Apple’s M1 chip was launched in November 2020 and has proven to be incredibly powerful despite being only available on Apple’s entry-level Macs: 24in iMac, MacBook Air, Mac mini and two 13in MacBook Pro models.
Apple’s first CPU and GPU for Mac prove that the company knows exactly what it is doing, there were high hopes for the next iteration and Apple was not disappointed. In October 2021, Apple introduced a new variant of the M1 processor. The M1’s successor was not the expected M1X, but the M1 Pro and M1 Max.
Then in March 2022, Apple introduced the M1 Ultra one step further, combining two M1 Max dikes for twice the CPU, GPU and unified memory.
This new M1 Ultra will be available in Apple’s new Mac add-on: Mac Studio. Read the latest about Mac Studio.
The latter could be a more powerful variant of the M1 – the two M1 Ultras could be combined into one 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 explain in detail about the chips of Apple M1 series, explain how they differ from each other and how they compare with M1. If you want one of these brand new Apple chips, we’ll tell you which Mac you need to buy – and how much it will cost you. We have an article about M2 chip if you are interested in what the next generation can hold.
For more processor tips read: Which Mac Processor? Apple Processor Comparison: M1 vs Intel.
What is M1?
The M1 was Apple’s first system on chip made for the Mac. It debuted on the MacBook Air, Mac mini and two 13in MacBook Pro models in November 2020 and was then used on the 24in iMac which launched in 2021. It offers the following:
- 8-core CPU (4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores)
- 7- or 8-core graphics processor (GPU)
- 16-core neural engine
- 8GB or 16GB RAM
- 68.25GBps memory bandwidth
What is M1 Pro?
The M1 Pro debuted on the 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro models in October 2021. It includes the following:
- 8- or 10-core CPU (6 or 8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores)
- 14- or 16-core GPU
- 16-core neural engine
- 16GB or 32GB RAM
- 200GBps memory bandwidth
What is M1 Max?
The M1 Max also debuted in 14in and 16in MacBook Pro models in October 2021. Max Studio has also been offered as an alternative to Mac Studio, which arrived in March 2022. It includes the following:
- 10-core CPU (8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores)
- 24- or 32-core GPU
- 16-core neural engine
- 32GB or 64GB RAM
- 400GBps memory bandwidth
What is M1 Ultra?
Before the Mac Studio launch, it was expected that Apple would do something to make the M1 Max more powerful. That’s exactly what Apple did with the M1 Ultra, which arrived at Mac Studios in March 2022. The M1 Ultra is basically two M1 Maxs together on the same die and contains:
- 20-core CPU (16 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores)
- 48- or 64-core GPU
- 32-core neural engine
- 64GB or 128GB RAM
- 800GBps memory bandwidth
Will an M1 be extreme?
There is a rumor that Apple’s next move with the M1 will be to double the M1 Ultra to create an M1 Extreme. If the rumors are true then we can see the following in 2022 Mac Pro:
- 40-core CPU (32 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores)
- Up to 128-core GPU
- Up to 64-core neural engine
- Up to 256GB RAM
- 1,6000GBps memory bandwidth
How is M1 different from M1 Pro?
The M1 is incredibly powerful, but there are some flaws. For one thing it can only support unified memory up to 16GB, which is not enough for some users. If you need a more powerful machine then Macs with M1 Pro are the way to go. However, an M1 Mac will suffice for the average Mac user.
How is M1 Pro different from M1 Max?
As you can see from the specs above, the most obvious difference between M1 Pro and M1 Max is the number of graphics cores (no difference in CPU cores). The Max Pro can support twice as much memory as 64GB of RAM compared to 32GB. But there is more difference than that which adds 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 packed it into more transistors. The M1 Pro has 33.7 billion transistors (more than double the M1) and the M1 Max has 57 billion transistors (70 percent more than the M1 Pro and 3.5x more than the M1). This amount of transistors cannot be heard on a laptop and even AMD’s 64-core Epyc ROM processor has only 40 billion transistors (and is used for large server installations).
M1 Pro vs M1 Max
There is a slight difference between the CPU cores as you can see from this chart which compares the Geekbench results of M1 Pro and M1 Max:
On the Geekbench 5 test we saw the M1 Max 16in MacBook Pro’s multicore score of 12,733 – almost double the 6,663 seen with the 2019 MacBook Pro.
For graphics benchmarks:
The 16in MacBook Pro M1 Max in Geekbench 5 Compute Metal scored 64,967 in our test. The 14in MacBok Pro M1 Max scored 68,534. The 14in MacBook Pro M1 Pro scored 42,862.
How is the M1 Max different from the M1 Ultra?
The M1 Ultra is basically a combination of two M1 Max chips. 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 LPDDR5 unified memory up to 128GB with 800GB / s bandwidth. This is a powerful combination.
For those who are thinking of buying a Mac Studio, the question of how the M1 Ultra compares to the M1 Max will be an important one.
Here are our Geekbench CPU test results. You will notice that the M1 Ultra doubles the maximum when it comes to multi-core scores.
Graphics tests are also impressive thanks to ProRes hardware acceleration and extra GPU core. Here are our Geekbench 5 graphics test results:
We have a deeper comparison of M1 Max and M1 Ultra here: M1 Ultra vs M1 Max: twice as beautiful, but not always twice as fast.
We will cover what to expect from M2 in a separate article.