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

  • coolfactor - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    That's not true. Yes, they have common roots, but they are definitely not the same OS line-for-line. Prior to M1, they were even compiled for different architectures. The OS is much more than a "skin". Many people wish that macOS and iOS were skinned, so they could customize that skin! Reply
  • darwinosx - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    Apple does a lot of open source and contributes to the community.
  • Oxford Guy - Friday, October 29, 2021 - link

    'They've eaten OpenGL problems for years and they've had enough, thus no respect for open-source.'

    My understanding is that Apple stuck with an extremely outdated version of OpenGL for years and years. Hard to claim that open source is the problem, since all the updates were ignored.
  • coolfactor - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    @photovirus is correct. Metal achieves much better performance because Apple can design it to work on their hardware. Open-source solutions are good in principle and have their solid place in the software universe, but that doesn't mean it's the best solution in _every_ case. Metal solves a problem that plagued Macs for too long. Reply
  • varase - Wednesday, November 3, 2021 - link

    Well, Apple can design it to work with any hardware it uses.

    That has in the past included AMD graphics cards.
  • Eric S - Saturday, October 30, 2021 - link

    Not really. Metal makes sense for Apple. A graphics stack these days is a compiler. It is built on the LLVM project and C++ that they already use for their other compiler work. They will likely base it on their Swift compiler eventually. You can still use Vulcan on Mac and iOS since it’s shading language can be translated to Metal. Reply
  • Hifihedgehog - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    > What isn't nice is gaming on macOS

    That's a whole lot of damage control and pussyfooting around the truth. GFXBench is a joke for getting a pulse for real-world performance. In actuality, we are GPU bound at this point. Hence, the linear scaling from the M1 Pro to the M1 Max. The bottom line is this performs like an RTX 3060 in real-world games.
  • zshift - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    As noted in the article, these benchmarks were run on x86 executables. The fact that it can keep up with 3060 levels of performance is incredible, but we can’t make any real judgements until we see how natively-compiled games run. Reply
  • sirmo - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    @zshift 3060 uses a 192-bit memory bus, M1 Max has 512 bits and a huge GPU. Not to mention 6600xt does even better with less (only 128-bit memory bus). It's also only 11B transistors, while this SoC is 57B for perspective. It really isn't impressive tbh. Reply
  • Ppietra - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    If they use different memory type it’s irrelevant to talk bit width.
    Furthermore it doesn’t make much sense as argument to compare a GPU number of transistors with a SoC number.

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