Before the Double Eleven conference, the Mac was the only Apple product line that had not used its own processor.
Changing the core is not easy. It not only involves the transfer of the underlying architecture and system rewriting, but also the compatibility of a large number of third-party software.
In 2005, when Apple abandoned Motorola and moved from PowerPC to Intel's arms, it had already experienced such a chore.
At that time, the entire migration time took Apple 4 years. Starting with the first generation of MacBook Pro, until the first OS X system Snow Leopard that did not support the PowerPC architecture, Apple completed the complete migration of Mac software and hardware to the X86 architecture.
Of course, Apple was willing to take risks at the time, but simply wanted to get the Mac to get rid of the old technology and obtain a more competitive chip in order to obtain performance improvements.
▲ This time Apple uses self-developed chips and the purpose of shifting the architecture: to obtain powerful performance, customized technology, and better energy management
Today, Apple wants to leave Intel and embrace self-developed chips for the same reason. It's just that in Apple's current situation, simply chasing performance is obviously not the only purpose of self-developed chips.
What are the characteristics of the Apple M1 chip?
The M1 chip is Apple's first chip specially built for the Mac, and it is also the first chip based on the ARM architecture on the Mac platform.
It is no longer a pure CPU processor, but uses SoC packaging technology like the A-series chips of iPhone and iPad, and the common Snapdragon chips in Android phones.
This means that it integrates multiple modules such as CPU, GPU, memory, etc., so as to achieve a higher degree of integration, and it is also conducive to the release of the internal space of the computer.
Apple has first disclosed some of the chip details. First of all, in terms of technology, M1, like A14, is based on the latest 5nm process, but compared to A14’s 6-core design, M1 uses an 8-core CPU composed of "4+4" cores and an 8-core GPU. The number of transistors up to 16 billion is also 35% more than that of A14.
Simply looking at the architecture, Apple’s M1 is actually very similar to the previous derivative A-series chips, such as the A12X/A12Z used on the iPad Pro earlier, and the A12 on the iPhone. It is also improved by increasing the number of CPU/GPU cores. performance.
From this point of view, M1 and A14 will indeed have a lot of connections.
But since it is a chip for the Mac platform, M1 will obviously also get better heat dissipation conditions than A14. Coupled with the changes in the size of the first and second cache, and the use of high bandwidth, it often indicates a better performance release. .
The situation with GPU is similar, the same performance is twice as bad as 10W power consumption, and the same performance level is achieved at lower power consumption.
However, there are still doubts. For example, the core frequency of the M1 chip is unknown, the comparison objects given by Apple are also very vague, and whether the different heat dissipation will affect the performance release under the two molds of Air and Pro. Need to wait for the subsequent evaluation to answer.
In addition to the performance improvement, Apple also specifically mentioned the "unified memory design" of the M1 chip.
In traditional PCs, the memory of the CPU and GPU are physically independent of each other, which results in some shared data that needs to be exchanged and allocated in two memory pools.
But this time, the M1 chip uses a "unified memory design" similar to other Apple devices such as the iPhone. In fact, the CPU and GPU share the same memory pool, which not only makes data sharing more efficient, reduces latency, but also saves money. Electricity.
The 16-core neural network engine is similar to the previous A14 architecture. We also mentioned in the previous article that in recent generations of iOS systems, many functions are inseparable from machine learning, such as image synthesis, gallery classification, and even power management. There are similar technologies behind them.
What has changed in the first batch of Macs using Apple chips?
Compared with the high-profile M1 chip, the first three Mac products using this chip are not so dazzling.
The problem is still the appearance. Many people originally hoped that the architecture shift and the low power consumption characteristics of the ARM architecture would make Mac products a major change.
But at present, Apple is obviously not ready to adjust the appearance of the MacBook. The three new Macs this time basically use the old molds, which can be regarded as an upgrade of "changing the core without changing the shell".
▲ The improvement of the M1 chip for Mac this time is mainly reflected in performance and battery life
There are still bright spots. After all, ordinary users may not care too much about the performance improvement of multiple levels, but if the battery life is exploded, the bright screen responds faster, and the iOS application ecology is directly compatible. These are actually us. It can be clearly perceived and has practical changes.
