Apple has announced the M1, its first custom-built chip for the Mac. The silicon will initially drive fresh updates to the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini desktop, launched alongside, even as Apple looks at a full transition away from Intel in another two years.
The new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini may look exactly like any other current-generation Mac, but they are a complete overhaul on the inside. They’re all powered by Apple’s own 5nm ARM-based M1 system on a chip (SoC) with Cupertino promising “dramatically” improved performance and efficiency over their Intel-based counterparts.
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The M1 has an 8-core setup consisting of four high performance cores and four high efficiency cores. This is paired with an 8-core integrated GPU and a 16-core neural engine. Apple, being Apple, isn’t throwing “mighty” clock speeds at you. Rather, it is saying that its “mobile” processor inside the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini can theoretically deliver up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, up to 15x faster machine learning, and up to 2x longer battery life over the previous generation.
Rounding off the package is a new Secure Enclave for seemingly best-in-class security.
So why is Apple making custom silicon now? The reason is simple. Apple has been relying on Intel processors for the Mac since 2005, but over the years, it has been unhappy with their slowing performance gains. Apple has been reportedly working on its own chips for years to achieve faster performance and better efficiency and it is now finally ready to move on to doing with the Mac what it is already doing with the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.
Remember, even though the M1 is tailor-made for the Mac, it shares core architecture with the A14 Bionic seen inside the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max and the latest iPad Air.
Apple says most iPhone and iPad apps will work natively on its M1-based Mac computers and it would take only a matter of days for developers to build apps for the “new” platform. Lightroom for instance will be available later this year, while Photoshop will come early next year. The latest and greatest version of macOS, aka Big Sur, that was built keeping ARM-based Macs in mind also comes with an emulator called Rosetta 2 for “translating” apps not optimized for M1 yet.
Microsoft tried something similar with its universal apps, though without any custom hardware chops. Apple, because it will control the whole ecosystem end to end, has a much greater chance to pull this off, though it would still be risky at least during the initial run.
Aside from the touted performance gains, Apple is also highlighting instant wake as one of M1’s core benefits.
M1-powered MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini prices in India
13-inch MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip (8-core CPU, 7-core GPU), 8GB RAM, 256GB Storage, and fan-less design: Rs 92,900
13-inch MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU), 8GB RAM, 512GB Storage, and fan-less design: Rs 1,17,900
*Apple seems to have discontinued the Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Air it had launched earlier this year.
13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU), 8GB RAM, and 256GB Storage: Rs 1,22,900
13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU), 8GB RAM, and 512GB Storage: Rs 1,42,900
Mac Mini with Apple M1 Chip (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU), 8GB RAM, and 256GB Storage: Rs 64,900
Mac Mini with Apple M1 Chip (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU), 8GB RAM, and 512GB Storage: Rs 84,900