M1 Chip

Apple M1 Chip Explained | Intel is a dying breed

Apple M1 Chip Explained | Intel is a dying breed

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  • Post last modified:April 9, 2023
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M1 Chip

Apple’s transition to ARM based Architecture commonly known as Apple silicone or the M1 chips, shook the whole tech industry. With boosted CPU and GPU performances of up to 3.5X and 5X respectively from previous models, this was absolutely ground breaking. But how did the M1 Chip come to be? Well, in this article, we are going to dive deep on how the M1 chip works, its current limitations and I will finally give you my final thoughts.

How it all began…..

Time to take a history lesson.

old computer

One of the first CPU chips were founded in 1968 by Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore which laid the foundation of computing as we know it today. These chips were based on an architecture known as X86.The architecture was name X86 after well known CPUs in the 1970’s which ended with 86.

But there were several set backs with these CPUs and one was that they were drawing an insane amount of power to run. There is a logical explanation to this as they run on complex instructions hence they are known as CISC machines. (Complex Instruction Set computer)

Secondly these machines were so much bloated with complex instructions such that some of them were never actually utilized.

Mean while in the UK a company known as Acorn was working on a low powered and highly efficient CPU and in 1983 they produced the first ever low powered machine with a CPU architecture known as ARM which is now the basis of Apple silicon. ARM stands for ACORN RISC Machine. The RISC means that they had a reduced set of instructions hence REDUCED INSTRUCTION SET COMPUTER.

Of course since this was their first generation CPUs, they were not faster than Intel’s X86 computers but they were energy efficient though. When the first mobile phones were being introduced in the 1980’s, they used ARM chips since they were more power efficient.

old computer

In 1991 Apple, Motorola and IBM partnered to make a CPU chip which was known as Power pc which was also based on Arm. They were implemented on Apple’s first computers for a while till 2005.In 2001 with the release of the iPod which ran on power pc’s chips, it sold very well at that time.

None of these ARM based chip came close to Intel’s performance in the PC and computing world. In WWDC 2005 during Steve Job’s keynote, he announced their transition from power PC chips to Intel chips for their computers . This was because Power Pc could not keep up with Intel’s performance at that time.

In fact based on Performance per watt Power pc’s chips was only 15 as compared to Intel’s which at 70 almost 5X faster. Steve Job’s had a lot of faith in Intel such that he offered Intel’s CEO at that time Paul S. Otellini a deal. Steve offered him an opportunity for Intel to make chips for the upcoming Iphones but the Paul declined the offer since Intel was not specialized in mobile chips and further more he did not see a significant profit from Iphone sales so he did not consider it as worth the time, effort and resources.

Apple did not stop at this, in fact Steve Jobs striked a deal with ARM in order to make custom chips for the upcoming iPhones and as if that was not enough Apple bought PA semi which was a company that specialized in high performance and low power ARM chips.

Steve Jobs deal with ARM

In 2012 Apple unleashed their latest chips on the Iphone 5; the A6 chip which twice as fast as their previous model and way ahead of what the best android phones at that time could offer. What’s even more astonishing is that in 2013 Apple released the A7 chip which Apple defined as having “desktop class architecture”. This was true since the A7 chip packed a 64 bit architecture which took ARM one year later to release it on the Samsung galaxy S4 in 2014.

In recent years Apple was able to increase their CPU architecture to astounding levels of 300% as compared to Intel at 28%. In late 2020 the A14Z bionic chip was released on iPhone 12. Various comparison were done at this piece of machine was able to overpower intel’s top of the line CPU the core i9 10900K in some specific tasks. Keep in mind that the iPhone is fanless as compared to the Intel CPU which must have fans and vents to cool the hot machine.

A14 bionic chip

What’s even more astonishing about these tests is that the Iphone only draws 5 watts while the Intel Core i9 10900k draws in 125 watts.

As 2020 was coming to an end during Apple’s “one more thing” event the M1 chips were announced and Apple was claiming very big performance leaps that were yet to be confirmed. At the time of publishing this article the devices that currently feature it include the 24 inch Imac, The Ipad pro 2020. The mac book pro 13 inch, the mac mini and the mac book air.

How are the M1 chips different than Intel and AMD chips?

M1 VS AMD vs Intel

The M1 features one chip that integrates major components of a PC which would otherwise be scattered all over the motherboard.

The M1 chip features the RAM ( also unified memory), an 8 core CPU, up to an 8 core CPU, 16 core neural engine, 16 billion transistors (35% more than the A14) , media encode and decode engines, Thunderbolt / USB 4 controller all in a 5nm process.

This simply means that efficiency is greatly improved since most of the components needed are on the chip rather than on different parts of the motherboard making communication among devices better and faster.

M1 Chip Explained

Moreover, since apple has more control of the software and hardware everything seams to just run seamless as you would expect from apple.


Steve Jobs presenting Rosetta

Since most apps are not optimized for the M1 chip Apple is using an emulator known as Rosetta 2. They also used this during their transition from Power pc to Intel back in 2005. What Rosetta does is that it translates apps and programs which are optimized for Intel based macs to the M1 based macs but I the future more apps will be optimized for the M1 mac.

Performance and battery life.

With this new chip you can expect an insane leap in performance. Even the Macbook air has been crushing geek bench scores both in single and multi core performances.

Geek Bench Multi core performance of the M1 Chip

As more developers create optimized apps for the M1 chip the future is looking very bright for this Apple silicone chip.

With the Mac book air, Apple claims that you should expect 15hrs of web browsing and 18 hours of video playback which more than enough to get your work done on the go. This is a 6hr improvement from the previous model in the same chassis.

With the Mac book pro 13, you should expect 17hrs of web browsing and 20hrs of video playback which is totally insane. This is a 10hr improvement from the previous model in the same chasis.


Apple's ARM Chips

With advantages such as a longer battery life, instant on display and very minimal thermal throttling the M1 has just revolutionalized the pc industry.

The future is looking very bright for the M1 chips as more and more developers optimize their apps for the M1 based macs. With their power efficiency and high-performance Intel and AMD should really up their game.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carson Anekeya

    Great insight on this. Thanks for sharing.

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