Apple M1-powered Macs set to arrive next week: faster and more efficient

nanoguy

Posts: 619   +9
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Highly anticipated: Today's announcement marks the next big architecture transition for the Apple Mac since 2006, when the company decided to scrap PowerPC in favor of Intel's x86 processors. Now the Cupertino giant is betting its entire future on Arm-based chips developed fully in-house, leaving Intel behind and becoming more technologically self-sufficient. The first devices to powered by the Apple M1 SoC include the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13‑inch and Mac mini.

Apple's breakup with Intel is now more official after the company showcased the first devices that will kickstart a two-year migration process of the entire Mac lineup to Arm-based custom silicon.

The new Macs are based on the Apple M1 chip, which according to Apple offers considerably better performance, power efficiency, and combine many of the traditional chips you'd see on an Intel-based Mac motherboard into a unified platform with integrated memory, GPU, and neural engine. Perhaps just as important, Apple is poised to develop a family of M-series chipsets that will power all its future computing devices.

As with the A-series SoCs that power iPhone and iPad, Apple is focusing on delivering high performance in both single-core and multi-core workloads. Apple M1 is based on a 5 nm process node, and has no less than 16 billion transistors, the highest count in any Apple-made silicon.

The CPU is an 8-core design that pairs 4 high-performance cores with 4 high-efficiency ones. The M1 also integrates up to an 8-core GPU that Apple claims to provide the world's fastest integrated graphics in a low-power chipset, as well as a 16-core Neural Engine for faster execution of machine learning tasks.

Apple claims the M1 delivers "up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning." On top of that, the company says it can do that while providing up to two times more battery life than previous, Intel-based solutions. That means the M1 chip offers significantly better performance per watt when compared to Intel CPUs, which is no small feat considering Intel has decades of expertise in making processors.

Apple claims the M1 delivers "up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning."

For reference, Apple says the M1 chip delivers two times the CPU performance at a power consumption of 10 watts and matches peak CPU performance of x86 solutions in its class, while using only 25 percent of the power. The 4 high-efficiency cores can only get as fast as the Intel silicon in the previous generation MacBook Air, but they also do this at one tenth the power. The CPU in the M1 also supports heterogenous multi-processing, which means app developers will be able to tap into the power provided by all 8 cores when needed.

Another advantage of the M1 and its shared DNA with the A-series chipsets is the support for instant wake from sleep mode, similar to what you have on iPhone and iPad. And Apple says macOS Big Sur was optimized to squeeze every last drop of performance from the new chipset, making Final Cut Pro up to six times faster and allowing Logic Pro to handle up to three times the amount of audio tracks, which is a boon for creators. Safari should also be 1.5 times speedier when running JavaScript.

Apple promised that its custom silicon will support Thunderbolt, and sure enough, it designed a custom controller that also supports USB 4 with transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps. This, along with an image signal processor, high performance storage controller, encode and decode engines, and secure enclave essentially make the M1 a supercharged, larger version of the A14 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 12 and the new iPad Air.

The first Mac to come with an M-series chipset is the MacBook Air, which is virtually indistinguishable from the previous generations in terms of its exterior design. However, the M1 allows it to reach a much more respectable 18 hours of video playback (or up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing) on a single charge, up from 12 hours on the Intel-based one.

Better yet, the new MacBook Air stays cool enough that Apple decided to make it completely fanless.

The M1 SoC inside the new MacBook Air has a storage controller capable of 2x faster SSD performance. It also allows you to export an iMovie project to the web up to three times faster than before and edit 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro with no frame drops.

In terms of pricing, the new MacBook Air starts at the same $999 as the Intel-based one, or $899 for education.

The second Mac announced today is the Mac mini, which is also faster than the previous generation while retaining the same chassis design. It allows developers to compile code in Xcode up to three times faster and play games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider with 4 times higher frame rates thanks to the M1's powerful integrated GPU.

The new Mac mini will set you back $699, or $100 less than the previous generation.

The third and last Mac launched today is a MacBook Pro 13 powered by Apple M1, which is capable of playing back full-quality 8K ProRes video in DaVinci Resolve without dropping frames. It can also compile four times more code on a single charge when compared to its Intel counterpart, owing to the better efficiency of the new chipset.

