fully-enabled M1 Max chip, our maxed-out Mac Studio, an MSI GP66 gaming laptop computer, with an eleventh-gen i9 and a 150W RTX 3080 cell processor, and a high-end desktop PC with a Core i9 12900K paired with the mighty RTX 3090.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider. This is not a local Apple Silicon sport, because the title was written for x86, so the M1 chips right here have to make use of the Rosetta 2 translation layer to operate – nevertheless it does not actually appear to be that has a lot of an affect on efficiency. The benchmark sequence operating at max settings at 4K reveals the 3080M and M1 Max are neck-and-neck, whereas the Ultra falls squarely between the M1 Max and the 3090. The Ultra has strong efficiency and affordable scaling from the Max, however is not fairly holding the road towards extremely high-end GPUs.

Metro Exodus – the unique non-RT model – has an honest Mac port, though once more it was written for x86. The Ultra splits the PCs right here as nicely, whereas the Max does an excellent job of warding off the 3080M. On the flip aspect, there appear to be very critical issues with frame-times and stuttering when vsync is disabled for on Macs for some cause, which I seen throughout these exams. Whole Warfare: Warhammer 3 is one other x86 sport, nevertheless it does not appear to carry up fairly in addition to Metro or Tomb Raider. M1 Ultra is way behind the 3090 right here and barely retains tempo with a high-end gaming laptop computer. Maybe this may be chalked as much as a sub-optimal port, or issues with the Rosetta translation.

Apple Silicon video games and benchmarks are laborious to seek out, however 3DMark’s Wildlife Excessive is certainly a local software.

However what about native Apple Silicon video games? There are remarkably few video games for Apple Silicon, and most of them are iOS ports, not standard PC software program. There may be one outstanding sport that we will take a look at throughout platforms although – World of Warcraft. It is a full-bore Apple Silicon model of Blizzard’s long-running MMO, however regardless of operating natively, the identical sample emerges with the M1 Ultra but once more falling squarely between the 2 PC methods, falling nicely wanting the 3090 however nonetheless delivering efficiency in keeping with a high-end PC GPU. The Max is borderline unplayable whereas the 3080M hovers round 30fps. All of those methods could be completely advantageous with the sport at remotely affordable settings, after all – we’re operating the sport primarily maxed out at a whopping 8K inside decision to create a correct stress take a look at.

There’s one cross-platform sport graphics benchmark that runs natively on Apple Silicon as nicely – 3DMark Wildlife Excessive, which renders a set of comparatively easy 3D scenes at 4K. Right here, the Ultra falls considerably wanting the 3090 however is available in a strong 76 p.c sooner than the Max. In the end, the Ultra appears to sit down someplace under the 3090 in graphics efficiency, no less than so far as we will inform from benchmarking throughout working methods. It is nonetheless a robust processor although and appears to fit in at roughly the 3070 or 3080 degree relying on workload.

Scaling from the M1 Max is affordable, however not excellent. Usually, you need to anticipate a 60-70 p.c efficiency enchancment over the single-chip choice. Maybe the interposer is inflicting some minor hiccups right here, as utilizing a number of chips for one GPU requires a large quantity of bandwidth.

These outcomes are actually only for evaluating uncooked efficiency although, because the Mac just isn’t an excellent gaming platform. Only a few video games truly find yourself on Mac and the ports are sometimes low high quality. If there’s a future for Mac gaming it’s going to most likely be outlined by “borrowing” video games from different platforms, both by wrappers like Wine or by operating iOS titles natively, which M1-based Macs are able to. Up to now, Macs may run video games by putting in Home windows by Apple’s Bootcamp resolution, however M1-based chips cannot boot natively into any flavour of Home windows, not even Home windows for ARM.

