Apple revealed its newest custom processor at a product launch event Tuesday, continuing on the path to replace the Intel chips that used to power its entire line of desktop and laptop computers.
Dubbed the M1 Ultra, Apple’s latest semiconductor connects two of its M1 Max processors into a single system-on-chip. Fusing two of its Max processors together grants the Ultra significant performance gains over prior generations of Apple's custom chips, and can achieve peak performance with less power than the Core i9-12900K desktop chips produced by Intel. Apple said the chip is eight times faster than the custom M1 processors it launched in 2020.
Apple said fusing the two M1 processors together required a custom-built package that uses a silicon interposer to make the connection between chips. Doing so connects the chips across more than 10,000 signals, and provides 2.5 terabytes of bandwidth between the two chips, according to the company. The complexity and bandwidth of the connection means that software will see it as one processor, and developers will not have to rewrite code for it.
The new chips are optimized for the tasks creative pros tend to turn to Apple products to get done, such as video editing and 3D rendering, and Apple plans to include them in a new Mac Studio desktop that it also announced Tuesday.
The Ultra Apple announced Tuesday is a continuation in the company's move to ditch the Intel processors that powered flagship Macs more than a decade. Moving away from the x86 architecture that underpins PCs in favor of Arm-based designs was not a sure bet. Designing chips isn't easy or cheap, and Apple has spent years building a semiconductor design unit that is now roughly the size of AMD. But two years after the launch of its M1, Apple appears to have nearly completed the transition.
Apple's chip design unit is part of a growing trend among the tech giants, which have taken to pouring some of their immense profit into designing semiconductors that suit their needs. AWS has produced Arm-based Graviton server chips, and Google designed the processors in its latest line of Pixel phones, for example.