Which one should you buy?

Apple blew its competition out of the water with the M1 Pro and the M1 Max chips just a few months ago. However, the company has already announced the new M1 Ultra chip, which is supposed to be the most powerful Apple silicon to date. It’ll soon be in the hands of consumers when Apple’s Mac Studio desktop computer goes on sale on March 18. In this article, we’re going to put Apple’s chip against the existing M1 Max for an M1 Ultra vs M1 Max comparison to find out which is best for you.

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Apple M1 Ultra vs M1 Max: Specifications

Specification Apple M1 Ultra Apple M1 Max
CPU Cores 20
(16 Performance ‘Firestorm’ cores + 4 Efficiency ‘Icestorm’ cores)
10
(8 Performance ‘Firestorm’ cores + 2 Efficiency ‘Icestorm’ cores)
GPU Cores 64 cores 32 cores
Neural Engine 32 cores 16 cores
Memory channels 32 LPDDR5 16 LPDDR5-6400
Unified Memory Up to 128GB Up to 64GB
Memory Bandwidth 800Gbps 400Gbps
Process 5nm 5nm
Transistors 114Bn 57Bn

Pricing & Availability

Since you can’t just buy these chips on the market to be used on any device, we’ll have to look at the pricing of the machines these chips are powering. The M1 Max debuted a few months back along with the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro notebooks. The new M1 Ultra SoC, on the other hand, is going to make its debut with the new Apple Mac Studio that’s slated to hit the stores on March 18. While the new MacBook Pro notebooks aren’t exactly “affordable”, it’s still going to be relatively cheaper to get your hands on an M1 Max-powered MacBook Pro instead of buying an M1 Ultra-powered Mac Studio.

Mac Studio connected to two monitors

Image credit: Apple

The same is the case with the M1 Max-powered Mac Studio vs M1 Ultra-powered Mac Studio. The Mac Studio with M1 Max starts at $1,999 whereas the same machine with an M1 Ultra starts at $3,999. And this is just the cost of the desktop, for which you’ll also need to spend on a monitor. Overall, an M1 Max-powered device, be it one of the new MacBook Pro notebooks or the new Mac Studio, is going to cost you less than an M1 Ultra-powered Mac Studio.

M1 Ultra is not available for laptops

This is a good segue to our next point which is the fact that the new M1 Ultra chip isn’t available for laptops. This particular chip is aimed at desktop computers, meaning there’s a good chance we may never see an M1 Ultra-powered laptop. This could be due to many reasons including the overall die size of the M1 Ultra chip. Apple is essentially using UltraFusion to connect two M1 Max dies to create the M1 Ultra die, so it’s unlikely to be capable of running inside a laptop.

M1 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch

Hence, the M1 Ultra SoC is exclusive to just the new Mac Studio, whereas the M1 Max chip is also available in both the 14-inch as well as 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops. So if you are someone who needs to carry a powerful system at all times for work, then we think buying an M1 Max-powered MacBook Pro is your best bet. You can read our review of the 16-inch MacBook Pro powered by the M1 Max to know more about the overall performance of this particular chip.

Twice the performance?

While we are yet to get our hands on the new M1 Ultra chip, we already know the kind of performance you can expect to see from the M1 Max. In fact, both the M1 Pro as well as the M1 Max have been great overall, matching the general performance of some of the best chips from Intel and AMD. Apple’s own silicon is also proved to be better in terms of other aspects including power efficiency. Both M1 Pro and M1 Max offer a significant performance improvement over the older Intel-based Macs, and we expect nothing but better from the M1 Ultra.

Apple M1 Ultra features

According to Apple, the M1 Ultra offers better CPU performance than a 16-core desktop PC powered by the Intel Core i9-12900K processor. And on the GPU front, the M1 Ultra’s 64-core GPU with 8192 execution units can put out better GPU performance than a PC that’s running a GeForce RTX 3090 GPU. The best thing about the M1 Ultra is Apple says it performs better than highest-end desktop parts while consuming less power. It’ll be interesting to see how the new M1 Ultra chips perform when compared to the top new Intel and AMD processors out there.

Apple M1 Ultra vs M1 Max: Which one should you buy?

Apple’s new M1 Ultra looks mighty impressive, at least on paper. And if you go by the performance numbers shared by Apple during the keynote, then it looks like the M1 Ultra is truly an incredibly powerful workstation chip. That, however, doesn’t mean the M1 Max chip is no longer useful. The M1 Max can single-handedly beat many Intel and AMD chips out there, so you can’t write it off the charts. Unless you want the absolute best-performing silicon from Apple for a no-compromise computing experience, then we think the M1 Max or even the M1 Pro is a great option to consider. Also, the fact that the M1 Ultra is only available on Mac Studio leaves the M1 Max as the best option for those seeking on-the-go computing.

    Apple Mac Studio

    Apple’s Mac Studio offers maximum performance in a minimal package, using Apple’s new M1 Ultra chip

    Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro

    The MacBook Pro comes with a complete redesign and is powered by the latest Apple M1 Pro/Max chips. You can buy both 14 and 16 inch models from Amazon.

We’ll definitely have more to talk about the M1 Ultra’s computing performance as soon as we get our hands on a new Mac Studio desktop, so be sure to stay tuned. In the meantime, you can check out our collection of the best Macs to see if you can buy some other Macs that suit your needs. We’re leaving links to buy the new Mac Studio desktop below, but you might want to check out our best Mac Studio deals article to see if you can find some good deals and save some of the money for a monitor.

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