Apple unveils M1, its first processor designed for the Mac

It’s been a long time coming, but Apple has finally unveiled its very first ARM-based processor for the Mac. Called the M1, the chip is Apple’s most powerful its ever built. It replaces Intel’s processors which have been in Apple’s lineup of Macs for years. Granted, Apple is still selling Intel-based Macs, but at some point down the line, you’ll only be able to get a Mac with an Apple-designed chip.

That’s not a bad thing when you consider what this processor is capable of. According to Apple, it’s built on a 5nm process and includes 16 billion transistors. The M1 is a full-on SoC (system-on-chip) so it includes components for the CPU, I/O, security, and more. It’s designed much more efficiently than something like an Intel chip and it manages to offer far greater performance.

Here’s a graph Apple showed during its event. As you can see, the company claims the M1’s CPU is up to 2x faster than the “latest PC laptop chip.” Granted, I’m not sure what that chip is, but it’s probably an Intel Core i5 or something. Apple’s chip is also able to match peak PC performance using 25 percent of the power.

The structure of the M1’s CPU isn’t anything crazy, but it’s Apple’s own technologies so its performance is much different compared to the competition. The company uses four high-performance cores and four-high-efficiency cores to balance out your daily tasks so your battery life is spared. You can achieve up to 3.5x faster CPU performance thanks to the M1. It’s the “world’s best CPU performance per watt,” apparently.

Of course, Apple also includes a custom GPU. It’s an eight-core setup in this case that are capable of running nearly 25,000 threads simultaneously. It offers 2.6 teraflops of throughput, making it the “world’s fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer.” This should make carrying a workload in graphics-heavy applications like Logic and Final Cut Pro much easier. It’ll also improve gameplay, obviously.

With the M1, Apple has also improved its image signal processor for higher quality video chats. It also includes a new Secure Enclave, an improved storage controller for faster SSD performance, and an Apple-designed Thunderbolt control with USB 4 support and transfer speeds up to 40Gbps.

Naturally, Apple has optimized macOS Big Sur to take advantage of the M1. All of the company’s Mac software is now considered Universal, meaning it can run on both M1-based and Intel-based machines. Other companies such as Microsoft and Adobe will be updating their software to natively run on M1 machines as well. And if you need to use an app not designed for ARM chipsets, Apple will let you use its Rosetta 2 emulation technology.

So when can you get a Mac with an M1 chip? During its keynote, Apple announced that a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini will all include the processor and begin shipping as early as next week. To learn more about those machines, click on their respective links.