Apple detailed its plan to switch to ARM processors back in June. At the time, the company said it will be launching the first MacBooks powered by its new ARM processors by the end of the year. And today, it’s all official.
Apple’s first ARM processor for the Mac is called the M1. Apple’s new 5nm M1 SoC combines all its different chips together, featuring Apple’s unified memory architecture that offers high bandwidth and low-latency. Apple says the new unified memory architecture dramatically improves performance and power usage. The processor features 16 billion transistors.
Apple’s M1 boasts 4 high-performance cores, which Apple says are the world’s “fasted CPU cores”. There are also 4 high-efficiency cores, which uses limited power while still offering high performance. Altogether, the octa-core M1 processor offers the best performance per watt.
The 8-core GPU on the M1 is capable of executing nearly 25 thousand threads at once. Apple compared the performance of the M1 with the latest “PC laptop chip” throughout the launch, which is not a massive surprise.
Apart from the CPU and GPU cores, it also features a 16-core Neural Engine processor and a Secure Enclave.
Apple says the upcoming update to macOS, Big Sur, has been designed to work efficiently on Apple Silicon. “It’s absolutely incredible on M1,” said Apple’s SVP of Engineering, Craig Federighi. The new update to macOS makes use of M1’s unified memory architecture, which gives improved access to more graphics resources than ever before. Big Sur also features advanced power management for the M1, which automatically optimises tasks between using the high-performance and high-efficiency cores of the CPU on the fly.
Additionally, Apple is working with leading app developers such as Adobe to compile popular apps such as the Adobe Creative Cloud suite to work natively on the M1. Other apps that are not yet optimized for its M1 processor will use Rosetta 2, which will enable non-native apps to work on the new M1 processor. Oh, and, the new M1-powered Mac devices will be the first to run iOS apps (as long as developers opt-in to make their app available on the M1 Macs).
Disclosure: I worked as a software engineering intern with the Windows on Snapdragon (ARM) team at Qualcomm in Summer 2020. Any opinions or comments expressed in this article do not represent my past or future employer.