Apple gave the impression that the M1 Ultra outperformed the Nvidia RTX 3090, but this was not the case – and will be even less so now that Nvidia has launched the 3090 Ti …
Apple this month unveiled its most powerful Apple Silicon chip to date, the M1 Ultra. This is available in the new Mac Studio, and combines two M1 Max chips in one.
The M1 Ultra’s specs are impressive indeed, and Apple illustrated this with a chart (above) comparing the GPU performance of the M1 Ultra against the Nvidia RTX 3090 – the most powerful PC GPU at the time. Apple backed the chart with a very carefully-worded quote:
For the most graphics-intensive needs, like 3D rendering and complex image processing, M1 Ultra has a 64-core GPU — 8x the size of M1 — delivering faster performance than even the highest-end PC GPU available while using 200 fewer watts of power.
M1 Ultra GPU vs Nvidia RTX 3090
Both chart and quote appear to show two things. First, the M1 Ultra is massively more power-efficient than Nvidia’s card. That part is absolutely correct. Second, that the M1 Ultra is more powerful than the Nvidia RTX 3090. That part is not the case, says Macworld – and Nvidia’s latest version will leave the M1 Ultra even further in the dust.
Apple achieved this misleading comparison by cutting off the graph before the Nvidia GPU got anywhere close to its maximum performance.
The M1 Ultra has a max power consumption of 215W versus the RTX 3090’s 350 watts. In the chart, Apple cuts the RTX 3090 off at about 320 watts, which severely limits its potential.
Let the graph run to 350 watts, and Nvidia wins by a mile, as The Verge illustrated in its review of the Mac Studio. And Nvidia isn’t resting on its laurels.
Now there’s the RTX 3090 Ti, which costs as much as an M1 Studio and promises to beat the M1 Ultra even harder. Most notably, it can draw a mind-boggling 450 watts of power, more than twice that of the M1 Ultra. We haven’t seen benchmarks yet, but they’re going to eclipse the RTX 3090, which already handily beat the M1 Ultra at full strength. The comparisons to the RTX 3090 Ti are going to be extremely lopsided. I don’t know if there’s any graphics card that can really compete against Nvidia’s latest behemoth, but it’s certainly not anything Apple makes.
So yes, if you need both great GPU performance and power efficiency, nothing can touch Apple Silicon. Similarly if you want a lot of power at a relatively affordable price. But if raw power is your priority, Nvidia is still king – and looks set to remain so for the foreseeable future.
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