With Apple at WWDC 2020 announcing the plans to transition away from Intel chips to their own silicon chips, a lot of talk has been on how these chips have been revolutionary in the game. They bring raw power to a small form factor while sipping very little battery juice or wall power as they do their thing.
But first, what is an Apple Silicon? For sure it's not the fruit or the chemical element.
Apple silicon is a series of system on a chip (SoC) and system in a package (SiP) processors designed by Apple Inc., mainly using the ARM architecture. It is the basis of Mac computers as well as iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch, and of products such as AirPods, HomePod, iPod touch, and AirTag.
Let's focus on the Macs for this topic since they are now the "latest and greatest". The newly launched Macbooks are sleek, powerful, and energy-efficient thanks to the M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max Silicones. What are these M1s you might ask, well here is a photo of them:
The M1s are ARM-based and are similar to the A-series chips used in iPhones and iPads. The M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max chips are the most powerful chips that Apple has created to date, handily beating out the much higher-end 11th Gen Intel Mobile chips and AMD Ryzen 5 Mobile chips.
The M1 features an 8-core CPU with 4 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores and an 8-core GPU. The M1 Pro features a 10-core CPU with 8 high-performance cores and 2 high-efficiency cores along with a 16-core GPU (though there is an entry-level version with an 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU). Apple's high-end M1 Max features a 10-core CPU (the same as the CPU for the M1 Pro) and a 32-core GPU for improved graphics performance.
The high-performance cores in the M-series chips are designed to offer the best performance for power-intensive single-threaded tasks, while the high-efficiency cores are available for tasks that don't require as much power, such as web browsing. This split between high power and high efficiency is what gives the Apple silicon Macs incredible battery life.
All of the Apple silicon chips have unified memory that's shared between all chip components to eliminate swapping and improve performance, plus a 16-core Neural Engine and other add-ons like media engine, an image signal processor, Secure Enclave for secure booting and TouchID, and more.
I would write more about the specs of each chip but the below graphics is a summary of everything that you need to know.
Now am done with the technical bits. Then what's the fuss about these silicones? Well at the moment they are the kings of mobile (Laptop) processors. No other competitor chips are chunking out benchmark numbers as high as them.
For more detailed info on the technicalities, here are a few reads:
The new apple macs are the perfect laptops. Very powerful in running everyday professional tasks while you never worry about how much battery is left. They are the definition of power on the go. As a web developer, this would be my perfect scenario; Coding on the go without carrying a charger for the day.
The big drawback with the M1s is the ARM architecture compatibility with current professional software. Apart from apple software most professional apps have not yet been fully optimized for the Apple silicon. Since previous macs used Intel's x86 architecture, companies have been working towards now integrating the Apple silicon into their software. With time this will no longer be a problem.
This Apple transition has changed what a pro laptop is, for a fact it's game on to Intel and AMD. The future laptops are going to be better and better as the competition stiffens.
I am waiting to see how Apple is going to develop a desktop-grade chip for the hefty-priced mac pro. Will they match or beat the current desktop CPU and GPU kings?