Apple's Brainiest Mac Chip So Far, the M2 Ultra, Means No More Intel

The new chip powers Apple's new Mac Pro and upgraded Mac Studio, letting power users pack as much as 192GB of memory into their machines.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Apple's M2 Ultra processor powers its Mac Studio and Mac Pro desktop computers.

Apple; GIF by Arielle Burton

For Mac owners who need top speed, Apple unveiled its new M2 Ultra on Monday, a processor that jams two M2 Max chips together into one bigger electronic brain for the Mac Studio and new Mac Pro desktop computers.

The Mac Studio debuted in 2022 with M1 Max and M1 Ultra options. It's been upgraded with the M2 Max and M2 Ultra. The new Mac Pro, a tower PC that's much more expandable, comes only with the M2 Ultra with a $6,999 price.

All these higher-end processors boost speed by adding more cores — chiefly, the general purpose central processing units (CPUs),  the graphics processing units (GPUs) and Apple's Neural Engine for accelerating AI chores. Compared to the M1 Ultra, the M2 Ultra offers 20% faster CPU performance, 30% faster GPU performance and 40% faster neural engine performance.

Watch this: Mac Studio Gets an Upgrade With M2 Max and M2 Ultra Chips

With the new top-end processor, Apple has completed a two-year transition away from Intel processors. "This completes the transition to Apple silicon," said hardware chief John Ternus at the company's WWDC developer conference. "For PC users, there's never been a better time to switch to a Mac."

The M2 Ultra has 24 CPU cores compared to the M1 Ultra's 20, and 76 GPU cores, up from 48 on the M1 Ultra. With the M2 Ultra, a Mac can accommodate a whopping 192GB of memory.

Linking two processors into a single, more powerful processor is an example of what's possible with new advanced packaging options in the semiconductor industry. Apple relies on circuitry for a high-speed, low delay interface on each M2 Max processor to link the two halves of the M1 Ultra.

Apple has won glowing reviews with its M-series processors, which have meant MacBooks with long battery life, and in MacBook Air models, no cooling fan at all.

Intel, whose processors power most PCs, has new technology coming to try to compete better.

For one thing, its Meteor Lake processor, due later this year, employs advanced packaging technology of its own, bringing it to mainstream PCs, not just top-end Macs. Next year's Arrow Lake chip will add a technology called backside power delivery that further boosts performance.