Following a busy two months of launching new iPads, iPhones, Apple Watches, and smart speakers, Apple has finally turned its attention to the product that started the company: The Mac. Apple’s momentum isn’t slowing down, as it leveraged its November 10 special event, aptly titled “One More Thing,” to showcase the first consumer products that will feature its own custom processors.
Earlier this year at the Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, Apple had signaled to developers its intention of transitioning away from Intel processors in favor of its custom processors. At the time, it seeded developers with kits that contained a Mac Mini that ran on an A-series processor designed for the iPad. Those days are in the past. Apple finally unveiled its new Macs featuring the custom M1 processor that was specifically designed for the computers to improve processing performance, graphics capabilities, and battery life in laptops. These features will help Apple singlehandedly take on some of the biggest names in the PC industry — from Intel processors to AMD and Nvidia graphics — with laptops and desktops powered by its new M1 processor that’s specifically designed for the Mac.
It’s all about the Mac…
“But there is just one more thing,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said, alluding to Apple’s busy fall product schedule. “It’s time to talk about the Mac.”
Cook noted how more customers than ever are choosing the Mac, and that the product is part of Apple’s DNA. “It’s the tool that we use to build our phenomenal lineup of products,” he noted, adding that the Mac has had its best year ever, with 50% of buyers new to the platform. Cook also highlighted the ways that the Mac can be used as a tool for creating content and productivity.
“It’s great to see how people use the Mac to do amazing things,” he said in announcing that the first Mac with Apple silicon is now here, complete with a new, purpose-built custom-designed processor.
Apple’s new silicon: M1 for the Mac
“Our teams have been working tirelessly to deliver the best lineup of notebooks and desktops, that we’ve ever had,” Apple said. Well, now it’s time for the Mac to take a gigantic leap forward.”
That leap forward means that Apple will be leaving Intel behind as it embraces its new M1 processor that’s based on ARM’s chip designs.
“We’ve been making Apple silicon for more than a decade,” the company stated. “It’s at the heart of the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. And now we want to bring it to the Mac.”
M1 will be part of a family of chipsets, Apple said, that will span different products over the next several years. This includes the iPhone and iPad with the A-series processors and Apple’s S-series processors in the Apple Watch.
“Our approach with M1 was to deliver industry-leading performance and features, while relentlessly focusing on power efficiency,” Apple noted. “As a result, M1 delivers a giant leap in performance per watt. And every Mac with M1 will be transformed into a completely different class of product.”
M1 is the first system on a chip for the Mac, integrating the processor, GPU, security, and I/O components. It has a unified memory architecture for high bandwidth, low latency, and better performance. M1 is an eight-core processor that is built on Apple’s 5nm node with 16 billion transistors.
The unified memory allows all the technologies to access the same data without having to copy between multiple pools of memory, Apple noted, which helps with power efficiency and performance.
The architecture contains four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores.
“Our high-performance core is the world’s fastest CPU core, and no one has four of these incredibly fast high-performance cores,” Apple said. “So multi-threaded workloads take a huge leap in performance as well.”
The efficiency cores consume a 10th of the power while still delivering outstanding performance, Apple added. That’s similar performance as the current-generation, dual-core MacBook Air at much lower power.
Apple claims that this delivers the best CPU performance per watt. Compared to the Intel-based Air, Apple said it has a 3x performance improvement per watt.
With the GPU cores, Apple said that the eight-core GPU is in a class of its own, with twice the graphics performance while using one-third the power of a PC chip. The integrated GPU is capable of executing nearly 25,000 threads at a time, Apple claims.
“The transition to Apple Silicon is going to have a profound impact on the Mac,” Apple said. “It will bring performance and capabilities that have never been possible before.”
Other integrated technologies include an advanced 16-core neural engine that can execute 11 trillion operations per second for machine learning. It also has a secure enclave for best-in-class security, Apple said. There is an advanced signal processor, support for Thunderbolt and USB 4, and more.
Apple claimed that M1 is the best chip it has ever created.
MacOS Big Sur is built to maximize M1
“For the first time ever, we’ve been able to design MacOS for our own silicon,” Apple’s Craig Federighi said.
Unified memory and advanced power management help the Mac handle more powerful workloads even more efficiently. Security protections such as hardware-verified Secure Boot are also included.
iPhone and iPad apps come to the Mac
“We’ve optimized every app for M1,” Apple said of its own Mac apps. “Final Cut Pro can fly through tasks like rendering a complex timeline up to 6x faster.”
“Mac OS Big Sur is engineered down to its core to fully take advantage of all the capability and power of M1 and it does this all while maintaining everything you love about Mac OS,” Apple added, noting that apps like Pages, Numbers, Keynote, GarageBand, and iMovie have been optimized for M1.
The power of M1 allows you to run three 3x instruments on Logic Pro, Apple claimed.
For third-party apps, the company is working with developers to help them transition their software from Intel to M1. Universal Apps will be the first types of apps to bridge the gap, allowing developers to make minimal code changes for their apps to run on both M1- and Intel-powered Macs. They contain binaries for both M1 and Intel platforms that come together in a single app that can be downloaded from the App Store.
Apple announced that both Adobe and Omni Group are among the first developers creating Universal Apps, and that a Universal App version of Adobe Lightroom will be arriving next month. Photoshop is coming early next year.
And for developers who cannot transition their apps to a Universal App, Apple’s Rosetta helps M1-powered Macs run software that was designed for Intel-made Macs through emulation.
“Thanks to Metal and M1, some of the most graphically demanding apps actually perform better under Rosetta than they did running natively on previous Macs with integrated graphics,” Apple said of the power of its emulation software. “It’s really incredible.”
