It has been rumoured for years — Apple works toward ditching Intel CPUs from their desktop and laptop computers. At its developer conference in June of this year, the company officially announced its shift from Intel to “Apple Silicon” — Apple’s brand name for in-house developed ARM-based chips. Apple Silicon Macs — exciting!
The first in-house designed SoC, the A4 (an ARM Cortex-A based System on a Chip) was used in the iPhone 4. Since then all iOS devices have been running on Apple’s own “Silicon”. The Apple A14 Bionic powers the 2020 iPad Air and iPhone 12. After “practicing” SoC design for ten years, Apple today presented…
…the Apple M1
Today Apple announced the first Apple Silicon Macs running on in-house designed chip named Apple M1. The M1 is an integrated SoC containing CPU cores, GPU cores, RAM, security, I/O, and Apple’s “Neural Engine”4 inside one casing.
It contains 16 billion transistors manufactured in a 5Nm process. 8 CPU cores — 4 high-performance ones and 4 high-efficiency cores — work in concert with a 16-core “Neural Engine” that speeds up image processing and machine learning applications.
Apple macOS Big Sur
Apple’s strength has always been the integration of hard- and software. It’s no surprise its next-generation operating system “Big Sur” in combination with the new M1 chip will run all of Apple’s own Apps — including Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro X natively on Apple Silicon.
What apps run on Apple M1-powered Macs?
So-called “universal Apps” can run natively, both on Apple Silicon and Intel Macs. Just like it has been when Apple transitioned from PowerPC to Intel almost 15 years ago. These Apps contain binaries for both platforms. Developers, of course, have to port their Apps to Apple Silicone.
Intel-only Apps can run on Apple Silicon, through a virtualization layer called “Rosetta 2”. The company claims that some Apps run faster in this emulation on an M1 Mac than they did on comparable current Intel systems. I doubt that is the case with most of the Apps content producers (like yours truly) work, but it remains to be seen.
Big Sur on an M1 Mac will be able to run iPad and iPhone Apps, too. It also remains to be seen how many developers will optimize their Apps to run on Macs. Apparently, all iOS apps will run, but I doubt that it’s going to be a pleasant experience without work from the developer’s side. Personally I don’t see a use-case for running any of my iOS Apps on my desktop — but hey, that’s just me.
3 new Apple Silicon Macs
Apple announced three new Macs. As expected they started the transition from Intel to Apple Silicon at the bottom of their product range.
First, a 13″ MacBook Air was introduced. The cheaper model sports the M1 chip with 8-core CPU and a 7-core GPU, 8GB of RAM, and is available with 256GB flash storage. The more expensive 512GB model also has one more GPU-core. The casing looks like the current Intel models, but with two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. Prices are $999.00 for the 256GB and $1249.00 for the 512GB computer.
The second Mac Apple showed, was an M1-powered Mac mini. 8-CPU cores and 8 GPU cores do the heavy lifting in the small silver box. This could potentially be interesting to some creators, as it features 2 USB-A and 2 USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports for connecting I/O and external storage as well as an HDMI 2.0 socket, Ethernet, and a headphone jack. The computer can be ordered with 256GB or 512GB storage. Prices are $699.00 for the 256GB- and $899.00 for the 512GB model.
Last but not least Apple offers an M1-driven 13″ MacBook Pro, also with 8 CPU and 8 GPU cores and the 256GB/512GB storage distinction. It has 2 USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack. Prices for the device are $1299.00 and $1499.00 respectively. Apple claims Final Cut Pro X is able to decode and edit 4 UHD streams of video. However, no exact information is available.
All the new Macs replace the basic models of their respective product lines, so they are not the most exciting machines content creators waited for. Butt Apple will refresh its other products with Apple Silicon in the next few years.
I already mentioned all of Apple’s own Apps — including Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro X will run natively on Apple Silicon. Hence Apple has compiled them for the M1 chip and thus there will be updates for the Pro-Apps very soon. Maybe Final Cut Pro X 10.5 or even 11.0?
In a video at the beginning of the Livestream- and later, when the new MacBook Pro was discussed there was a screenshot and even a mention of DaVinci Resolve 17 running on Apple Silicon. I have no information whether Blackmagic Design has ported Resolve over to Apple Silicon yet. However, I can’t imagine an application like Resolve running “emulated”. That means there is a chance of Resolve running natively on Apple Silicon in the near future.
While I personally have no use-case for the new Macs Apple has shown today, I am still excited about the potential Apples ARM chips may open up in the (near) future.
We’ll have to wait for benchmarks, but if what Apple claims is true, these little machines gained a good amount of performance while reducing power consumption and heat emissions compared to their Intel-powered predecessors.
What about Windows?
As Apple Silicone chips are not Intel-compatible, it’s no longer possible to run Windows natively on those machines. That might be a problem for folks that rely on dual-boot systems or virtualizations at the moment. Whether there will be a useable, native ARM Windows remains to be seen.
The M1 powered 13″ MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13″ and Mac mini can be ordered today and will start shipping next week. macOS Big Sur will be available for download this Thursday and of course it will run on current Intel-based Macs as well.
What do you think of Apples new Mac models? Are you prepared to put the money down to get one of the new machines? Will you wait for beefier models? Will you switch to or stay with a Windows machine? let us know in the comments below.