Apple unveils M1, first in-house Mac chip

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Apple's first in-house Mac chip, the M1, delivers tremendous performance.
Image: Apple

At long last, Apple has unveiled its first in-house, Arm-based Mac processor. The M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC), announced on Tuesday, is built on a 5nm architecture and delivers blistering performance.

The new chip will hit the market inside the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini models. It recently unveiled those at its “One More Thing” event.

Although the transition to in-house silicon will take around two years, the arrival of the M1 is a major step forward for the tech giant. The M1 processor will deliver tremendous performance and battery life improvement for Apple’s latest Macs.

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Lightning Fast

There are a lot of things to love about Apple’s first Arm-based Mac processor. For one, it boasts an eight-core CPU and up to eight GPU cores. Apple says that it delivers the best performance-per-watt of any processor on the market today.

The M1’s CPU is divided into four high-performance cores and four efficiency cores to deliver the best of both worlds. This allows the processor to facilitate industry-leading single-thread performance. Meanwhile, the cores can work together to boost multi-thread performance.

Like Apple’s current A14 SoC, the new M1 processor can perform up to 11 trillion operations per second thanks to a Neural Engine. As such, it delivers double the performance of a typical PC chip when housed inside the MacBook Air’s thermal envelope.

Apple also claims that the M1 has the best graphics performance of any integrated GPU on the market.

As if that wasn’t enough, the M1 supports Thunderbolt 4, PCI Express Gen 4, NVMe storage, and features a universal memory architecture.

Finally, the M1 processor gives Apple’s new Macs the ability to wake instantly from sleep mode. That isn’t something that will necessarily draw in new consumers, but it is a nice addition for those already interested in buying an M1-powered laptop.

Better Battery

In the real world, the M1 should create a number of improvements for Mac users. Increased battery life will certainly be one area where the chip shines. Apple claims that laptops with the M1 will deliver up to 15 hours of wireless web surfing and 18 hours of video playback.

Those are impressive figures that should keep the upcoming generation of Macs competitive with other long-lasting devices on the market. It is also a big jump from Apple’s current Intel-powered models. Those deliver just 11 and 12 hours respectively for the same tasks.

First-Party Support

Given the fact that Apple has developed the new M1 chip specifically for its hardware, it shouldn’t be surprising that it is also optimized for Apple’s software. All of the company’s first-party apps will see major improvements when running on an M1 chip. Final Cut, for example, is more than six times faster on the M1 than on current x86 processors.

Other developers, including Adobe, are working on updates that will take advantage of the M1’s features. Expect those to roll out later this year.

Meanwhile, the latest Mac lineup will be able to natively run iOS and iPadOS apps thanks to the new silicon. That’s a huge bonus for developers.

Those who are worried about other apps not running well on the M1 have nothing to fear. All of the new Macs will ship with Rosetta 2, which translates x86 apps so they are compatible with the new chip.

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