Apple’s chips are on the table
The Apple company’s recent spring event unveiled the Mac Studio and its M1 Ultra processor.
Apple’sApple’s transition to its own processors is nearly complete. The Mac Studio and its M1 Ultra CPU, the company's most powerful piece of silicon to date, were unveiled during the company's recent spring event. However, it also indicated what Apple's computers might look like in the future.
For the first time, all of Apple’s chips are on the table.
A chip-making force
The first important point is that Apple is now a chip-making force to be reckoned with. The overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to the first wave of M1 machines, as well as the comparable success of its M1 Pro and M1 Max-powered MacBook Pro laptops last year, confirmed the company's credentials. The M1 Ultra, on the other hand, saw Apple take its boldest swing yet, with what it calls the "world's most powerful CPU for a personal computer."
These chips are already being used to sell PCs. Buying a Mac is no longer only about obtaining Apple's software or an attractive appearance — it's now about getting the kind of performance and battery life that no one else provides.
Apple took aim at Intel's top-tier processor, the Core i9-12900K, claiming a 90% gain in multi-threaded performance at the same power level over the M1 Ultra and the ability to match Intel's greatest figures while using 100W less power.
The firm did a similar victory lap over Nvidia's RTX 3090 GPU, which Apple claims to outperform while drawing 200W less power. The Apple Silicon transition is no longer an experiment; it is Apple's future and one that PC manufacturers will have to pay attention to in the future.
Then there's the method by which Apple is developing its CPUs. Apple currently offers four different types of its Arm-based M1 CPUs, blurring the barrier between product form factors in a way that we don't typically see from semiconductors.
Apple has been taking a different approach — instead of building chips for specific devices, Apple has effectively built just one really good chip: its A-series processor. And all it’s been doing has been scaling it up, seemingly without limit.
Apple's secret recipe appears to be nothing more than doubling the size of each of its CPUs and adding additional cooling at each step, from a phone to a laptop to what is reportedly the most powerful desktop. But it's extraordinary because no firm has ever done it before — and because it enables Apple to build an entire range of computers ranging in price from $430 to $8,000 (and counting) around a single point on its semiconductor architectural roadmap.
The M1 chip in a MacBook Air or iPad is the same one found in Apple's iMac and Mac Mini desktop computers, and it operates at about the same speeds and efficiency. With the Mac Studio, the M1 Max from a MacBook Pro laptop makes the transition to a desk. Even the company's ultra-powerful M1 Ultra, which is effectively two M1 Max CPUs in a trench coat, isn't a completely desktop-focused design. Devices are classified based on certain features or form factors, not necessarily on their power.
That scaling pattern is also likely to be seen in Apple's next Mac Pro, which Bloomberg's Mark Gurman believes would arrive later this year with up to 40 CPU cores and 128 graphics cores on a chip (the equivalent of four M1 Max processors combined together, or two M1 Ultra chips). It's another doubling, probably with extra cooling to compensate.