Apple M1 Ultra vs M1 Max: Head-to-head shootout with photo and video editing apps: Digital Photography Review


These two Mac Studio computer systems look equivalent from the skin, however one in all them has twice the CPU cores, twice the GPU cores, and twice the RAM…

All product pictures by DL Cade

The launch of Apple’s new Mac Studio wasn’t simply thrilling due to the shape issue, or the truth that creatives have been asking Apple for a mid-range desktop tower for years. It was additionally thrilling as a result of it got here hand-in-hand with the discharge of the M1 Ultra: essentially the most highly effective Apple Silicon system on a chip (SOC) but.

The M1 Ultra is basically two M1 Max chips fused collectively utilizing a brand new “ultra-fusion” interconnect know-how, delivering twice the CPU cores, twice the GPU cores, twice the Neural Engine cores, twice the devoted media engines, and twice the RAM with twice the bandwidth. That’s as much as 20 CPU cores (16 efficiency, 4 effectivity), 64 GPU cores, 32 neural engine cores, 4 video encoding engines, 4 ProRes encode and decode engines, and as much as 128GB of LPDDR5 unified reminiscence with 800GB/s of reminiscence bandwidth.

The M1 Ultra is basically two M1 Max chips fused collectively utilizing a brand new “ultra-fusion” interconnect know-how.

And for the reason that ultra-fusion interconnect presents these two M1 Max chips as a single, unified SOC in software program, there’s good cause to hope that the M1 Ultra can really supply twice the efficiency in apps that want, and are optimized to make use of, all of those sources.

The M1 Ultra is basically two M1 Max chips stacked finish to finish. Image: Apple

This is all superb in idea—really an engineering marvel, irrespective of how a lot you resent Apple for locking it inside a field with no upgradable elements—however how does the M1 Ultra really examine to the M1 Max in real-world photo and video-editing duties? Are any of the apps presently utilized by most creatives really going to learn from all this energy, or are you higher off saving the $3,000 it prices to improve to Apple’s strongest Mac Studio configuration?

Today, we discover out.

Shortly after we revealed our Mac Studio evaluate utilizing a configuration with M1 Max, Apple made good on their promise and despatched us one other unit with M1 Ultra inside. It is, fairly actually, twice as highly effective as our M1 Max Mac Studio in each single means, and we ran each of those computer systems via all the identical benchmarks to see simply how a lot of an influence all that {hardware} can actually have in your photo and video editing workflow.

Meet the contestants

Today, we’re primarily evaluating the absolutely loaded M1 Max model of the Mac Studio towards the absolutely loaded M1 Ultra model. The two machines now we have within the workplace come with totally different quantities of storage (2TB on the M1 Max and 4TB on the M1 Ultra), but when we management for storage, these are the specs and value factors of the computer systems that we’ll be testing:

M1 Ultra Mac Studio M1 Max Mac Studio
CPU

M1 Ultra

20-core CPU

M1 Max

10-core CPU

GPU

M1 Ultra

64-core GPU

M1 Max

32-core GPU

RAM 128GB Unified Memory 64GB Unified Memory
Storage 2TB Integrated NVMe SSD 2TB Integrated NVMe SSD
Price $6,200 $3,200

In actuality, the additional 2TB of storage included within the M1 Ultra model of the Mac Studio that Apple despatched over prices an extra $600, bringing the whole value of this loaner to $6,800, however so far as we will inform there isn’t a efficiency distinction between the storage included in our 2TB M1 Max Mac Studio vs the 4TB M1 Ultra Mac Studio.

In different phrases: any efficiency distinction you see (or do not see) under is the results of $3,000 value of related upgrades.

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Performance take a look at

The M1 Ultra is actually twice as highly effective because the M1 Max, however not all apps are in a position to flip that further {hardware} into real-world efficiency.

To take a look at the efficiency of the M1 Ultra towards the M1 Max in essentially the most managed means attainable, we ran all the benchmarks under whereas every laptop was linked to the identical 5K Studio Display utilizing the identical scaling choices within the Display settings (default for the show). This may seem to be an odd factor to say, however we have seen efficiency in sure functions (i.e. Lightroom Classic) measurably change as you modify the output decision and even the scaling of the show that you simply’re utilizing.

