Apple now Arm'd to the teeth: MacBook Air and Pro, Mac mini to be powered by custom M1 chips rather than Intel

ARM64 5nm TSMC-made silicon to ship next week, Cupertino claims apps are ready

Apple on Tuesday unveiled three computers based on homegrown Apple Silicon processors, marking the start of a two-year transition that will replace Intel microprocessors with Cupertino-designed chips compatible with the Arm microarchitecture.

"In June, we announced that the Mac is taking another huge leap forward by transitioning to Apple Silicon," said Apple CEO Tim Cook during a internet-streamed presentation. "And we promised that the first Mac with Apple Silicon would arrive by the end of this year. Well, that day is here."

The processor shift demonstrates Apple's growing estrangement from Intel, which has supplied CPU parts for Apple computers since it displaced IBM during the PowerPC transition in 2006. And it represents an inconvenient repudiation for the chip giant at a time when Intel is losing ground to competitors like TSMC and AMD.

"The transition to Apple Silicon is going to have a profound impact on the Mac," said John Ternus, Apple VP of hardware engineering.

Apple M1 Chip

The M1 ... One chip to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them. Source: Apple. Click to enlarge

Apple announced it is now taking orders for three devices based on its M1 Apple Silicon chip: the 13-inch MacBook Air ($999+), the Mac mini ($699+), and the 13-inch MacBook Pro ($1,299+), all of which are scheduled to ship next week. They run macOS version 11 aka Big Sur, which will be available for download on Thursday, and there are small discounts for education markets.

Intel fumbled ten, so Apple goes five

The M1, according to Cupertino, is fabricated by TSMC using its 5nm process technology. Compared to the previous generation of Intel-based Macs, the chip supposedly delivers up to 3.5 faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning processing, while extending battery life 2x longer.

Apple did not publish benchmark data to support its claims, though it insists it used "select industry-standard graphics benchmarks" to find that its Apple Silicon Mac mini is up to 5x faster than the best-selling Windows desktop in its price range.

"Until now a Mac needed multiple chips to deliver all of its features," explained Johny Srouji, SVP of hardware technologies. "It had chips for the processor, I/O, security and memory. Now with M1, these technologies are combined into a single SoC [system-on-chip] delivering a whole new level of integration for more simplicity, efficiency and amazing performance."

M1 also features Apple's unified memory architecture, Srouji said, which merges memory into a single pool so that all the SoC components can access the same data without copying between multiple memory pools over various buses. The result is a dramatic improvement of power efficiency, he said.

dog looks at "reflection" via laptop camera

What's that about Apple hardware? Pfft, says Intel as it intros magical self-healing PC


The M1 sports eight CPU cores, four of which are tuned for performance and four of which are tuned for efficiency, a la Arm's big.LITTLE arrangement, an eight-core GPU that can handle roughly 25,000 threads at once and offers 2.6 TFLOPS of throughput presumably at FP32, and a 16-core Neural Engine that delivers 15x faster machine learning than its predecessor, it is claimed.

It's expected to have up to 192KB of instruction cache and 128KB of data cache, per CPU core, which may explain how it's able to reach decent per-core performance. That would be also far beyond the cache sizes in rival x86 and Arm processors. The chip package includes the system RAM, too, as shown above.

The SoC also includes an image signal processor, a secure enclave, a storage controller with AES encryption hardware, media encoding and decoding engines, and an Apple-designed Thunderbolt controller for USB 4 (40Gbps).

Apple's M1-powered devices support macOS apps compiled as Universal Binaries (which bundle native code for both ARM64 and x86_64 chips) or as legacy x86_64-based code via its Rosetta 2 translation technology. What's more, they can run many iOS/iPadOS apps, which have been compiled for previous A-series Apple Silicon processors.

Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi said the company has optimized all of its apps for M1, such as Pages, Numbers, Keynote, GarageBand, iMovie, LogicPro, and Final Cut Pro.