And to grow the library of apps available to the Mac, Apple will finally allow iPhone and iPad apps to run on the desktop.
“For the first time ever, you can run your favorite iPhone and iPad apps directly on your Mac,” Apple said. “You’ll have more games to play, more content to watch, and more apps for everything you want to do. Altogether, you get access to the biggest collection of apps ever for the Mac, and it’s only going to get better as developers continue to build new apps for M1.”
In a highlight video showcasing various developers, Apple suggested that creating Universal Apps will be fast and easy.
The first Mac with M1: The new MacBook Air
Apple’s MacBook Air is already the world’s bestselling 13-inch notebook, and the new MacBook Air with M1 delivers even better improvements, Apple said, with 3.5x faster performance. The company also claims 5x faster graphics performance. Apple said that the M1 Air is 98% faster than PC laptops, and it achieves this without a fan.
“So when it comes to gaming, you can play immersive, graphically intensive titles, [with] significantly higher frame rates,” Apple said of the power of its ultraportable laptop. “And for the first time, you can edit multiple streams of full-quality, 4K Pro-res video without dropping a frame. That’s mind-blowing for such a thin and light notebook.”
Apple claims 15 hours of wireless web browsing and 18 hours of video playback — the longest ever in the MacBook Air. Battery life can go up to twice as long on a single charge.
The M1 Air also has better camera performance, thanks to the integrated image signal processor.
“We know camera image quality matters even more, so we’re excited that with M1, Apple’s latest image signal processor comes to the Mac,” Apple added. “This ISP delivers better noise reduction and greater dynamic range for sharper images and more detail with shadows and highlights, as well as improved auto white balance, combined with ML-enhanced face detection. So you look more natural on your FaceTime calls.”
The display also supports a wide P3 color space for true-to-life images, Apple said.
Other features include a secure enclave with Touch ID support.
“All these powerful features are delivered in a sleek, wedge-shaped design,” Apple said, noting that the laptop maintains its traditional shape.
The Air starts at the same $999 price for consumers and $899 for education customers.
The MacBook Mini gets M1 too!
The second Mac to get the new M1 processor is Apple’s beloved Mac Mini.
“Mac Mini delivers the Mac desktop experience in an incredible form factor,” Apple said. The Mac Mini gets a boost in performance thanks to the M1 processor in what the company called a “seismic shift” in what a desktop can do.
Apple boasts 3x CPU performance and 6x GPU performance with the new Mini. Now, creators can use the Mini to do intensive creative workloads in scenarios never previously imagined. Apple claimed that the Mini is 5x faster than the bestselling PC desktops.
“The Mac Mini will supercharge innovative features that are powered by [machine learning],” Apple said of the M1’s neural engine. A new thermal design helps the Mini stay cool and quiet, so unlike the Air, the new Mini has a fan.
And with 15x-faster machine learning capabilities thanks to the integrated neural engine, Apple is promising faster A.I.-based features.
“This means the new Mac Mini will supercharge innovative features that are powered by ML like magically increasing the resolution of a photo in Pixelmator Pro, giving it more sharpness and detail,” Apple said. “It also makes Mac Mini a great machine for developers, scientists, and engineers utilizing deep-learning technologies like tensor flow or Create ML … .”
Connectivity comes by way of two USB-C ports that now support Thunderbolt. The Mini starts at $699, a $100 price drop from the prior-generation model with Intel.
M1 goes Pro with MacBook Pro
Apple also refreshed its 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 processor.
Apple claims 2.8x-faster CPU performance. With Xcode, developers can build codes 3x faster than before. The GPU is 5x faster, Apple said.
“So whether you’re using Shaper 3D to design a new product or constructing an immersive new world in Cinema 4D, the new MacBook Pro handles it all with ease,” Apple said. “And when compared to the best elling Windows laptop and its class. it’s up to 3x faster.”
The notebook can play 8K pro-res video footage in DaVinci Resolve in full quality without dropping a single frame, Apple claims.
And thanks to the neural engine, ML is up to 11x faster than the previous generation. Like the Mini, the MacBook Pro has an “active cooling system” with fans.
“This allows it to sustain its remarkable performance when ripping through intensive tasks like video transcode and compressor,” Apple said of the fans. “And even with all this unbelievable compute power, the battery life is simply amazing.”
Apple claims 17 hours of wireless web browsing and 20 hours of video playback, for the longest battery life ever in the Mac.
Studio microphone array and better image signal processing allow you to have better videoconference calls. The new Pro can also connect to Apple’s pricey Pro XDR display with 6K of resolution.
The new Pro starts at $1,299 for consumers and just $1,199 for education customers.
Apple called the new MacBook Pro “the ultimate expression of what the M1 chip can do” in its presentation.
With M1, energy consumption is reduced by up to 60% when the products are in use, which fits into the company’s sustainability goals.
“We’re also proud that these products have been carefully designed to support our net-zero carbon goal,” Apple said. The company also highlighted that the products used recycled aluminum and plastics in their construction.
All the new M1 products can be pre-ordered today and will be delivered next week, Apple said.
“This is by far the strongest Mac lineup that we’ve ever had,” Apple said. The transition away from Intel will take a few years to complete.
“This truly is a huge day for the Mac … Apple advancements of this magnitude only come from making bold changes,” Cook concluded. “The M1 chip is by far the most powerful chip that we have ever created. It makes these Macs dramatically faster, provides all-new capabilities with extraordinary battery life, and enables the Mac to run more software than ever.”
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