Given that my new Mac Studio M1 Ultra is an ‘open box’ unit, I needed to fire it up and make sure that it works properly. One of the things I needed to check: that it works fine with my Dell U3818DW via USB-C for display. I have seen many reports of problems with ultra wide displays and M1 Macs, and I do not have a new display on my shopping list.
So on Sunday I left my hackintosh plugged in to the DisplayPort on the U3818DW, and plugged the Mac Studio into the USB-C port. It looks to me like it works just fine. I get native resolution, 3840×1600, with no fuss.
I am using a new Apple Magic Trackpad 2, and an old WASD CODE keyboard just to set things up. I don’t really need the new trackpad, since eventually I’ll decommission my hackintosh and take the trackpad from there. But I need one during the transition, and it was on sale at B&H.
With just a 30 minute spin… wow. I honestly can’t believe how zippy this machine is, right out of the box. Therein lies the beauty of using the same desktop computer for 10 years; when you finally upgrade, the odds are very good that you’re going to notice a significant improvement. In some cases, some of it will just be “less accumulated cruft launched at startup and login”. But in 10 years, the hardware is going to be much faster.
Compiling libDwm on the Mac Studio M1 Ultra with ‘
make -j20' takes 32 seconds. Compiling it on my Threadripper 3960X machine with 256G of RAM with ‘
make -j24‘ takes 40 seconds. You read that correctly… the M1 Ultra soundly beats my Threadripper 3960X for my most common ‘oomph’ activity (compiling C++ code), despite having a slower base clock and only having 16 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores. While using a fraction of the electricity. Bravo!
“Moore’s Law is dead.”. In the strictest sense, just on transistor density, this is mostly true. Process shrink has slowed down, etc. But the rules changed for many computing domains long before we were talking about TSMC 5nm. See Herb Sutter’s “The Free Lunch is Over“. Dies have grown (more transistors), core counts have grown, clock speed has increased but very slowly when compared to the olden days. Cache is, well, something you really need to look at when buying a CPU for a given workload.
This last point is something I haven’t had time to research, in terms of analysis. If you need performant software on a general purpose computer, cache friendliness is likely to matter. Up until recently, reaching out to RAM versus on-chip or on-die cache came with a severe penalty. That of course remains true on our common platforms (including Apple silicon). However, Apple put the RAM in the SoC. For the M1 Ultra, the bandwidth is 800 GB/sec. DDR4 3200 is 25.6GB/sec if you have 8 channels. DDR5 4800 with 8 channels is 76.8GB/sec. Let that sink in for a moment… the memory bandwidth of the M1 Ultra is more than a decimal order of magnitude higher than what we see in Intel and AMD machines. My question: how significant has this been for the benchmarks and real work loads? If significant, does this mean we’re going to see the industry follow Apple here? AMD and Intel releasing SoCs with CPU and RAM?
I know there are tinkerers that bemoan this future. But we bemoan the loss of many things in computing. I’m going to remain optimistic. Do I personally really care if today’s CPU + RAM purchase turns into an SoC purchase? To be honest, not really. But that’s just me; computing needs are very diverse. Those of us who tinker, well, we might just wind up tinkering with fewer parts. I don’t see the whole PC industry reversing any time soon in a manner that creates a walled garden any more than what we have today. It’s not like the current industry hasn’t been good for Intel and AMD. Yes, computing needs have diversified and we’ve put ‘enough’ power into smaller devices to meet the needs of many more consumers. And Intel and AMD have largely been absent in mobile. But they’ve maintained a solid foothold in the server market, cloud infrastructure, HPC, etc. As a consumer I appreciate the diversity of options in the current marketplace. We speak with our wallets. If we’re a market, I trust we’ll be served.
Apple turned heads here. For some computing needs (including my primary desktop), it appears the M1 Mac Studio is a winner. It doesn’t replace my Linux and Windows workstation, nor any of my servers, nor any of my Raspberry Pis. But for what I (and some others) need from a desktop computer, the M1 Mac Studio is the best thing Apple has done in quite some time. It hits the right points for some of us, in a price tier that’s been empty since the original cheese grater Mac Pro (2006 to way-too-late 2013). It also happens to be a nice jolt of competition. This is good for us, the consumers. Even if I never desired an Apple product, I’d celebrate. Kudos to Apple. And thanks!