Apple has taken its first steps to move its Mac computers onto its own Arm-based processors and starting its two-year transition away from CPUs from Intel. Apple announced the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Mini with the new M1 chip, which can be ordered today and will ship next week.
John Ternus, VP of hardware engineering detailed the transition to the "next generation of Mac," coming over the next "couple of years."
The first chip is the M1, which Apple's chip lead Johny Srouji said would create a "completely different class of product. It would replace the separate chips for the CPU, I/O, and more. It also includes memory on the chip.
It's a 5nm chip with 16 billion transistors. It has 8 cores, four for power and four for efficiency. Srouji said the high-performance cores are the world's fastest and deliver the best performance per watt. It has a 10W thermal envelope.
Additionally, Srouji detailed the chip's integrated graphics, an 8-core GPU with 128 compute units. He said it's the world's fastest integrated graphics. There's also a 16-core neural engine for machine learning. It also houses the Secure Enclave for security.
Apple MacBook Air with M1
Apple also detailed the first Macs with M1. The first is the MacBook Air, starting at $999.
It has a 3.5x faster CPU in the M1, which was being compared to an Intel Ice Lake processor. Apple also claimed a 5x improvement in integrated graphics.
The design has no fan, so it can run silently. Apple is also promising 15 hours of wireless web browsing and 18 hours of video playback, claiming the longest battery life of any MacBook Air.
MacBook Pro (13-inch) with M1
The MacBook Pro will get the M1, starting at $1,299
Apple is claiming faster performance than ever on the CPU, with a GPU up to five times faster over previous 13-inch MacBook Pros.
Unlike the MacBook Air, the Pro has active cooling. Apple claims that the battery life goes up to 17 hours of web browsing and up to 20 hours of video playback, for the longest battery life ever on a Mac.
The new Pro has studio-quality microphones, and continues to use the Touch Bar. Like the MacBook Air, it has a faster image sensor. There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports for connectivity, including Apple's XDR monitor. It's not much of a redesign, though, as Apple said it uses the same chassis.
Apple claimed that it's faster than 98% of PC laptops sold in the last year.
Finally, Apple is bumping up the camera, with noise reduction, improved white balance and ML-enhanced face detection. The 13-inch Retina display supports P3-wide color.
Mac Mini with M1
Apple is also updating the Mac Mini desktop with M1. Apple claims three times as much performance and six times the graphics over the previous Mac Mini. In fact, Apple positioned it for gaming and game development.
It starts at $699, a $100 reduction from the previous generation.
The company claimed the new Mini is five times faster than a typical PC desktop sold today, though that includes a lot of office computers.
This design has a fan. Connectivity includes Thunderbolt, USB 4, Ethernet and HDMI.
Apple initially announced the transition to Arm at WWDC, and provided developers with transition kits based on a Mac Mini with an A12Z, 16GB of RAM, and a beta of Big Sur.
Nvidia announced in September that it would be acquiring Arm from Softbank to the tune of $40 billion, but it's not clear how much regulatory interference that may face or whether that will lead Apple to adjust its plans.
macOS Big Sur and Rosetta 2
Apple has updated apps for M1, including Keynote, Pages, iMovie and GarageBand, as well as more complex apps like Final Cut Pro.
"Universal Apps" have a native binary for both Apple Silicon and Intel processors, so that it can run on any Mac.
Photoshop will be among the first Universal Apps, coming early next year.
The other apps will run on Rosetta 2, which translates Intel instructions to Apple Silicon instructions, so you should still be able to use apps that don't get updates at launch.
Additionally, iPad and iPhone apps will run on macOS, thanks to support for similar chip architectures.