Power Behaviour: No Real TDP, but Wide Range

Last year when we reviewed the M1 inside the Mac mini, we did some rough power measurements based on the wall-power of the machine. Since then, we learned how to read out Apple’s individual CPU, GPU, NPU and memory controller power figures, as well as total advertised package power. We repeat the exercise here for the 16” MacBook Pro, focusing on chip package power, as well as AC active wall power, meaning device load power, minus idle power.

Apple doesn’t advertise any TDP for the chips of the devices – it’s our understanding that simply doesn’t exist, and the only limitation to the power draw of the chips and laptops are simply thermals. As long as temperature is kept in check, the silicon will not throttle or not limit itself in terms of power draw. Of course, there’s still an actual average power draw figure when under different scenarios, which is what we come to test here:

Apple MacBook Pro 16 M1 Max Power Behaviour

Starting off with device idle, the chip reports a package power of around 200mW when doing nothing but idling on a static screen. This is extremely low compared to competitor designs, and is likely a reason Apple is able achieve such fantastic battery life. The AC wall power under idle was 7.2W, this was on Apple’s included 140W charger, and while the laptop was on minimum display brightness – it’s likely the actual DC battery power under this scenario is much lower, but lacking the ability to measure this, it’s the second-best thing we have. One should probably assume a 90% efficiency figure in the AC-to-DC conversion chain from 230V wall to 28V USB-C MagSafe to whatever the internal PMIC usage voltage of the device is.

In single-threaded workloads, such as CineBench r23 and SPEC 502.gcc_r, both which are more mixed in terms of pure computation vs also memory demanding, we see the chip report 11W package power, however we’re just measuring a 8.5-8.7W difference at the wall when under use. It’s possible the software is over-reporting things here. The actual CPU cluster is only using around 4-5W under this scenario, and we don’t seem to see much of a difference to the M1 in that regard. The package and active power are higher than what we’ve seen on the M1, which could be explained by the much larger memory resources of the M1 Max. 511.povray is mostly core-bound with little memory traffic, package power is reported less, although at the wall again the difference is minor.

In multi-threaded scenarios, the package and wall power vary from 34-43W on package, and wall active power from 40 to 62W. 503.bwaves stands out as having a larger difference between wall power and reported package power – although Apple’s powermetrics showcases a “DRAM” power figure, I think this is just the memory controllers, and that the actual DRAM is not accounted for in the package power figure – the extra wattage that we’re measuring here, because it’s a massive DRAM workload, would be the memory of the M1 Max package.

On the GPU side, we lack notable workloads, but GFXBench Aztec High Offscreen ends up with a 56.8W package figure and 69.80W wall active figure. The GPU block itself is reported to be running at 43W.

Finally, stressing out both CPU and GPU at the same time, the SoC goes up to 92W package power and 120W wall active power. That’s quite high, and we haven’t tested how long the machine is able to sustain such loads (it’s highly environment dependent), but it very much appears that the chip and platform don’t have any practical power limit, and just uses whatever it needs as long as temperatures are in check.

  M1 Max
MacBook Pro 16"
Intel i9-11980HK
MSI GE76 Raider
  Score Package
Wall Power
Total - Idle
Score Package
Wall Power
Total - Idle
Idle   0.2 7.2
  1.08 13.5
CB23 ST 1529 11.0 8.7 1604 30.0 43.5
CB23 MT 12375 34.0 39.7 12830 82.6 106.5
502 ST 11.9 11.0 9.5 10.7 25.5 24.5
502 MT 74.6 36.9 44.8 46.2 72.6 109.5
511 ST 10.3 5.5 8.0 10.7 17.6 28.5
511 MT 82.7 40.9 50.8 60.1 79.5 106.5
503 ST 57.3 14.5 16.8 44.2 19.5 31.5
503 MT 295.7 43.9 62.3 60.4 58.3 80.5
Aztec High Off 307fps 56.8 69.8 266fps 35 + 144 200.5
Aztec+511MT   92.0 119.8   78 + 142 256.5

Comparing the M1 Max against the competition, we resorted to Intel’s 11980HK on the MSI GE76 Raider. Unfortunately, we wanted to also do a comparison against AMD’s 5980HS, however our test machine is dead.

In single-threaded workloads, Apple’s showcases massive performance and power advantages against Intel’s best CPU. In CineBench, it’s one of the rare workloads where Apple’s cores lose out in performance for some reason, but this further widens the gap in terms of power usage, whereas the M1 Max only uses 8.7W, while a comparable figure on the 11980HK is 43.5W.

