Step aside, Intel: Apple shows off its first Macs powered by its new M1 chipset: Digital Photography Review

Apple today unveiled its first Mac computers powered by its new M1 chipset, ushering in a new era for Apple hardware as it leaves behind Intel in favor of its own silicon.

Apple M1 Chipset

Behind all of the new computers Apple showcased at today’s event is its new M1 chipset, the first chip designed specifically for Mac. Unlike past Mac computers, which required multiple chips from multiple suppliers, Apple’s new M1 chip puts all of them into a single system on a chip (SoC) design. This includes the CPU, GPU, I/O, security and memory.

The new chip uses a 5nm process, which helps to fit more than 16 billion transistors onto the M1. The M1 features eight cores—four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores—that work together to provide better performance with lower power consumption. Apple claims the new M1 chip offers 2x the total CPU and GPU performance of the leading commercially-available PC chip and matches the peak CPU/GPU performance of the same chip using just 25% and 33% of the power, respectively.

One of the greatest advantages of the SoC design is the ability to use unified memory. Now, with the unified memory architecture (UMA), the M1 allows all of the individual technologies inside the M1 to access the same data without having to copy it between multiple memory pools. This should open up plenty of memory bandwidth for improved performance across the board. Apple specifically notes both video and image processing will see a major performance boost with the M1 chip compared to similar Intel-powered computers.

Apple also claims 15x the machine-learning performance compared to its previous-generation Intel-powered computers with the ability to perform up to 11 trillion operations per second.

Of course, one of the main benefits of Apple’s new silicon is battery performance. As we’ll detail below, the new M1 chip enables up to 17 hours of web browsing and 20 hours of video playback on the new MacBook Pro 13”, while the new MacBook Air offers up to 15 hours and 18 hours of web browsing and video playback, respectively.

With the brain out of the way, let’s get onto the new machines using it.

The New MacBook Air

The new MacBook Air may look like its predecessors, but beneath the unibody frame is Apple’s new M1 chip, making it the first Apple computer with Apple silicon packed inside. Thanks to the new M1 chip inside, Apple says the new MacBook Air is 3.5 times faster than its Intel-powered predecessor, with 5x faster graphics performance and 9x better machine learning performance.

The new MacBook Air comes with a 13.3” retina display with P3 wide color gamut support, up to 16GB of memory and up to 2TB of storage. Other features include two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, a 720p FaceTime HD camera (really, Apple?) and Touch ID.

Apple claims the new MacBook Air can power up to 15 hours of web browsing and 18 hours of video playback on its 50Wh LiPo battery. It comes with a 30W USB-C Power Adapter for charging.

The new MacBook Air starts at $999 with the standard M1 chip, 8GB RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. There’s also a version of the new MacBook Air that starts at $1249 and offers an M1 chip with an 8-core GPU over the standard seven-core GPU; this upgraded version also starts with 512GB of SSD storage over the 256GB of the $999 MacBook Air. A full-maxed-out MacBook Air with the upgraded M1 chip, 16GB RAM and 2TB of SSD storage will set you back $2,050.

This story is developing. Check back for more information on the latest Mac computers from Apple.

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