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The first Apple Silicon for Macs is the M1, coming to new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini

By Kenny Yeo - on 14 Nov 2020, 11:09am

The first Apple Silicon for Macs is the M1, coming to new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini

Note: This article was first published on 11 Nov 2020.

The first Apple Silicon for Mac is called the M1. (Image source: Apple)

Say hi to M1

It’s finally here. Apple has just announced that the first Apple Silicon for Macs is called M1.

Like the A14 Bionic chip in the new iPhones, M1 is built on a 5nm process. This makes it the first 5nm computer chip.

M1 features 16 billion transistors and pairs an 8-core CPU with an 8-core GPU. The 8-core CPU is configured with 4 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores – similar to the A12Z Bionic.

M1 will deliver crazy performance for the power.

Apple says M1 can deliver the same CPU performance as the “latest PC laptop chip” with just 1/4 the power. Unfortunately, Apple did not specifically say which PC laptop chip it was benchmarking against.

As for graphics, Apple says M1 can match the maximum performance of current generation integrated graphics with just 33% the power and that overall graphics performance is up to 2x greater.

The highlights of the M1 chip. (Image source: Apple)

Much of these impressive performance figures are due to a unified memory architecture (UMA). All of the high bandwidth, low-latency memory is pooled together in a custom package so that various components in the SoC can quickly access data without having to move or copy around from cache to cache. Apple says this dramatically improves performance and power efficiency.

Last but not least, M1 will also feature Apple’s latest Neural Engine with 16 cores and a compute power of 11 trillion operations per second. Apps that can take advantage of the Neural Engine, like Final Cut Pro and Pixelmator Pro, can see a big boost in performance.

Performance aside, M1 will also enable crazy-long battery lives. But more on this later.

 

MacBook Air

The first Mac to have the M1 chip is the MacBook Air. (Image source: Apple)

The first Mac Apple unveiled to use M1 is the MacBook Air.

The design looks to be the same as the version that was launched earlier this year. Certainly, the dimensions and weight are unchanged.

The display, however, has been slightly improved. It’s still a Retina display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, but it now supports the wider P3 colour space.

Inside, you have the new M1 chip and that’s configurable with up to 16GB of memory and up to 2TB of SSD.

Apple says that thanks to M1, the MacBook Air will be able to play and edit multiple streams of 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro “without dropping a frame”. Amazingly, it will be able to do this without active cooling. Yes, the MacBook Air will be as silent as an iPad.

As for ports, you still get two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports with support also for USB 4. Wireless connectivity has been improved with support for Wi-Fi 6.

Battery life is claimed to be up to 18 hours which is 6 hours or 50% more than the current Intel-powered MacBook Air.

Interestingly, two variants will be available. Both come with M1 chips but one has a 7-core GPU while the other has an 8-core GPU.

Prices start at S$1,449 for the model with a 7-core GPU, 8GB unified memory and 256GB SSD, and S$1,799 for the full-fat M1 chip with an 8-core GPU and 512GB SSD. Should you want to configure it higher, 16GB of unified memory will cost you an added $300, while doubling the SSD storage will also set you back another $300.

It’s available to order now. Delivery and availability in retail will start next week.

 

13-inch MacBook Pro

The 13-inch MacBook Pro also gets the new M1 chip. However, this version only has two USB-C ports. Which makes me wonder if a four-port version is on the horizon? (Image source: Apple)

Apple also announced a second notebook with M1 and that’s the 13-inch MacBook Pro – a personal favourite.

Like the MacBook Air, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro looks just like the current generation model. There’s no change in dimensions or weight. The Retina display is also identical and there’s still the Touch Bar and Touch ID.

Powering it is the new M1 chip and that’s configurable with up to 16GB of memory and a 2TB SSD. What gives the MacBook Pro a leg-up on the MacBook Air is that it has active cooling, which will enable the M1 chip to run harder and for longer.

Apple says users will be able to use this MacBook Pro to build code up to 2.8x faster, render complex 3D titles in Final Cut Pro up to 5.9x faster, and play full-quality 8K ProRes video in Da Vinci Resolve.

As for ports, it will get two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports that also support USB 4. Whether this means there’ll be another model with four ports remains to be seen. Wireless connectivity includes support for Wi-Fi 6.

Battery life is claimed to be up to 20 hours now, which is 10 hours more or double that of the current generation 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Unlike the MacBook Air, only one variant of the 13-inch MacBook Pro will be available and it gets the full-fat M1 chip with 8 GPU cores.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with 8GB of unified memory and a 256GB SSD is priced at S$1,849. With a 512GB SSD, it’s S$2,149. Just like the MacBook Air, either doubling the storage or memory capacity will set you back another $300 for each component.

It’s available to order now. Delivery and availability in retail will start next week.

 

Mac Mini

The Mac Mini is due for an update and so here it is with the new M1 chip. (Image source: Apple)

The Mac Mini is long due for an update so it’s good to see that it too will be getting the new M1 chip.

The chassis is unchanged, so it remains remarkably compact.

What has changed is that it’s now powered by the new M1 chip with 8 CPU cores and 8 GPU cores. It can be configured with up to 16GB of memory and up to 2TB of SSD storage.

It loses two USB-C ports so it now has two USB-C ports with support for Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4. It also has two USB-A ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Wireless connectivity includes support for Wi-Fi 6.

The Mac Mini with 256GB of storage is S$979, and with 512GB of storage, it’s S$1,279.

It’s available to order soon. Delivery and availability in retail will start next week.

 

macOS Big Sur

Last but not least, none of this would have been possible if not for macOS Big Sur. It will be available for update on 12 November. No specific time was given, so it could mean Friday if you are reading this in Singapore.