Apple kept the same price with the new MacBook Pro 13, which starts at $1,299, or $1,199 for education. All new Apple silicon Macs are available for pre-order, and they'll start shipping next week.

As for macOS Big Sur, it will start rolling out on Thursday.

On the software side of things, many will no doubt appreciate the ability to run iOS apps natively on the new Macs, but that doesn't mean that you'll be able to run all of them -- at least not immediately. Earlier today, news broke that several big-name developers like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Disney won't rush to offer their apps on the new hardware.

Apple hopes that developers will eventually create universal packages that include both x86 and Arm binaries. The Rosetta 2 technology inside macOS Big Sur will then choose the appropriate version to run based on the processor it detects on your Mac. And Apple seems confident that x86 apps emulated on Apple silicon Macs will run well enough that they won't impact your productivity.

The company also reiterated its commitment to transitioning its entire Mac lineup to the new M-series chipset in two years. Intel said in a statement that "we believe Intel-powered PCs—like those based on 11th Gen Intel Core mobile processors—provide global customers the best experience in the areas they value most, as well as the most open platform for developers, both today and into the future."

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VitalyT

Posts: 5,197   +4,318
TechSpot Elite
I'm skeptical about Apple's performance claims. If things were so shiny, they would go all-in on this, and bring Macbook Pro 16" with the new architecture as well. But they are not doing that, which is an indication that the current 16" uses higher-performing CPU-s they cannot compete with.

I think this new platform will take long time to get all bugs out, and many smart buyers will take the benefit of then dropped prices for the outgoing stock and get the Intel version instead, which will become a great value.
 
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Fearghast

Posts: 289   +187
I mean, if you throttle the non-Apple chips and setup poor thermals, then yeah you'll see much better performance when Apple actually tries with their chips.

But hey, anything for marketing spin from Apple...
Kinda my point of view as well considering the last the gens. of Macbook Airs being totally abysmal with the cooling.
+ Kinda sad to see Thunderbolt 4 still has the 100W power limit = even those x Cores on 16" won't receive any meaningful upgrade this year (or probably ever if they can't stop limiting the TDP so hard).
 
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Dimitriid

Posts: 55   +59
I'm skeptical about Apple's performance claims. If things were so shiny, they would go all-in on this, and bring Macbook Pro 16" with the new architecture as well. But they are not doing that, which is an indication that the current 16" uses higher-performing CPU-s they cannot compete with.
Bringing out their best sellers first makes more sense and I believe those are the ones announced today. Also for what is worth (Admittedly not much, but still) there's already geekbench scores of the M1 beating a 5950x in single core performance so apparently their claims have at least some substance to them, specially if you consider this is a fanless ultra light notebook competing with the best consumer X86 chip out there today. Even if it loses out in the end, the fact that it gets close enough for that screenshot is already damn impressive.

ARM should be making both intel and AMD nervous but by all means check back in about a week or so for independent performance reviews.
 

meric

Posts: 286   +244
Bringing out their best sellers first makes more sense and I believe those are the ones announced today. Also for what is worth (Admittedly not much, but still) there's already geekbench scores of the M1 beating a 5950x in single core performance so apparently their claims have at least some substance to them, specially if you consider this is a fanless ultra light notebook competing with the best consumer X86 chip out there today. Even if it loses out in the end, the fact that it gets close enough for that screenshot is already damn impressive.

ARM should be making both intel and AMD nervous but by all means check back in about a week or so for independent performance reviews.
Fair enough, this is for sure an impressive performance coming from a mobile, energy efficient chip. It uses UMA architecture which AMD projected to use in (then) their future architectures. Part of M1's impressive performance obviously comes from UMA. I wonder why AMD did not design something like this yet? Though they used unified memory on their recent GPUs and new Ryzens can reach the GPU memory more effectively now. Still, I expected to see UMA in their APUs long ago. Could they not afford to design something like this due to financial issues?
 

DZillaXx

Posts: 113   +164
I'm skeptical about Apple's performance claims. If things were so shiny, they would go all-in on this, and bring Macbook Pro 16" with the new architecture as well. But they are not doing that, which is an indication that the current 16" uses higher-performing CPU-s they cannot compete with.
Thats because these are designed to compete with lower powered chips. Apple doesn't have anything to counter high wattage 6+ core Intel and Ryzen chips in a laptop.


Honestly would like to see this up against a Ryzen chip. AMD has been killing Intel in Performance/watt.

