Apple has introduced the new M1 chip that will power its new generation of Arm-based Macs. It’s a 5nm processor, just like the A14 Bionic powering its latest iPhones, but it’s the first that Apple has designed specifically for the Mac. The new chip will power Apple’s new MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro, the latter of which offers the “longest battery life ever in a Mac” according to Apple.
Apple says the new processor will focus on combining power efficiency with performance. It has an eight-core CPU, which Apple says offers the world’s best performance per watt of a CPU. Apple says it delivers the same peak performance as a typical laptop CPU at a quarter of the power draw. It says this has four fast CPU cores, paired with four high-efficiency cores which by themselves offer comparable performance to an existing dual-core MacBook Air.
It pairs this with up to an eight-core GPU, which Apple claims offers the world’s fastest integrated graphics. In addition, the M1 processor has a 16-core Neural Engine, a universal memory architecture, an “Apple-designed Thunderbolt controller with support for USB 4,” an image signal processor, media encode and decode engines, and a host of security features. These include hardware-verified secure boot, encryption, and runtime protections.
For an idea of how power efficient the new chip is, Apple says its new MacBook Air, which features the chip, can play up to 18 hours of video on a single charge (up from 12 hours on this year’s Intel-powered MacBook Air) and offers up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing per charge (up from 11 hours previously). It also doesn’t need a fan, meaning the laptop should run near silently.
Meanwhile, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro offers up to 17 hours of wireless web browsing (up from 10 hours with this year’s Intel-powered MacBook Pro), and 20 hours of video playback (up from 10 hours before).
Apple claims the chip allows a Mac to instantly wake from sleep mode — similar to iPhones and iPads — and offer good performance even when running 3D programs or editing 4K video files.
Apple says it’s optimized macOS Big Sur as well as all of its apps for the new processors. Final Cut Pro is up to six times faster, Apple says, and Logic Pro can handle up to three times the amount of audio tracks. Apps from third-party providers like Adobe are also coming, Apple says. Lightroom will launch later this year, with Photoshop following next year.
Apple is offering Rosetta 2 translation software for apps not optimized for the new processors, and existing iOS and iPadOS apps will also run natively on the new machines.
Reiterating the announcement it made back at its developer’s conference, Apple said it expects to transition all of its Macs to its own processors over the next two years.
The development of its own processors means that Apple is transitioning away from using Intel’s processors, which have powered its Macs for over a decade. Responding to today’s webcast, Intel said in a statement that it is “focused on delivering the most advanced PC experiences and a wide range of technology choices that redefine computing.”
“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,” Intel said.