Apple's M1 chip launch raised more questions than it answered

Apple's 50 minute 'Dear John' breakup video to Intel was buttery smooth, but light on details.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

I've just again re-watched Apple's M1 chip unveiling event, and I'm left with more questions than answers.

The first thing that's been bugging me is who the event was aimed at. OK, the simple answer is tech journalists, so they can go out and tell everyone how great these new Macs are. But the more I watched the event, the more it felt like a 50 minute "Dear John" breakup video to Intel. One of those "it's not you, it's me, no wait, it is you" sort of things.

It was odd. At no point was Intel mentioned, but the comparison to previous-generation Macs, as well as PCs, was there. And the message was clear -- we can do better than you.

But how much better?

Must read: Apple Silicon M1 chip -- in pictures

It's hard to tell, because Apple is the master of pushing out charts that have poorly labeled axes, throwing out "so many times faster" comparisons without any benchmarks to back up the claims, along with copious use of the phrase "up to" where everything sounds good at first, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like I was sold an illusion.

The reality distortion field hard at work.

Another thing that took some time to sink in is that on the face of it, it feels like M1 is one chip, and the only difference between the performance is limited by power consumption (MacBooks versus Mac Mini), and thermals (fanless MacBook Air versus the MacBook Pro).

It is worth noting that the lower-specced MacBook Air runs an M1 with seven GPU cores, not eight like the other systems, but it will be interesting to see if we're seeing a unified M1 platform, or whether there are differences between the processors in different devices.

Finally, it's clear that for now, Intel is still the upsell. M1 Macs are limited to 16GB of RAM (and no option to upgrade since it's right there on the SoC), so users wanting more RAM or ports still need to buy Intel hardware.

So, Apple is breaking up with Intel, but slowly. 

Oh, and my favorite bit of the event? No, not the PC Guy at the end. It was this.

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