Apple Announces Three New Macs with M1 Processor

image credit: November 10, 2020 Apple Event

published by Chand Bellur
November 10, 2020 at 7:55 p.m.

 

  • Apple designed its new M1 processor to power the latest Macintosh computers.
  • With system-on-chip (SoC) technology, many core macOS features are implemented in hardware, speeding up the user experience.
  • Apple announced new MacBook Air, Mac Mini and MacBook Pro models powered by the M1 chip.
  • Although Apple’s new processor is fast, some Windows PCs are still faster by the company’s own admission.
  • Apple will continue to sell and manufacture Macs with Intel processors.
  • New Macs with M1 processors must run legacy software using Rosetta2 emulation technology, diminishing performance with some apps.

Apple’s New M1 Chip Offers Fast Performance with Low Power Consumption

Apple announced its new M1 processor for the Mac at a low key event held at Apple Park. The new processor aims to bring the Macintosh in line with the rest of Apple’s products, which run on proprietary silicon.

By designing its own processor, Apple can break the Mac’s product development cycle away from Intel’s release schedule. As it stands, the Macintosh uses Intel processors, as do many Windows PCs.

Developing proprietary silicon allows Apple to integrate operating system features directly into the chipset. With the current Intel-based Mac lineup, Apple created additional processors to handle macOS system-on-chip (SoC) functionality. The M1 chip combines components like the T2 security processor, Thunderbolt i/o, and memory into one processor, offering greater performance with less power consumption.

Shared, integrated memory allows the M1 processor’s different components to access data without making copies. This technology provides increased performance, as individual SoC components work together as one cohesive unit.

The new M1 chip is essentially a mobile processor. Although it can power a desktop computer, such as a Mac Mini, its real advantage is low power consumption.

Apple Adds M1 Chip to New MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini

Arriving just in time for the holiday shopping season, Apple’s newest Macs sport the M1 processor. The most recent MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini all ship with Apple silicon.

Although all of the new Macs feature the M1 processor, they don’t all offer the same performance. The MacBook Air, with its fanless design, is the least powerful of the pack. It seems geared toward mobile users; however, without cellular connectivity, it pales in comparison to ultra-portable Windows 10 laptops.

Although the Mac Mini and Mac Pro provide better performance, Apple’s statistics are vague and misleading. The company admitted that 2% of Windows laptops are faster than the newest MacBook Air. The new MacBook Pro is three times faster than the best selling Windows laptop in its class. The best selling Windows laptop might not be the fastest. Apple’s distortion reality field seems to be in full effect.

We won’t know how fast these machines are until we see the Geekbench results. As of today, there are no performance tests available for the M1 processor. This is to be expected, as the new Macs aren’t yet available to consumers.

Windows PCs Still Faster than M1 Macs

Make no mistake, Apple is playing catch-up with its M1 processor. ARM-based processors have been fixtures in mobile Windows PCs, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro X, for years. Most Windows laptops featuring ARM processors enjoy SoC architecture and always-on cellular connectivity. Unlike any of Apple’s new M1 MacBooks, these older ARM-based Windows devices are all about being able to work from anywhere.

Microsoft, in partnership with Qualcomm, developed their own ARM-based processor, known as the SQ1. Announced over a year ago, it already has a successor, the aptly named SQ2. Manufactured with a 7nm process, Apple’s 5nm M1 chip is remarkable, in comparison. Other than that, the two chip designs are eerily similar, down to their eight cores.

One major advantage of the Microsoft Surface Pro X is its built-in cellular connectivity. The whole point of using a mobile processor in a laptop is portability. With a cellular connection, Microsoft appears to have already built the better ARM laptop. Once again, Apple seems to be playing catch-up, as its distortion reality field conjures up notions of innovation.

Apple’s new M1 Macs may very well be faster than the Surface Pro X. However, at the event, Apple execs admitted that some Windows machines, sold within the last year, offer better performance than the newest M1 Macs. They phrased it differently, but 2% of Windows laptops are faster than the MacBook Air. As for the MacBook Pro and Mac Mini, both were compared to the best selling Windows machines in their class, not the highest performing models.

Even more misleading, Apple mentioned 4K video editing “without dropping a frame” on the new MacBook Air. Apple’s latest low-end MacBook features an inferior display. Its highest resolution is 2560 x 1600, which is slightly above QHD standards, but well short of 4K. At 400 nits brightness, the screen will be challenging to view in bright light and virtually impossible to see in sunlight.

Wait for the M2 Processor

As with all new, groundbreaking technologies, a first-generation processor is likely to have some flaws. Apple has a lot of experience with processors. The A-series processors powering iPhones and iPads for over a decade inspire the M1’s design.

Even with Apple’s expertise, they sometimes get things very wrong and take years to correct them. The horrible butterfly keyboard mechanism in MacBooks plagued users with expensive repairs for years.

An un-patchable security flaw in Apple’s T2 chip limits functionality in some Macs. The new M1 processor contains an embedded T2 chip, and it’s unclear whether Apple fixed the flaw. This puts potential Mac customers in a predicament, as Apple will eventually discontinue Intel-based computers.

Although macOS is mature and speedy, running legacy software on an M1-equipped Mac requires emulation. Apple’s Rosetta 2 technology is surprisingly good, with some apps outperforming Intel Macs on Apple’s M1 machines. Some apps may experience slower performance on M1 Macs. 

Over time, developers will create more Universal apps, which compile binaries for both Apple and Intel chips. While some of the biggest names, such as Adobe and The Omni Group, already offer Universal Apps, other developers need time to revise their code.

Toward the end of the event, Apple VP John Ternus said:

“This journey will take a couple of years to complete, and we have a long way to go, but we’re off to one heckuva start.”

If you’re not an early adopter, it may be best to hold off on a new Mac until the transition is complete. Purchasing an Intel-based Mac is an option; however, its days will be numbered, as Apple plans on phasing out third-party processors.

New M1 Macs Available November 17, 2020

Apple’s new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini will be available on November 17, 2020. Customers can pre-order the new M1 Macs from Apple’s website.

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