M1 Ultra and M1 Max are the two most powerful chips currently available for Apple computers — but what’s the real difference between the two? After relying on Intel processors to power its Mac desktops and laptops for nearly 15 years, Apple made the monumental shift to its own M1 chips in November 2020. Since then, Apple‘s released some of the fastest and most efficient Macs ever.
Shortly after rolling out the baseline M1 chip, Apple followed it up with the M1 Pro and M1 Max — the latter of which was Apple’s most powerful M1 chip to date. At least it used to be. Five months after introducing the world to M1 Max, Apple released another chip and debuted the M1 Ultra. The M1 Max and M1 Ultra now stand out as two of the best chips you can get in a modern Mac. But which one is the best choice for you? Here’s a closer look at what each one brings to the table.
Related: Is Apple’s M1 Ultra Chip Coming To The MacBook Pro? Here’s What We Know
Before diving into all of the numbers, the easiest way to think about the M1 Max and M1 Ultra is how they’re designed. Both chips have the same 5nm fabrication process and are compatible with all the same apps, games, etc. The key difference is that the M1 Ultra is essentially two M1 Max chips fused together to act like a single, ultra-powerful one. Apple achieved this through a process it calls ‘UltraFusion.’ As the company explains, UltraFusion is an “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.” Considering how mighty one M1 Max chip is, combining two of them makes M1 Ultra all the more impressive.
The M1 Ultra Has Twice The Performance Of M1 Max
Let’s start with CPU performance. M1 Max has 10 total CPU cores, consisting of 8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores. M1 Ultra doubles the total CPU count t0 20 cores with 16 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores. The GPU sees similar improvements. It’s no slouch on M1 Max, offering a choice of 24 or 32 GPU cores. M1 Ultra, however, upgrades those choices to 48 or 64 GPU cores. In Final Cut Pro, rendering an 8K video is up to 3.5x faster on M1 Max compared to a 27-inch iMac with a Radeon Pro 5700 XT GPU. M1 Ultra is 5.0x faster for the same thing.
But the CPU and GPU aren’t the only areas where M1 Ultra reigns supreme. M1 Max features 57 billion transistors, 32 or 64GB of memory, and a memory bandwidth of 400Gb/s. M1 Ultra has 114 billion transistors, 64 or 128 GB of memory, and 800Gb/s memory bandwidth. Are you seeing the pattern now? M1 Ultra also has 4 video encode engines and 4 ProRes encode/decode engines, whereas M1 Max has 2 video encode engines and 2 ProRes encode/decode engines.
There’s no question that M1 Ultra is a more powerful chip than M1 Max. But is it a necessary upgrade? That ultimately depends on the type of work you’re doing. If you render a lot of 4K and 8K video, use complicated 3D rendering software, and need every second to count for as much as possible, the extra juice of Apple’s M1 Ultra will be greatly appreciated. You’ll pay more for a Mac with M1 Ultra instead of M1 Max, but if that’s an upgrade essential for your workflow, it is one you can make.