Apple today unveiled its first Mac computers powered by its new M1 chipset, ushering in a new era for Apple hardware as it leaves behind Intel in favor of its own silicon.
Apple M1 Chipset
Behind all of the new computers Apple showcased at today’s event is its new M1 chipset, the first chip designed specifically for Mac. Unlike past Mac computers, which required multiple chips from multiple suppliers, Apple’s new M1 chip puts all of them into a single system on a chip (SoC) design. This includes the CPU, GPU, I/O, security and memory.
The new chip uses a 5nm process, which helps to fit more than 16 billion transistors onto the M1. The M1 features eight cores—four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores—that work together to provide better performance with lower power consumption. Apple claims the new M1 chip offers 2x the total CPU and GPU performance of the leading commercially-available PC chip and matches the peak CPU/GPU performance of the same chip using just 25% and 33% of the power, respectively.
One of the greatest advantages of the SoC design is the ability to use unified memory. Now, with the unified memory architecture (UMA), the M1 allows all of the individual technologies inside the M1 to access the same data without having to copy it between multiple memory pools. This should open up plenty of memory bandwidth for improved performance across the board. Apple specifically notes both video and image processing will see a major performance boost with the M1 chip compared to similar Intel-powered computers.
Apple also claims 15x the machine-learning performance compared to its previous-generation Intel-powered computers with the ability to perform up to 11 trillion operations per second.
Of course, one of the main benefits of Apple’s new silicon is battery performance. As we’ll detail below, the new M1 chip enables up to 17 hours of web browsing and 20 hours of video playback on the new MacBook Pro 13”, while the new MacBook Air offers up to 15 hours and 18 hours of web browsing and video playback, respectively.
With the brain out of the way, let’s get onto the new machines using it.
Apple’s most popular MacBook features 3.5 times faster processing than the previous Air and promises “unheard of” speeds editing large RAW file libraries specifically in Lightroom. It delivers up to five times faster graphics performance as well.
Apple claims it is faster than 98% of PC laptops sold in the last year.
The MacBook Air also claims two times faster SSD speeds for faster access to data. The new Air delivers higher performance with no fan and is completely silent. Additionally, it can achieve 18 hours of video playback and 15 hours of general use. This is the longest battery life ever in a MacBook air.
Compared to the previous MacBook Air, this new model can export a project for the web with iMovie up to three times faster, integrate 3D effects into video in Final Cut Pro up to five times faster, play back and edit multiple streams of full-quality, 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro without dropping a frame, export photos from Lightroom up to twice as fast, use ML-based features like Smart Conform in Final Cut Pro to intelligently frame a clip up to 4.3 times faster, and will extend FaceTime and other video calls for up to twice as long on a single charge.
Speaking of video calls, Apple has also updated the front-facing camera, integrating the company’s latest image signal processor to make users look “more natural” on facetime calls. Apple did not say if the camera itself would see a resolution bump, however.
Apple is bringing back the Mac Mini, this time featuring Apple silicon. It promises up to three times faster CPU performance than the previous quad-core version, a six-fold increase in faster performance. This new model features what Apple is calling an “advanced thermal design” that allows it to sustain its performance while staying cool and quiet.
Apple claims it’s up to five times faster than the top-selling PC desktop. Compared to the previous generation Mac Mini, this new model can compile code in Xcode up to three times faster, play graphics-intensive games with up to 4 times higher frame rates, render a complex timeline in Final Cut Pro up to six times faster, can use up to three times as many real-time plug-ins in Logic Pro, and increase the resolution of a photo in Pixelmator Pro up to 15 times faster.
The Mac Mini has support for up to two displays including Apple’s Pro Display XDR in full 6K resolution, and Wi-Fi 6 for faster wireless performance.
13-Inch MacBook Pro
The new 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs just three pounds and offers 2.8 times faster overall performance and the GPU is up to five times faster than the previous MacBook Pro. Apple claims it’s up to three times faster than the best-selling Windows laptop in its class. For example, it can play back full-quality, 8K ProRes video in DaVinci Resolve without dropping a single frame.
Compared to the previous generation, the MacBook Pro can build code in Xcode up to 2.8 times faster, render a complex 3D title in Final Cut Pro up to 5.9 times faster, fluidly design intricate game scenes in Unity Editor up to 3.5 times faster and perform ML tasks in Create ML up to 11 times faster.