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Apple today unveiled its first Mac computers powered by its new M1 chipset, ushering in a new era for Apple hardware as it leaves behind Intel in favor of its own silicon.
Apple M1 Chipset
Behind all of the new computers Apple showcased at today’s event is its new M1 chipset, the first chip designed specifically for Mac. Unlike past Mac computers, which required multiple chips from multiple suppliers, Apple’s new M1 chip puts all of them into a single system on a chip (SoC) design. This includes the CPU, GPU, I/O, security and memory.
The new chip uses a 5nm process, which helps to fit more than 16 billion transistors onto the M1. The M1 features eight cores—four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores—that work together to provide better performance with lower power consumption. Apple claims the new M1 chip offers 2x the total CPU and GPU performance of the leading commercially-available PC chip and matches the peak CPU/GPU performance of the same chip using just 25% and 33% of the power, respectively.
One of the greatest advantages of the SoC design is the ability to use unified memory. Now, with the unified memory architecture (UMA), the M1 allows all of the individual technologies inside the M1 to access the same data without having to copy it between multiple memory pools. This should open up plenty of memory bandwidth for improved performance across the board. Apple specifically notes both video and image processing will see a major performance boost with the M1 chip compared to similar Intel-powered computers.
Apple also claims 15x the machine-learning performance compared to its previous-generation Intel-powered computers with the ability to perform up to 11 trillion operations per second.
Of course, one of the main benefits of Apple’s new silicon is battery performance. As we’ll detail below, the new M1 chip enables up to 17 hours of web browsing and 20 hours of video playback on the new MacBook Pro 13”, while the new MacBook Air offers up to 15 hours and 18 hours of web browsing and video playback, respectively.
With the brain out of the way, let’s get onto the new machines using it.
The New MacBook Air
The new MacBook Air may look like its predecessors, but beneath the unibody frame is Apple’s new M1 chip, making it the first Apple computer with Apple silicon packed inside. Thanks to the new M1 chip inside, Apple says the new MacBook Air is 3.5 times faster than its Intel-powered predecessor, with 5x faster graphics performance and 9x better machine learning performance.
The new MacBook Air comes with a 13.3” retina display with P3 wide color gamut support, up to 16GB of memory and up to 2TB of storage. Other features include two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, a 720p FaceTime HD camera (really, Apple?) and Touch ID.
Apple claims the new MacBook Air can power up to 15 hours of web browsing and 18 hours of video playback on its 50Wh LiPo battery. It comes with a 30W USB-C Power Adapter for charging.
The new MacBook Air starts at $999 with the standard M1 chip, 8GB RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. There’s also a version of the new MacBook Air that starts at $1249 and offers an M1 chip with an 8-core GPU over the standard seven-core GPU; this upgraded version also starts with 512GB of SSD storage over the 256GB of the $999 MacBook Air. A full-maxed-out MacBook Air with the upgraded M1 chip, 16GB RAM and 2TB of SSD storage will set you back $2,050.
Much like the new MacBook Air, the new Mac Mini looks identical to its Intel-powered predecessor on the outside but packs Apple’s new M1 chip on the inside.
Apple didn’t lay out the exact specifications of the M1 chip inside the new Mac Mini, opting instead to compare it to its Intel-power predecessor. Based on that comparison, Apple says the new Mac Mini offers 3x faster processing performance, 6x faster graphics performance and 15x faster machine learning performance, all while consuming 60% less energy.
Features include Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 and Gigabit Ethernet.Ports include two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, two USB-A ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack. When using the thunderbolt 3 port, you can drive Apple’s Pro Display XDR at a full 6K resolution in addition to a secondary 4K display.
The new Mac Minis start at $699 ($100 less than the previous generation), which includes the eight-core M1 chip, 8GB RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. A maxed-out model, complete with 16GB RAM and 2TB of SSD storage will set you back $1,500.
13″ MacBook Pro
The third and final computer to receive the M1 treatment today is the new 13″ MacBook Pro. As with the two previous computers, there is effectively zero external differences between this computer and its Intel-powered predecessors. Inside, though, it’s a different story.
As with the Mac Mini, Apple refrains from spouting the frequencies of the new M1 chip inside the 13″ MacBook Pro, opting instead to gauge its performance based on its Intel-powered predecessor. Based on that, Apple claims the new 13″ MacBook Pro offers 2.8x faster processor performance, 5x the graphics performance and 11x the machine learning performance. Unlike the new MacBook Air, which relies exclusively on passive cooling, the new 13″ MacBook Pro keeps its fans, which means you should be able to push the performance of the M1 chip even further when battery life isn’t an issue.
Speaking of battery life, Apple says the new 12″ MacBook Pro offers up to 17 hours of web browsing and 20 hours of video playback on a single charge—that’s roughly 10 hours more than Apple’s previous Intel-powered MacBook Pros.
Other specifications include Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Touch ID, a 720p FaceTime camera (again, really, Apple?), P3 wide color gamut support and an upgraded three-microphone array. Ports include two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Like the Mac Mini, the new 13″ MacBook Pro can power Apple’s Pro Display XDR at its full 6k resolution.
The new 13″ MacBook Pro starts at $1,300 with the eight-core M1 chip, 8GB RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. A maxed-out model with 16GB RAM and 2TB of SSD storage will set you back $2,300.
It’s worth noting that both the Mac Mini and 13″ MacBook Pro can still be purchased with Intel processors, if you’re not ready to make the jump to Apple silicon yet. The MacBook Air, however, is now exclusively powered by Apple’s M1 SoC.