In other ST workloads, the M1 Max is more ahead in performance, or at least in a similar range. The performance/W difference here is around 2.5x to 3x in favour of Apple’s silicon.

In multi-threaded tests, the 11980HK is clearly allowed to go to much higher power levels than the M1 Max, reaching package power levels of 80W, for 105-110W active wall power, significantly more than what the MacBook Pro here is drawing. The performance levels of the M1 Max are significantly higher than the Intel chip here, due to the much better scalability of the cores. The perf/W differences here are 4-6x in favour of the M1 Max, all whilst posting significantly better performance, meaning the perf/W at ISO-perf would be even higher than this.

On the GPU side, the GE76 Raider comes with a GTX 3080 mobile. On Aztec High, this uses a total of 200W power for 266fps, while the M1 Max beats it at 307fps with just 70W wall active power. The package powers for the MSI system are reported at 35+144W.

Finally, the Intel and GeForce GPU go up to 256W power daw when used together, also more than double that of the MacBook Pro and its M1 Max SoC.

The 11980HK isn’t a very efficient chip, as we had noted it back in our May review, and AMD’s chips should fare quite a bit better in a comparison, however the Apple Silicon is likely still ahead by extremely comfortable margins.

Huge Memory Bandwidth, but not for every Block CPU ST Performance: Not Much Change from M1


View All Comments

  • darwinosx - Friday, November 5, 2021 - link

    Everything you said is wrong. Reply
  • C@illou - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    Slight correction, Vulkan works great on windows (and also works on Linux, but that counts the same as "SteamOS"), that makes it the most compatible API. Reply
  • xeridea - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    Vulkan runs on everything. Reply
  • Qozmo - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    Worth mentioning that MoltenVK exists officially from Khronos Group which layers Vulcan on top of the MetalAPI enabling Vulcan apps to run on MacOS/iOS Reply
  • Wrs - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    Is it just me or does that make no economic sense? When I’m AAA gaming (flashy visuals, complex scenes, high fps) I don’t feel as if I’m looking for light and cool or portable. I’d be on a desk flinging a mouse, or wielding a controller in front of a TV. Reply
  • michael2k - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    Maybe it isn't clear, but 'light and cool' means there is lots of headroom for overclocking. From the third page:
    Power Behaviour: No Real TDP, but Wide Range
    Apple doesn’t advertise any TDP for the chips of the devices – it’s our understanding that simply doesn’t exist, and the only limitation to the power draw of the chips and laptops are simply thermals. As long as temperature is kept in check, the silicon will not throttle or not limit itself in terms of power draw.

    You can imagine that in a desktop, with far better cooling and far more available power, that the M1P/M1M might grow well beyond the 92W of observed package power. The Mac Pro with 28 cores and 2 GPUs today will allow the CPU to consume 902W, there is a lot of space for performance to grow!

    So imagine 10x more performance from a desktop Mac with 10 M1P in some kind of fabric (100 cores and 320 GPUs!) or a much smaller number of M1P, maybe 4 (40 cores and 128 GPUs) with each allowed to consume 2.5x as much power
  • sean8102 - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    Problem is developer support. It seems there are only 2 "AAA" macOS AND ARM native games.


    That has to improve A LOT for getting a ARM Mac for gaming to make any sense. Otherwise you're always taking the performance hit of Rosetta 2. Plus not many AAA games are releasing for macOS since they announced the switch to ARM.

    The chips are amazing in terms of performance and efficiency, but getting a mac esp a ARM based one for gaming wouldn't make much sense. At least for now and not unless developer support improves A LOT.
  • AshlayW - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    Clock speeds do not scale with power consumption and Firestorm cores are not designed to reach high clock speeds, these cores would likely not break 3.5 if overclocked (wide, dense design for perf/W). AMD / Intel / NVIDIA's 5nm-class processors will put Apple back in its place for people wanting to NOT be locked into a walled garden from a company adamant on crushing consumer rights. It's just a shame that Apple's silicon engineers are so freakin' good, they're working for the wrong company (and hurting human progress by putting the best wafers/chips in Apple products). Reply
  • valuearb - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    Lol apple is responsible for more human progress than all the other PC makers combined. Reply
  • MooseNSquirrel - Friday, October 29, 2021 - link

    Only if your metric is marketing based. Reply

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