Do You Need an M1 Max?
Mac Life|May 2022
Apple's latest MacBook Pros come with two powerful versions of its M1 chip – but which do you need?
By Matt Hanson

Late last year, Apple announced the MacBook Pro 16-inch and the MacBook Pro 14-inch with a pair of new chips inside, the M1 Pro and M1 Max. Both of these are substantial upgrades over Apple's original M1 chip (which powers the latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch), with the M1 Max-powered MacBook Pro being by far the most powerful laptop Apple has ever made. The kind of performance the M1 Max provides comes at a price, however, with the 14-inch model starting at $2,899.

With that kind of investment, you need to make sure you're getting your money's worth, and for most people, the M1 Max is overkill. The good news? The M1 Pro is a more affordable, brilliant performer. As for the M1 Max, if you're going to be doing some serious creative work, such as complex 3D modelling, then it'll be worth investing in a MBP that packs it. Read on to find out whether you should get an M1 Max-powered MacBook.

What’s inside the M1 Max?

А EFFICIENCY CORES

The CPU of the M1 Max is made up of 10 cores; two efficiency cores and eight performance cores. When you're browsing the web and don't need a lot of CPU power, the M1 Max will use the efficiency cores to preserve battery life.

B NEURAL ENGINE

The 16-core Neural Engine handles the chip's machine learning (ML) duties, like computional photography. The Neural Engine in the M1 Max helps deliver 11.5x faster ML performance when tracking moving objects in Final Cut Pro.

C GPU

This is the GPU of the M1 Max. Coming in both 28-core and 32-core configurations, this particular part of the chip is much larger than the M1 Pro. It allows the M1 Max to offer more graphical performance.

D PERFORMANCE CORES

While the efficiency cores are used for low-power tasks, the CPU switches to the performance cores when you're performing more intensive tasks.

E SYSTEM LEVEL CACHE

There are also four blocks of SLC (system level cache), and on the M1 Max there's 48MB of it, which is a big leap over the original M1's SLC capabilities.

F MEDIA ENGINES

The M1 Max's media engines handle video encoding and decoding duties (including ProRes and ProRes RAW content), while maximizing battery life.

THE M1 ADVANTAGE

In the past, Apple relied on Intel to provide the processor (and integrated graphics) of its computers. That all changed in 2020, however, when Apple unveiled its own Apple silicon M1chip, which powered the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch, along with the Mac mini.

While dropping Intel initially came as a bit of a shock, the move made a lot of sense, as Apple had been designing chips for the iPad and iPhone. By using that expertise to create silicon for its laptops and computers, Apple would have almost complete control over the hardware and software, enabling it to finetune both to maximize performance. Still, it was a gamble, but one that paid off, as the M1-powered Macs launched to rave reviews, with critics praising the performance of the devices, as well as battery life and thermal performance; essentially, the M1chip runs cooler than Intel's, enabling the MacBook Air to ditch its fans, making it silent in operation.

Apple also addressed people's fears that a change of CPU architecture may mean their favorite apps no longer worked. While Apple updated its own apps to run natively on M1hardware, rather than Intel, it also magicked up Rosetta 2, which allowed Intel apps to run on M1 Macs pretty much flawlessly. Since its release, many app developers have ported their software to M1, with Rosetta 2 filling in the gaps to ensure that if you upgrade to an M1 Mac, you can be sure the software you rely on can come with you. There was also another advantage with Macs running on M1hardware, as they could also run iOS apps designed for iPhones and iPads, giving M1 Mac owners access to a library of thousands of apps and games.

With the M1 being such a success, many were keen to see what Apple had planned — but even the most seasoned Cupertino watcher was surprised when the company announced not one, but two followup chips. The M1 Pro and the M1Max, evolutions of the M1hardware, and both represented a huge leap in performance and ambition compared to Apple's original chip.

Like the M1, both the M1 Pro and M1Max are dual-chip silicon, which means they feature both a processor (CPU) and graphics (GPU). The M1 Pro is made up of 33.7 billion transistors - more than double that of the M1. The M1Max, however, goes even further with 57 billion transistors — making it the largest MacBook chip Apple has ever made.

GRAPHICAL POWERHOUSE

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