Apple Silicon Overview Updated March 3, 2021

Apple Silicon

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129 'Apple Silicon' stories

September 2010 - March 2021


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.”

M1 GPU

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.

Apple Silicon Stories March 3

While we wait on Apple to release the first Apple Silicon-powered iMac sometime this year, YouTuber Luke Miani has taken matters into his own hands. In a new video, Miani showcases how he built the “world’s first DIY Apple Silicon iMac” using an iMac shell and a Mac mini…

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Apple Silicon Stories February 26

As we reported earlier this month, Apple has asked developers to prepare DTK Mac minis to be returned to the company sometime this year. Now Apple has confirmed that developers have until March 31, 2021 to send the Developer Transition Kit (DTK) back to Cupertino.

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Apple Silicon Stories February 18

An M1 MacBook Pro photo editing test found that the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro running M1-optimized apps was faster than a ‘”beast” of a Windows desktop PC – despite the fact that the latter was specifically specced with photo editing in mind and had a massive 128 GB of RAM.

Professional photographer Andrew Hoyle said that he was “astonished” by the performance, and concludes that an M1 Mac is a safe bet for photographers looking to upgrade…

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Apple Silicon Stories February 17

The first Apple Silicon Macs have been out for just a few months and a good portion of popular apps have been updated with native support for the M1 MacBook Air, Pro, and Mac mini. Not far behind, what looks like the first malware that’s been optimized for Apple Silicon has been found in the wild.

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Apple Silicon Stories February 11

Apple has filed its latest M1 Macs in the Bluetooth SIG database this week. This includes the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro — but a mysterious “B2002” device remains in the database, and it’s unclear what it could be.

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Apple Silicon Stories February 6

The first M1 Macs have been out in the wild for nearly three full months, and the fear is setting in at Intel. The company this week shared a detailed slideshow of benchmark results with Tom’s Hardware (via Six Colors), aiming to show that there are multiple ways in which it still has a leg up on Apple Silicon…depending on how you look at things.

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