It’s not an overstatement to suggest that M1 has changed the computing game. For years, it has been iPhones and Apple Watches that have pushed boundaries in terms of performance and specifications, and though the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Series 6 are industry-leading in their own rights, the truth is that innovation has slowed greatly. And one area where Apple has rested on its laurels, releasing half-baked year-over-year updates to devices with very few changes along the way, is its Mac family.
When Apple announced back at WWDC that it was to drop Intel and move over to its own custom chips, consumers’ and technology critics’ interests were piqued, but few expected the huge breakthroughs in computing performance.
Indeed, many were skeptical over the potential of Silicon; The Verge called it a “big gamble,” saying that Intel has succeeded in meeting Apple’s goals of power and performance. There’s no denying that the move to M1 puts the Mac into uncharted territory, making it difficult for developers to create software for both Intelbased and M1-based Macs in the short-term, but as Apple’s roadmap continues (the company will complete its transition to Apple Silicon by 2022, with all new Macs sold available exclusively with Apple’s custom chips) the future looks promising. And the difference between highspec Intel MacBooks and the new M1 chip, which is only available in one configuration as of 2020, was immediate: as pointed out by developer Paul Hudson, the new M1 Mac was able to unzip Xcode 12.3 beta in just five minutes with just 16GB of RAM. His 64GB RAM i9 Intel-based machine, however, took 13 minutes and 22 seconds: simply put, M1 is breakneck fast, making Apple’s native apps and those developed by third parties faster and more capable than ever before.
What’s particularly exciting about the move to M1 is that, in the years to come, competitors like Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm will have to play catch-up, creating technologies that then push Apple into even greater heights with its M2, M3, and M4 chips in the years that follow. As we saw with the first iPhone sold with an Apple chip, the company has been able to build upon its speed and architecture year-over-year, making more advanced and impressive devices that just work. Combined with industry-leading software like iOS and macOS 11 Big Sur, which is the “next generation of Mac,” and there’s never been a better time to upgrade.
And it’s the interplay that Apple’s competitors simply cannot match: until every Windows PC is sold with a Microsoft-developed custom chip, refined for each specific piece of hardware and operating system, Apple has the upper hand, making it the number one choice in PC. As early benchmarks from John Gruber have found, what makes M1 so threatening to chip competitors is in how it handles macOS tasks, which are now up to five times faster than on an Intel chip, as Apple has built hardware specifically designed for those tasks. Thus, Mac can do much more with significantly less RAM than others, unlocking serious opportunities.
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