How Disruptive is the Apple M1?

And how much will we see it affect the market?

It’s the M1 family! Of course, the new arrivals, the iMac and the iPad Pro are not pictured.

Let’s get introduced better

The Motorola 68k, where Macs began. By Konstantin Lanzet — CPU collection, CC BY 3.0

Not their first rodeo. Their third, actually

The PowerPC 601, one of the first PowerPC CPUs.
Steve Jobs reveals and confirms the rumours around Apple transitioning to Intel CPUs
The original version of Rosetta eased the transition process to Intel CPUs. It had no GUI, it just did whatever it was supposed to do in the background. Thus, Apple called it the “most amazing software you will never see”.

Intel vs The M1: Not a one-sided battle?

It is fair for Apple to advertise their M1-powered MacBooks like this in their presentations and press releases:

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, APPLE? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? THE NUMBERS, WHAT DO THEY MEAN???

Endurance

The M1 MacBooks have a standout battery life, and they can run you multiple workdays of mixed usage. Source: TechCrunch

Pace

For those uninformed about GeekBench scores, the single-core numbers beat every single Intel CPU that went in a Mac, ever. TechCrunch.
Even if someone took the GeekBench utility meant to run on Intel CPUs and went through Rosetta 2’s translation process to run it, the performance penalty is so little that the M1 Macs still beat the outgoing Intel models.

Momentum

Removing the battery cells, the 2015 Apple MacBook was all of this. The whole motherboard sans a fan is minuscule. But the performance was similarly anaemic. Photo Credits: Anandtech
Same laptop, different internals. The lack of a fan leaves you with more space to work in a larger battery cell, or even bring back more ports! Apple would call them “legacy” I/O, but imagine having USB on your MacBook. Even Magsafe could return! Image by iFixit
Intel marketing can moonlight as horticulturists with that cherry-picking skill. But this goes both ways for marketing departments. However, the M1 impresses in the hands of an unbiased reviewer just as well, shining under scrutiny.

Can we call the laptop wars then?

There’s still a lot to go through.

The M1 is still an entry-level CPU. The most expensive device with the proper M1 still starts at US$1,499, which isn’t a lot in Apple’s terms. So there is a whole slew of new products we have to wait for to have a full ARM-based lineup of Apple computers.

Windows for ARM and ARM for Windows

The Surface RT. Windows 8’s (bad) idea of the Start Screen was meant for devices like these. Of course, it failed.
Surface Pro X. Looks a lot like the RT, but it does run more apps.

Winners and Losers

So what about these?
AMD tried to make a hybrid x86 and ARM platform in the years before they came out with Ryzen. The only other news we heard about it was when it was killed. But if they do have some experience with ARM, AMD may be able to bring something like this back as a response to the M1.

Back to Apple

To wrap this all up, Apple’s play here seems to have a lot of potential in the future, and the fact that it is Apple who did it drives the industry to also respond. Apple buyers are sure to get a lot more from their computers from here on, and it also seems likely that Windows users will also see some progress in a similar manner. We must wait, but what we have already seen is that Apple has pulled a brilliant move, and even people not usually convinced by Apple (me) are turning heads in marvel. It even can put a dent in the Intel-AMD duopoly over the CPU market, and cause further competition in the industry to thrive.

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Yatharth Sood

Computer hardware enthusiast. Electrical Engineering undergrad student. Business enquiries: yatharthsood00 (at) gmail (dot) com.