If you happen to be on the Mac side of things then you might be aware that Apple’s M1 Max was pretty good, and that an M2 chip was rumored ahead of today’s Apple event. We didn’t get M2, but Apple did unveil the M1 Ultra. What makes it “ultra”? It is effectively two M1 Max chips, fused together. Let’s assume this isn’t the next Pentium D.
Apple today announced M1 Ultra, the next giant leap for Apple silicon and the Mac. Featuring UltraFusion — Apple’s innovative packaging architecture that interconnects the die of two M1 Max chips to create a system on a chip (SoC) with unprecedented levels of performance and capabilities — M1 Ultra delivers breathtaking computing power to the new Mac Studio while maintaining industry-leading performance per watt. The new SoC consists of 114 billion transistors, the most ever in a personal computer chip.
M1 Ultra can be configured with up to 128GB of high-bandwidth, low-latency unified memory that can be accessed by the 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine, providing astonishing performance for developers compiling code, artists working in huge 3D environments that were previously impossible to render, and video professionals who can transcode video to ProRes up to 5.6x faster than with a 28-core Mac Pro with Afterburner.
The foundation for M1 Ultra is the extremely powerful and power-efficient M1 Max. To build M1 Ultra, the die of two M1 Max are connected using UltraFusion, Apple’s custom-built packaging architecture. The most common way to scale performance is to connect two chips through a motherboard, which typically brings significant trade-offs, including increased latency, reduced bandwidth, and increased power consumption. However, Apple’s innovative UltraFusion uses a silicon interposer that connects the chips across more than 10,000 signals, providing a massive 2.5TB/s of low latency, inter-processor bandwidth — more than 4x the bandwidth of the leading multi-chip interconnect technology. This enables M1 Ultra to behave and be recognized by software as one chip, so developers don’t need to rewrite code to take advantage of its performance. There’s never been anything like it.
This is fascinating advancement, and pretty devastating to the competition if it scales in practice as well as they suggest. The M1 Ultra has a 20-core CPU, divided into 16 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores, and a 64-core GPU. There has also been a doubling of memory bandwidth – now a staggering 800 GB/s – with configurations likewise doubling with a new max of 128 GB unified memory.
The M1 Ultra can be found in Apple’s new Mac Studio desktop, which looks like a very thick Mac mini and starts at $3999 for the M1 Ultra version.