Apple M1 Ultra vs. Intel Core i9-12900K: Which Chip is For You?

With the release of the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra, Apple Mac machines are closing the gap with high-end desktop PCs in terms of performance. At the company’s March event, Apple shared a chart that had its new M1 Ultra chip winning over the highest-end GPU, RTX 3090, without specifying how it achieved those results. 

While our tests showed that the M1 Ultra’s performance was half that of the RTX 3090, let’s see how it stacks up against Intel’s Core i9 12900K CPU, one of the most powerful desktop CPUs on the market. 

In the section below, we will compare the M1 Ultra chip with our custom-built desktop PC that’s powered by Intel’s Core i9 12900K and an RTX 3090 GPU. We will do many real-world tests to see how they stack up against each other in terms of 3D rendering, video editing, photo editing, responsiveness, and more. 

First, let’s talk about the specs we use in this comparison.

Desktop PC

  • CPU: Intel Core i9 – 12900K
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090
  • DRAM: 64GB (2x32GB) DDR5-4800
  • Storage: 2TB NVMe SSD
  • Motherboard: Z690
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro
  • Networking: 2.5G Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5

Mac Studio 

  • CPU: Apple M1 Ultra with 20-core CPU, 48-core GPU, 32-core Neural Engine
  • DRAM: 64GB unified memory
  • 2TB SSD Storage


Owning a custom PC brings out many benefits compared with an Apple machine. For this reason, you can get a PC that fits your budget. With a desktop PC, you are free to configure your hardware to your linking. The above PC feature a triple cooling system, something the Mac Studio does not have. 

The Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra chip starts at $3,999, while the Intel Core i9-12900K costs $620 on the market. It’s not weird to compare a single CPU with an entire Mac system, so we decided to put the Intel CPU in a desktop motherboard to see how it works. 

The Mac Studio used in this comparison costs $4,399 in the US. Meanwhile, the desktop PC is slightly cheaper, at $4,349. Keep in mind that you can configure the Mac Studio to get the M1 Ultra chip with up to a 20-core CPU, and 64-core GPU. That’s a $1000 upgrade. 

In short, the Intel-Core i9-12900K is one of the most capable CPUs out there. It’s a massive saving if you already own a PC and simply want to upgrade your CPU. On the other hand, you cannot buy the M1 Ultra separately, put it into your MacBook Pro, and expect it to work. However, PC parts are now inflated so you need to get lucky to buy one of these Core i9-12900K CPUs and 3090 GPUs at retail prices. 


Both CPUs are total beasts when it comes to performance. They can handle almost everything you throw at them. We ran some tests to see how they compare in the section below.

First, we did a test using Speedometer 2.0, an excellent browser benchmark that measures the responsiveness of web applications. The Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra was slightly faster and scored 300 points, beating the i9-12900K Alder Lake CPU in our custom PC that scored 290

Custom PC (Intel Corei9-12900K + RTX 3090)Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)
Speedometer 2.0 – Web browsing (Runs/Min) – Higher is better)290300

In our Geekbench 5 single-core CPU test, the i9-12900K beat out the M1 Ultra, scoring 1,966 compared to 1,785. That’s almost 2000 points difference. 

Custom PC (Intel Corei9-12900K + RTX 3090)Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)
Geekbench 5 single-core CPU (score – higher is better)1,7851,966

In our multi-core test, the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra scored up to 24,080 points, while the custom PC reached 18,393 points. That’s 6000 points gap between the two. 

Custom PC (Intel Corei9-12900K + RTX 3090)Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)
Geekbench 5 Multi-core CPU18,39324,080

When it comes to Cinebench, a test that takes full advantage of the CPUs, the i9-12900K really beat out the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra by about 2500 points

Custom PC (Intel Corei9-12900K + RTX 3090)Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)
Cinebench R23 Stress Test26,49324,147

During our tests, the fans were crazy inside the desktop PC. That’s because it used up to 210W compared to 58 on the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra. That wasn’t too much of a surprise because it needed a lot of power to max out the performance of the Intel Chip. 

Custom PC (Intel Corei9-12900K + RTX 3090)Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)
Lightroom Classic 50 x 40MP export (seconds – lower is better)6042

For those who work with images, we did a test using Lightroom Classic. Here, we used 40MP raw images with a bunch of different effects applied. The PC was impressively quick as it exported these images to jpeg in 60 seconds. But the Mac Studio was even quicker as it took only 42 seconds to finish things up. That was insanely fast. 

For photo editors out there, whether you are editing photos, you are doing heavy stuff in Lightroom or you are merging images, the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra is super fast. That’s pretty much thanks to its unified memory architecture that lets the CPU, CPU, and other components access the same data pool. 


During our tests, the desktop PC with the Intel Corei9-12900K was pretty hot and ran very loud, thus using a lot of power. The Mac Studio, on the other hand, ran at between 50 and 60 degrees celsius whether you are editing photos or playing some video games, so there was no room for throttling. 

The Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra also has dedicated hardware to decode and encode, thus taking up less CPU resources when editing or exporting high-res videos. 

The Bottom Line

The Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra chip slightly has its upper hand when compared to our custom PC. However, the performance may vary based on the computer hardware you choose. The Corei9-12900K is the best CPU choice at a reasonable price for those who want to upgrade their PC at home. If you now want to buy a new powerful PC for video editing, 3D rendering, and high-res image processing, the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra is a good overall option. 

Was this article helpful?
Categories Mac
About John Smith

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.