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What is the Apple M1 chip? Here’s everything you need to know

If you’ve looked into buying an Apple Mac in the past few months, you’ve likely come across the M1 chip. But what is the Apple M1 chip and why is it important?

We’ve assembled this Apple M1 guide in order to help you with your Mac buying decision, whether that’s a MacBook, iMac or a Mac Mini.

And if you still can’t find the answer to your question, don’t hesitate to contact us on Twitter.

What is the Apple M1 chip?

The Apple M1 chip is the very first processor to launch that’s based on Apple Silicon. Apple revealed back in June 2020 that Apple Silicon processors will gradually replace Intel’s CPUs in every single Mac.

The Apple M1 chip is the only Apple Silicon processor currently available, and is being used in Macs that require a day-to-day productivity performance.

Apple claims the M1 is the best processor they’ve ever developed, using a 5nm process and Arm architecture that allows for increased power efficiency. In practise, this means new MacBooks should not only offer a faster performance, but also a longer battery life – and judging from our MacBook Air M1 review, that looks to be true.

Which devices feature the Apple M1?

The Apple M1 chip is currently available in the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac 2021 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021.

Essentially, Apple looks to be using the M1 chip for any device that only needs a basic productivity performance. The rumoured Apple M1X chip will instead be used for more powerful machines such as the upcoming MacBook Pro 2021, Mac Mini 2021 and potentially the iMac Pro.

Apple M1 specs

The M1 chip has 8 CPU cores made up of 4 high-performance cores and 4 energy-efficient cores. The latter ensures that portable devices are not only powerful, but also have a long-lasting battery life.

Apple M1Apple M1X (unconfirmed)
High-performance cores48
Energy-efficient cores42
Graphics Cores7 / 816 / 32
Credit: Bloomberg

The Apple M1 is also available in two flavours: one with 7 graphics cores, and another with 8. While the GPU performance has impressed in benchmark tests, it’s still considered to offer an entry-level performance, especially when compared to the rumoured M1X chip which reportedly has up to a whopping 32 graphics cores.

Since the M1 chip uses Arm architecture instead of the more traditional Intel x86, it’s not really possible to compare its specs to laptop and desktop processors developed by AMD and Intel.

Apple M1 specs

Is Apple M1 better than Intel?

This is a difficult comparison, since the M1 is just one chip, while Intel has an entire range of processors for various machines from low-powered laptops to monstrously powerful gaming rigs.

For this reason, it would be unfair to compare the M1 chip to the likes of the Intel Core i9-11900K, but it makes complete sense to compare to Intel’s 11th generation (Tiger Lake) laptop processors. Below, you can see how the M1 chip outperformed both the Intel Core i7-1165G7 and Ryzen 7 4800U laptop processors in the multi-core Geekbench 5 benchmark test.

MacBook Air Apple M1 benchmarks

It’s important to remember this is just one benchmark test and so isn’t necessarily a good representative of the overall performance, but it’s still a useful snapshot to see how powerful Apple M1 is compared to the competition.

Of course, the M1 is currently only in productivity-focused laptops, so AMD and Intel still provide better options for high-end machines for content creation and gaming. But in terms of the ultrabook market, there’s no doubt that M1 Macs are the most powerful machines available right now.

Should you buy an M1 Mac?

If you’re thinking of buying a Mac, I recommend you opt for one with an M1 processor if possible, as the performance, battery life and future software support will all be far better than Intel alternatives.

However, there is one issue. The Apple M2 processor is rumoured to be heading to the MacBook Air next year, while the MacBook Pro is set to be upgraded with the M1X chip in the next couple of months. If you can wait that long, you’ll likely be getting a more powerful performance for your money.

Ryan Jones

By

Computing and Gaming Editor

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