Apple’s M1 chip was introduced in November 2020 and has proven to be incredibly powerful, despite only being available on Apple’s entry-level Macs: the 24in iMac, MacBook Air, Mac mini and two 13in MacBook Pro models.
With Apple’s first CPU and GPU for Macs proving that the company knows exactly what it is doing, hopes were high for the next iteration and Apple didn’t disappoint. In October 2021 Apple introduced a new variant of the M1 processors. The successor to the M1 wasn’t the M1X as expected, but the M1 Pro and the M1 Max.
Then in March 2022 Apple went a step further and introduced the M1 Ultra, which combines two M1 Max dies for twice as many CPUs, GPUs and Unified Memory.
This new M1 Ultra can be found in Apple’s newest Mac addition: the Mac Studio. Read the latest about the Mac Studio.
Next up could be an even more powerful variant of the M1 – two M1 Ultra could be combined in a Mac Pro to create an M1 Extreme! See: How the M1 Ultra paves the way for the next ‘Extreme’ Apple chip.
In this article we will run thorough the details about Apple M1 series of chips, explaining how they are different to each other and how they compare to the M1. We’ll also let you know which Macs you need to buy if you want one of these brand new Apple chips – and how much it will cost you. We also have an article regarding the M2 chip if you are interested in what the next generation might hold.
For more processor related advice read: Which Mac processor? Apple processor comparison: M1 vs Intel.
The M1 was Apple’s first system on chip made for the Mac. It debuted in the MacBook Air, Mac mini and two 13in MacBook Pro models in November 2020 and then was used in the 24in iMac that launched in 2021. It offers the following:
The M1 Pro debuted in the 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro models in October 2021. It includes the following:
The M1 Max also debuted in the 14in and 16in MacBook Pro models in October 2021. The Max is also offered as an option in the Mac Studio, which arrived in March 2022. It includes the following:
Prior to the launch of the Mac Studio there was expectation that Apple was planning to do something to the M1 Max in order to make it even more powerful. That is exactly what Apple has done with the M1 Ultra which arrived in the Mac Studio in March 2022. The M1 Ultra is essentially two M1 Max together on the same die and it includes:
There is a rumor that Apple’s next move with the M1 will be to double up an M1 Ultra to create an M1 Extreme. If the rumors are true we could see the following in the 2022 Mac Pro:
The M1 is incredibly powerful, but there are a few drawbacks. For one thing it can only support up to 16GB Unified Memory, which for some users simply isn’t enough. If you need a more powerful machine then the Macs with the M1 Pro are the way to go. However, for the average Mac user a M1 Mac will be sufficient.
As you can see from the specs above, the most obvious difference between the M1 Pro and M1 Max is the number of graphics cores (there is no difference in terms of CPU cores). The Max can also support double the amount of memory as the Pro – 64GB RAM compared to 32GB. But there are more differences than that that add up to some really big performance gains.
Apple uses a 5-nanometer process technology for the Pro and Max versions of the M1, as it did with the M1, but this time it has packed in even more transistors. There are 33.7 billion transistors on the M1 Pro (which is more than two times the amount in the M1) and 57 billion transistors on to M1 Max (70 percent more than M1 Pro and 3.5x more than M1). This amount of transistors is unheard of in a laptop and even AMD’s 64-core Epyc Rome processor only has 40 billion transistors (and it’s used for for big server installations).
There’s little difference between the CPU cores as you can see from this chart that compares the Geekbench results for the M1 Pro and M1 Max:
In the Geekbench 5 tests we saw a multicore score of 12,733 for the M1 Max 16in MacBook Pro – almost double the 6,663 seen with the 2019 MacBook Pro.
As for the graphics benchmarks:
In Geekbench 5 Compute Metal the 16in MacBook Pro M1 Max scored 64,967 in our tests. The 14in MacBok Pro M1 Max scored 68,534. The 14in MacBook Pro M1 Pro scored 42,862.
The M1 Ultra is essentially two M1 Max chips fused together. The M1 Ultra boasts a 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU, 32-core neural engine, four video encoding engines, four ProRes encode and decode engines, and up to 128GB of LPDDR5 unified memory with 800GB/s of bandwidth. It’s a powerful combination.
For those considering buying a Mac Studio the question of how the M1 Ultra compares to the M1 Max will be an important one.
Here are the results of our Geekbench CPU tests. You’ll notice that when it comes to multi-core scores the M1 Ultra is about double the Max.
The graphics tests are also impressive thanks to the ProRes hardware acceleration and the extra GPU cores. Here are the results of our Geekbench 5 graphics tests:
We have an in-depth comparison of the M1 Max and M1 Ultra here: M1 Ultra vs M1 Max: Twice as nice, but not always twice as fast.
We run through what to expect from the M2 in a separate article.
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Macworld editor since 2008, Karen has worked on both sides of the Apple divide, clocking up a number of years at Apple’s PR agency prior to joining Macworld almost two decades ago.
Karen’s career highlights include interviewing Apple’s Steve Wozniak and discussing Steve Jobs’ legacy on the BBC. Her focus is Mac, but she lives and breathes Apple.
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