Is the M1 Ultra an RTX 3090 Killer?

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read
Is the M1 Ultra an RTX 3090 Killer?

Apple used their now-famous vague performance charts to show how their new M1 Ultra system on a chip smoked NVIDIA's top-of-the-line RTX 3090 graphics card both in performance and power usage. I believe Apple 100% about the power usage, but the performance numbers are a bit misleading, in my opinion.

As The Verge points out:

Apple made similar claims about its M1 Max beating the RTX 3080 last year, but real-world results were mixed. For productivity-focused loads, the M1 Max performed extremely well up against the RTX 3080. Some reviewers found the M1 Max slightly slower than a comparable RTX 3080 system for Adobe Premiere Pro tasks, but its relative performance really depended on the task at hand.

And as Timothy Liu showed back in November, the M1 Max looks far less impressive in certain tasks compared to the RTX 3080, sometimes showing 1/8 the performance. In theory, 2 M1 Maxes fused together would double performance in these tasks to be 1/4 the speed of the 3080, but that's just reasonable speculation based on what we know about the M1 Ultra.

There's also the issue of games, which for many people is the reason they're looking for a high end GPU, and there the Mac is simply nowhere near the top of the line in terms of performance. Gaming on the Mac is better than its ever been, but a Windows PC with a high end NVIDIA or AMD GPU is going to run circles around the Mac in terms of performance. This is maybe unfair because these games are written for DirectX, which doesn't work on the Mac, but that's the way it is today.

All of this is to say that the M1 Ultra looks like an absolute beast, and depending on your workflow, may be the fastest computer you can buy today. Also, the fact that Apple is able to make these claims at all in a computer that's absolutely tiny compared to high end PCs is an accomplishment all on its own. But as always, I think it will be wise to wait until we have these devices in hand to see how they perform at all the different tasks you can throw at them.