Apple’s M1 & M2 Chips

mac, computer, laptop

Usually when new things come out we put out a nice little blast about it. This is a much bigger release than normal,so we wanted to make sure you understand everything there is to know before you make decisions. To do that, we figured we’d do something a little different.

As we are sure you’ve been hearing, Apple has put out new computers with an M1 chip. This all sounds nice and fun, but what exactly does that mean? What is an M1 and do you need it? What’s the benefit? Instead of just answering that outright, we figured it would be fun to hear from Gregory! Before we have him answer all of the burning questions we’ve been getting from you, let’s talk about processors in general. 

 A processor is a chip that sits inside your computer and mobile devices. Its basic job is to receive data and then provide you with data in return. This is a very basic answer to a very complex system that can take on it’s own novella to explain. In simple terms, it’s the brain of your computer. And if you think of it like your own brain, it needs to be maintained and taken care of, it needs rest, it needs to cool, it needs updating, and it needs room to handle all the data coming in and out. That being said, let’s talk about the new M1 processing chip.  

M1 is the first of a new generation of processor chips that Apple has designed to run their latest Mac computers, starting with their entry-level models: the Mac Mini desktop, the MacBook Air, and the 13″ MacBook Pro. These M1 processors already provide substantial improvements in speed and energy efficiency, particularly in areas like extending battery life, with the 13″ MacBook Pro doubling its runtime and now able to last up to 20 hours on a single charge. That makes a Mac a lot more of an all-day device like its smaller cousin the iPad, in how long you can use it without searching for a wall outlet.  

That being said, Gregory, why did Apple choose now to make the M1 chip and release these computers? 

For the last 15 years, Apple has relied on outside companies like Intel to design the chips that power the Mac. However, over that time they have also started creating custom, high-power/high-efficiency chips for their other products like the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. The performance improvements each year on those made-by-Apple-for-Apple products have outpaced and now outstripped Intel’s more general designs. Basically, Apple felt that they could now produce something that was competitive, gaining faster in features each year, and could be optimized for the Mac’s needs going forward. Plus, it means Apple can release new Macs whenever they’re ready, instead of waiting for Intel’s latest chips to come out, after suffering a series of delays in recent years; with new Macs being delayed as a result.

 Many people ask what they need to know before buying a Mac with the M1. Is there any reason not to consider buying it for a next computer? 

Without getting into all the geeky details, the M1 is new and exciting, and also new and different enough that it can have some implications for what software can run on it (or run at top speed). For those who went through Apple’s last processor transition back in 2005, from PowerPC to Intel, the process and considerations are very similar: Apple will introduce new M-series Macs over the next year or so, at which point their older Intel-based models will be retired. Software developers have already started updating their applications to take advantage of the new chips, while any apps that have not yet been updated will run automatically using a compatibility feature called Rosetta. In practice, this should mean that early adopters will get a machine that should be able to run software at least as fast as their older machine does now, and much better over time as each developer tunes up their app.  

The main caveat at the moment is for anyone who had a special requirement for running Windows-based applications on their Mac, either using Apple’s Boot Camp environment or a third-party tool like Parallels or VMWare Fusion. Until Microsoft updates their operating system to run better on the M-type of chip, these Windows-emulated applications are not compatible on the M1 Mac. 

If you or your business has higher performance needs, either in terms of processor cores or available memory, Apple has not yet updated their higher-end machines like the iMac, 16″ MacBook Pro and Mac Pro desktop. Until then, they continue to sell the Intel versions of those products, likely through the rest of this year. But we can probably expect something like an M2 iMac as early as this May.

Is there anything else our client should know about this transition? So far it’s looking very positive, with many reviews showing substantial improvements in speed over last year’s models, plus the promised extension in battery life. The Air in particular runs completely silently and doesn’t get warm to the touch, which is a nice refinement. For many regular users – that is, if you spend most of your time in a web browser, doing email, word processing, or in Zoom – these M1 Macs may already run everything you’ll need at its full enhanced speed. If you have any questions about compatibility, or which Mac is right for you, a loved one, or your business, just ask us. 

Great! Thank you and… 

Oh, and you can run millions of Apple’s iOS mobile apps on the Mac now. 

Wait, what was that? 

Well…that’s all the time we have today, catch you next time in the Pixel Post!