Big surprise, Apple's new M1 Ultra isn't actually faster than an RTX 3090

Apple's M1 Ultra System-on-chip
(Image credit: Apple)

When Apple announced the latest spin of its M1 silicon, the M1 Ultra, it promised that the graphical performance of the integrated GPU was world-beating. Even faster than the best desktop silicon, the Nvidia RTX 3090, no less. Now that a select few outlets have had a chance to play with the M1 Ultra, which can be found in the new Mac Studio, it should come as no surprise to learn that the performance isn't quite as hot as Apple touted.

The Verge has benchmarked the new Mac Studio, which comes in M1 Ultra and M1 Max spins, in a number of tests and found that it is in fact slower, particularly when it came to gaming. 

Running the new Mac Studio (Ultra) against an RTX 3090-powered machine saw the PC hit 142fps on average against the Mac's 108fps. The M1 Max meanwhile managed an average of 86fps. They're not bad frame rates for the new chips, but spin it how you want, they're simply not quicker.

The same is true for the Geekbench 5 Compute test, which has the Mac Studio (Ultra) hitting 83,121 using OpenCL against the RTX 3090's 215,034. Things improve slightly for Apple if using Metal driver instead of OpenCL, but only up to 102,156, which is still less than half of the RTX 3090.

It's fair to say that Apple's new top chip does draw less power than a full desktop PC packing an RTX 3090, but as ever that's only part of the story. The new M1 Ultra is definitely doing impressive work for the power it draws, but it isn't faster.

As the Verge goes on to suggest in its full review of the new Mac Studio, it's the Max version of the chip, which doesn't fuse two cores together, that actually represents the best value even for more Apple-centric applications.

It's great to see Apple pushing CPU design forward and offering a real alternative to the traditional x86 architecture, and yes, offering great performance per Watt in the process. But it needs to calm down on the promises of its silicon, particularly when it comes to the performance of its graphics cores.


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Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.