Geekbench was never very good at cross device comparisons. I'd take anything involving that with a massive grain of sand.
 

brucek

Posts: 577   +700
TechSpot Elite
There's doubtless a good chunk of customers for whom long battery life + no fan/noise + "fast enough" is a very winning combo. It sounds like they might already be there, and even if they're not, I bet they will be soon enough.

This has got to have been a rough past week for Intel employees. (although, still, "record sales for 2020" and "near record earnings" so I won't send an aid package just yet.)
 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 380   +280
"On top of that, the company says it can do that while providing up to two times more battery life than previous, Intel-based solutions. That means the M1 chip offers significantly better performance per watt when compared to Intel CPUs, which is no small feat considering Intel has decades of expertise in making processors."
----------------------------

No small feat?
Seriously?
That is an incredibly small feat!

It's an ARM Chip!

Gimped is as Gimped does!

I'll stick with a real processor, but thanks for the laugh
 

Kshipper

Posts: 279   +49
TechSpot Elite
I would like to see the scalpers buy all these up too (like they did with RTX 3000 and Ryzen 5000s) and try to resell them on Ebay...see how that goes.
 
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Dimitriid

Posts: 55   +59
Fair enough, this is for sure an impressive performance coming from a mobile, energy efficient chip. It uses UMA architecture which AMD projected to use in (then) their future architectures. Part of M1's impressive performance obviously comes from UMA. I wonder why AMD did not design something like this yet? Though they used unified memory on their recent GPUs and new Ryzens can reach the GPU memory more effectively now. Still, I expected to see UMA in their APUs long ago. Could they not afford to design something like this due to financial issues?
Power would be my guess actually: AMD did look into it with HBM at first so there's precedent like you say for UMA. But the big difference between AMD Zen and Apple silicon seems to be power consumption: if you look at AMD APU chips they still use 35 to 45 watts (Full throttle mode of course) to achieve their numbers on laptops while Apple is competitive, possibly winning (laptop to laptop that is) using a tiny fraction of the power.

UMA means you have to power high performance RAM on the same chip so every bit of heat works so my guess is that while AMD was able to get something similar working with Fiji + HBM the power characteristics and available cooling is very different for a GPU: ultimately not as difficult to tame down as CPUs I.e. Look at how good any GPU performs with a single 120mm AIO adapted to it vs a high performance 8 core CPU, it's night and day, vastly different.

I think that once AMD moves to Zen 4 and 5nm they might be able to revisit UMA with future chips for the desktop and at that point it might be more plausible but for now, you kinda need the ARM efficiency for it.
 

Angga B

Posts: 100   +91
What would be the difference with using those ios and android tablets, with and without the "pro" moniker? Besides, (real) computing world has been so comfortable with the complex instruction sets offered by x86 for their also complex algorithms. I don't see they would spend far more effort to adapt those algorithms into ARM RISC code. It would take a hefty amount of cost, time and sweats. At least, not in near future.
 

sorten

Posts: 59   +90
TechSpot Elite
A whole lot of 2x, 6x, 15x multipliers from Apple here. Color me skeptical, but I'm sure it will be impressive enough in terms of perf/watt when it gets tested by someone outside of the Apple marketing dept.

For me, though, gaming is second only to coding for computer requirements. I can code on an Apple, but I'm wondering which game publishers will bother with ARM. Given that Apple holds such a small slice of the market even with x86 chips, I have to wonder if any will port to ARM.

I'll enjoy the benchmarks as a casual observer.
 
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Irata

Posts: 991   +1,468
TechSpot Elite
Fair enough, this is for sure an impressive performance coming from a mobile, energy efficient chip. It uses UMA architecture which AMD projected to use in (then) their future architectures. Part of M1's impressive performance obviously comes from UMA. I wonder why AMD did not design something like this yet? Though they used unified memory on their recent GPUs and new Ryzens can reach the GPU memory more effectively now. Still, I expected to see UMA in their APUs long ago. Could they not afford to design something like this due to financial issues?
AMD introduced UMA (or huma - heterogenous unified memory support) with their Kaveri APU back in 2013 if I remember correctly.
Problem was that it wasn‘t really supported / taken advantage of back then.
 
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duckofdeath

Posts: 54   +34
(* Than a 2017 budget Intel processor

So, if you were in a market for a lackluster retro PC, Apple's got you covered!
 