Beyond the take a look at setup, we ran the identical benchmarks we at all times do, so these outcomes are straight comparable towards every other PC or Mac we have examined and reviewed beforehand on DPR. We examined Lightroom Classic, Capture One Pro, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro.

Each particular person take a look at was run a minimal of three consecutive occasions to make sure that we have reached thermal equilibrium, and the typical of the final three runs is what we’re reporting under.

Adobe Lightroom Classic

To take a look at Lightroom efficiency, we use 100 copies of the studio scene photo from 4 totally different cameras: the 20MP Canon EOS R6, the 47MP Nikon Z7 II, the 61MP Sony a7R IV, and the 100MP Fujifilm GFX 100. Each batch of 100 RAW recordsdata is first imported and 1:1 previews are created (that is our “Import” benchmark), after which we apply a customized preset full of worldwide edits and export those self same recordsdata as full-resolution, 100% high quality JPEGs (that is our “Export” benchmark).

The cache is cleared and this system is restarted between every take a look at.

Generally talking, Lightroom import and preview era is a take a look at of CPU efficiency whereas export is a take a look at of CPU + RAM. In each exams, you’d hope that the M1 Ultra with 2x the cores and 2x the RAM could be about… nicely… 2x sooner. Incredibly, you would be proper.

Canon EOS R6 Import Nikon Z7 II Import Sony a7R IV Import Fujifilm GFX 100 Import
M1 Max 1:26 2:19 2:24 6:02
M1 Ultra 00:48 1:08 1:13 2:29

This is a a lot larger leap in efficiency than we have been anticipating […] the M1 Ultra is legitimately twice as quick because the M1 Max in Lightroom Classic.

This is a a lot larger leap in efficiency than we have been anticipating provided that Lightroom is infamous for being poorly optimized. But it’s important to give Adobe credit score, Lightroom Classic is taking full benefit of the additional CPU cores and further RAM obtainable within the M1 Ultra.

This sample continues to play out in exports:

Canon EOS R6 Export Nikon Z7 II Export Sony a7R IV Export Fujifilm GFX 100 Export
M1 Max 2:28 5:18 6:45 11:16
M1 Ultra 1:20 2:56 3:42 6:04

This is legitimately a 2x enchancment in efficiency, and it had us very looking forward to all the remainder of the benchmarks. Could the M1 Ultra probably be 2x sooner throughout the board? Unfortunately, the reply isn’t any. From right here on out, the efficiency enhancements are a bit smaller, and nearer to what you’d anticipate from a generational improve.

Capture One Pro 22

We use the identical benchmarks in Capture One Pro that we use in Lightroom Classic. We import every batch of 100 RAW recordsdata, generate previews at default decision (there isn’t a 1:1 possibility), apply the identical customized preset/model, and then export every set as full-sized 100% high quality JPEGs.

Generally, there is a huge efficiency distinction between Lightroom and Capture One as a result of C1 makes use of GPU acceleration to hurry issues up. Export, specifically, is a ton sooner because of GPU acceleration, and for the reason that M1 Ultra has 2x the GPU cores because the M1 Max, we have been hoping for a repeat of the Lightroom Classic efficiency features. Unfortunately, no matter Capture One is doing to speed up their app, they’ve not but optimized to reap the benefits of the M1 Ultra’s further cores.

The newest model of Capture One Pro 22 (15.2) is 2x sooner at import and preview era in comparison with the earlier launch, however there’s nearly no distinction between the efficiency you may get with the M1 Max and the M1 Ultra.

The newest model of Capture One Pro 22 (15.2) is 2x sooner at import and preview era in comparison with the earlier launch, however there may be nearly no distinction between the efficiency you may get with the M1 Max and the M1 Ultra. At import, the 2 computer systems are virtually equivalent:

Canon EOS R6 Import Nikon Z7 II Import Sony a7R IV Import Fujifilm GFX 100 Import
M1 Max 00:26 00:33 00:38 00:55
M1 Ultra 00:25 00:32 00:37 00:52

At export, issues are a bit sooner. The M1 Ultra places up export occasions which can be as much as 21% sooner than the M1 Max. That’s definitely higher than the meager distinction we noticed in our import exams, nevertheless it’s nonetheless nowhere close to Adobe Lightroom Classic, which is a full 100% sooner on M1 Ultra than M1 Max.

