Updated 03/11/2022: In the original version of this piece, we said that the stand on the studio display could not be changed. We’ve since learned that while the stand isn’t user-serviceable, Apple service providers can change it after the fact for a fee. We have updated the article accordingly.
Original story: Apple’s announcements of the Mac Studio, Studio Display, and new top-end M1 Ultra chip earlier this week focused on the headlining features of these devices, but there’s always more detail to uncover as people sift through the spec sheets rummage and Apple responds to press questions. Before our full tests, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting details about the new hardware.
M1 Ultra: It’s big and expensive
When the M1 Ultra was announced, based on Apple’s description, we speculated that the processor would use a chiplet-based design and tie two separate M1 Max processor chips together using a high-speed interconnect such as AMD’s Infinity Fabric. That turns out not quite right – the M1 Ultra will looking like one large chunk of silicon, just as it appears in Apple’s renders, two M1 Max chips packaged together with a silicon interposer between the two. ComputerWorld describes it as a large “840mm square cube”.
The main risk of making such a huge chip is that the production yield is low, since a larger surface area increases the likelihood of a defect appearing somewhere in the chip. But TSMC has been manufacturing M1-based chips in its 5nm process for well over a year, giving it ample time to optimize yields. And Apple is able to do some binning (i.e., sell some chips with defects as low-end models with defective parts turned off) with the M1 Ultra, since there are versions with both 48 and 64 GPU cores.
The increased manufacturing complexity would explain why it costs so much to get a fully maxed M1 Ultra. Going from the M1 Ultra with a 48-core GPU to one with a 64-core GPU costs an additional $1,000. Compare that to the mere $200 it costs to upgrade the M1 Max from a 24-core GPU to a 32-core GPU.
yes it is fast
Predictably, shortly after the Apple event ended, a real-looking results page for Mac Studio and M1 Ultra appeared in Geekbench’s online results database. If the site is genuine, it helps support Apple’s performance claims. Both single and multi-core performance far exceeds that of the fastest 28-core Xeon W-3275M processor in the 2019 Mac Pro. A Mac Pro with this processor costs a staggering $13,000 compared to $4,000 for the M1 Ultra Studio model.
Geekbench only gives us a limited picture of a given device’s performance, especially for a pro-focused desktop like the Studio. The machine’s ability to process huge files for long periods of time will be just as important as the ability to run a benchmark app for two minutes. But that top-line number is still impressive.
Single-core performance isn’t much different than devices powered by the standard M1, like the Mac mini. That makes sense – the M1 Ultra increases the core count significantly, but the cores are still the same. It’s an interesting contrast to Intel’s and AMD’s approach to single-threaded performance, however; Both companies tend to push up the top single-core clock speeds in their high-end processors to further differentiate them from cheaper models. It’s also possible that trying to increase single-core clock speeds for high-end M1 chips would break Apple’s power budget.
Studio Display: It works with Windows
Apple’s new 5K Studio Display only lists Macs and iPads on its compatibility list, but there’s nothing stopping it from working with Windows PCs that can handle it. The fancy Center Stage camera pan function and True Tone support don’t work, but the display itself, its speakers and webcam all register on Windows PCs, and charging via USB PD will presumably work for PCs too. However, you must connect the display to an Apple device to perform firmware updates.
We don’t yet know the required PC specifications of the monitor. More modern computers with 11th or 12th generation Intel processors and Thunderbolt ports should be the safest choice. However, whether the display will work with a regular USB-C connection or a DisplayPort to USB-C connection remains to be seen. We will test this in our test.