Apple has introduced the first Macs with the new MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini running on Apple’s brand new M1 chip. The new computers will ship next week starting at $699 for the Mac Mini.
Apple delivers on its promise to introduce the first Macs with its arm-based silicon. The company has introduced new versions of the MacBook Air, Mac Mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro, which it claims offer speed and battery life advantages over x86-based systems.
The new computers are based on a brand new M1 processor, which builds on the technology used in iPhones, iPads and Apple Watch. The 5-nanometer chip comprises four high-performance cores, four highly efficient cores and an eight-core GPU. Apple claims that the new Arm MacBooks deliver higher performance per watt than a comparable Intel processor and the fastest integrated graphics in any laptop. Apple boasts that Macs are also more responsive overall, with even professional applications like Final Cut Pro and Logic performing some tasks many times faster than before.
You will also find the 16-core neural engine from the A14 Bionic to improve the AI-related tasks as well as improved security even during startup. The image processing technology should improve the quality of the camera for video calls, a crucial update at a time when many are working from home.
The battery life is also making great strides. Apple claims that MacBook Air can surf the web for up to 15 hours and play 18 hours of video – several hours more than its predecessor Air. The 13-inch MacBook Pro lasts up to 17 hours of web browsing and 20 hours of video playback, giving it the best claimed battery life of any Mac laptop.
The MacBook Air design is familiar, but is now completely fanless, adds USB 4 and should deliver roughly twice the SSD performance on top of gains from the M1. Apple boasts that it should be faster than 98% of competing laptops. The 13-inch MacBook Pro (also similar to its predecessor) adds a fan system, but that makes it powerful enough to play 8K video in creative tools like DaVinci Resolve without dropping frames. Even the Mac Mini should outrun considerably larger Windows desktops in its class, according to Apple.
Apple doesn’t think app compatibility will be an issue with the new Arm Macs. On top of universal binaries that run both Apple Silicon- and Intel-native code, Rosetta 2 allows Intel-only apps to run smoothly on the new systems. Software will sometimes run better than on earlier Intel hardware, the company claims. You might have to wait awhile for third-party native apps, though. Adobe Lightroom will get support in December, while Photoshop appears in early 2021.
The MacBook Air starts at the well-known $999, the 13-inch MacBook Pro at the usual $1,299. The Mac Mini drops to $699, $100 less than its Intel-based counterpart. All will arrive next week (orders are already open), with MacOS Big Sur reaching existing Macs on November 12.
It’s still too early to say if these computers will meet Apple’s requirements. Apart from that, there is little doubt that Apple is aggressively launching its first arm-based Macs. The company believes that not only are they making great strides compared to previous models, but they are likely to be very competitive (if not superior) to Windows computers. They could also leave scrambling to Qualcomm. Although arm chips have long been found in PCs like the Surface Pro X, they have generally fought similarly expensive x86 systems. For the first Apple Silicon Macs this might not be a problem.