Apple M1 Ultra vs Intel 12th-gen processors: which is better?

Apple had a big hit at its “Peek Performance” Sping event and surprised us all by announcing the new M1 Ultra SoC. The new one is basically the fourth and final member of the M1 family and is Apple’s most powerful chip to date. But since the M1 Ultra was announced, many of you are wondering exactly how it compares to Intel’s new 12th generation processors. After all, Intel also made some significant improvements to its 12th generation processor this year. So in this article, we are going to take a look at the Apple M1 Ultra vs Intel 12th-gen processor comparison to see which one is better.

XDA-Developers Video of the Day

While Intel’s new Alder Lake family packs plenty of CPUs under both the desktop as well as its laptop lineup, we’ll only be including the M1 Ultra with Intel’s 12th generation desktop chips. That’s because the M1 Ultra is a workstation chip that will take charge of powering the next generation of powerful Mac desktops. While the M1 Ultra debuts with the new Mac Studio, we expect Apple to use the same chip to power future Mac desktops like the Mac Pro as well.

Browse this article:

Apple M1 Ultra vs Intel 12th gen Alder Lake: Specifications

Before we start the comparison, here’s a quick look at the specs of both the Apple M1 Ultra chip and Intel’s Alder Lake desktop CPU lineup. While we think only unlocked desktop CPUs from the Alder Lake lineup can compete with Apple’s new M1 Ultra chip, we’ve added specs for all parts of the Alder Lake desktop to this comparison. This should give you an idea of ​​what kind of specs you get with each 12th generation Intel desktop chip and how they stack up against the new M1 Ultra SoC:

Apple M1 Ultra

Customize Apple M1 Ultra
CPU cores 20
(16 “Firestorm” performance cores + 4 “Blizzard” efficiency cores)
GPU cores 64 core
nervous motor 32 core
memory channels 32 LPDDR5
consolidated memory up to 128 GB
memory bandwidth 800 gigabits per second
Processing 5nm
transistors 114 billion

Intel 12th Gen Alder Lake-S SKUs Home Unlocked

Customize Intel Core i5-12600K Intel Core i7-12700K Intel Core i9-12900 K
nuclei 10 (6P + 4E) 12 (8P + 4E) 16 (8P + 8E)
threads 16 20 24
Fundamental frequency 3.7 GHz (ph-core) | 2.8 GHz (E-core) 3.60 GHz (ph-core) | 2.70 GHz (ecore) 3.2 GHz (V-core) | 2.4GHz (ecore)
Frequency increase 4.9 GHz (ph-core) | 3.6 GHz (ecore) 4.90 GHz (V-core) | 3.80 GHz (E-core) 5.1 GHz (ph-core) | 3.9 GHz (E-core)
L3 cache 20 MB 25 MB 30 megabytes
Default TDP 125 watts 125 watts 125 watts
the above. Operating temperature (Tjmax) 100°C 100°C 100°C
Not locked for overclocking? Yes Yes Yes
Memory support DDR4 3200MT/sec | DDR5-4800MT/sec
up to 128 GB
DDR4 3200MT/sec | DDR5-4800MT/sec
up to 128 GB
DDR4-3200 | DDR5-4800
up to 128 GB
Integrated graphics UHD Graphics 770 Intel Graphics UHD 770 Intel UHD 770

Predominant Intel 12th Gen Alder Lake-S SKUs (non-K)

Customize Intel Core i9-12900 Intel Core i7-12700 Intel Core i5-12600 Intel Core i5-12500 Intel Core i5-12400 Intel Core i3-12300 Intel Core i3-12100 Pentium Gold G7400 Celeron G6900
nuclei 16 (8P + 8E) 12 (8P + 4E) 6 (6P + 0E) 6 (6P + 0E) 6 (6P + 0E) 4 (4P + 0E) 4 (6P + 0E) 2 (2P + 0E) 2 (2P + 0E)
threads 24 20 12 12 12 8 8 4 2
Fundamental frequency 2.4 GHz (V-core) | 1.8 GHz (E-core) 2.1 GHz (ph-core) | 1.6 GHz (ecore) 3.3 GHz 3.0 GHz 2.5 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.3 GHz 3.7 GHz 3.4 GHz
Frequency increase 5.0 GHz (V-core) | 3.8 GHz (E-core) 4.8 GHz (ph-core) | 3.6 GHz (ecore) 4.8GHz 4.6 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.3 GHz Unavailable Unavailable
L3 cache 30 megabytes 25 MB 18 MB 18 MB 18 MB 12 megabytes 12 megabytes 6 megabytes 4 megabytes
Default TDP 65 watts 65 watts 65 watts 65 watts 65 watts 60 watts 60 watts 46 watts 46 watts
Memory support DDR4 3200MT/sec | DDR5-4800MT/sec
up to 128 GB
DDR4 3200MT/sec | DDR5-4800MT/sec
up to 128 GB
DDR4-3200 | DDR5-4800
up to 128 GB
DDR4-3200 | DDR5-4800
up to 128 GB
DDR4-3200 | DDR5-4800
up to 128 GB
DDR4-3200 | DDR5-4800
up to 128 GB
DDR4-3200 | DDR5-4800
up to 128 GB
DDR4-3200 | DDR5-4800
up to 128 GB
DDR4-3200 | DDR5-4800
up to 128 GB
Integrated graphics UHD Graphics 770 Intel UHD Graphics 770 Intel UHD Graphics 770 Intel UHD Graphics 770 Intel UHD Graphics 730 Intel UHD Graphics 730 Intel UHD Graphics 730 Intel UHD Graphics 710 Intel UHD Graphics 710
RCP . Pricing $489 $339 $223 202 dollars $192 $143 $122 $64 $42

