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
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  • michael2k - Thursday, October 28, 2021 - link

    Power consumption scales linearly with clock speed.

    Clock speed, however, is constrained by voltage. That said, we already know that the M1M itself has a 3.2GHz clock while the GPU is only running at 1.296GHz. It is unknown if there is any reason other than power for the GPU to run so slowly. If they could double the GPU clock (and therefore double it's performance) without increasing it's voltage, it would only draw about 112W. If they let it run at 3.2GHz it would draw 138W.

    Paired with the CPU drawing 40W the M1M would still be several times under the Mac Pro's current 902W. So that leaves open the possibility of a multiple chip solution (4 M1P still only draws 712W if the GPU is clocked to 3.2GHz) as well as clocking up slightly to 3.5GHz, assuming no need to increase voltage. Bumping up to 3.5GHz would still only consume 778W while giving us almost 11x the GPU power of the current M1P, which would be 11x the performance of the 3080 found in the GE76 Raider

    Also, you bring up AMD/Intel/NVIDIA at 5nm, without also considering that when Apple stops locking up 5nm it's because they will be at 4nm and 3nm.
  • uningenieromas - Thursday, October 28, 2021 - link

    You would think that if Apple's silicon engineers are so freakin' good, they could basically work wherever they want...and, yep, they chose Apple. There might be a reason for that?
  • varase - Wednesday, November 3, 2021 - link

    We're glad you shared your religious epiphany with the rest of us 😳.
  • Romulo Pulcinelli Benedetti - Sunday, May 22, 2022 - link

    Sure, Intel and AMD would take all the hard work to advance humanity toward Apple level chips if Apple was not there, believe in this...
  • Alej - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    The native ARM Mac scarcity I don’t fully get, a lot of games get ported to the switch which is already ARM. And if they are using Vulkan as the graphics API then there’s already MoltenVK to translate it to Metal, which even if not perfect and won’t use the 100% of available tricks and optimizations, it would run well enough.
  • Wrs - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    @Alej It's a numbers and IDE game. 90 million Switches sold, all purely for gaming, supported by a company that exclusively does games. 20 million Macs sold yearly, most not for gaming in the least, built by a company not focused on gaming for that platform. iPhones are partially used for gaming, however, and sell many times the volume of the Switch, so as expected there's a strong gaming ecosystem.
  • Kangal - Friday, October 29, 2021 - link

    Apple is happy where they are.
    However, if Apple were a little faster/wiser, they would've made the switch from Intel Macs to M1 Macs back in 2018 using the TSMC 7nm node, their Tempest/Vortex CPUs and their A12-GPU. They wouldn't be too far removed from the performance of the M1, M1P, M1X if scaled similarly.

    And even more interesting, what if Apple released a great Home Console?
    Something that is more compact than the Xbox Series S, yet more powerful than the Xbox Series X. That would leave both Microsoft and Sony scrambling. They could've designed a very ergonomic controller with much less latency, and they could've enticed all these AAA-developers to their platform (Metal v2 / Swift v4). It would be gaming-centric, with out-of-box support for iOS games/apps, and even a limited-time support (Rosetta v2) for legacy OS X Applications. They wouldn't be able to subsidies the pricing like Sony, but could basically front the costs from their own pocket to bring it to a palatable RRP. After 2 years, then they would be able to turn a profit from its hardware sales and software sales.

    I'm sure they could have been a hit. And it would then pivot to make MacBook Pro's more friendly for media consumption, and developer-supported. Strengthening their entire ecosystem, and leveraging their unique position in software and hardware to remain competitive.
  • kwohlt - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    I think it is just you. Imagine a hypothetical ultra thin, fanless laptop that offered 20 hours of battery under load and could play games at desktop 3080 levels...Would you wish this laptop was louder, hotter, and had worse battery?

    No of course not. Consuming less power and generating less heat, while offering similar or better performance has always been the goal of computing. It's this trend that allows us to daily carry computing power that was once the size of a refrigerator in our pockets and on our wrists.
  • Wrs - Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - link

    No, but I might wish it could scale upward to a desktop/console for way more performance than a 3080. :) That would also be an indictment of how poorly the 3080 is designed or fabricated, or how old it is.

    Now, if in the future silicon gets usurped by a technology that does not scale up in power density, then I could be forced to say yes.
  • turbine101 - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    Why would developers waste there time on a device which will have barely any sales?

    The M1 Mac Max costs $6knzd. That's just crazy, even the most devout Apple enthusiasts cannot justify this. And Mac is far less usable than IOS.

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