For practical purposes, the M1 Ultra acts like a single, impossibly large slice of silicon that does it all. Apple's most powerful chip to date has 114 billion transistors packed into over a hundred processing cores dedicated to logic, graphics, and artificial intelligence, all of it connected to 128 gigabytes of shared memory. But the M1 Ultra is in fact a Frankenstein's monster, consisting of two identical M1 Max chips bolted together using a silicon interface that serves as a bridge. This clever design makes it seem as if the conjoined chips are in fact just one larger whole.
As it becomes more difficult to shrink transistors in size, and impractical to make individual chips much bigger, chipmakers are beginning to stitch components together to boost processing power. The Lego-like approach is a key way the computer industry aims to progress. And Apple's M1 Ultra shows that new techniques can produce big leaps in performance.
"This technology showed up at just the right time," says Tim Millet, vice president of hardware technologies at Apple. "In a sense, it is about Moore's law," he adds, in reference to the decades-old axiom, named after the Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, that chip performance—measured by the number of transistors on a chip—doubles every 18 months.
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