Science & Technology

The Apple M1 Ultra Crushes Intel in Computational Fluid Dynamics Performance

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It’s surprisingly exhausting to pin down precisely how Apple’s M1 compares to Intel’s x86 processors. Whereas the chip household has been broadly reviewed in a lot of frequent client purposes, inevitable variations between macOS and Home windows, the influence of emulation, and ranging levels of optimization between x86 and M1 all make exact measurement harder.

An attention-grabbing new benchmark consequence and accompanying evaluate from app developer and engineer Craig Hunter reveals the M1 Extremely completely destroying each Intel x86 CPU on the sector. It’s not even a good struggle. Based on Hunter’s outcomes, an M1 Extremely operating six threads matches the efficiency of a 28-core Xeon workstation from 2019.

That’s… spectacular.

Any lingering hopes that the M1 Extremely suffers a sudden and unexplained scaling calamity above six cores are dashed as soon as we prolong the graph’s y-axis excessive sufficient to accommodate the info.

And it doesn’t actually get higher for x86. Not less than the M1’s scaling is bending at this level.

This is a gigantic win for the M1. Apple’s new CPU is greater than 2x quicker than the 28-core Mac Professional’s highest consequence. However what do we all know in regards to the check itself?

Hunter benchmarks USM3D, is described by NASA as “a tetrahedral unstructured flow solver that has become widely used in industry, government, and academia for solving aerodynamic problems. Since its first introduction in 1989, USM3D has steadily evolved from an inviscid Euler solver into a full viscous Navier-Stokes code.”

As beforehand famous, it is a computational fluid dynamics check, and CFD exams are notoriously reminiscence bandwidth delicate. We’ve by no means examined USM3D at ExtremeTech and it isn’t an utility that I’m aware of, so we reached out to Hunter for some extra clarification on the check itself and the way he compiled it for every platform. There was some hypothesis on-line that the M1 Extremely hit these efficiency ranges because of superior matrix extensions or one other, unspecified optimization that was not in play for the Intel platform.

Based on Hunter, that’s not true.

“I didn’t link to any Apple frameworks when compiling USM3D on M1, or attempt to tune or optimize code for Accelerate or AMX,” the engineer and app developer stated. “I used the stock USM3D source with gfortran and did a fairly standard compile with -O3 optimization.”

“To be honest, I think this puts the M1 USM3D executable at a slight disadvantage to the Intel USM3D executable,” he continued. “I’ve used the Intel Fortran compiler for over 30 years (it was DEC Fortran then Compaq Fortran before becoming Intel Fortran) and I know how to get the most out of it. The Intel compiler does some aggressive vectorization and optimization when compiling USM3D, and historically it has given better performance on x86-64 than gfortran. So I expect I left some performance on the table by using gfortran for M1.”

We requested Hunter what he felt defined the M1 Extremely’s efficiency relative to the assorted Intel programs. The engineer has many years of expertise evaluating CFD efficiency on varied platforms, starting from desktop programs just like the Mac Professional and Mac Studio to precise supercomputers.

“Based on all the testing past and present, I feel like it’s the SoC architecture that is making the biggest difference here with the Apple Silicon machines, and as we invoke more cores into the computation, system bandwidth is going to be the main driver for performance scaling.  The M1 Ultra in the Studio has an insane amount of system bandwidth.”

The benchmark is predicated on the NASA USM3D CFD code, which is out there to US Residents by request at software  It comes as supply code and can must be compiled with a Fortran compiler (you additionally might want to construct OpenMPI with matching compiler help).  The makefiles are setup for macOS or Linux utilizing the Intel Fortran compiler, which creates a extremely optimized executable for x86-64.  You might additionally use gfortran (what I used for the arm-64 Apple M1 programs) however I’d anticipate the efficiency to be decrease than what ifort can allow on x86-64.”

What These Outcomes Say In regards to the x86 / M1 Matchup

It’s not precisely shocking that an SoC with extra reminiscence bandwidth than any earlier CPU would carry out properly in a bandwidth-constrained atmosphere. What’s attention-grabbing about these outcomes is that they don’t essentially rely on any specific side of ARM versus x86. Give an AMD or Intel CPU as a lot reminiscence bandwidth as Apple is fielding right here, and efficiency may enhance equally.

In my article RISC vs. CISC Is the Mistaken Lens for Evaluating Trendy x86, ARM CPUs, I spent a while discussing how Intel gained the ISA wars many years in the past not as a result of x86 was intrinsically the most effective instruction set structure, however as a result of it might leverage an array of steady manufacturing enhancements whereas iteratively enhancing x86 from era to era. Right here, we see Apple arguably doing one thing related. The M1 Extremely isn’t trashing each Intel x86 CPU as a result of it’s magic, however as a result of integrating DRAM on-package in the way in which Apple did unlocked large efficiency enhancements. There isn’t a cause x86 CPUs can’t reap the benefits of these positive factors as properly. The truth that this benchmark is so reminiscence bandwidth restricted does counsel that top-end Alder Lake programs may match or exceed older Xeons just like the 28-core Mac Professional, but it surely nonetheless wouldn’t match the M1 Extremely for sheer bandwidth between the SoC and primary reminiscence.

In actual fact, we do see x86 CPUs taking child steps in direction of integrating extra high-speed reminiscence immediately on bundle, however Intel is maintaining this know-how centered in servers for now, with Sapphire Rapids and its on-package HBM2 reminiscence (obtainable on some future SKUs). Neither Intel nor AMD have constructed something just like the M1 Extremely, nevertheless, not less than not but. To this point, AMD has centered on integrating bigger L3 caches quite than transferring in direction of on-package DRAM. Any such transfer would require buy-in from OEMs and a number of different gamers within the PC manufacturing house.

I don’t anticipate both x86 producer to hurry to undertake know-how simply because Apple is utilizing it, however the M1 places up some extraordinary efficiency in sure exams, at wonderful efficiency per watt. You’ll be able to guess each side of the Cupertino firm’s strategy to manufacturing and design has been put beneath a (probably literal) microscope at AMD and Intel. That particularly applies to positive factors that aren’t tied to any specific ISA or manufacturing know-how.

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