Apple’s custom silicon has been rumored for years now, but the Cupertino behemoth finally given us some actual information about the Apple M1, the SoC behind the move to ARM.
Just like many other ARM chips already on the market, the CPU is a 8-core chip with a BIG.little configuration, with 4 high performance cores, and 4 power efficient cores. Apple is also including an 8-core GPU in the SoC, which should be more powerful than the Intel Iris graphics found on lower-end MacBooks.
Apple still hasn’t revealed which MacBooks will be powered by this custom chip, and Apple hasn’t released a ton of specific information about the specs beyond “16 billion transistors” and “5nm” – neither of which mean a lot on their own.
With the Apple M1 chip, Apple is making some pretty bold statements, claiming that it is up to 3.5x performance over “competing CPUs”, though we’re not sure what level of performance Apple is aiming at here. Apple has also claimed that the Apple M1 is 3 times more powerful per watt than the “Latest PC laptop chip” which is also incredibly vague.
What is impressive, however, is that Apple has apparently created its own Thunderbolt controller, which means that even though it’s tossing out Intel for its entry-level computing products, they’ll still have access to Thunderbolt.
Luckily, because preorders for the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13 and Mac mini are available today, it won’t be long until we can test Apple’s performance claims ourselves.
What does any of this mean?
Apple has made some pretty bold statements about how fast and long-lasting its new SoC is, and on face value it seems incredibly scalable. It can go fanless on the MacBook Air, and scales all the way up to desktop-level performance on the Mac mini. However, Apple only gave very vague comparisons to existing hardware, stating that its new SoC was simply faster than the latest PC laptop chips, without going into any detail about which PC laptop chip its faster than – there’s more than one.
So, while Apple’s monumental claims of exponentially faster performance and higher efficiency seem super impressive at face value, they ultimately don’t mean much until we know what Apple was actually comparing its new chip against. And, it’s unlikely we ever will.
Fortunately, we should be getting these laptops in our labs for a full suite of testing to see what they can do, so we won’t have to wait too long to see if Apple’s performance claims are accurate.
Keep in mind that it’s very possible that this first generation of Apple-built ARM processors for MacBooks will be just like any other first-generation product, with low performance and plenty of bugs to work through. Until we know what these new computers can do, we’d advise not jumping onto Apple’s new lineup of processors.