Apple Silicon M1 Ultra—A Deep Dive, and What It Means for the Mac Pro

Apple M1 Ultra
Credit: Apple
Depending on what tech insider you listen to on YouTube, Apple’s new M1 Ultra Chip and the Mac Studio desktop is either the second coming of the Macintosh, or the second coming of the "Trashintosh."

Whether you’re Team Studio or not, one cannot deny that Apple’s announcement of its new chip was impressive

However, the mention of the upcoming Mac Pro brought up the thought. What could be more Pro than what the M1 Ultra already brings to the table? Could there even be a bigger monster?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Apple M1 Ultra Chipset
M1 Ultra ChipsetCredit: Apple

Apple Silicon M1 Ultra

The M1 Ultra is essentially two M1 Max chips fused together via a delicate connector. It boasts twice the performance in just about every category but consequently, comes at twice the price at $3,995. 

That’s the price of all that power, it seems. 

Granted, this isn’t the first Apple computer—or any computer for that matter—that operates under multiple CPUs to do the heavy lifting. 

The advantage the M1 Ultra has over dual CPU setups is Apple’s new bridge, called the Ultra Fusion Interconnect. The UFI offers an incredibly high bandwidth connection between the two M1 Max chips with super-fast throughput of 2.5 TB/s with near-zero latency. 

You read that right. 

Apple M1 Ultra Fusion Interconnect
Ultra Fusion InterconnectCredit: Apple

It was only a few years ago that 2TB SSD drives were a thing, and now Apple can push that amount of data between the two chips every second! 

What does that translate to for video editors and other post-production creatives?

How about 18 streams of 8K ProRes 422 video simultaneously? 

That is peak performance, and about 50% faster than the current Mac Pro tower.

Still, users looking to upgrade on a budget can get a lower-end Mac Studio with a single M1 Max chip for $1,999. So, if you’re a YouTuber on a budget, who doesn’t shoot in 8K, the M1Max Studio may be a better path. 

Apple M1 Chip Lineup
M1 Chip LineupCredit: Apple

Moreover, don’t think you can just get a new 27” iMac when it comes out, because Apple has officially discontinued it, along with the iMac Pro. 

Clearly, Apple is attempting to drive the creative set to move toward its new Super Mini, which the Mac Studio is designed for. That’s fine. Frankly, the cost versus the spec sheet makes for a decent value... by Apple’s standards.  

Granted, you can easily get a Windows-based PC for half the price, but if you like Apple’s architecture and ecosystem, then the Mac Studio could be your next great upgrade. Unless you’re holding out for the Mac Pro.  

And it’s coming, maybe even by this June, though tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says it’s more likely to be 2023, which makes more sense. 

The Future of Mac Pro

The early rumor is that the next-generation Mac Pro will not only feature the Ultra chip but likely be based on a next-generation M2 architecture and there will be two of them fused in a similar fashion. That would translate to four M1 Max chips for—you guessed it, four times the performance.

But that’s blue sky speculation. 

Apple Mac Pro 2019
Mac Pro 2019Credit: Nana Dua

If you consider that the first M1 iMac after the Mini had the same M1 chip as the Mini, then if Apple follows that trend, it could release an updated Mac Pro with a single 40-core M2 Ultra, which would just be an updated Studio. 

Then again, you can’t get $7,000 for a $4,000 machine. So maybe there’s some truth to the notion that four chips are coming instead of two. But it’s way too early to tell.

Does that mean you should wait and keep plugging along with your current Mac Pro that’s now showing its age? Well, only your bank account can tell you that.

But that Mac Studio is sorely tempting, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.     

Your Comment

1 Comment

I guess we'll see soon enough once these bad boys are out in the wild, but I have a hard time seeing the same performance/specs for half the price on a PC. Just getting a 20-core CPU alone will be a grand or two. It's hard comparing GPUs since this is all new architecture, but like I said, we'll see soon enough. It just seems a bit off to me to automatically assume PC's, with similar specs and performance will be half the price.

March 10, 2022 at 3:49PM