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quadibloc

Posts: 233   +137
Using a 5nm process, and not having the complexities of the x86 ISA, these new chips have a potential advantage. And there's no inherent reason why ARM couldn't be used for desktop CPUs instead of just things like smartphones.

However, they're big.LITTLE chips, so they use four of their eight cores at a time, and apparently they don't have desktop-like TDPs requiring huge fans; there's only one chip, and it's being used in the MacBook Air as well as the MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini. So I wouldn't expect them, even with a 5nm process, to go toe-to-toe with a 5950X.

But to me, what is much more important is that Macintosh market share hasn't been great, and another platform change will make things worse. So even if these are great chips, there won't be much software for them. As a threat to Intel, compared to AMD, I doubt they even show up on the radar screen.

Of course, other companies make ARM chips too, and just by showing what is possible, the Apple Silicon Macs could start a trend. So I can't say there is no threat to Intel and AMD out of this, just that there isn't much of a direct threat.
 

JordLevy

Posts: 49   +15
Bringing out their best sellers first makes more sense and I believe those are the ones announced today. Also for what is worth (Admittedly not much, but still) there's already geekbench scores of the M1 beating a 5950x in single core performance so apparently their claims have at least some substance to them, specially if you consider this is a fanless ultra light notebook competing with the best consumer X86 chip out there today. Even if it loses out in the end, the fact that it gets close enough for that screenshot is already damn impressive.

ARM should be making both intel and AMD nervous but by all means check back in about a week or so for independent performance reviews.
To add to this, we'll likely see an "M1X" chip for the MacBook Pro 16" and the iMac line up. Just like you'd have i5s in certain line ups from Apple, we'll see i7/i9'esque CPUs in the bigger boys.
 

ypsylon

Posts: 232   +92
Out of the 3 presented the only worth consideration -IMHO- is the Air.

You gain all the bells and whistles of new architecture and sacrifice absolutely nothing.

MBP13 and Mini were castrated out of connectivity by half which makes them actually downgrade over Intel based system. And on Mini you can't upgrade RAM anymore.

Differences by specs:

- MBP13 has useless, lunacy inducing TouchBar (Air retains full normal keyboard with function keys),
- 500 nits brightness vs Air's 400 nits on same amazing 2560x1600 16:10 IPS P3 panel (400 nits is much easier on eyes for everyday work)
- MBP13 has theoretical 2h more of battery power (perhaps kind..of... selling point to some).

What annoyed me most of all in this torrent of PR marketing drivel was that Apple rambled all the time about Creative Professionals. And what?

They still bloody sell laptops which don't come with 16 GB of RAM as a default configuration. WTF? OK, I grant Apple that their software is extremely efficient when working in much smaller RAM envelope than any Windows in history, but still it's criminal. On top of that Apple charges 250$ (+taxes at least 20%+ in most of RoW) for 8GB upgrade. I get it, it's soldered SoC, yes it's not DIMM stick. But for crying out loud RAM is cheapest in living memory, 8GB of RAM in single solder package cost what 20$ if that - whole stick is 25-30$ in retail. Knowing Apple they probably getting the slowest, the cheapest and the most discounted part possible.

I'm kind of interested in VGA. If theoretical advertised performance claims have merit then it could be something in region of say gtx950/960 performance, but we need some Blender OCL benchmarks to determine that. If that's true then it would be amazing jump over ancient Vega found in older MBP not to mention utterly useless Intel IGPs.

Of course biggest lure is total (or near-)silent design. Gone are the MacBooks which work at 100C when trying to do anything. Having iPP which barely gets hot when you really push it with video encode or playing a game, that's amazing. Should be interesting couple weeks.
 
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Raytrace3D

Posts: 210   +215
Will dual booting work for these systems since it's running ARM, I'm skeptical about Windows on ARM support as well as available software running on Windows on ARM. Seems like this is going to fail badly for those of us who need Windows. lol
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,692   +963
I'm less concerned about performance, and more concerned about compatibility. Abandoning x86 will likely also mean abandoning all your legacy software. Do you really want to give up Office and Adobe sweet for their ARM versions? Do you really think Adobe and Microsoft will dedicate a ton of resources to increasing the capabilities of their ARM versions - assuming they even can in the first place?