Adobe, he said, will make a universal version of Lightroom available next month and plans to do the same for other apps like Photoshop early next year.

Other important Mac apps will need further tuning before they ship with native Apple Silicon code. Microsoft said it aims to get an experimental ARM64 build of Visual Studio to developers next month and it has a beta version of Office for Mac that supports Apple Silicon waiting in the wings. The Homebrew package manager isn't yet working on Apple Silicon. Nor is Docker.

In June, Apple engineers mentioned a new virtualization layer was being developed to run Linux VMs and Docker on Apple Silicon. No mention was made during Apple's video presentation of how that project is going. VMware filled that void by declaring it is "committed to delivering VMware virtual machines on Apple Silicon," though it declined to say when.

Those demanding high-end Apple systems may wish to wait for next year's 16-inch MacBook Pro revision. None of the M1 models announced today can be bought with more than 16GB of RAM; current Intel-based MacBook Pro models support up to 32GB (13-inch) or 64GB (16-inch). ®

Other stories you might like

  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading
  • Snowflake stock drops as some top customers cut usage
    You might say its valuation is melting away

    IPO darling Snowflake's share price took a beating in an already bearish market for tech stocks after filing weaker than expected financial guidance amid a slowdown in orders from some of its largest customers.

    For its first quarter of fiscal 2023, ended April 30, Snowflake's revenue grew 85 percent year-on-year to $422.4 million. The company made an operating loss of $188.8 million, albeit down from $205.6 million a year ago.

    Although surpassing revenue expectations, the cloud-based data warehousing business saw its valuation tumble 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday. Its stock price dived from $133 apiece to $117 in after-hours trading, and today is cruising back at $127. That stumble arrived amid a general tech stock sell-off some observers said was overdue.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon investors nuke proposed ethics overhaul and say yes to $212m CEO pay
    Workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability and, um, wage 'fairness' all struck down in vote

    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy's first shareholder meeting was a rousing success for Amazon leadership and Jassy's bank account. But for activist investors intent on making Amazon more open and transparent, it was nothing short of a disaster.

    While actual voting results haven't been released yet, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky told Reuters that stock owners voted down fifteen shareholder resolutions addressing topics including workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability, and pay fairness. Amazon's board recommended voting no on all of the proposals.

    Jassy and the board scored additional victories in the form of shareholder approval for board appointments, executive compensation and a 20-for-1 stock split. Jassy's executive compensation package, which is tied to Amazon stock price and mostly delivered as stock awards over a multi-year period, was $212 million in 2021. 

    Continue reading
  • Confirmed: Broadcom, VMware agree to $61b merger
    Unless anyone out there can make a better offer. Oh, Elon?

    Broadcom has confirmed it intends to acquire VMware in a deal that looks set to be worth $61 billion, if it goes ahead: the agreement provides for a “go-shop” provision under which the virtualization giant may solicit alternative offers.

    Rumors of the proposed merger emerged earlier this week, amid much speculation, but neither of the companies was prepared to comment on the deal before today, when it was disclosed that the boards of directors of both organizations have unanimously approved the agreement.

    Michael Dell and Silver Lake investors, which own just over half of the outstanding shares in VMware between both, have apparently signed support agreements to vote in favor of the transaction, so long as the VMware board continues to recommend the proposed transaction with chip designer Broadcom.

    Continue reading
  • Perl Steering Council lays out a backwards compatible future for Perl 7
    Sensibly written code only, please. Plus: what all those 'heated discussions' were about

    The much-anticipated Perl 7 continues to twinkle in the distance although the final release of 5.36.0 is "just around the corner", according to the Perl Steering Council.

    Well into its fourth decade, the fortunes of Perl have ebbed and flowed over the years. Things came to a head last year, with the departure of former "pumpking" Sawyer X, following what he described as community "hostility."

    Part of the issue stemmed from the planned version 7 release, a key element of which, according to a post by the steering council "was to significantly reduce the boilerplate needed at the top of your code, by enabling a lot of widely used modules / pragmas."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022