Apple M1 Extreme: four dies, ultimate power for Mac Pro?





Ever since Apple started transitioning to its own silicon chips in its Macs, we’ve been wondering which chip will come to the next Mac Pro. This will be the ultimate test of Apple’s chip-making capabilities, as demanding professional users won’t be happy if the company struggles to meet their demands.

Fortunately, all the current rumors suggest that Apple has a monster chip waiting in the wings, rumored to include two M1 Ultra chips joined at the hip. We’ve found all the latest news on this chip (dubbed the M1 Extreme, among others), so if you want to know what’s to come, you’ve come to the right place.

Price and release date

Apple Mac M1 Ultra Graphic.

The good news is, we don’t think we’ll have long to wait for the M1 Extreme to be unveiled to the world. Reporter Mark Gurman echoed his thoughts, noting, “I expect Apple to complete the transition to its proprietary silicon from Intel chips as early as June at WWDC 2022.” He later clarified that the chip will be unveiled at WWDCbut not yet launched at that time.

An announcement at this point makes sense. WWDC — also known as the Worldwide Developers Conference — is a developer-focused event that Apple often uses to show off its upcoming professional hardware. The Mac Pro and its chip would fit right in.

Likewise, display industry analyst Ross Young believes a new Mac Pro is coming next to a new 27-inch screenboth in June 2022. Since Apple explained at its Peek Performance event that the Mac Pro is the only Mac yet to transition to Apple Silicon — and remember, Apple only has until the end of the year to meet the two-year deadline for make the switch — this Mac Pro will definitely carry the M1 Extreme chip.

Based on what my sources report, here’s some official information about the new Mac Pro 2022

This is the bridge that connects 2 M1 Ultra and will be found in the new 2022 Mac Pro.

Processor name: "redfern"
Coming in September with new Macs Pro #Apple #AppleInternal pic.twitter.com/afj0dSmQvk

& mdash; Majin Bu (@MajinBuOfficial) March 12, 2022

That’s the chip announcement out of the way. What about a release date? Twitter leaker Majin Bu has claimed that’s coming in September, and we wouldn’t expect anything sooner. Apple has a range of consumer-grade devices that are reportedly getting an update soon, including the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. It doesn’t make sense for Apple to launch the Mac Pro alongside these entry-level models, so it won’t be until 2022 at the earliest.

Now for the daunting part: the price. Right now, the M1 Ultra chip commands a $1,400 premium over the M1 Max in the Mac Studio — and that’s just for the base M1 Ultra. Likewise, the very first CPU upgrade you can make in the 2019 Mac Pro will cost $1,000. The top chip is $7,000 more than the base-level Intel Xeon W.

With that in mind, and given that at least two M1 Extreme chips could be available (as is the case with the M1 Ultra), a $1,000 upgrade price from one to the other wouldn’t be unexpected.

The name: M1, M2 or something else?

Apple M1 chip.

Apple said on his Peek Performance event that added “one last chip” to the M1 family. That turned out to be the M1 Ultra. Does this mean that the next high-end chip of the Mac Pro will be in the M2 family? It’s certainly possible, but it depends on how literally we take Apple’s statement.

Let’s take it strictly and assume that there will be no more M1 chips. YouTuber Vadim Yuryev of the Max Tech channel thinks Apple could give this chip an entirely new family name, such as X1 or Z1. This is based on a leak from Twitter user Appleakationwhich doesn’t have much of a track record, so we’re skeptical.

However, Yuryev makes the good point that a separate name would allow Apple to put the chip on a different release schedule than the rest of its products. Since the Mac Pro isn’t updated as often as the MacBook Pro, this new name could keep the chip from feeling quite as outdated over the years.

The chip in the new Mac Pro will not be part of the M1 or M2 family

— Bob (@appleaking) March 31, 2022

Conversely, Mark Gurman believes the Mac Pro will come with two new chips, one of which now appears to meet the specs of the M1 Ultra. If that’s true, why would Apple mix and match names of chip families, for example by equipping the Mac Pro with an M1 Ultra and, say, an X1 Extreme? It seems confusing and goes against what Apple has always done, which is to keep its devices on the same chip family with every update.

Gurman has suggested another possibility. Apple could pack an M1 Ultra into the Mac Pro, plus a duplicated M1 Ultra option that would keep the M1 Ultra name and just be presented as a more performant version. That way we get the extreme performance that is so rumored to be, and Apple is saying there won’t be any new chip names in the M1 family.

However, as we will see next, there may be some technical limitations that prevent this. That gives us one last option: Apple waits for the M2 Ultra and dual-chip M2 Ultra to finish, then stuffs them into the Mac Pro. However, that can mean a long wait.

How will it work?

Those shots of the Apple M1 family.

The M1 Ultra is a kind of Frankenstein chip, which combines two M1 Max dies into one system-on-a-chip. However, the M1 Extreme would go one step further by combining two M1 Ultras together, meaning it would consist of four chip dies.

According to developer Hector Martin, this may be impossible to achieve with the M1 generation technology, because the architecture just isn’t designed for four-chip chips like the rumored Mac Pro chip. For that reason, Martin believes that combining four M1 Max chips in one system-on-a-chip is not possible. Instead, Apple may need to use M2 generation technology for this chip.

Martin made those statements in March 2022, but partially changed his mind shortly after. Reply to reportedly leaked schedules with four M1 Max outriggers arranged together in a square formation, Martin admitted it might be possiblebut would be a “weird retrofit” from Apple that makes little sense.

So we know that Apple is probably going to sew multiple chip dies together. What we don’t know yet is what generation of chips it will use, nor how efficient and effective the methodology will be. That’s something we might get a better idea of ​​in the coming weeks.

Performance

Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

The most exciting thing about this upcoming chip is its potential performance. Mark Gurman has hinted a lot about this, and everything he said points in the direction of an incredibly powerful product.

One of Gurman’s most prominent claims is that the chip will consist of 40 CPU cores (consisting of 32 high-performance cores and eight high-efficiency cores), plus a frankly ridiculous 128 graphics cores. That amount of power could deliver performance we’ve never seen before in an Apple computer — and hopefully we’ll deliver on the promises the M1 Ultra failed to deliver.

Elsewhere, leaker Majin Bu has claimed that the chip would offer up to 1TB memory† If true, that could solve an obvious problem with Apple’s chips when it comes to the Mac Pro.

Currently, you can configure the Intel-based Mac Pro with up to 1.5 TB of RAM. Still, the M1 Ultra chip in the Mac Studio only allows up to 128 GB of memory. Even if the M1 Extreme doubles that as expected, that’s a maximum of 256GB — well below the maximum number of the current Mac Pro.

Apple's M1 Ultra chip highlighted during Peek Performance.

However, according to Majin Bu, the M1 Extreme will have access to a separate memory controller, which could increase the amount of RAM. That could be one way to meet the needs of demanding users.

What else could we see? Well, the Mac Pro’s chip could also support the MPX modules introduced by the 2019 Mac Pro, allowing users to fathom certain usage scenarios with specialized add-in cards and expansion units.

The Mac Pro’s target audience is used to getting other things that regular Macs don’t: PCIe slots, 10Gb Ethernet, SATA ports, and more. The M1 Extreme (or whatever it’s called) will have to support all of these and more to be accepted as a true professional chip.

So far, Apple Silicon chips have only supported some of these things. For example, the M1 Extreme chip would be Apple’s first chip to work with PCIe slots (if Apple includes them in the next Mac Pro, of course). That would make it a pioneer in more ways than one, in addition to its massive four die layout and great performance.

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