performance – Activity monitor style way to see Neural Engine load?

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The question is all in the title. Here is the background.


I am using an M1 mini with 8 GB of RAM, which is barely functional when I have voice control switched on, due to memory usage frequently going into the red zone in activity monitor.

It would be nice if Apple were able to provide guidance of system requirements and performance for various features within accessibility. However my message to [email protected] got the response that Apple do not provide this kind of information.

So I need to invest in a more powerful Mac (this one had a lifespan of about six months) because voice control is a must have for me. I'm not very keen on spending £1100 on another Mac mini (this would be simply be an 8 GB RAM upgrade, at approx 50 times the price of 8gb of ram), because that might turn out to be a short lived investment also, given apple's lack of information on the hardware which voice control really needs.

I noticed that the M1 ultra in the new Mac Studio has 32 NPU's.
All of apples other devices, newer iphones, M1, M1 pro, M1 Max, have 16 NPUs.

The complete inadequacy of 8 GB of RAM is obvious, so I'm minded to get as much ram as I possibly can afford, but I'd love to know if there's a way to answer the question which Apple says it cannot answer – given my workflow of Head Pointer (an accessibility feature a few people are aware of – it uses the WebCam so that small movements of the head move the mouse pointer), plus full voice control (dictation plus commands), I would really like to know if when I am running both of these things, what is the load on the 16 core NPU. Hence, how much if at all is the Ultra going to help in this regard.

Without a way to see NPU load, knowing what hardware I actually need seems to require guesswork.

A few updates

  • in activity monitor under the CPU tab, there's a GPU load column.
  • speech recognition with voice control on on my M1 8 GB shows between 30 and 40% GPU load from speech recognition core.
  • yet, usually after the Mac hasn't been rebooted for a couple of days, there's a voice recognition delay for both dictation and commands of up to 5 seconds (very slow compared to when it's working well).
  • so it's not clear if this lag is due to ram being in the yellow zone, which it is, or something else.
  • it seems pretty likely to me that this code is still being optimised for apple silicon and may improve in future os updates from Apple (without any fanfair).
  • the actual dropout of dictation, seems not to occur with the latest update to Monterey

Further update

  • it appears that at the current time, voice recognition isn't even using the NE. Evidence: gpu load in activity monitor – either NE load is shown as gpu load, or, seems more likely, the NE is a new thing and voice rec has been built to use gpu, and is still using it because the code hasn't been changed, as yet. If it will be or when, haven't found any information on this. Perhaps head pointer does use NE though.

Author: Subham

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