Apple M3 processors

(Image credit: Apple)

Hopes of a future Extreme version of Apple’s Mac chips might have received a shot in the arm following a report that suggests that the chip architecture Apple uses for its latest M3 Max could pave the way for bigger things to come. It’s said that the M3 Max that is currently used in Apple’s best Macs does not have the UltraFusion interconnect that would normally be used to turn two chips into a single M3 Ultra, a first for the M-series lineup.

If this turns out to be accurate it would mean that Apple’s plans for a future M3 Ultra are very different to the chips that have carried the Ultra moniker in the past. Normally these chips are essentially two Max chips connected together to create a larger, more capable chip. However, the lack of an UltraFusion interconnect on the M3 Max shows that isn’t the case this time out. And that could have implications for a possible M3 Extreme further down the line

Apple was previously thought to have been working on an Extreme chip only to find that turning two Ultra chips (effectively four Max chips) into a single chip was problematic. However, if Apple plans to put the UltraFusion interconnect on the M3 Ultra this time around, an M3 Extreme would seem to be very much in the cards.

M3 Extreme and beyond

This is all based on a theory shared by Vadim Yuryev on the X social network following the sharing of an image that depicts the M3 Max by the @techanalye1 account.

“Apple’s in the process of restructuring their Apple Silicon lineup. M3 Max no longer comes with the UltraFusion interconnect,” Yuryev posted. “This means that the M3 Ultra chip will be redesigned as its own standalone chip, no longer being made up of 2x Max dies.”

That could potentially give the M3 Ultra an additional performance boost over the M2 Ultra thanks to the lack of reliance on the interconnect, but it also opens the door for Apple to fully customize the M3 Ultra in a way that wasn’t previously possible. Yuryev suggests that the “M3 Ultra will likely no longer include Efficiency cores,” adding that “M3 Ultra will come with more [performance] cores and GPU cores without being limited to exactly 2x more cores than what you get with the Max chips.”

But it’s the potential for a future M3 Extreme that will get power users most excited, especially those whose workflows could always use extra horsepower above and beyond anything the M2 Ultra has so far been able to muster.

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“This will also make it MUCH easier for Apple to connect massive amounts of memory to the M3 Extreme chip instead of having to go through interposer layers to get around the 4x dies,” Yuryev notes. They also add that “M3 Extreme is going to be insanely power,” adding that it would likely not feature any efficiency cores and a new GPU that “will likely be neck and neck with Nvidia’s flagship desktop GPUs.”

It remains to be seen how much of that comes to pass, and it’s unclear why Apple would choose not to put any efficiency cores into the machine to save power when it isn’t being used to its full potential. But if the M3 Max news is true, a future M3 Extreme chip could well be closer than ever to reality.

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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to ‘explain’ those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn’t looked back. Since then he’s seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He’s been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

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