Blender (CPU Samples Per Min) M1 Max (MBP 2021) M1 Ultra (Mac Studio 2022) Core i9 10850K (Desktop PC) Core i9 12900K (Desktop PC)
Monster 99.4 195.9 88.7 178.1
Junkshop 53.8 107.33 50.7 101.1
Classroom 43.3 84.4 37.8 82.3
Geekbench CPU M1 Max (MBP 2021) M1 Ultra (Mac Studio 2022) Core i9 10850K (Desktop PC) Core i9 12900K (Desktop PC)
Multi-Core 12577 23580 9599 17446
Single-Core 1774 1784 1285 1820
Cinebench CPU M1 Max (MBP 2021) M1 Ultra (Mac Studio 2022) Core i9 10850K (Desktop PC) Core i9 12900K (Desktop PC)
Multi-Core 12259 23908 11171 25160
Single-Core 1528 1531 1095 1858
Handbrake 4K60 Encode M1 Max (MBP 2021) M1 Ultra (Mac Studio 2022) Core i9 10850K (Desktop PC) Core i9 12900K (Desktop PC)
Time (minutes:secs) 7:10 4:08 5:43 2:44

As you have seemingly realised from the desk above, I additionally spent a while benchmarking the CPU within the M1 Ultra. I examined Blender, Geekbench, Cinebench and Handbrake – and the Ultra’s outcomes are compelling. We have swapped the GP66 for my desktop pc right here, which packs a Core i9 10850K. Consider this as Core i9 10900K with a barely perceptible clock-speed discount. Throughout these exams, the 12900K and M1 Ultra show very comparable. The 2 chips are primarily a match with respect to multicore efficiency, although the ultra-high frequencies the 12900K is able to can provide it the sting in some single-threaded exams. The 10850K and M1 Max are intently matched as nicely.

The scaling from M1 Max to M1 Ultra is close-to-linear throughout these runs, not like our graphics benchmarks. On common, M1 Ultra is 88 p.c sooner, with some outcomes approaching 100%. Linking up two clusters of cores throughout an inter-chip medium is one thing we have seen within the PC area for years now and excellent scaling is to be anticipated right here.

Lastly, I believed I might throw in some real-world benchmarks from a few packages I often use – Last Lower Professional and Topaz Video Improve AI. We’re trying on the two M1 computer systems right here, in addition to a 16 inch 2019 MacBook Professional with an eight-core Intel CPU and an AMD RDNA 1-based GPU. The outcomes are very curious in Last Lower. Whereas each M1 machines trounce the Intel-based MacBook, export occasions are nearly similar throughout the M1s. So what is going on on?

With typical Last Lower workloads on M1 chips, export efficiency appears to be dictated by the {hardware} video encoders. The M1 Ultra has the identical video {hardware} encoders because the Max, so there isn’t any significant efficiency distinction when encoding a ProRes or h.264 video with out many results. To truly see a distinction in export occasions, you’d want to essentially stress the GPU with a number of results and Movement templates. Even then it will be laborious to see a big distinction. That is not to say that there aren’t large moment-to-moment efficiency variations, although – Last Lower generates video thumbnails in real-time on the CPU cores, which happens practically immediately on an M1 Ultra and is considerably slower on M1 Max. On the whole, the timeline is extra responsive and the modifying course of is extra fluid – however that will not be mirrored in easy export exams.

M1 Max (MBP 2021) M1 Ultra (Mac Studio 2022) Core i9 9980HK, Radeon Professional 5500M (MBP 2019)
Last Lower h.264 Export (minutes:secs) 1:05 1:03 1:33
Last Lower ProRes Export (minutes:secs) 0:23 0:23 1:25
Topaz Video Improve (1080p to 4K Upscale, Artemis Excessive) 6:01 4:12 13:33

Topaz AI is far more easy. We’re strictly GPU-bound right here and the M1 Ultra reveals a strong efficiency enchancment – finishing the take a look at 43% sooner – although not significantly spectacular given the doubling of GPU {hardware}. Each machines crush the 2019 MacBook Professional, as anticipated.

So, the M1 Ultra packs comparable efficiency to the highest-end PC chips, buying and selling blows throughout quite a lot of metrics. CPU efficiency is up there with the most effective Intel has to supply, whereas the GPU sits one or two rungs beneath the PC efficiency leaders in the meanwhile. The important thing metric with M1 Ultra is not uncooked efficiency, nonetheless, although it’s largely aggressive with PCs on that entrance. It is energy consumption. The Ultra manages to drag even with quick client desktops whereas consuming one quarter to 1 third of the ability consumption. The Mac Studio itself solely pulls about 200W when totally loaded, and normally attracts a lot much less.

