Apple makes bold claims about its M1 chip for Macs

Apple has unveiled its first Macs with Apple silicon, and they’re powered by an all new Mac-specific chip: the M1. It’s based on the same fundamental design of the A14 (found in the iPhone 12), but scaled up to laptop-grade performance levels with more cores, more memory, and higher thermal limits.

The result, Apple says, is a shocking increase in performance and power efficiency. Here’s what you need to know about the M1 system-on-chip.

Eight core CPU and GPU

Where the A14 has a six-core CPU—four high-efficiency cores and two high-performance cores—the M1 expands that by adding another pair of high-performance cores for a total of eight.

We’ve already seen how fast these cores are in A14 performance benchmarks, and with the higher thermal and power limits of a laptop, they should have even more room to breathe. 

m1 cpu Apple

Apple doubled its high-performance CPU cores to four, and still has four high-efficiency cores, too.

Apple has also expanded the GPU from four cores in the A14 to eight in the M1. Apple says it’s the fastest integrated graphics in any laptop anywhere. 

Apple isn’t big on benchmarks, but does make grand claims like “up to two times faster than the latest laptop chip.” Apple says the MacBook Air with the M1 chip is faster than 98 percent of all PC laptops. Not just “thin and light” laptops or “laptops in its class,” but all PC laptops.

A complete system-on-chip

Macs used to use several separate chips for CPU/GPU, I/O, RAM, and Thunderbolt control—this along with the T2 chip for security (and other functions). With the M1, all of those chips are combined into a single system-on-chip. 

m1 system on chip Apple

Some of the separate chips now combined into the M1 system-on-chip.

That’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can say goodbye to expandable memory and most other upgrade options. Perhaps future Apple-designed Mac chips will allow for standard memory DIMMs, but the M1 features a single chunk of memory that can’t be expanded beyond either 8GB or 16GB.