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Apple announces M1 Ultra, its most powerful chip yet

By Zach Thompson
Wed 9 Mar 2022

Apple has today announced M1 Ultra, the company’s next major step for Apple silicon and the Mac, which it says will provide the new Mac Studio with superior computing power.

The company adds that this is its most powerful chip yet and will maintain the same high-end performance per watt for which the company is known.

M1 Ultra features 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.

The company says the new SoC consists of 114 billion transistors, the most ever in a personal computer chip.

It adds that 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.

Apple says this provides exceptional 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.

“M1 Ultra is another game-changer for Apple silicon that once again will shock the PC industry. By connecting two M1 Max die with our UltraFusion packaging architecture, we’re able to scale Apple silicon to unprecedented new heights,” Apple senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, Johny Srouji, says.

“With its powerful CPU, massive GPU, incredible Neural Engine, ProRes hardware acceleration and huge amount of unified memory, M1 Ultra completes the M1 family as the world’s most powerful and capable chip for a personal computer.”

The M1 Ultra offers the following key features:

Groundbreaking UltraFusion Architecture

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 improve 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 UltraFusion uses a silicon interposer that connects the chips across more than 10,000 signals, providing 2.5TB/s of low-latency, inter-processor bandwidth. This enables M1 Ultra to behave and be recognised by software as one chip, so developers don’t need to rewrite code to take advantage of its performance.

Unprecedented Performance and Power Efficiency

M1 Ultra features a powerful 20-core CPU with 16 high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. Additionally, M1 Ultra reaches the PC chip’s peak performance using 100 fewer watts, meaning less energy is consumed, and fans run quietly, even as apps like Logic Pro rip through demanding workflows, such as processing massive amounts of virtual instruments, audio plug-ins and effects.

For the most graphics-intensive needs, like 3D rendering and complex image processing, M1 Ultra has a 64-core GPU delivering faster performance while using 200 fewer watts of power.

Apple’s unified memory architecture has also scaled up with M1 Ultra. Memory bandwidth is increased to 800GB/s, and M1 Ultra can be configured with 128GB of unified memory to support significant GPU-intensive workloads such as working with extreme 3D geometry and rendering massive scenes.

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.

Furthermore, Apple says the new Mac Studio with M1 Ultra can play back up to 18 streams of 8K ProRes 422 video, and that M1 Ultra also integrates custom Apple technologies, such as a display engine capable of driving multiple external displays, integrated Thunderbolt controllers and best-in-class security, including Apple’s latest Secure Enclave, hardware-verified secure boot and runtime anti-exploitation technologies.

macOS and Apps Scale Up to M1 Ultra

macOS Monterey has been designed for Apple silicon, taking advantage of M1 Ultra’s considerable increases in CPU, GPU and memory bandwidth. Developer technologies like Metal let apps take full advantage of the new chip, and optimisations in Core ML utilise the new 32-core Neural Engine, so machine learning models run faster than ever.

Users have access to a significantly broader range of apps, including iPhone and iPad apps that can now run on Mac and Universal apps that allow users to get the most out of the M1 family of chips.

In addition, apps that have not yet been updated to Universal will run seamlessly with Apple’s Rosetta 2 technology.

Another Leap Forward in the Transition to Apple Silicon

Apple has introduced Apple silicon to nearly every Mac in the current line-up, and each new chip (M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max and now M1 Ultra) enables significant capabilities for the Mac. M1 Ultra completes the M1 family of chips, powering the all-new Mac Studio, a high-performance desktop system with a re-imagined compact design made possible by the Apple silicon’s performance per watt.

Apple Silicon and the Environment

The energy efficiency of Apple’s custom silicon helps Mac Studio use less power over its lifetime, adding that Mac Studio consumes up to 1,000 kilowatt-hours less energy than that of a high-end PC desktop over the course of a year.

Apple is currently carbon-neutral for global corporate operations and plans to have net-zero climate impact across the entire business by 2030. This includes manufacturing supply chains and all product life cycles. This means that every chip Apple creates, from design to manufacturing, will be 100 per cent carbon-neutral.

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