Apple Silicon Macs Promise 3.5x Faster Performance, Longer Battery Life, Quiet

Apple today introduced the first MacOS computers featuring its internally-developed M1 processor, the new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini.

According to the company, the M1-powered macs offer up to 3.5x faster CPU, up to 6x faster GPU, up to 15x faster machine learning (ML) capabilities, and battery life up to 2x longer than before.

“M1 is by far the most powerful chip we’ve ever created,” says Apple CEO Tim Cook. ‘and, combined with Big Sur, delivers mind-blowing performance, extraordinary battery life, and access to more software and apps than ever before.”

Here are the highlights of the new ‘Apple Silicon’ Macs:

The MacBook Air is Apple’s most popular Mac and the world’s best-selling 13-inch notebook. Its powerful 8-core CPU performs up to 3.5x faster than the previous generation.

  • With up to an 8-core GPU, graphics are up to 5x faster, the biggest leap ever for MacBook Air. ML workloads are up to 9x faster, so apps that use ML-based features like face recognition or object detection can do so in a fraction of the time.
  • The M1 chip’s storage controller and latest flash technology deliver up to 2x faster SSD performance, so previewing massive images or importing large files is faster than ever.
  • MacBook Air also delivers this performance in a fanless design, which means no matter what users are doing, it remains completely silent.
  • And the new MacBook Air features extraordinary battery life, with up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing and up to 18 hours of video playback — the longest battery life ever on a MacBook Air.

The new MacBook Air is priced at $999, and $899 for education.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is Apple’s most popular pro notebook. Its 8-core CPU, when paired with the MacBook Pro’s active cooling system, is up to 2.8x faster than the previous generation, delivering game-changing performance when compiling code, transcoding video, editing high-resolution photos, and more.

  • The 8-core GPU is up to 5x faster, allowing users to enjoy super smooth graphics performance whether they are designing a graphics-intensive game or a new product.
  • ML is up to 11x faster.
  • With up to 17 hours of wireless web browsing and up to 20 hours of video playback, MacBook Pro delivers up to twice the battery life of the previous generation and the longest battery life ever on a Mac.

Other new features in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro include ‘studio-quality mics’ for super clear recordings and calls, and Apple’s latest camera ISP in the M1 chip enables sharper images and more detail in shadows and highlights on video calls. The new MacBook Pro also delivers best-in-class security with the Secure Enclave in M1 and Touch ID. And it features two Thunderbolt ports with USB 4 support to connect to more peripherals than ever, including Apple’s Pro Display XDR in full 6K resolution.

It is available for the same starting price of just $1,299, and $1,199 for education.

The new Mac mini features an 8-core CPU, with up to 3x faster performance than the previous generation.

  • An 8-core GPU delivers up to a massive 6x increase in graphics performance.
  • Apple says that the Mac mini enables up to 3x as many real-time plug-ins in Logic Pro.
  • Mac mini also features an advanced thermal design to sustain its breakthrough performance while staying cool and quiet, support for up to two displays including Apple’s Pro Display XDR in full 6K resolution, and Wi-Fi 6 for faster wireless performance and the Secure Enclave in M1 for best-in-class security.

Mac mini is now available starting at $699, $100 less than the previous-generation quad-core model.

See the Apple site for details.

56 thoughts on “Apple Silicon Macs Promise 3.5x Faster Performance, Longer Battery Life, Quiet

  1. I’d love a new Mac mini to replace the 2012 i7 sitting on my desk. The big question is compatibility. Will my Universal Audio stuff work? Ableton? NI? Need most of that running before I can jump ship.

    1. That’s what I was thinking. $100 cheaper, and up to 3x faster. That’s an insane leap.

      They still have the Apple RAM tax, though. Upgrading to 16GB of RAM is $200 more.

      1. Well the old Mac mini had user-upgradable RAM, up to 64GB. This model doesn’t seem upgradable, so what you get is what you get, much like an Apple laptop.

      2. 3.5x faster in some benchmarks and I’d bet quite a bit slower in others, you have to be careful with these kind of numbers. You were careful to write ‘up to 3x’, but it really is worth keeping in mind.

        Might also be interesting to compare the apple use of an intel chip with a competitor who manages intel heat distribution more effectively than they do.

  2. An insane leap into the ‘Mac App Store. Enjoy your 30% Apple tax that we have been suffering on the App Store all these years. This is a closed system, it will only run software from the Mac App Store. Apple finally has found a way to impose its 30% tax on desktop and laptop users.

      1. It is not silly at all. Apple’s own software is cheap because Apple doesn’t need to make money off their software. They make their money on the hardware. The first comment is totally valid on the fear that Apple imposed an Apple tax (~30% cut to Apple on top of actual taxes) on companies like Ableton and other music software makers if they make the arm software only available through App Store. It would obviously be bad for the music business if Apple just took an extra cut from the developers…

        1. Of course its silly as the poster seem to think that selling securing and marketing software is entirely without costs normally! Which certainly is not true.

        2. “The first comment is totally valid on the fear that Apple imposed an Apple tax (~30% cut to Apple on top of actual taxes) on companies like Ableton and other music software makers if they make the arm software only available through App Store. ”

          But they aren’t forcing user to only use the Mac App Store. They haven’t said that they’re going to force developers to use the Mac App Store. Nobody has said that they are doing that.

