Apple has launched a new Mac Mini and two MacBooks – the first versions which are using a processor based on the company’s own designs.
It was the third product launch ahead of Christmas, coming a month after the firm released four models in its new iPhone 12 range, and two months after its first September event in years not to feature an iPhone.
Apple introduced its most powerful-ever chip in September, the A14 Bionic, then described as the company’s most powerful chip ever.
Just two months later that title has now gone to the new M1 chip – a “gigantic leap forward” according to the company, which said it contains 16 billion transistors and delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU performance and up to 6x faster GPU performance.
The new chip powers the company’s “next generation of Mac” which is comprised of a new MacBook Air (£999), Mac Mini (£699), and 13″ MacBook Pro (£1,299) – offering what Apple says are vast improvements on the previous generations of those devices.
All three are available to order from Tuesday, and will begin to be shipped next week, said Apple, alongside the newest version of MacOS, Big Sur, which has been optimised to run on M1 and will be generally available from Thursday.
The new Mac Mini, which costs £100 less than Apple’s previous device, is the company’s ultra-compact desktop computer, and the tech giant said it was four times faster than the top-selling PC desktop in its price range.
Apple said the new MacBook Air was faster than 98% of Windows laptops sold last year, and was now capable of performing workloads – including playing games – which notebook users don’t normally expect, with five times the graphic performance of the last generation.
The new 13″ MacBook Pro, which has the longest battery life ever in a Mac, is now able to play back 8k footage, and is 2.8x faster than the previous generation.
All of these improvements were tied to the M1 processor, which was evidently the jewel in the crown of Apple’s launch event called ‘One More Thing’ – a phrase long used by the company, particularly by former CEO Steve Jobs.
Putting a processor based on the ARM architecture in its desktop and laptop computers marks a big move for Apple away from Intel-designed chips and towards its own silicon, which has been used in the iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch for a number of years.
Because the iPhone and iPad are already based on the 64-bit architecture used by ARM-based chips, Apple faces less of a hurdle porting new software onto its laptops – indeed, Apple said, this means the new MacBooks will be immediately be able to run any iOS apps.
Apple says the key difference between ARM-based chips and those designed by Intel is power efficiency. According to the company, the products running with the M1 are up to 60% more energy efficient.
When the Apple Silicon chips were first announced back in June, the company’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, Johny Srouji, explained:
“Normally, to get more performance you have to consume more power. Our plan is to give the Mac a much higher level of performance, while at the same time consuming less power.”
Apple said the move was the beginning of a two-year transition period for Mac, after which all of its Macs and MacBooks would be running on Apple silicon.