Apple November 10 Event took place a couple of days ago bring us the final products for Cupertino’s 2020 lineup. This is an in-depth on folks, so let’s get our diving gear.
Apple M1 chip
In the first place, we have the new Apple M1 chip. This is the little guy that powers all of the products announced.
We don’t know if M stands for mobile, but that would be coherent with all of the following products.
Intel has been lacking some innovation on the processor field
M1 is Apple’s shot at independency from Intel’s processors. In fact, producing this chip inhouse gives them a chance to tightly optimize the hardware side with the software one. Also, if we can take something out of AMD’s recent announcements is that maybe Intel has been lacking some innovation on the processor’s field.
So, what is it?
M1 is an ARM based 5 micron process chip that integrates some components that previously used to be seperate elements connected through a motherboard. In this case, Apple is packing together the CPU, GPU, RAM and a bunch of other things like a neural engine.
Small chip – Big claims
This kind of packaging is expected to cut dramatically on data travel time between components. For example, the CPU does not have to go through a motherboard to access the RAM. CPU and GPU can manage the memory more efficiently.
Consequently, we are presented with higher performance across the board as well as an impressive battery life.
Of course, we have to take Apple’s word for it, as no article is available for review just yet. Also, their references to what they are comparing things to are a bit fuzzy.
You can have a look at their claims on the graphics here:
So, you’d get:
- The World’s Best CPU Performance per Watt
- The World’s Fastest Integrated Graphics
- Blazing-Fast, On-Device Machine Learning
- macOS Big Sur Optimized for M1
In addition, you’ll be getting:
- Apple’s latest image signal processor (ISP) for higher quality video with better noise reduction, greater dynamic range, and improved auto white balance
- The latest Secure Enclave for best-in-class security
- A high-performance storage controller with AES encryption hardware for faster and more secure SSD performance
- Low-power, highly efficient media encode and decode engines for great performance and extended battery life
- An Apple-designed Thunderbolt controller with support for USB 4, transfer speeds up to 40Gbps, and compatibility with more peripherals than ever
Seems like a pretty sweet deal.
This is Apple’s more modest laptop with the M1 chip. It’s meant to be a lightweight option that you can take everywhere with enough horsepower for both entertainment and productivity.
- CPU speeds up to 3.5x faster
- GPU speeds up to 5x faster
- 9x faster machine learning
- The longest battery life ever in a MacBook Air – Up to 18 hours of battery life
- A silent, fanless design
The interesting thing is that we don’t really know what is being compared. You have to dig in to the footnote section of their website to get a clearer picture. But, many times, they only explain what was the configuration of the test article, not what they compared it with. The bottom line: it’s better than ever.
As for pricing and availability, the MacBook Air will be shipping to the US by 17th of November for a starting bill of $999. You can place your order since launch.
The Pro is Air’s big bro, even though this version has the same screen width – 13”. This model should have a more cranked up M1 chip than the Air. The most noticeable differences are:
- More power
- Bigger battery (and battery life)
- Active cooling
Since the Pro is being marketed as a workstation, it does come with high dynamic range sound system, a “studio-quality tree-mic array” and a brighter screen.
Other than that, you still get the same amount of thunderbolt / USB 4 ports.
Is that enough for you to pony up the extra $300?
Moving from Intel to this ARM architecture has given Apple an opportunity to tighten the bolts on the MacBook lineup. The hardware seemed to gain significant power and efficiency, translating into more battery life.
This architecture allows more control for apple to optimyze de hardware/software loop. It does seem the case here, as you seem to get a great amount of performance with the added bonus of battery life.
For Apple, it’s great to bring in all that profit that otherwise would be had for intel. For the customer, should be great to get a bigger bang per watt on a portable device.
An added benefit of this vertical integration is security. The integrated development of this chip inhouse allows a better control of potential harmful vectors.
Since these Macbooks run on a very similar architecture than those of the iphone and ipad, you get access to all of those app on the same machine. This will definitely be a benefit to Apples ecosystem.
Not everything is great. Having an integrated chip makes it so that it is impossible for any kind of RAM upgrade. You either choose the 8GB or the 16GB version of shared memory. In any case, you better make good use of them.
We also noted that its kind of odd that both these MacBooks get only two thunderbolt / USB 4 ports. Shouldn’t at least the Pro have four of them being a mobile workstation and all? Since the I/O and thunderbolt controllers are also integrated, we get the impression that there must be some kind of limitation at that level.
On the software level, since you are now essentially running on ARM, there won’t be any any more Bootcamp to load Windows on M1 based laptops. Also, no more Blackmagic eGPU graphics boost, if you care for that sort of thing.
In short, Apple’s real product here is that M1 chip. Bringing it’s development inhouse allows for better all around optimizations. We see that already with their smartphones, as Apple decided a few year back to develop their own A series chip. We anticipate the same kind of magic making its way to the desktop arena. We’ll wait patiently for those new products