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Apple Silicon M1: All you need to know

Update:

The results of the Apple Silicon M1 from Geekbench are finally in. It manages to outperform the MacBook Pro 16’s Intel Core i9-9880H processor, pretty incredible considering it consumes 10W of power in the MacBook Air.

The Apple Silicon M1 certainly sets the bar high for the upcoming laptop chips from Intel and AMD, with its phenomenal performance. We also received reports that companies like Blackmagic, Parallels, and VMWare are starting to support the M1 with their respective software, Apple’s custom chips’ future is really promising, mainly if the benchmarks translate to real-world performance.

With Apple’s M1 chip being all over the media, it’s time we find out what the chip is really made of on the inside. With the company making bold claims about the chip’s power and efficiency, it’s natural to compare the existing data on the chip with some real-world competitors like Intel and AMD.

Apple Silicon is also meant not just to power a MacBook Air or Mac Mini, but Apple’s entire Mac lineup, which we are sure the company will gradually phase out in upgrades, finally ending with the Mac Pro.

Apple’s main concern with this expansion lies with the real-world performance it can provide, particularly with machines like the MacBook Pro 16, primarily used by professionals and content creators, who depend on its compatibility with certain apps for their workflow.

By debuting the M1 chip in lower-powered options like the MacBook Air, Apple is trying to test the waters for the adoption and satisfaction with the newer platform.

Specs

Image Credits: Apple

The Apple Silicon M1 takes the CPU, I/O chip, DDR4 RAM, T2 security chip, and Thunderbolt controller of a Mac, which are usually separated by the motherboard, and integrates them into a single System on Chip or SoC, allowing for a lower latency between the components, and an increase in the chip’s performance and efficiency. Apple manages to accomplish this by stacking the different elements on top of each other, similar to the iPhone’s A14 Bionic chip.

CPU

Image Credits: Apple

The M1 chip features an 8-core CPU with four high-performance cores suitable for running single-threaded workflows, while multi-threaded applications can use all four at once for best performance.

The remaining four cores are high-efficiency cores, which cut down on performance but consume a tenth of the power in the process and are best for running regular tasks.

With this configuration, the chip can run resource-heavy applications while being extremely efficient on lighter loads, significantly improving MacBooks’ battery life.

GPU

Image Credits: Apple

According to Apple, the integrated graphics (iGPU) on the SoC is one of the fastest in its class. While not offering the performance of today’s dedicated cards, the iGPU provided with most standalone chips usually is enough for basic workloads.

Apple’s iGPU on the M1 aims to offer the best of both worlds by delivering double the performance of the competition while consuming just 33% of the power for identical performance.

The iGPU features eight cores and can handle up to 25k threads, according to Apple. According to gsmarena, this should amount to 2.6 TFLOPS, beating the Nvidia GTX 1050Ti, a discrete GPU. If the real-world performance numbers are anywhere near accurate, then we are definitely in for a treat.

Neural Engine

Image Credits: Apple

Apple’s signature add-on to its iPhone processors is now on the new M1 chip. It features a 16-core design, and with the iGPU, it helps accelerate machine learning.

Apps like Final Cut Pro and Pixelmator Pro can use machine learning to expedite processing speeds making the chip even more powerful.

This also helps in tasks like voice recognition, which were previously handled by the T2 chip in Intel Macs. According to Apple, the Neural Engine can handle up to 11 Trillion operations per second, almost 15 times the performance of the Intel Core i3 found in the Mac Mini.

Additional Features

In addition to the features listed above, the Apple Silicon M1 includes these additional features:

  • Image Signal processor for better improved video quality.
  • Secure Enclave, previously available on the T2 for security.
  • Storage controller with AES encryption and faster SSD performance.
  • Efficient media encode and decode engines for better performance and longer battery life.
  • Thunderbolt controller with USB 4 support.

Performance and Power Consumption

The Apple Silicon M1, unlike traditional laptop chips, makes use of the ARM architecture, usually used in smartphones. The ARM architecture gives Apple the freedom to design a custom chip without developing one from the ground up. Apple’s reliance on this method to develop custom processors is not the first time it has done so.

The A-series chipsets in its iPhones is an excellent example of Apple using ARM to fabricate an SoC, and it is one of the fastest processors in the smartphone market. The A14 Bionic released just last month in the iPhone 12 lineup is an excellent starting point for us to look at the M1’s real-world performance. Comparing the Apple A14 Bionic’s performance to top ultrabook chips from both AMD and Intel, we get the following results:

ChipGeekbench 5 64-bit (Multi-core)Geekbench 5 64-bit (Multi-core)iGPU – FP32 (GFLOPS) Power Consumption
Apple Silicon M1 (Updated)171973772600 (Est.)10 W
Apple A14 Bionic159241128246 W
AMD Ryzen 7 4800U + Radeon 8 Graphics11477608179215 W
Intel Core i7-1065G71184378684515 W

Although AMD pulls ahead of both Intel and Apple in raw performance, the clear winner in efficiency is the Apple A14 Bionic, which provides the same performance as Intel with just 40% of the power consumption. The A14 Bionic also performs the best in single-threaded workloads, useful for several workloads. However, the benchmarks for the A14 cannot be translated into real-world PC performance, mainly due to it being a smartphone processor.

The M1, though, is explicitly developed for Macs and features more cores and faster clocks for a laptop-grade performance. It also features 16 billion transistors, compared to the A14 Bionic’s 11.8 billion, while using the same 5nm manufacturing process. We’ll be taking a closer look at the specs below, and we will update this article to feature the M1 benchmarks once the test results are out.

According to the data provided by Apple, the M1 should have a TDP of 10 watts, the maximum thermal envelop of the Macbook Air. With an estimated graphical performance of 2600 GFLOPS, the M1 should beat both AMD and Intel chips in graphic performance (by approx. 31% with AMD iGPU) and efficiency. We have no reason to doubt the CPU performance, although we believe Apple’s comparison is against Intel.

Image Credits: Apple

The M1 comes with a ton of new features but also lacks some as well. For example, integrating the T2 chip and RAM modules with the processor makes it impossible to upgrade the memory or storage. Support from significant developers is also yet to be seen. It is crucial to buyers looking to buy a Mac with the chip, especially if they plan to use it for work. AMD and Intel are also busy developing a new generation of their chips, aiming to make them faster and power-efficient, so we have no idea how long the M1 can maintain its lead.

The Apple Silicon M1 is an excellent chip for MacBooks, mainly due to the 15+ hours of battery life it is calculated to have for the MacBook Air and Pro. This improvement alone is enough to consider buying it over other ultrabooks.

Snapdragon’s Windows-powered notebooks also aimed to achieve this task but fell short when it came to performance. The Mac Mini version on the chips should also be faster thanks to the better cooling and is a much better option than the Intel i3 chip it replaces.

You can read the original news coverage of Apple’s “One More Thing” event here. We hope you found some helpful information on the Apple Silicon M1 from this site, and if you want to learn more about the latest tech, please bookmark our site and visit again.

About Paul Jacob

As an avid hardware enthusiast, Paul always takes the opportunity to explore the underlying technology through teardowns of the laptops, smartphones, and graphics cards he owns. He is also pretty passionate about stuff like sideloading the latest Android ROM to his smartphone or tweaking the processor clocks on his laptop to improve performance and lower temps.

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