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Apple Silicon

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What is Apple Silicon?

During its WWDC 2020 keynote, Apple officially confirmed its transition from Intel chips to its own Apple Silicon for the Mac. In addition to details for developers, Tim Cook announced that the first Mac with Apple Silicon would ship to consumers by the end of this year.

Apple M1

At its ‘One More Thing’ event in November, Apple officially announced its first Apple Silicon processor designed specifically for the Mac, dubbed the M1. The M1 chip features an eight-core design alongside a powerful Neural Engine and GPU, offering dramatic efficiency and performance improvements for the Mac.

With Apple controlling the processor in a Mac, it can offer significantly better software optimization than others like Intel. In the case of the Mac, this means that macOS 11 Big Sur is optimized specifically for the M1 processor. By creating the silicon themselves, Apple has much more control over how well macOS and a Mac hardware perform together. Even without touching on the technical specifications of the new M1 chip, the improved optimization in macOS should make for dramatic performance and reliability improvements.

Apple Silicon M1 performance

Using Apple Silicon in the Mac also means that the Mac can now run iPhone and iPad applications. While developers can opt-out of this, it means that you’ll be able to find iPhone and iPad applications in the Mac App Store for the first time.

  • iPhone and iPad apps on the Mac through the Mac App Store
  • Rosetta 2 translation allows you to run apps made for Intel Macs on Apple Silicon, and sometimes apps perform better in Rosetta with Apple Silicon’s M1 than they do natively with Intel, Apple says.
  • Universal apps are apps built for Apple Silicon and Intel processors and are downloadable from the Mac App Store or from the web.

When it announced the new M1 processor during the special “One more thing” event from Apple Park, Apple touted that it’s the “first chip designed specifically for the Mac.” It’s built using a 5-nanometer with 16 billion transistors, and Apple says it was designed “for Mac systems in which small size and power efficiency are critically important.”

As such, the M1 features industry-leading performance per watt. This is why the first Apple Silicon MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models are able to offer such notable improvements in battery life compared to their Intel predecessors.

Apple Silicon M1

Apple Silicon’s M1 chip is an 8-core CPU with four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. The high-performance cores each provide industry-leading performance for single-threaded tasks, and Apple says they are “the world’s fastest CPU cores in low-power silicon.”

Apple also says that the four high-efficiency cores deliver “outstanding performance at a tenth of the power.” In fact, the high-efficiency cores are so powerful themselves that they deliver similar performance to the dual-core Intel MacBook Air while being much more efficient.

In total, Apple says that the eight cores work together to provide “incredible compute power for the most demanding tasks and deliver the world’s best CPU performance per watt.”


But the M1 doesn’t stop there: it also features up to an 8-core GPU, which can execute 25,000 threads concurrently. Apple says that this means the M1 can handle “extremely demanding tasks with ease.” According to Apple’s data, the M1 has the “world’s fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer” with 2.6 teraflops of throughput.

Apple Silicon Neural Engine

The M1 chip also brings Apple’s industry-leading Neural Engine to the Mac for the first time. The M1 Neural Engine features a 16-core design that can perform 11 trillion operations per second. Apple has used the Neural Engine in the iPhone and iPad since the A11 processor was introduced in 2017. Neural Engine was something designed specifically for machine learning tasks like video analysis, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, photo scanning, and much more.

What’s next for Apple Silicon?

The M1 chip is just the beginning of a “new family of chips designed specifically for the Mac.” Again, the new M1 processor is designed specifically for lower-power machines where efficiency is especially important. Over the next two years, Apple will likely release new Apple Silicon chips for the iMac, Mac Pro, and higher-end MacBook Pros.

What performance might we expect from the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro?

2021 16-inch MacBook Pro will blow away the 13-inch model

We’re expecting Apple to launch the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro later this year, with Apple Silicon. It’s currently unclear whether Apple will label the chip an M1X or M2, but either way, we can expect some pretty dramatic performance improvements over the current M1-based 13-inch MacBook Pro (above).

Exceeding the performance of Intel’s high-end CPUs doesn’t look like much of a challenge, but matching or beating the high-end GPUs available in build-to-order versions of the Intel machines could take more work…

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Apple execs address merging the iPad and Mac, mini-LED, and more in new interview

Following the announcement of the new M1 iPad Pro and M1 iMac on Tuesday, Apple executives John Ternus and Greg Joswiak have sat down with the Independent for an in-depth interview. The two Apple executives spoke in the interview about Apple’s plans for the iPad and Mac, the new features of the 2021 iPad Pro, and more.

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M1 Mac RAM and storage can be upgraded after purchase, but it’s not easy

While the three M1 Macs released in late 2020 have been widely praised for a host of advancements, one criticism has been that the hardware is not upgradeable or repairable after purchase with the major components soldered to the board. In an interesting development, an engineer in China has reportedly discovered how to successfully upgrade both the SSD and RAM on M1 Macs – but of course, it’s a very risky and difficult move.

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Opinion: The M1 Macs underscore the need for a lower-priced Apple Display

Last fall, Apple debuted its first M1 Macs with a new MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and MacBook Air. This year, the transition will continue with a new Apple Silicon-powered iMac, 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro updates, and more.

As the Mac lineup matures throughout the Apple Silicon transition, the glaring hole is the lack of a priced external display…

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Intel claims M1 Macs ‘just don’t stack up’ against PCs on new comparison website

Intel is continuing its desperate campaign against Apple Silicon. After recruiting former “I’m a Mac” star Justin Long for a series of video advertisements, Intel has now launched a dedicated website comparing Apple’s M1 chip vs. Intel. Unsurprisingly, the claims being made by Intel are a bit misleading…

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Unreleased ARM iMac surfaces in Xcode crash log as launch of redesigned model nears

Apple is in the process of transitioning its Mac lineup to Apple Silicon processors, and a variety of reports have indicated that the iMac is likely to be next on the schedule. Now, an unreleased iMac with an ARM processor has made an appearance through Xcode’s Crash Reporter feature, adding more fuel to the fire…

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Apple @ Work: Does macOS need Windows virtualization on Apple Silicon to be successful in the enterprise?

Windows M1 Mac

When Apple moved from PowerPC to Intel in 2005, one of the significant changes was the ability to run Windows in a virtualized environment natively. Apple would eventually add the Boot Camp functionality. Still, unless you were running games, using a program like VMware Fusion or Parallels, you could run Windows in a virtualized environment while still running macOS (OS X at the time). With the transition to Apple Silicon, the virtualization story for Windows is a bit messy.

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Adobe details the transition of its apps to Apple Silicon, emphasizes performance benefits

Adobe Photoshop, the world’s most popular photo editor, has been updated this week with native support for Apple Silicon Macs. Mark Dahm, the product manager at Photoshop, detailed in an interview with ComputerWorld how the company has been working to update its apps for the M1 Macs and what the real benefits of this transition are.

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Researchers demonstrate new browser-based side-channel attack that affects Intel and M1 Macs

How to revive and restore M1 Macs

A group of researchers has uncovered what looks to be the first browser-based side-channel attack that’s built entirely from CSS and HTML. The JavaScript-free attack has been found to work across most modern CPUs including Intel, AMD, Samsung, and Apple Silicon. Interestingly, the findings say Apple’s M1 and Samsung’s Exynos chips can sometimes be more susceptible to these novel attacks.

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