Canon EOS R6 Export Nikon Z7 II Export Sony a7R IV Export Fujifilm GFX 100 Export
M1 Max 00:59 2:06 2:34 4:29
M1 Ultra 00:49 1:50 2:09 3:42

Photoshop

Moving on to Photoshop, we ran Puget Systems‘ PugetBench for Photoshop benchmark to see if the additional RAM, GPU cores, and CPU cores will velocity up any heavy-duty post-processing you may be doing. One observe: the scores under come from Version 0.8 of PugetBench for Photoshop, as a result of this was the final model to incorporate the PhotoMerge take a look at and as a result of it runs as a script, not a plugin, so it is absolutely appropriate with Apple Silicon Macs.

While the M1 Ultra Mac Studio does unseat the M1 Max model as the very best scoring laptop we have ever examined in PugetBench, it solely beats the M1 Max by about 1.2% general.

We had excessive hopes on this one, for the reason that M1 Max Mac Studio put up some fairly spectacular numbers in our full evaluate. But whereas the M1 Ultra does unseat the M1 Max as the very best scoring laptop we have ever examined in PugetBench, it solely beats the M1 Max by a skinny margin, and really scores decrease in a few the class scores:

Overall General GPU Filter PhotoMerge
M1 Max 1287.2 129.2 117.5 111.5 162.2
M1 Ultra 1303.0 132.6 117.2 110.1 166.1

Premiere Pro

Like Capture One Pro, Premiere Pro usually does an incredible job of utilizing the GPU horsepower at its disposal to hurry up duties like rendering, making use of sure video results, and transcoding/exporting movies into varied codecs. To take a look at this efficiency, we use a 4K mission based mostly on 10-bit 8K ProRes 4:2:0 footage from the Sony a1.

This footage is organized in a timeline stuffed with results, LUTs, and titles, which we then render and export in a few totally different codecs. To wrap issues up, we additionally see how lengthy it takes to use Warp Stabilize to a wobbly 15-second clip from the identical shoot, since that is technically one in all Adobe Premiere’s GPU accelerated results.

Here’s the video that we’re utilizing, in case you are curious:

The story in Adobe Premiere Pro is just like Photoshop: there’s a small efficiency distinction, however nothing drastic.

The story in Premiere is just like Photoshop: there’s a small efficiency distinction, however nothing drastic. The M1 Ultra is about 9% sooner at rendering and 5% sooner at exporting H.264 and HEVC recordsdata.

Render All Export H.264 Export HEVC Warp Stabilize
M1 Max 1:47 1:41 1:40 2:13
M1 Ultra 1:38 1:32 1:35 2:07

Given how a lot a heavy-duty NVIDIA GPU can velocity issues up when utilizing Premiere Pro on the PC, I’m tempted to consider that that is an optimization challenge. For now, we’ll preserve our fingers crossed that an upcoming replace to Premiere Pro will higher use the additional cores and media engines that the M1 Ultra brings to the desk.

Final Cut Pro

Finally, if there’s one piece of software program that you simply’d anticipate to learn massively from Apple’s strongest processor, it could be Apple’s personal video editor Final Cut Pro. We use the identical precise video and supply footage talked about above to check Final Cut Pro efficiency, solely this time we render the footage, export a grasp file, export H.264, export HEVC, and take a look at Final Cut Stabilize as an alternative of Warp Stabilize.

Note: For these exams, Apple supplied an unreleased model of Final Cut Pro (10.6.2) that has explicitly been optimized to reap the benefits of the additional horsepower within the M1 Max and M1 Ultra. Apple tells us this model shall be out for everybody someday in April, however they despatched over an early construct so we might take a look at efficiency on software program that is really tuned to reap the benefits of the most recent {hardware}.

Unfortunately, even utilizing an optimized model of Final Cut, the M1 Ultra wasn’t in a position to present the 2x efficiency bump we have been hoping to see.

Unfortunately, even utilizing an optimized model of Final Cut, the M1 Ultra wasn’t in a position to present the 2x efficiency bump we have been hoping to see. It does present a a lot larger enhance than Premiere Pro—rendering was 26% sooner, and exports have been between 7% and 8% sooner on the M1 Ultra in comparison with the M1 Max—nevertheless it’s nonetheless a bit slower than Premiere in relation to each rendering and transcoding this explicit mission to H.264.