In order to emphasize the battery life improvement brought by the M1 chip, Apple directly used the "longest battery life in history" as a metaphor at the press conference to highlight the increased battery life of the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Under normal circumstances, the battery life of a MacBook is about 10-12 hours. If it is used heavily, it may be out of power after 6-8 hours.
▲ The battery life is directly doubled compared to the old models 13 and 16, which is probably the most attractive improvement of the M1 chip
But now, the MacBook Air equipped with the M1 chip has a battery life of up to 18 hours, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro has soared to 20 hours.
If this data is not watery, then in the future, if you take a new Mac out, simply codewords and browse a few web pages, you don't need a charging head at all for a day out, and the habit of using laptops in many scenarios will also be changed.
The arrival of the M1 chip also brings MacBook the same fast wake-up capability as mobile phones and tablets.
At the press conference, Craig Federighi, the vice president in charge of Apple Software, demonstrated a clip: He reached out and opened the top cover of the MacBook, the screen instantly lit up, and the wallpaper color directly hit his face. In fact, he was emphasizing "fast Response" characteristics.
All-weather battery life, instant wake-up, and excellent heat dissipation are also features that PCs equipped with ARM architecture chips like to show off in the past. For example, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx laptop and Microsoft's Surface Pro X are not new.
But for MacBook, it is the first time to use ARM chip; it is also the first time to obtain these features.
As for the Mac mini, as a desktop computer, the improvement of the M1 chip naturally does not involve endurance, and the focus is on performance improvement and energy saving.
Of course, this time Apple has also lowered the starting price of the new Mac mini, which is not a small surprise. If you are interested in experiencing the M1 chip, the Mac mini, which is just over five thousand yuan, will be a good entry choice.
We have also noticed the changes that the M1 chip has brought to the Mac software ecosystem. In the past two years, although Apple has worked hard to organize a launcher to bring iOS applications into the macOS system, the underlying hardware used by mobile phones, tablets and computers is still different, which is essentially not an easy task.
▲ The APP on iPhone and iPad can run directly on the Mac equipped with the M1 chip, but for the experience, you need to wait for the subsequent test
After the M1 chip appeared on the Mac, it directly solved the application interoperability problem caused by hardware differences. Apple has stated that all Macs equipped with the M1 chip can directly run applications from the iOS side.
Specifically how to adapt, according to Apple, related sliding, clicking and touch gestures will be mapped on the Mac side with a trackpad and keyboard. It seems that it will not be difficult to team up with a Mac to drive the glory of the black king in the future.
Overall, the first batch of products equipped with M1 chips focused on the inside rather than the appearance. In fact, Apple is also very cautious in this "selection". For example, Air and mini are positioned at the mass consumer level, while in the professional product line, only the 13-inch MacBook Pro is currently replaced with the M1 chip, and it has not affected Higher-end products.
Considering that professional users rely on specific software and workflow, they will have higher requirements for the operating environment of the device, so before the architecture transfer is completed and the software is fully compatible, it is true that the original environment will not be changed rashly.
But it is foreseeable that from next year, 16-inch MacBook Pro, and even iMac and other product lines will definitely launch versions of Apple's self-developed chips, and it is only a matter of time before the entire Mac system abandons Intel and X86 architecture.
The name of M1 also indicates that in the future, Apple will continue to iterate chips such as M2 and M3, improve the experience of driving Mac, and allow Mac to try new hardware forms that could not be implemented before. These are the future possibilities of M-series chips.
As long as this improvement gives Mac a good response and good benefits, even if it is to abandon X86, it will not reduce Intel's sales too much, but for other manufacturers, it will be a big shock.
More than 40 years ago, Apple made a fortune by manufacturing personal computers and gradually transformed into a company that relied on the iPhone and various services. Many people already feel that personal computers, as a business that accounts for less than one-seventh of Apple's quarterly earnings reports, have no need for innovation.
But now, relying on self-developed chips, Mac will also embark on the same upgrade rhythm as the iPhone and iPad, and gain the opportunity to reform the original software experience under the unified and integrated ecology.
At a "One More Thing" conference, Apple once again clarified its chip ambitions to the industry; and for the future of Mac, Apple also gave new answers.
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