Farewell, Intel —
Apple claims new laptops with Apple Silicon inside outperform PC laptops.
Samuel Axon and Jim Salter
After 15 years shipping Mac computers with Intel processors, Apple has announced details about its first Mac to forgo Intel CPUs in favor of Apple-designed, ARM-based chips dubbed Apple Silicon. Apple announced that the first Apple Silicon Mac will be the 13″, $999 Macbook Air with M1, a completely fanless and silent design.
The new Macbook Air will feature the Apple M1 CPU, which is the latest in a line of higher-performance ARM CPUs introduced with the iPad Pro. M1 is a an eight-core CPU built on a 5nm process design, and it features unified memory architecture offering high-bandwidth, low-latency memory access. Of its eight cores, four are higher performance aimed at demanding foreground tasks, and four are lower-power, higher-efficiency units designed to complete less-demanding background tasks at a decreased power and thermal cost.
Apple says that the M1 offers the highest performance per watt, with double the performance of an x86 laptop CPU when running at 10 watts—and one quarter the power draw of an x86 laptop CPU at higher performance levels. M1 also features an eight-core GPU with 128 execution units (EUs). Apple shows a similar performance-per-watt curve for the M1’s GPU compared to “the latest PC chip”—but since that latest chip was not specified by name, it’s unclear whether that includes Intel’s record-breaking Iris Xe graphics, as seen in Tiger Lake laptop CPUs.
Because Apple Silicon is based on a different architecture (ARM) than Intel (x86), this Mac will not natively run applications that worked on previous, Intel-based Macs. That said, many applications—including all Apple-developed applications—will have ARM-specific binaries, and Apple claims it will be relatively easy for many Mac developers to compile their own. Also, like other upcoming Apple Silicon Macs, the MacBook Air with M1 will be able to run x86 macOS applications using Rosetta 2.
Apple is also announcing a new Macbook Pro with M1. The $1,299 Macbook Pro is another 13″ design, weighing in at approximately three pounds. Apple claims the new Macbook Pro is three times faster than “the fastest Windows laptop in its class,” but the company did not specify which laptop is being referred to or on which workloads.
Unlike the Macbook Air, the Pro is actively cooled, allowing it to sustain higher performance on demanding workloads for longer than the passively cooled Macbook Air.
The new Macbook Air with M1, Macbook Pro with M1, and a Mac Mini with M1 are all available to order today, with shipping to begin next week.
This story is developing. Check back or follow our liveblog for more details as they are announced.