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SoC Apple launches its new M1 Ultra system-on-chip

From Luke James

Since Apple moved to the M1 chip, each new iteration has come with significant performance improvements. Apple’s latest M-series chip is the highest-performing chip that the company has produced to date. Let’s take a look at what’s powering it.

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M1 Ultra is the world’s most powerful and capable chip for a personal computer.
M1 Ultra is the world’s most powerful and capable chip for a personal computer.
(Source: Apple Inc.)

Apple's latest M1 chip, the M1 Ultra system-on-chip (SoC), was announced on March 8 and comes with double the number of processor and graphics cores as the 2021 M1 Max.

Set to launch alongside Mac Studio on March 18, the M1 Ultra is thought to be the final member of Apple’s M1 family of processors, though this has not been confirmed. The M1 Ultra includes 114 billion 5nm transistors from TSMC, the most found in any consumer processor available on the market today and the most powerful processor that Apple has to offer.

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Powered by ‘UltraFusion’ architecture

To build a chip more powerful than its M1 Max chip released just a few months prior – which was already pushing the limits in the chip space with its specifications – Apple relied on ‘UltraFusion’.
This new packaging architecture is, at a basic level, two M1 Max dies joined together with the help of a high-speed interface. It uses a silicon interposer to route signals between the two chips, and Apple claims that it’s capable of routing a large number of signals between the chips, thereby creating an ultra-wide, ultra-high-bandwidth connection between the two M1 Max dies.

While Apple says UltraFusion is responsible for enabling this, it is unknown exactly what component is being used to make the high-bandwidth connection possible. Thanks to this component, however, the M1 Ultra can offer 2.5 terabytes per second band width between the two M1 Max dies and two separate GPUs as a single unit.

M1 Ultra hardware overview

Since the M1 Ultra includes two M1 Max dies as a single unit, the M1 Ultra has double the amount of hardware, including twice as many CPU and GPU cores, neural cores, LPDDR5 memory channels, and input/output.

Regarding the M1 Ultra CPU, this consists of 16 high-performance ‘Firestorm’ cores and 4 high-efficiency ‘Icestorm’ cores for a total of 20 cores. While Apple has not said what the clock speeds of these cores are, it is expected that they will at least be somewhat faster than what was seen with M1 Max given that the M1 Ultra is aimed specifically at desktop applications.

According to Apple, the M1 Ultra’s performance is better than the 16-core Intel Core i9-12900K desktop CPU, and it consumes less power to boot.

Regarding the M1 Ultra’s memory channels, it comes with 32 LPDDR5 channels and 800 GB/s of memory bandwidth, double the 16 LPDDR5 channels and 408 GB/s of memory bandwidth found in the M1 Max. In total, the M1 Ultra has 128 GB of unified memory.

As for GPUs, the M1 Ultra packs in 64 GPU cores with up to 8192 execution units, making the Ultra capable of handling virtually any 3D workload.

While the M1 Ultra represents a serious performance boost on the M1 Max, Apple has said that it will only be available in the Mac Studio desktop PC. Due to the chip’s sheer size, this is hardly surprising; it’s simply not capable of fitting inside of a laptop like the MacBook Pro without a significant redesign, if at all.

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