Apple executives revealed the birth of the “Wang Fried Chip”: We put the mobile phone chip into the computer

"I hope people will not laugh and say how they put cell phone chips into computers."

▲ Apple chip architect and vice president Tim Millet (Tim Millet). Picture from: Apple

In the latest podcast of Upgrade , Apple chip architect and vice president Tim Millet (Tim Millet) tells the story of the research and development behind the M1 Pro and M1 Max.

The above description can be said to be a small expectation of Apple engineers during the development of M1 Pro and M1 Max.

"Fortunately, we succeeded." The emergence of M1 Pro and M1 Max not only allowed ARM-based M-series chips to enter the professional field, but also promoted the new MacBook Pro 14 and 16 to become the fastest Mac in history, or even the fastest in history. laptop?

Although Tim's words in the podcast are very humble, after listening to this 100-minute interview, there is a strong sense of pride in his words.

The engineers who developed the M1 Pro and M1 Max described these two chips as "changing the rules of the game" and "closing the door", and not only professional PCs, but also the MacBook Pros in the past are behind the door.

Take M1 as a starting point, but start with A series chips

It can be seen from the naming that the new processor is not called M2. It still uses the same 5nm manufacturing process, large and small cores, unified memory and other architectures of M1, but the number of cores, memory, bandwidth, etc. have been extended several times. "And added the suffixes Pro and Max.

In the words of Tim Millet, "We started with the M1 infrastructure, and disassembled all M1, and then put them all in."

The ultimate goal of developing M1 Pro and M1 Max is not to "not be ridiculed", but the same as Apple's original intention to create the "best product" to make the best MacBook Pro.

Before the M1 was launched, Apple had been brewing for a long time, and the reason was not that Intel’s processor progress was sluggish like anecdotal rumors. It can even be said that the connection with Intel is not that big, it is nothing more than a catalyst.

"We don't want a solution for merchants, vendors, or general-purpose solutions," said Johny Srouji , Apple's senior vice president of hardware technology. "We want a chip that can truly integrate software, systems, and products."

After the M1 succeeded and killed the Quartet, Apple invested more manpower, resources and efforts in the research and development of M1 Pro and M1 Max.

Even Tim Millet bluntly stated that "the effort spent from A-series chips to M-series chips is not as much as that from M1 to M1 Pro and M1 Max."

In recent years, Apple's hardware (iPhone, iPad, Mac) and software (system) have always had some different sounds, and I don't think they are the best products at the moment.

On the contrary, A-series chip design and manufacturing capabilities have always been in an absolute leading position, unsurpassed.

The current blockbuster of M-series chips is actually "standing on the shoulders of giants", but this giant is Apple's decades of R&D technology accumulation in the field of chip manufacturing.

And M1 Pro and M1 Max bring out almost all of Apple's decades of experience accumulation, and use their strengths to avoid weaknesses. The longest is the ARM architecture, and the short is the X86 architecture.

"Unified memory" is the foundation of all advantages

"I want to open their eyes to them", "Let the MacBook Pro hide a powerful heart under its beautiful appearance."

At the press conference, the M1 Pro and M1 Max talked about the energy efficiency ratio. Under the same power consumption, the performance surpassed many professional platforms, and under the same performance, the power consumption was the lowest. I don't talk about martial ethics a bit.

Although this comparison of different dimensions is a bit tricky, for a notebook mobile platform, the power consumption ratio is definitely an attribute that cannot be ignored.

The consistent "high energy and low consumption" of the M series chips brings better battery life to the MacBook Pro, and it will not affect the performance release regardless of whether it is externally powered or not.

The reason for this can be attributed to the unified memory architecture (unified memory architecture, abbreviated as UMA).

Traditional chips (referring to the X86 platform) CPU and GPU do not share memory. When data interaction is required, a lot of time is wasted in the process of moving and copying data, which is inefficient.

Compared with M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max have twice the memory (up to 64GB), and have bandwidths of 200GB/s and 400GB/s respectively. CPU and GPU share memory, so data will not be inverted, and efficiency will naturally increase.

Here Tim Millet still cite an example, the traditional so-called professional notebook platform is often a combination of high-power CPU and independent display.

A large number of 3D calculations and image calculations require the GPU to have enough video memory and bandwidth. If it is enough, it will be handy to play. On the contrary, when the video memory and bandwidth reach the limit, it will be frightened to play. At this time, it is often accompanied by the "roar" of the fan.

