Upcoming Linux PCIe Driver To Fully Utilize M1 Mac Mini Ports

Apple M1 Max
(Image credit: Apple)

Further development of Apple silicon drivers for Linux continues. According to a report from Phoronix, developers are almost ready to release a new PCIe driver for M1 chips that will bring PCIe compatibility to Apple chips running the Linux operating systems. That could bring us closer to a day where we can run Linux with full compatibility on Apple's new high-performance M1 chips.

This new PCIe driver is one of the most important drivers to be developed for the Apple M1 and Linux ecosystem: The PCI express drivers will give Linux operating systems full access to all I/O including USB ports, networking, Thunderbolt, and wireless ports on a multitude of M1 products.

Linux support for Apple's M1 has been underway for some time now; we first saw initial support with Linux Kernel 5.13, and a real demonstration of Linux running on an M1 Mac a few weeks ago. However, the process of getting Linux compatible with Apple's M1 chips has been challenging thanks to both the ARM architecture and loads of proprietary technologies packed inside Apple Silicon.

But the extra work will be worth the hassle once complete. Apple just released the specs of its new M1 Pro and M1 Max, and they are faster than ever before. The M1 Pro will have more than twice the transistor count of the original M1, featuring 8-10 CPU cores and 14-16 GPU cores, with a maximum memory capacity of 32GB.

Then there's the M1 Max, Apple's flagship M1. This chip focuses more on GPU firepower by having up to 32 GPU cores, 10 CPU cores, and double the memory capacity at 64GB. Memory throughput is also significantly enhanced, up to 400GBps, compared to 200GBps for the M1 Pro.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Apple Silicon Specifications
Row 0 - Cell 0 M1M1 ProM1 Max
Process Node5nm5nm5nm
Transistors16 billion33.7 billion57 billion
CPU Cores88 or 1010
GPU Cores7 or 814 or 1624 or 32
Memory Bandwidth68.25 GBps200 GBps400 GBps
Maximum Memory16GB32GB64GB
Row 7 - Cell 0 Row 7 - Cell 1 Row 7 - Cell 2 Row 7 - Cell 3

For Linux users, M1 MacBooks could be a dream come true. The new MacBooks that come with the new M1 Pro and M1 Max could be the most powerful notebooks on the market. But then, if you install Linux on top of it all, you will be able to run apps and games (with Proton or Wine) that are not native to macOS.

Unfortunately, full Linux compatibility is still a ways away, as we still don't have proper drivers for networking, Thunderbolt, and other I/O. But you can be sure that Linux developers are hard at work building new drivers for M1.

The new Apple PCIe driver is expected to launch with Linux 5.16.

Aaron Klotz
Contributing Writer

Aaron Klotz is a contributing writer for Tom’s Hardware, covering news related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.