Apple’s new M2 Ultra chip pursues the same niche of Apple users as its predecessor, the M1 Ultra: crazy power users who need to edit and compile multiple high-resolution video streams.
Most people surf the web, play games, and write emails on their laptops and desktops. That’s certainly not the market being addressed by the second-generation Mac Studio, a $1,999 desktop that’s zeroing in on professional video editors. The Studio ships with either the option of an existing M2 Max chip, or the new M2 Ultra.
Essentially, the M2 Ultra is two M2 Max chips stitched together, with a total of 24 CPU cores and 76 GPU cores. (The M1 Ultra combined two M1 Max dies for 20 CPU cores and a 64-core GPU, spread across more than 100 billion transistors.) All told, Apple claims that the new M2 Ultra chip will deliver 20 percent faster CPU performance than the M1 Ultra, and 30 percent faster GPU performance than the M1 Ultra, as well. With the launch of the Apple Mac Studio and the M2 Ultra, all of Apple’s hardware has now switched over to Apple’s own silicon, executives said.
Who needs this? Well, in an ideal environment, the chip could be used to train large machine-learning models, using its massive 192GB of addressable memory — 50 percent more than the M1 Ultra. Most environments use GPUs and their high-speed video memory to perform these tasks, but they’d run out of available memory, according to Jennifer Munn, Apple’s director of engineering and program management.
Mac Studios, however, will see some real results: DaVinci Resolve users should see video processing times drop by half, and 3D Octane users will be able to render their models three times faster, Apple said. It’s also six times faster than an Intel-based iMac Apple ships. Finally, video editors will be able to play back 22 streams of 8K Pro Res video — ” no other computer in the world comes close,” Munn said, at the Mac Studio’s launch. (If that’s something you want to do, buy a Mac!)
Finally, it appears that the M2 Ultra chip and the Mac Studio now support higher-speed HDMI (though Apple didn’t disclose which version), with 8K resolution and support for 240Hz frame rates.
The Mac Studio will be available on June 13, from $1,999. A version with the M2 Ultra chip inside will be priced at $3,999. Each Mac Studio ships with two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the front, plus an SDXC slot; in the rear there are four more Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A ports, an HDMI port, one 10Gbps ethernet port, and a headphone jack.
Note, the $3,999 version only ships with a 60-core GPU. If you want the full 76-core GPU option, you’ll pay an additional $1,000, or $4,999. If you’d like, you can add 128GB of memory ($800) or 192GB ($1,600) and either 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB of SSD storage. All told, the extra bells and whistles could run you $8,799.
Spiking the ball against Apple’s own Intel-based hardware is a strategy we’ve seen before, both by Apple as well as its competitors. That doesn’t diminish the power of the M2 Ultra. Just don’t expect it in hardware that the average user will use anytime soon. Given the launch of the $3,500 Apple Vision Pro AR headset at the same time, one might think that out-of-reachness was the theme of Apple’s 2023 WWDC showcase.