M1 Ultra vs Desktop PC

I got an M1 Ultra finally at work, as well as some PCs for VR. The PCs are equipped with 2-year-old top-end graphics cards (nVidia 3090 RTX, which were released in September 2020).

I decided to put the graphics head to head to see if the Ultra could compete with a Windows desktop. The results were not as expected.

In Geekbench, the 3090 GTX is just shy of 3X faster, and the nVidia is at least 2X faster in all 3D benchmarks I’ve run, including metal-optimized ones.

I guess the fact that the nVidia can draw 450 watts of power helps, but it still makes Apple’s marketing about the Ultra seem very misleading. When nVidia release their new cards, which are due soon, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to be 4-5x more powerful than an M1 Ultra.

Plus, add to the mix that the 3090 has raytracing and CUDA, the M1 range still has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to be taken seriously by machine learning and computer vision developers, 3D artists and VR/AR designers (which is what we use powerful machines for at my university).

Thankfully, for my work (mainly TensorFlow), the M1 Ultra still performs well; the nVidia is only 75% faster for my use case, and it fits much better on my desk than a massive PC.

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I can’t say I’m too surprised. I imagine the device Apple would want to benchmark against those PCs is the upcoming M-based Mac Pro, which I’m hoping will support third-party graphics cards.

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Yes and No!
It is not misleading from the Apple point of view, to create a high performance Unit, with a very small power usage.
If you want to do the comparison any kind of fair, you have to cut the PC´s power consumption down to the same level, the M1 is using, and you will see a totally different result.
And of course, there will always be Chips and Units with a lot of higher values in Benchmarks, specially those who are designed for the specific ares, where the tested equipment is designed for, like 3D for the Nvidia graphic cards.

It is just not a fair comparison…

I have been reading about that back in March:

To quote 9to5mac:

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.

That is one of the reasons why some Pros keep waiting for eGPU support for a M1 Mac. I think that we only will know the whole story when the Mac Pro eventually is revealed. I am no expert, but I doubt that we ever will come to a point when a single SoC will be able to perform better than EVERY dedicated graphics card. Then again, allegedly even the Apple Silicon Mac Pro will use graphics on the SoC instead of graphics cards, which makes some wonder if Apple will keep selling Intel-based Mac Pros for the time being (2022 Mac Pro: Release date, specs, design, price | Macworld).


Thanks for the links; I don’t read Internet news much, so I didn’t even see the tests. They confirm almost exactly what I found.

I’m still happily using a maxed out M1 Max laptop and the Ultra as a desktop, they are amazing machines despite the marketing being a little decieving.

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Well, sometimes I would be better off doing so, too. :slight_smile:

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I posted my experiences here: "Nobody Should Buy the new M2 MacBook Pro" - #42 by Lars

Now I am using a PC for heavy lifting. My MBP is still my daily work machine (macOS!), but I am now using a PC for anything OpenCL.

Power consumption is a very important factor with laptops. And Apple really delivered with the M1. On the other hand, a desk computer is often bought because of it higher computing power.

But, another comparison would be: computing units per €/$. And especially with OpenCL (CUDA would be unfair), Apple is severely lagging behind. Apple Silicon+nVidia would be on my wish list…

You have to consider macOS vs. Windump… :wink:
With an Apple, you are not only buying Hardware, you buy the OS and the Environment with it.
And if I have a look on all the hours of my live, I can safe due to not be forced to continually keep my Windows up to date and running, it is worth every single pence. :smiley:

If I am working 2 or more hours on a project in Premiere/QGIS/Photoshop/Fusion…the OS behind it makes zero difference.

That’s why I wrote “my main machine is my MBP”: file handling, mail, automation, writing, etc. is great with macOS. If I am doing dedicated work in a power-hungry application…no benefit, no difference.

As for “forced to continually keep my Windows up to date and running”: the days of Windows ME are long gone. And please, just look through all the posts in this forum, macOS is not without problems. We have hundreds of Windows PCs/laptops at work and can’t recall a blue screen in the last years.

Yes, I consider macOS the superior OS. Now we need superior (OpenCL!!!) hardware again.

Agreed. I built a custom PC last year and I was amazed by how easy it was to get everything up and running in Windows 10. Windows 11 has made that even easier from my side. Granted I had to re-learn a lot because I didn’t have access to AppleScript, Keyboard Maestro, and Alfred. But overall the OS is stable and worked quite well for me. I rarely had any issues that caused me to not be able to get my work done.

