We've now tested every version of Apple's M1 processor, from the first M1 chip in the 13-inch Macbook Pro all the way up to the M1 Ultra in the new Mac Studio, and the chip's ability to scale performance is pretty incredible. The M1 Ultra fuses two M1 Max chips together to get you a processor with 20 CPU cores and 64 GPU cores, along with up to 128GB of RAM, and it's one of the fastest processors we've ever tested.
We asked what tests you'd like to see run on the M1 Ultra and assembled quite a list, including Adobe Lightroom and Premiere Pro, Davinci Resolve and Fusion, 3D modeling in Blender, machine learning tests like TensorFlow and Pytorch, and even some gaming.
Amazingly, the M1 Ultra really does seem to be around twice as fast as the M1 Max in most applications. Whatever overhead is required to shuffle data around such a large chip, it rarely impacts CPU performance. The GPU scaling doesn't fare quite so well. The M1 Ultra was typically 40-80% faster than the M1 Max, still speedy, but not quite as impressive in its scaling as the CPU.
The M1 Ultra does best when its hardware accelerators can kick in. These are the parts of the chip built to speed up specific tasks, namely video rendering and AI processing. In a test processing ten 8K video clips at once, the M1 Ultra did the job in just 29 seconds when its accelerators were able to help out. This was about twice as fast as the PC we were testing, despite it having a 16-core AMD 5950X processor and Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti graphics card.
Apple's M1 ecosystem does at times feel unfinished. There were more strange bugs than I'd expected, and software compatibility can still be a problem, but it's improving rapidly. The M1 Ultra wasn't always faster than my PC, but in some tests it was two or three times quicker, and in only a few cases was it significantly slower. If you use Apple and need a high-end desktop, there's really no decision, and for everyone else looking for a workstation, the M1 Ultra Mac Studio is a contender.
Check out the video above for the full details of our testing.