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

  • JfromImaginstuff - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    Huh, nice Reply
  • Kangal - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    What isn't nice is gaming on macOS.
    We all know how bad emulation is, and whilst Apple seems to have pulled "magic" with their implementation of Metal/Rosetta2's hybrid-translation strong performance.... at the end of the day it isn't enough.

    The M1X is slightly slower than the RTX-3080, at least on-paper and in synthetic benchmarks. This is the sort of hardware that we've been denied for the past 3 years. Should be great. It isn't. When it comes to the actual Gaming Performance, the M1X is slightly slower than the RTX-3060. A massive downgrade.

    The silver lining is that developers will get excited, and we might see some AAA-ports over to the macOS system. Even if it's the top-100 games (non-exclusives), and if they get ported over natively, it should create a shock. We might see designers then developing games for PS5, XSX, OSX and Windows. And maybe SteamOS too. And in such a scenario, we can see native-coded games tapping into the proper M1X hardware, and show impressive performance.

    The same applies for professional programs for content creators.
  • at_clucks - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    "The silver lining is that developers will get excited, and we might see some AAA-ports over to the macOS"

    I think that's their whole point. Make developers optimize for Mac knowing that gamers would very likely choose to have their performant gaming machine in a Mac format (light, cool, low power) rather than in a hot and heavy DTR format if they had the choice of natively optimized games.
  • bernstein - Monday, October 25, 2021 - link

    we now have 3 primary gpu api‘s:
    - directx (xbox, windows)
    - vulkan (ps5, switch, steamos, android)
    - metal (macos, ios & derivates)
    Because they’re all low level & similar, most bigger engines support them all.

    There used to be two for pc, one for mobile and three for consoles. And vastly different ones at that.

    So it will come down to the addressable market and how fast apple evolves the api‘s. Historically windows, with its build once run two decades later has made it much much easier on devs.
  • yetanotherhuman - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    "how fast apple evolves the api‘s"

    That'll be a very slow, given their history. Why they invented another API, I have no idea. Vulkan could easily be universal. It runs on Windows, which you didn't note, with great results.
  • Dribble - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    Vulkan is too low level, it assumes nothing which means you have to right a ton of code to get to the level of Metal which assumes you have an apple device. If metal/dx are like writing in assembly language, for vulkan you start of with just machine code and have to write your own assembler first. Hence it's not really a great language to work with, if you were working with apple then metal is so much nicer. Reply
  • Gracemont - Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - link

    Vulkan is too low level? It’s literally comparable to DX12. Like bruh, if anything the Metal API is even more low level for Apple devices cuz of it being built specifically for Apple devices. Just like how the NVAPI for the Switch is the lowest level API for that system cuz it was specifically tailored for that system, not Vulkan. Reply
  • Ppietra - Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - link

    Gracemont, the Metal API was already being used with Intel and AMD GPUs, so not exactly a measure of "low level" Reply
  • NPPraxis - Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - link

    "Why they invented another API, I have no idea. Vulkan could easily be universal."

    You're misremembering the history. Metal predates Vulkan.

    Apple was basically stuck with OpenGL for a long time, which fell further and further behind as DirectX got lower level and faster. That made all of Apple's devices at a huge gaming handicap.

    Then Apple invented Metal for iOS in 2014 which gave them a huge performance rendering lead on mobile devices.

    They led the Mac languish for a couple years, not even updating the OpenGL version. Macs got worse and worse for games. In 2016, Vulcan came out. People speculated that Apple could adopt it.

    In 2017, Apple released Metal 2 which was included in the new MacOS.

    Basically, Apple had to pick between unifying MacOS (Metal) with iOS or with Linux gaming (Vulkan). Apple has gotten screwed over before by being reliant on open source third parties that fell further and further behind (OpenGL, web browsers before they helped build WebKit, etc) so it's kind of understandable that they went the Metal-on-MacOS direction since they had already built it for iOS.

    I still wish Apple would add support for it (Mac: Metal and Vulkan, Windows: DirectX and Vulkan, Linux: Vulkan only), because it would really help destroy any reason for developers to target DirectX first, but I understand that they really want to push devs to Metal to make porting to iOS easier.
  • Eric S - Friday, October 29, 2021 - link

    Everyone has their own graphics stack- Microsoft, Sony, Apple, and Nintendo all have proprietary stacks. Vulcan wants to change that, but that doesn’t solve everything. Developers still need to optimize for differences in GPUs. Apple is looking for full vertical integration which helps to have their own stack. Reply

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