Render All Export Master File Export H.264 Export HEVC Final Cut Stabilize
M1 Max 2:40 00:43 2:20 1:05 00:28
M1 Ultra 2:07 00:37 2:11 1:00 00:28

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Performance Takeaways

As we ran these benchmarks and noticed the vary of various outcomes that have been coming in, the identical query got here up once more and once more: is that this a difficulty of optimization, or utilization? In different phrases: is the issue that Capture One Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Adobe Photoshop aren’t but optimized to reap the benefits of the brand new {hardware}, or are our benchmarks merely not “beefy” sufficient to place the M1 Ultra to good use?

Lightroom Classic is already tuned to reap the benefits of a number of cores each time they’re obtainable, and the M1 Max with its 10-core CPU and 64GB of RAM clearly hadn’t hit the ceiling of what Adobe is able to utilizing. But apps like Capture One, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and even Apple’s personal Final Cut Pro both want additional optimization, or we might have to throw much more work at them earlier than we see a 2x efficiency distinction between the Max and the Ultra.

Capture One, for instance might profit from additional optimization. The newest replace made import and preview era about 2x sooner on each the M1 Max and M1 Ultra, however even should you throw a ton of high-resolution images on the program, there’s barely any distinction in efficiency between these two machines.

Out of curiosity, we re-ran our import and export benchmarks utilizing 1,000 Fujifilm GFX 100 RAW recordsdata (over 210GB in complete) as an alternative of the standard 100 recordsdata. The outcomes: import was 4% sooner, whereas export was 18% sooner. It does not seem that throwing extra work on the program makes a lot of a distinction:

In the tip, the creators who will profit most from an improve from the M1 Max to M1 Ultra are photographers who rely closely on Lightroom Classic.

Final Cut Pro, then again, is outwardly already optimized for each M1 Max and M1 Ultra. In that case, the efficiency features we noticed within the benchmarks above might doubtlessly improve as you throw bigger tasks on the program. Unfortunately, we did not have something larger to check in FCP—the Sodo Moto library with its 8K Sony a1 footage is essentially the most graphically intensive mission now we have mendacity round—however the efficiency of the M1 Ultra over the M1 Max might enhance as mission measurement and complexity will increase.

In the tip, it seems that the creators who will profit most from an improve from the M1 Max to M1 Ultra are photographers who rely closely on Lightroom Classic. This shouldn’t be the outcome we anticipated, nevertheless it’s the outcome we obtained. If you are still utilizing Adobe’s basic DAM and RAW photo editor, you may reduce your wait time in half throughout lengthy imports and exports. But should you’re utilizing any of the opposite artistic packages we examined above, you could need to suppose twice earlier than upgrading.

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Conclusion – 2x value doesn’t suggest 2x efficiency

The M1 Ultra is unquestionably the quickest Apple Silicon chip available on the market. But for a lot of creators the additional efficiency is not value spending twice as a lot cash in comparison with the M1 Max.

When the M1 Ultra arrived on the DPReview workplaces, we weren’t positive what to anticipate. Twice as a lot {hardware} not often interprets into 2x the efficiency, nevertheless it’s additionally uncommon that you simply get a APU that is actually simply two of the earlier era APU fused collectively.

My guess going into these exams was that video editing would see the largest bump, photo editing would not profit a lot, and neither would profit by 2x as a result of the sorts of artistic workflows we take a look at simply do not want 128GB of RAM and 64 GPU cores. I used to be unsuitable. Of all of the use circumstances we examined, it appears that evidently photo editors who depend on LRC are going to see the largest efficiency enchancment in the event that they improve from the M1 Max to the M1 Ultra, whereas video editors utilizing both Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro should accept a smaller efficiency bump.

It appears that photo editors who depend on Lightroom are going to see the largest efficiency enchancment in the event that they improve from the M1 Max to the M1 Ultra, whereas video editors utilizing both Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro should accept a smaller efficiency bump.

Only your workflow and how a lot time a ten% or 20% velocity enhance will purchase you, however for many customers it is in all probability not going to be value spending the additional $3,000 required to get double the CPU, GPU, and RAM.

I can not emphasize this sufficient: selecting up a completely loaded M1 Ultra Mac Studio is actually greater than twice as costly because the absolutely loaded M1 Max variant. So until you are a die-hard Lightroom Classic person otherwise you’re prepared to wager that your artistic utility of selection is ultimately going to optimize its approach to 2x efficiency, the M1 Max is sort of definitely the smarter buy for many photo and video editors.

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