So, why is the M1 Ultra a lot extra environment friendly than comparable PC designs? Firstly, Apple has a substantial course of node benefit over its opponents. By leveraging TSMC’s 5nm course of, Apple is one or two silicon fabrication nodes forward of its nearest rivals in the meanwhile, which suggests greater density and decrease energy consumption for Apple’s chips. Apple usually will get entry to TSMC’s latest processes earlier than its PC opponents and has been producing chips at 5nm for over two years at this level.

Secondly, Apple is solely throwing far more silicon on the downside. The M1 Ultra makes use of a whopping 114 billion transistors throughout two chips; in distinction, the GA102 GPU within the RTX 3090 packs simply 28 billion transistors. With a lot extra logic, Apple can run its chips at decrease clocks and decrease voltages and nonetheless obtain comparable efficiency. The extraordinarily excessive density of TSMC 5nm helps lots right here. Lastly, Apple’s CPU and GPU architectures play a major function right here. These are designs which might be primarily designed for iPhones and different low-power purposes. There are seemingly many mechanisms contained in the chip to maintain power consumption in test, together with very efficient energy gating.

Given the immense potential of the Apple resolution, there’s one closing query that is value addressing: would a transfer to ARM be sensible for the broader PC market as nicely? In any case, Apple achieved an unlimited efficiency enchancment after they moved to ARM, so may this be an excellent resolution for PC distributors too?

Typically the reply isn’t any, no less than not in the meanwhile. There are two main issues right here. The issues that make Apple’s designs efficient aren’t particular to the ARM instruction set license they use. These are principally elements we have mentioned already – its distinctive high-performance architectures and course of node benefit being crucial. Critically, no-one else is at present providing an ARM CPU core design able to going toe-to-toe with AMD and Intel. The second downside is the dearth of an efficient translation layer for x86 code. MacOS has Rosetta 2, which is a comparatively environment friendly and broadly appropriate resolution for operating x86 code seamlessly on ARM-based Macs. Home windows 11 for ARM has a software program emulator for x86 packages, however efficiency is degraded and compatibility is missing.

Apple’s die-shots of its M1 silicon line-up might or is probably not correct, however primarily, the GPU is M1 Max is twice the dimensions of M1 Professional, which is in flip twice the dimensions of M1’s. The M1 Ultra efficient stacks up two M1 Max chips, which means a possible doubling in each CPU and GPU sources.

The M1 Ultra is a particularly spectacular processor. It delivers CPU and GPU efficiency in keeping with high-end PCs, packs a first-of-its-kind silicon interposer, consumes little or no energy, and matches into a very tiny chassis. There’s merely nothing else prefer it. For customers already within the Mac ecosystem, this can be a nice purchase you probably have demanding workflows. Whereas the Mac Studio is pricey, it is more cost effective than Apple’s outdated Professional-branded desktops – the Mac Professional and iMac Professional – which packed costly Xeon processors and ECC RAM. Last Lower, Photoshop, Apple Movement, Handbrake – just about all the things I exploit on a every day foundation runs very properly on this machine.

For PC customers, nonetheless, I do not assume this explicit Apple system needs to be significantly tempting. Whereas CPU efficiency is in keeping with the most effective from Intel and AMD, GPU efficiency is considerably much less compelling. Plus, new CPUs and GPUs are incoming within the subsequent few months that ought to cement the efficiency benefit of top-end PC methods. That stated, the M1 Ultra is a one-of-a-kind resolution. You will not discover this sort of uncooked efficiency in a pc this small anyplace else.

Gaming on Mac has traditionally been fairly problematic and that is still the case proper now – native ports are skinny on the bottom and when older titles equivalent to No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil Village are mooted for conversion, it is far more of an enormous deal than it actually needs to be. Maybe it is the expense of Apple {hardware}, maybe it is the dimensions of the addressable viewers or perhaps gaming is not a major use-case for these machines, however there’s nonetheless the sense that exterior of the cell area (the place it’s dominant), gaming is not the place it needs to be – Steam Deck has proven that compatibility layers can work and finally, maybe that is the route ahead. Nonetheless, M1 Max and particularly M1 Ultra are definitely very succesful {hardware} and it’s going to be fascinating to see how gaming evolves on the Apple platform going ahead.


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