Apple M1 Ultra vs Intel 12th gen Alder Lake: Pricing and Availability

Apple’s M1 Ultra is exclusive to the company’s Mac Studio desktop computer, which means you’ll have to shell out at least $3,999 for an M1 Ultra-powered device. It’s worth noting that $3,999 is the starting price for the base variant of Mac Studio. A fully stocked Mac studio with all the bells and whistles will set you back up to $8000. Apple computers tend to be pricey, so we’re not entirely surprised to see such a high price tag for a M1 Ultra computer.

    Apple Mac Studio

    Pricing for the Apple Mac Studio desktop with the new M1 Ultra chip starts at $3,999.

    Intel Core i9-12900 K

    The Intel Core i9-12900K is one of the most powerful mainstream chips on the market at the moment.

On the other hand, a competing 12th-generation Intel Alder Lake CPU like the Core i9-12900K, on ​​the other hand, costs about $620 at the time of writing. Sure, you’ll have to spend more on other compatible components to make a complete PC, but it won’t be as expensive as $3999, let alone $8000. Also, there are plenty of other options besides the 12,900K in the Alder Lake lineup. You can also choose something like the Core i7-12700 and still get really good performance for the price. So in terms of pricing, it’s safe to say that getting an Apple M1 Ultra-powered desktop computer is comparatively more expensive.

Apple M1 Ultra vs Intel 12th gen Alder Lake: Performance

While we haven’t yet gotten our hands on the new M1 Ultra-powered Mac Studio, we’ve got some ideas from an Apple keyword and a couple of benchmark results from sources like Geekbench to give you an idea of ​​what to expect. Although Apple uses two M1 Max chips to build the M1 Ultra die with twice the components, it’s safe to say that the M1 Ultra is a desktop chip designed to go against the mainstream and even some workstation-level CPUs from Intel and AMD.

Apple has compared the performance of the M1 Ultra to the new 12th-generation Intel Core i9-12900K CPU and said its new chips perform slightly better with lower power consumption. The Core i9-12900K, as you are, is the best CPU in the Intel 12th-gen lineup, so it’s safe to say that the M1 Ultra will outperform practically every other Intel chip mentioned in the specs table above. We were also able to find some Geekbench scores for the early M1 Ultra samples on the official Geekbench website. Here’s a quick look at it:

While we’ll be running our own tests as soon as we get our hands on the new Mac Studio powered by the M1 Ultra processor, it’s safe to say we’re looking forward to a significant performance improvement over the M1 Max chip as well as the Intel Core i9-12900K processor, especially in the multi-core score. As we mentioned in our Intel Alder Lake review, the Core i9-12900K scored around 17,500 in the multi-core test. The screenshots attached above show the Geekbench 5 score for the M1 Ultra and Core i9-12900K. That’s a lot less than what we saw in some of the M1 Ultra’s initial Geekbench 5 tests. To put things into perspective, the AMD Threadripper 3990X CPU with 64 Zen 2 cores is about 4.5% faster with 25,133 points.

The best thing about Apple’s M1 Ultra chip is that it consumes much less power compared to some of these powerful chips. Those numbers are really impressive, but it remains to be seen how the M1 Ultra chip performs in other benchmark applications as well as in tests outside of benchmarks.

Which one should you buy?

Despite the M1 Ultra’s power, both on paper and leaked benchmark results, we can’t deliver our verdict on Apple’s new chip just yet. It certainly looks very promising but it is undeniable that it is expensive. Notably, its availability is limited to the Mac Studio computer only, which means that you will have to spend at least $3,999 to get your hands on the base model of Mac Studio. By comparison, we were able to put together an enthusiast-grade PC with an Intel Core i9-12900K and RTX 3080 graphics card for a hair over $2800.

Unless you’re intent on using Apple’s best computing machine ever for an uncompromising experience, we think you’d be better off buying a MacBook Pro running the M1 Max or building a PC running Alder Lake. If you are interested, you can check out the comparison of Apple M1 Ultra and M1 Max chipsets. AMD will announce new Ryzen 7000 series desktop chips later this year, and it will be interesting to see how the new Apple M1 Ultra chip compares to some of AMD’s high-end units.

If you’re looking to buy a new Mac Studio desktop computer from Apple, be sure to check out our best Mac Studio deals page to see if you can save some money. Alternatively, you can also check out our collection of the best Macs to see if you can find some other Macs that better suit your needs and budget than Mac Studio.