I also can’t remember a time when Windows Update made me bang my head against the desk and jump through hoops to get the Windows Update process to restart after stalling out for the umpteenth time. :joy:

I did not talk about ME, but Win10!
And I am unfortunately still forced to keep a copy of it, to run it occasionally as a VM to update a printer.
The Update took 15 Minutes, to get to the point where Win10 is up to date and running took normally several hours!
Before I abandoned my PC, I was around 70% of my screen time hunting for the mistakes and glitches of the WinOS, and still doing so for friends and family I still wasn’t able to push over to Apple.
And yes, macOS has also developed a lot of problems over the last 5 (or so) years but it is still a huge difference towards Windows.

I set up a PC 3 weeks ago. Install and update was a breeze. Can’t confirm your experience.

What really annoys me about Windows: after a standard install…the amount of spam all over the place. Install OneDrive!!! Want One Drive!!! Hey, you need OneDrive!!! Sidebar! But with MS Live!!! And a lot of news in the sidebar you don’t care about… The start menu looks like the discount aisle from WalMart… Did I mention YOU CAN INSTALL ONE DRIVE!!!

macOS: in the system settings menu a small hint you could add an Apple ID.

I can’t complain about stability, updates, etc. But the usability is…crap.

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Oh man. Yes to this! I had forgotten about all of that, but they really need to calm all of that down A LOT.

This month a Dutch/German computer magazine did a comparison between an M1 and a Windows computer. And it turned out the M1 was definitely not the clear winner.

From the editorial:
“A simple Windows-pc with an AMD or an Intel cpu processes some regular software much faster than a Mac Studio with an M1 Max-chip, and even so when the Mac Studio has an M1 Ultra processor.”

Mind you, this is a quite serious magazine. With thorough testing methods, This is definitely not coming from some regular ‘consumer’ magazine.

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Do you have a link?
I would be interested in reading that.

I can’t share a link. That’s not allowed. The article is in the Dutch version of the German C’t Magazin though (issue 8/9 2022). I think content is shared between the German and Dutch version. So presumably you should be able to find it in the German version too.

Is this the mentioned article? A lot of it is online for free at the publisher’s website:

Article in English via Google Translate URL

Some of the more in depth analysis is behind a paywall. I am not able to find the sentence you quoted. Is it this one?

Ein clever zusammengestellter PC mit AMD-Ryzen- oder Intel-Core-i-CPU übertrumpft in vielen Programmen zumindest den M1 Max und ist wesentlich billiger.

Google’s translation would be (which is accurate in this case IMHO):

A cleverly assembled PC with AMD Ryzen or Intel Core i CPU trumps at least the M1 Max in many programs and is significantly cheaper.

That is a sentence in the lead-in-section to catch the reader. The author closes his article with (translated by Google):

Our technology comparison, a performance comparison of Macs and Intels for music production and for photo and video editing , shows how challenging it is to compare the Apple M1 processors with x86 chips from AMD and Intel. In every area of ​​application, the software is very important. In addition, many creative apps integrate the GPU, which further distorts the image. If you take a step back in the comparison, the systematic differences between the macOS and Windows platforms come into focus. Apple lures buyers into the well-kept macOS garden with unique hardware such as the Mac Studio, but the fence around it is getting higher and higher. On the other hand, if you garden on the x86 field, you will harvest more individual plants, but also more weeds.

Ultimately, the simple recommendation is this: if the program you want runs nimbly on the Mac Studio, it’s a good choice. On the other hand, if you are flexible with the software, you can save some money with a Windows PC, but you need skill in the configuration for good results – or luck in the purchase.

My experience: M1 Macs deliver a fantastic and fast(er) experience in every day use cases. They feel snappy. More snappy than most PCs. And that is what also many commentators on the publisher’s website echo (which are not exactly Mac fans). Even the author of the article does acknowledge that to some degree, especially if the apps are up to date and compiled for the Mx world…

When it comes down to ultimate performance in high end use cases, especially when graphics cards come into play, high end PCs still will be faster than Mx-Macs. There are limits to SoCs, which might be the reason for the Intel Mac Pro still being sold. It will be interesting to see how Apple will address this high end area in the long run: will there be Mx support for eGPUs? Or will we see a Mac Pro that is a real modular system (with the ability to put hardware like custom graphic cards inside)? Time will tell.

Which by the way has the best tests/articles out there. It’s the only magazine I still buy, also because their in-depth articles. Is that article in the current edition? Will buy it on my way home.

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My quote is from the Editorial of the Dutch edition. As such not part of the article.

And yes, that’s the article. :+1:

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