Processor Revolution: All You Need to Know About the New Apple M1 Chip

By  //  July 12, 2021

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The newest Macs in the Apple product stable no longer come with Intel processors. Instead, they use the M1 Apple silicon chip, which is a powerful replacement for the many Intel CPU generations that have powered Apple computers since 2006. 

The M1 chip was introduced at the WWDC 2020, where Apple announced the switch in its internal architecture from the previous Intel CPU and other parts to its system on a chip. 

This is a huge step for the Mac, and Apple as a company, but what does it mean for the user?

We’ll look at everything you need to know about Apple’s system on a chip, what it means for you, how it affects the apps and tools you can use, and how fast the M1 chip really is.

What Is the Apple M1 Chip?

The Apple silicon is astounding in many ways. 

As the first system-on-chip for Macs, it combines all the critical processing powers, including the CPU, T2 chip, and memory chip, into a single chip. 

In addition to this, the chip is optimized for Mac computers and customized for each model, ultimately making Macs more powerful and efficient.

Instead of the traditional RAM, the M1 chip has Unified Memory, which unifies the low latency and high bandwidth of Macs into a single package. In this  way, all the other systems can access the whole package without using up multiple memory pools.

The chip is available in new Macs like the MacBook Air 2020, the Mac mini, 13-inch MacBook Pro and the new 24-inch iMac. You’ll also find the M1 chip in the newest iPad Pro. 

The many improvements you’ll get with Apple’s M1 chip include enhanced computing performance, battery life and graphics output. 

The improved computing performance isn’t just in the computer, but also for some apps that run natively on Intel-based Macs. Let’s look at how these improvements play out as you use your Apple device. 

Processor 

Whether you’re using a Windows PC, Mac or Chromebook, you’ll find an array of computing components inside that handle different processing tasks.

Among these components is a CPU that handles the essential computations – it’s a graphics processor that also outputs a signal to your laptop screen or monitor. Not  all processors can deliver on performance, but as we’ll show you hee , the M1 won’t cause your Mac to run slow like an  Intel-based processor would.

Gaming rigs and workstation desktops are examples of  large, powerful machines that have separate CPU and GPUs linked to the motherboard.

In smaller, ultraportable computers, you’ll find the CPU and GPU combined together, with the rest of the computer’s components, into an integrated graphics processor. This includes the memory, cache and storage, which are found in different spots on the motherboard. 

When it comes to the Apple M1 chip, all these processing parts are packaged into a single system on a chip,which then handles the output of all the computations and graphics. In this way, the M1 chip does everything at once, which explains why Apple has packed 16 processor cores into it.

Of these cores, four handle complex calculations, another four handle lighter tasks that don’t need as much power, and the remaining eight are dedicated to graphics processing.

Apple devices that use the M1 have a graphics processor that can power an external monitor with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz.

The chip also has a native storage controller that traffics data to and from the Mac’s solid-state drive. The controller also traffics data to other secondary tasks required for the computer to function; sensors, image processing from webcams, controllers, and other processors.

Battery Life 

To conserve battery life, the M1 chip comes with four low-power cores that give M1-equipped Macs the best battery life. Apple tested this through browsing the web wirelessly while playing FHD videos and setting brightness to eight clicks from the bottom. 

While these tests may not be the most comprehensive, there’s a general consensus among independent reviewers that the M1 Macs are either similar to or better than their Intel counterparts. 

For example, Engadget and The Verge found that the M1 Macbook Air and Pro models can stay powered on for a little over 16 hours for the Air, and 10 hours for the Pro.

Apps

Most macOS apps are built to run on Intel-based Macs. However, with Apple having given development kits to help developers translate their code to the M1, more third-party apps can now run natively on M1-powered Macs.

The translation process takes some time, so any apps that are yet to make the transition can still run through the Rosetta 2 software – Apple’s translation tool – on new Macs.

With the introduction of macOS Big Sur, though, all Apple software will run natively on Intel-based and M1-powered systems. 

The Future of the Apple Silicon Chip

Will Apple propose/announce its ability to release a chip that’s faster than the M1? Eventually, yes. 

According to Bloomberg, the M1’s direct successor is in the works, and will have the same processing cores and an upgraded GPU. 

There are also reports that by the end of 2021, an Apple silicon with 10 cores (two efficiency and eight performance cores) along with a 16 or 32 core GPU, will be available. Also included with the new chip – reports say – will be an improved Neural Engine and support for 64GB of RAM. 

This doesn’t mean the Intel-based Macs are going away overnight. However, if you want more processing power other than the legacy Intel-based Mac can provide, the M1 is the clearest route for you.

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