Apple M1 – The Start Of A New Era

Apple’s 5th event of the year took place today with the main focus being Apple Silicon and the introduction of new devices running these processors alongside the launch of Big Sur. 

Tim Cook briefly revisited all of the major products and services launched this year, with mentions such as the 8th generation iPad, 4th generation iPad Air, Apple Watch SE & Series 6 and Apple Fitness+.

Apple Silicon was announced back in June 2020 with a promise that all Mac devices would be switched over within the next 2 years. The trillion dollar tech titan announced a custom Mac Mini running the A12X chip that was most recently found in the 2020 iPad Pro’s for developers to start porting their applications over to be compatible with the new ARM based processors. 

Rosetta 2 and Universal 2 were also released in order to aid with the transition from Intel’s X86 processors. These updated applications were initially released for developers to move over from PowerPC to Intel processors 15 years ago but will now support the transition from Intel to ARM.

Cook revealed that the promise of the first Apple Silicon device by the end of the year is being met today. These new processors are going to power the next generation of Macs with the first chip powering ‘low powered devices’, the Apple M1. The naming does seem a bit confusing because Apple previously used the M branding for the motion coprocessors. 

The Apple M1 is the first desktop processor for Mac devices which is based on the 5nm manufacturing process as first seen on the A14 CPU on the 4th generation iPad Air and the iPhone 12 series. It features 16 billion transistors and honestly these numbers keep going up and up but in terms of real world performance I doubt most people would realise a difference between 14 and 16 billion transistors. 

The M1 also features a 8 core CPU which is made up of 4 high performance cores and 4 high efficiency cores. The high efficiency cores are designed to use 1/10th of the overall power of the chip whilst being equivalent in terms of performance compared to the current generation dual core Intel Core i3 CPU featured on the MacBook Air. 

The M1 SOC is touted as the most energy-efficient processor in the world with 3X CPU performance per watt compared to previous chips. Apple claims at 10W of power, the M1 has 2x the CPU performance at only ¼ of the power compared to the latest PC laptop chip. 

M1 also features up to a 8 core GPU which again at 10 watts features 2x the performance whilst only consuming ⅓ of the power compared to the aforementioned unnamed laptop chip. Subsequently, the M1 features the world’s fastest integrated CPU. A 16 core neural engine is also present in the M1 with 11 trillion operations being carried out per second. USB 4 and Thunderbolt support is also built-in natively to the M1 SOC.

Apple then moved onto the performance of Big Sur which has been optimised for Apple Silicon which is likely why its launch has been delayed compared to macOS launches of years past. 

Apple Silicon now allows your Mac to perform much closer to your iPhone and iPad rather than a traditional laptop. This starts from the waking of the machine, the demo showed that the mac immediately woke from sleep as soon as the laptop’s lid was opened compared to a couple seconds delay on Intel-powered Mac’s. The opening of apps is also now almost instantaneous similar to iOS and iPadOS devices, with 2x more responsiveness on Javascript.

“The mac has never had a chip upgrade this profound”

Apple chose to feature Davinci Resolve as part of their demo to show the prowess of M1 on Big Sur rather than Final Cut Pro. This does seem like a strange move and you would likely miss it if you weren’t paying close enough attention, but it is likely to show that 3rd party applications also benefit heavily from the SOC and optimisations in Big Sur. 

All of the 1st Party Apple apps are already optimised for M1 with Universal 2 built in to allow developers to bundle a ARM and Intel variant of their application in a single bundle so regardless of which Mac somebody is using, they are able to get the relevant variant of the application from either the App Store or downloaded from elsewhere. Adobe is bring the Apple Silicon variant of Lightroom next month with Photoshop support brought early next year.

Rosetta 2 means apps that are only built for the Intel platform will work seamlessly without any extra effort required from the user. The more powerful Apple M1 means that you could see even better performance from the application even through Rosetta 2 compared to the app running natively on slower or less powerful Intel chips.

Apple iPhones and iPads have run on ARM based chips right from the start and now Macs featuring Apple Silicon will allow you to run the iOS and iPadOS natively. This will mean the addition of millions of apps to the growing library. The approach Apple has taken here is very similar to the one Google took when they brought Android apps to ChromeOS devices. 

The first Mac that is being launched with the new M1 SOC is the Apple MacBook Air. The MacBook Air is the world’s best selling 13 inch laptop. The MacBook Air sees the following benefits:

  • 3.5x faster CPU performance than the last-generation MacBook Air
  • 5x faster GPU performance than the last-generation Macbook Air
  • 3x faster than the best selling Windows laptop in its class
  • It is faster than 98% of the Windows laptops sold in the last year
  • 9x faster Machine Learning vs next gen

You can edit multiple streams of full quality 4K video on the new MacBook Air’s. The Air now completely loses its fan with a new fanless silent design similar to what we saw on the 2016 MacBook which featured m3 and m5 processors. 

Battery also sees a big jump in performance with up to 15 hours of wireless web browning, up to 18 hours of video playback and up to 2x longer battery life on video calls which is a big feature as more people are working from home. 

The image signal processor (ISP) will also benefit the WFH’ers as the existing camera will benefit from many of the same features found on the iPhone’s such as better noise reduction and low light performance. The display now also features P3 colour gamut. 

Lastly, the price remains the same starting from £999/$999 which is good and bad. The processors are multiple times faster than the Intel chips but they are also likely costing Apple a fraction of the cost due to their own custom design.  The MacBook Air is the only new release to completely replace the Intel SKU’s with only Apple M1 models now available from 

The Mac Mini also features the M1 SOC with the following benefits:

  • 3x faster CPU compared to the last generation quad core Mac Mini
  • 6x faster graphics compared to the last generation 
  • 5x overall faster performance than a similarly priced desktop PC whilst being 1/10 of the size
  • 15x faster machine learning performance 
  • Pro Display XDR support at 6K

The Mac mini also keeps its fan which is likely due to a higher TDP of the M1 compared to the one featured in the MacBook Air. This now features a price drop starting at £699/$699 which is a drop of £100/$100 vs the last generation. 

The last device to feature the M1 SOC is the lower end 13 inch MacBook Pro’s which feature 2 thunderbolt ports rather than the 4 ports in higher end models. The best selling notebook in its class gains a whole host of performance upgrades too including:

  • 2.8x faster CPU
  • 5x faster GPU
  • 3x faster than the best selling Windows laptop in its class
  • 3x faster XCode app development.
  • 8K full quality video playback in Davinci resolve with no dropped frames
  • 11x faster ML performance

The MacBook Pro sees a bigger battery life improvement with up to 17 hours for wireless web browsing, 20 hours of video playback. This means that you can compile code in XCode 4 times on a single charge. The battery improvements powered by Big Sur and M1 means that this is the longest battery life ever on a Mac.

It also gets the studio quality microphones, the image signalling processor and Pro Display XDR support at 6K resolution. This doesnt see any change in pricing with the starting point being £1299/$1299. 

This does however mean we are unlikely to get the Mini LED 14 inch MacBook Pro which has been rumoured for the longest time for at least the next 6-9 models. 

All 3 models are available to order from from today with an official launch date of the 17th of November.  Big Sur is also available to download from this Thursday (12th November). At the end of the keynote Apple featured a Mac vs PC video which was a nostalgic homage to the Apple Events in years past.

What do you think of these new launches? Will you be getting a ARM based Mac or will you still buy Intel powered Mac’s for as long as they are available? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for our upcoming iPhone 12 content coming.

About Siddu Munjal

Reviewer & Partner Outreach for MobileTechTalk - Tech is a key part of my everyday life and I would probably be extremely lost without it.

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