Apple changes the game with its M1 UltraFusion Chip Interconnect

Big Picture: Apple is pushing the boundaries with its 114 billion transistor M1 Ultra giant. It uses state-of-the-art interconnect technology to connect two disparate chips into one SoC. Luckily, developers won’t have to jump through all the hurdles to get the full potential of the Ultra, as it will behave like a single entity at the system level.

Apple recently announced M1 Ultra, its new SoC flagship that will run on the all-new Mac Studio, a compact yet high-performance desktop system. Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra processor is said to deliver 3.8 times the processor performance of a 27-inch iMac with a 10-core processor.

“[The M1 Ultra is a] game changer for Apple Silicon that will once again rock the PC industry,” said Johnny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technology.

M1 Ultra is undoubtedly a powerful model. It fuses two M1 Max chips in what Apple calls an UltraFusion inter-processor connection that offers 2.5 terabytes per second of low latency and inter-processor bandwidth.

According to Apple, UltraFusion uses a silicon interposer with twice the connection density and four times the bandwidth of competing interposer technologies. Since each M1 Max has a die area of ​​432mm², the area of ​​the UltraFusion interposer itself must be over 864mm². This applies to AMD and Nvidia enterprise GPUs with HBM (High Bandwidth Memory).

Another benefit of Ultrafusion is that developers won’t need to rewrite their code, as at the system level the Mac will treat the dual-chip SoC as a single processor.

Built on TSMC’s 5nm process, the M1 Ultra has 114 billion transistors, 7 times more than the original M1. It can support up to 128GB of combined memory with 800GB/s memory bandwidth, made possible by the dual-chip design. It includes 16 performance cores with 48MB L2 cache and four efficient cores with 4MB L2 cache, and the GPU can have up to 64 GPU cores. It also features a 32-core neural engine that can perform up to 22 trillion operations per second to speed up machine learning tasks.

Digitimes reports that the Apple M1 Ultra SoC uses the TSMC CoWoS-S (chip-on-wafer-on-substrate with silicon insert) packaging process based on a 2.5D insert. Nvidia, AMD, and Fujitsu have used similar technologies to create high-performance processors for data centers and HPC (High Performance Computing).

Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC offers a newer alternative to CoWoS-S in its InFO_LSI (InFO with LSI Integration) technology for ultra-high bandwidth chip integration. It uses localized silicon interconnects instead of large and expensive middleware like Intel’s EMIB (Embedded Chip Interconnect Bridge).

It is believed that Apple chose CoWoS-S via InFO_LSI as the latter was not ready in time for the M1 Ultra. Thus, Apple could play it safe, choosing a proven but more expensive solution, rather than a cheaper, nascent technology.

Mac Studio will be available starting March 18 with a starting price of $3,999 including 64GB of shared storage and 1TB SSD.

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