After 15 years of shipping Mac computers with Intel processors, Apple has announced details of its first Mac to forego Intel CPUs in favor of Apple-designed, ARM-based chips called Apple Silicon. Apple has announced that the first Apple Silicon Mac will be the 13-inch, $999 Macbook Air with M1, a completely fanless and quiet design.
The new Macbook Air will feature the Apple M1 CPU, the latest in a line of more powerful ARM CPUs introduced with the iPad Pro. M1 is an eight-core CPU built on a 5nm process design and features a unified memory architecture that provides high-bandwidth, low-latency memory access. Of the eight cores, four with higher performance are aimed at demanding tasks in the foreground, and four are lower-power, higher-efficiency units designed to perform less demanding background tasks at lower energy and thermal costs.
Apple says the M1 offers the highest performance per watt, with twice the performance of an x86 laptop CPU at 10 watts – and a quarter of the power consumption of an x86 laptop CPU at higher performance levels. M1 also features an eight-core GPU with 128 Execution Units (EUs). Apple shows a similar performance-per-watt curve for the M1’s GPU compared to “the latest PC chip” – but since that latest chip wasn’t named, it’s unclear if that includes the record-breaking Iris Xe graphics from Intel, as seen in Tiger Lake laptop CPUs.
Because Apple Silicon is based on a different architecture (ARM) than Intel (x86), this Mac will not natively run applications that worked on previous Intel-based Macs. That said, many applications — including all Apple-developed ones — will have ARM-specific binaries, and Apple claims it will be relatively easy for many Mac developers to compile their own files. Like other upcoming Apple Silicon Macs, the MacBook Air with M1 will be able to run x86 macOS applications with Rosetta 2.
Apple also announces a new Macbook Pro with M1. The $1,299 MacBook Pro is another 13-inch design and weighs about three pounds. Apple claims the new Macbook Pro is three times faster than “the fastest Windows laptop in its class,” but the company didn’t specify which laptop it’s referring to. or on what workloads.
Unlike the Macbook Air, the Pro is actively cooled, allowing it to deliver higher performance for longer under demanding workloads than the passively cooled Macbook Air.
The new Macbook Air with M1, Macbook Pro with M1 and a Mac Mini with M1 are all available to order starting today and will ship next week.