After announcing the transition from Intel chips at WWDC earlier this season, Apple is likely to unveil its first Macs with Apple Silicon at its "One More Thing" event on Tuesday, November 10.
Apple's custom chips are Arm-based and like the A-series chips found in its iPhones and iPads. But what tangible benefits can Apple Silicon offer in the Mac, and why should customers be considering it?
Better performance is the company's main goal with Apple Silicon. Apple's A-series chips have already been industry-leading for performance, with devices such as the iPad Pro repeatedly outperforming many consumer-level PCs. Apple has made huge gains in processor performance over the years, and its chips are actually powerful enough to be utilized in Macs.
While it is prematurily . to say specifically how powerful Apple Silicon in the Mac could possibly be, Geekbench benchmarks of the Developer Transition Kit recommend that the A12Z-based Mac mini has average single-core and multi-core scores of 811 and 2,781 respectively. Geekbench is running through Apple's Rosetta 2 transition layer, so slower performance than the A12Z chip in the iPad Pro is to be expected.
Apple's A12Z under Rosetta 2 outperforms Microsoft's Arm-based Surface Pro X in Geekbench performance, running x86_64 code in emulation faster compared to the Surface Pro X can run an Arm version natively.
It really is highly likely that Apple Silicon in the Mac will be considerably faster than the A12Z due to higher thresholds for thermals and power consumption.
Apple is aiming to deliver optimum performance with the lowest possible power consumption. Apple has years of experience with power-efficient chip design because of its work on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, all of which use custom-designed chips produced by Apple engineers.
Apple says its chips will achieve a new level of performance while also being more energy-efficient. In practice, this could facilitate a lot longer battery life on portables such as MacBooks, and much more efficient make use of energy on desktops just like the iMac.
With Apple designing its own chips for iOS devices and Macs, you will have a common architecture across all Mac products, which will make it easier for developers to write and optimize software that runs on all Apple products.
In fact, apps designed for the iPhone and the iPad will operate on Apple Silicon natively when the first Mac with an Apple-designed chip is released, and those apps will be accessible for download directly from the Mac App Store.
Security and Integrated Technologies
In designing its chips, Apple has the ability to include a range of custom technologies to further boost the Mac's capacities and make it stand out from the competition.
Apple's A-series chip packages already include custom-built GPUs, Secure Enclave, memory and storage controllers, machine learning processors, Image Signal Processing, custom encryption, and more, tending to likely be carried to Mac processors.
Apple Silicon chips will likely be constructed with Neural Engines and Machine Learning Accelerators to create Macs ideal platforms for machine learning. Other potential technologies add a high-quality camera processor, performance controller, high-performance DRAM, unified memory, and cryptography acceleration.
Apple's custom chips are expected to provide best-in-class security with the Secure Enclave and high-performance graphics features for pro apps and games, however the true performance gains and specific integrated technologies remain to be seen.
Apple has been using Intel's chips in its Mac lineup since 2006 after transitioning from PowerPC processors, which has meant that Apple has been at the mercy of Intel's release timelines, chip delays, and security issues, that have, at times, negatively afflicted Apple's own device release plans.
Swapping to in-house chips lets Apple release updates on its own schedule and with an increase of regular technology improvements. Apple can be in a position to further differentiate its devices from competing products with tight integration between software and hardware, similar to its iOS platform and A-series chips.
Tuesday's Apple event is likely to start to see the announcement of several new Macs with Apple Silicon processors, including a 13-inch MacBook Pro, a 13-inch MacBook Air, and potentially a 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Update: Apple has confirmed that Macs with Apple Silicon can still run Intel apps, even if the developers usually do not specifically update them for Apple Silicon, thanks to Rosetta 2, that is a translation process that runs in the backdrop and is invisible to an individual.
Rosetta 2 translates existing Intel software so they focus on Macs built with Apple Silicon needlessly to say. Apple has demoed Rosetta 2 with software and games and there is absolutely no difference between running an Intel software on an Intel machine and on an Apple Silicon machine. Each of the features work and the program is just as fast.
Apple in addition has developed a fresh Universal 2 binary that works on Intel Macs and Macs built on Apple Silicon so developers can still support Intel Macs with an individual binary for all users.