New developments in desktop computers

New developments in desktop computers

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Today’s technology market is thriving with desktop computers. Technology companies are trying to differentiate their products by incorporating innovative features into them. Recently, the Mac M1 Ultra has received a lot of recognition.

The new computer from Apple, stands out above all for its size and portability. Unveiled at the beginning of March, the product is a full-fledged desktop enclosed in a case measuring 197 x 197 x 95 mm. Comparing this to Nvidia’s RTX series graphics cards, for instance the Gigabyte GeForce RTX 3090 Ti 24GB GDDR6X, where the GPU alone measures 331 x 150 x 70 mm, it appears that one gets a whole computer the size of a graphics card. [4]

Apple M1 Ultra  - front panel
Fig. 1 – Apple M1 Ultra  – front panel [5]

Difference in construction

Cores are the physical parts of a CPU where processes and calculations take place; the more cores the faster the computer will run. The technological process expressed in nm represents the gate size of the transistor and translates into the power requirements and heat generated by the CPU. So the smaller the value expressed in nm, the more efficient the CPU.

The M1 Ultra CPU has 20 cores and the same number of threads, and is made with 5nm technology. [4][6] In comparison, AMD offers a maximum of 16 cores and 32 threads in 7nm technology [7] (AMD’s new ZEN4 series CPUs are expected to have 5nm technology, but we do not know the exact specifications at this point [3]) and Intel 16 cores and 32 threads in 14nm technology [8]. In view of the above, in theory, the Apple product has a significant advantage over the competition in terms of single thread performance. [Fig. 2]

Performance of the new Apple computer

According to the manufacturer’s claims, the GPU from Apple was supposed to outperform the best graphics card available at the time, the RTX 3090.

Graph of the CPU performance against the amount of power consumed
Fig. 2 – Graph of the CPU performance against the amount of power consumed [9]. Graph shown by Apple during the presentation of a new product

The integrated graphics card was supposed to deliver better performance while consuming over 200W less power. [Fig. 3] After the release, however, users quickly checked the manufacturer’s assurances and found that the RTX significantly outperformed Apple’s product in benchmark tests.

Graph of graphics card performance against the amount of power consumed
Fig. 3 – Graph of graphics card performance against the amount of power consumed [9]. Graph shown by Apple during the presentation of a new product. Compared to RTX 3090

The problem is that these benchmarks mostly use software not optimised for the Mac OS, so that the Apple product does not use all of its power. In tests that use the full GPU power, the M1 Ultra performs very similarly to its dedicated rival. Unfortunately, not all applications are written for Apple’s OS, severely limiting the applications in which we will use the full power of the computer.[10]

The graph below shows a comparison of the frame rate in “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” from 2018. [Fig. 4] The more frames, the smoother the image.  [2]

The frame rate of the Tomb Raider series game (the more the better)
Fig. 4 – The frame rate of the Tomb Raider series game (the more the better) [2].

Power consumption of the new Mac Studio M1 Ultra compared to standard PCs

Despite its high computer performance, Apple’s new product is very energy-efficient. The manufacturer states that its maximum continuous power consumption is 370W. Standard PCs with modern components do not go below 500W and the recommended power for hardware with the best parts is 1000W [Table 1] ( Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti + AMD R7/9 or Intel i7/9 ).  

Intel i5
Intel i7
Intel i9 K
NVIDIA RTX 3090 Ti850W1000W1000W
NVIDIA RTX 3090 750W850W850W
NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti750W850W850W
NVIDIA RTX 3080 750W850W850W
NVIDIA RTX 3070 Ti750W850W850W
NVIDIA RTX 3070 650W750W750W
Lower graphic cards650W650W650W
Table 1 – Table of recommended PSU wattage depending on the CPU and graphics card used. AMD and Intel CPUs in the columns, NVIDIA RTX series graphics cards in the rows. [1]

This means significantly lower maintenance costs for such a computer. Assuming that our computer works 8 hours a day and an average kWh cost of PLN 0.77, we obtain a saving of PLN 1,500 a year. In countries that are not powered by green energy, this also means less pollution.

Apple’s product problems

Products from Apple have dedicated software, which means better compatibility with the hardware and translates into better performance, but it also means that a lot of software not written for Mac OS cannot fully exploit the potential of the M1 Ultra. The product does not allow the use of two operating systems or the independent installation of Windows/Linux. So it turns out that what allows the M1 Ultra to perform so well in some conditions is also the reason why it is unable to compete in performance in other programs. [10]


The Apple M1 Ultra is a powerful computer in a small box. Its 5nm technology provides the best energy efficiency among products currently available on the market. However, due to its low compatibility and high price, it will not replace standard computers. To get maximum performance, dedicated software for the Apple operating system is required. When deciding on this computer, one must keep this in mind. For this reason, despite its many advantages, it is more of a product for professional graphic designers, musicians or video editors.