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Apple Silicon M1 chip: Here's what we know

Apple unveils the new M1 chip, previously known as Apple Silicon.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

It's here: The Mac's biggest day since Apple switched to Intel chips. Starting Nov. 10, Apple begins the transition to Apple Silicon with the first chip called the M1. Here's what we know about it.

Apple M1 chip

Apple M1 chip

The M1 is an 8-core SoC (System-on-Chip) chip based on 5-nanometer architecture and comprising of 16 billion transistors. 

Inside the chip are four high-performance cores featuring 192KB of instruction cache, 128KB of data cache, and shared 12MB L2 cache. Backing these up are four high-efficiency cores with 128KB of instruction cache, 64KB of data cache, and shared 4MB L2 cache.

These, according to Apple, are the world's fastest CPU cores, and allow the M1 to deliver the world's best CPU performance per watt, offering twice the performance of the (unspecified) "latest PC laptop chip" at 10W at a quarter of the power consumption.

Must read: iOS 14.1 rolling out to iPhones, but no sign of a battery fix

Apple Silicon M1 chip -- in pictures

The M1 also has up to eight GPU cores featuring 128 execution units, up to 24,576 concurrent threads, and 2.6 teraflops of performance, and it can output 82 gigatexels per second and 41 gigapixels per second.

Note: The lower-specced MacBook Air M1 features seven GPU cores.

Again, the GPU offers twice the performance of the (unspecified) "latest PC laptop chip" at 10W -- this time at a third of the power consumption.

Then there's the 16-core Neural Engine capable of 11 trillion operations per second, which will be used to boost the performance of software that leverages machine learning.

The new chip is headed to three of Apple's best-selling Macs -- the MacBook Air, the Mac Mini, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro -- and Apple offered up some data on how the M1 boosted the performance of these devices.

M1-powered MacBook Air: Up to 3.5x faster CPU, up to 5x faster graphics, up to 9x faster machine learning, and up to 18 hours of battery life.

According to Apple, the new MacBook Air is 3.5x faster with up to 5x graphics performance than the previous generation, thanks to the M1 processor. You can get it with up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of memory, with the price still starting at $999. 

M1-powered Mac Mini: Up to 3x faster CPU, up to 6x faster graphics, up to 15x faster machine learning, and 60 percent more energy efficiency.

The Mac Mini has the same design but now comes with an M1 processor. It starts at $699, a drop in the price of $100, and supports up to a 6K display via USB-C Thunderbolt ports with USB-4 support.

M1-powered MacBook Pro: Up to 2.8x faster CPU, up to 5x faster graphics, up to 11x faster machine learning, and up to 20 hours of battery life.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 chip gets 2.8x CPU gains and 5x GPU gains, plus it keeps its cooling system and has a $1,299 starting price.

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