The unified memory architecture in the M1 Pro and M1 Max allows the GPU to access 64GB of memory. Compared with the 16GB of video memory of traditional professional notebooks, it is obvious that the new MacBook Pro will do something that was impossible before.

Just like at the Apple conference, Apple used the MacBook Pro 16 to directly and effortlessly opened a 3D model drawn with 1.37 million triangles. It would occupy nearly 35GB of memory and could not run on a notebook platform before this. .

▲ You can open the 3D model of the enterprise account in one go.

As a shared unified memory, Tim Millet said that when developing the A-series chips very early, Apple tried to make the GPU run full of memory to find a balance with the CPU.

"We have been tracking the GPU and its memory usage to ensure that the GPU has sufficient bandwidth to maintain a relative balance with the CPU."

▲ X-ray perspective view of MacBook Pro 14. Picture from: ifixit

In fact, we don't care much about the single core architecture of CPU and GPU. We want to provide a "luxury" number of cores and bring luxurious equipment as much as possible.

On Mac Pro, Apple introduced a set of Afterburner accelerator cards priced at 15,000 yuan, prepared for ProRes video.

As for the M1 Pro and M1 Max, facing the field of professional video manufacturing, Apple has also added a professional "media processing engine". To put it bluntly, it integrates the accelerator card on the Mac Pro into the chip.

The design of the unified memory architecture breaks "all bottlenecks", which is where Tim Millet believes the competitiveness and huge advantages of the M-series chips lie.

Don't make art, everything is only for Pro players

"I hope MacBook Pro users can sit down and work."

Although this sentence is too realistic, it inevitably shows that the new MacBook Pro is prepared for the current workers.

As a result, the M1 Pro and M1 Max-based MacBook Pro has greatly expanded the interface, and HDMI, MagSafe, and SD card slots have all returned. At the same time, the Thunderbolt interface has also been upgraded, which highlights the professionalism.

Tim Millet confessed in the podcast that when the M1 was just launched last year, there was not much interface support, but it was actually due to chip limitations. When developing M1 Pro and M1 Max, IO was redesigned to ensure that MacBook Pro has enough Pro system expansion.

From the A series to the M series, Apple has added some additional functions to meet the expansion needs of laptops or desktop computers.

When it came to M1 Pro and M1 Max, Apple listened to the professional opinions of the internal workflow team. This team includes award-winning photographers, videographers, 3D artists, music producers, etc., and the richer interfaces are obviously "just needed."

"We know what artwork is like and what consumer electronics should look like."

It is said that the design style change of MacBook Pro this time is actually more “practical”, so the thickness and weight are not excessively reduced, and the level is maintained close to that of the previous generation (old mold). There are more interfaces and batteries. Big.

This is the new MacBook Pro built by the development team led by Tim Millet based on the Pro field and Pro requirements. In terms of chips, hardware, and software, people with professional workflows were used as references, and Apple's design was incorporated, and the M1 Pro, M1 Max and MacBook Pro were born.

"The M series has entered a completely different field." The small test M1 is geared towards the consumer market, while the M1 Pro and M1 Max are a proof of Apple's ability to manufacture professional-grade chips.

What we want is just a chip, not a general solution

"We need to design our own chips to make the produced Mac the best in history."

This is the reason why Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware, said in an interview with Arstechnica last year for the M chip.

Another reason is not that Intel chips are not good, but "striving to create the best products."

As mentioned in the previous article, Apple does not want a general chip solution, but needs a custom chip so that Mac is similar to the iPhone, deeply binds the hardware and software systems, and can respond to various needs from the development stage. Constant adjustment.

Although the M1 chip still uses the old mold, after the macOS Monterey update, the Intel chip MacBook Pro has been missing many new features.

This is because the M series chip has a separate neural engine, which provides some small functions such as computing camera, FaceTime real-time blur, and voice-to-text.

In the development process of the latest M1 Pro, M1 Max and new MacBook Pro, the hardware department, software department, and chip development department ate and live together, maintaining a consistent pace, allowing chip functions to be integrated into system functions and interactions, such as according to different jobs The stream allocates CPU and GPU memory, and mobilizes resources in real time to achieve efficient use.

In terms of selecting M1 Pro and M1 Max separately, it may not be the Xeon of the current chip in terms of absolute performance, but integrating them into MacBook Pro, supplemented by macOS Monterey, this set of solutions for Pro users and the Pro field , Perhaps a strong enough existence at the moment.

It can even be said that the MacBook Pro equipped with M1 Pro and M1 Max has taken a big step towards the goal of the most professional notebook on the surface.

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