          You and the OP are just fear-mongering.

    1. Whatever – iOS music apps are generally cheap, much cheaper than comparable desktop apps, because piracy isn’t a real problem for iOS developers.

      The new Macs will run any Mac app, so there’s no lockdown or ‘Apple tax’. I’m not sure what you’re saying makes any sense.

      1. Piracy has nothing to do with it. It’s just what people are used to paying for mobile software, and the prices have gone up for the entire lifetime of the ipad. If you haven’t noticed, most companies that constantly release music software for the ipad either make ipad versions of already existing software or go out of business. There are of course a couple of exceptions, but generally releasing software for mobile is very difficult to do profitably because of people not wanting to pay for mobile software.

        1. First of all, it is not true that these machines will “only run apps from the Mac App Store.” However, natively developing for this new architecture is what will really see any performance gains in your current software applications of choice. So if they are still optimized for Intel Silicon, then it will generally just be the same experience. And likely a few apps will not function well.

          When it comes to mobile pricing, the initial trade-off was in volume of sales. And that is still true to this day. The problem is with these niche markets, as you allude to in your above comment. Ableton especially because they already have the major market share. The populations aren’t as large in general, so you won’t see a massive spike in sales volume by plopping your software on a mobile platform as you would with, say, an nice calendar or a video game.

          But I think most people looking for professional tools on mobile are willing to pay premiums for them.

          1. I’m a bit skeptical that there’s that much hand optimization or machine code for x86 in audio production software. There may be some but more than likely hardware improvements compensate for loss of those optimizations. Compilers probably have more sophisticated optimizations for x86, but that will improve over time.

        2. How do you think people got used to paying less for mobile software?

          Developers price mobile apps less because they don’t have to worry about copy protection or people illegally copying and sharing their software. Just as important is that the audience is like half a billion devices owners, compared to the much smaller desktop audience.

          Most app developers are amateurs, like you suggest, but that’s because Apple (and later Google) lowered the bar for making and distributing apps for mobile devices. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of serious developers making and updating music apps.

          The question that I have is what will happen to software synth pricing when you can run the iOS versions on your Mac.

    2. > This is a closed system, it will only run software from the Mac App Store

      That would be a very surprising change for macOS.

      Do you have a reference confirming this?

  3. Just preordered Mac Mini with 16GB and 512 SSD. Will be interesting to see how will it compare performance wise to my 2018 i7 iMac…

    1. Let us know. Marketing speak aside, the info at Anandtech regarding the M1 chip implies these machines will be huge leap forward in processing. A lot will depend on developers and how they deal with the transition. Regardless, the power efficiency and having many operate chips now in a single SOC is a massive deal.

      1. Worth reading:

        “Apple claims the M1 to be the fastest CPU in the world. Given our data on the A14, beating all of Intel’s designs, and just falling short of AMD’s newest 5950X Zen3 – a higher clocked Firestorm above 3GHz, the 50% larger L2 cache, and an unleashed TDP, we can certainly believe Apple and the M1 to be able to achieve that claim.

        This moment has been brewing for years now, and the new Apple Silicon is both shocking, but also very much expected. In the coming weeks we’ll be trying to get our hands on the new hardware and verify Apple’s claims.

        Intel has stagnated itself out of the market, and has lost a major customer today. AMD has shown lots of progress lately, however it’ll be incredibly hard to catch up to Apple’s power efficiency. If Apple’s performance trajectory continues at this pace, the x86 performance crown might never be regained.”

        I’m honestly kind of schocked at how much faster these are – essentially 3 times faster than last year’s models, for the same price.

        1. > 3 times faster than last year’s models, for the same price.

          Better thermals/less throttling, better performance/watt, better GPU, neural engine, etc. is all going to help.

          Not to mention the impressive improvement in battery life.

          What probably won’t run faster is your legacy x86 software (e.g. DAWs other than Logic which is already converted to Universal) which will run in emulation under Rosetta 2, although I think Apple said some games run better even in emulation because of the better GPU.

          1. “What probably won’t run faster is your legacy x86 software”

            Totally agree, but in the meantime, your entire system will be 3 times faster, Garageband will be 3 times faster, Logic Pro will be 3 times faster, Final Cut will be 3 times faster, and most of the stuff I use will be compatible from the start.

            I would guess that most major music DAWs will be update in 3-6 months to be compatible. But it sounds like apps that aren’t updated will run about as fast as they do on my existing computer, so that’s not really a hardship either.

            The concern I’d have would mainly be for plugins and things developed by some dude in his basement.

            But yeah, you probably wouldn’t want to switch your primary machine until things settle down.

    1. On the up side, with iOS app compatibility you will now be able to run your M1 app on an M1 chip, for peak M1 performance! 😀

      see app store/KORG iM1

  4. Sugarbytes Drum Computer- IOS- $26.99, OSX $119.99. Prices will be screwed. Better get em while they are hot since im sure app developers already have a plan.

    1. Yeah, the plan is likely to disable their iOS apps on macOS to shut down any bargains like that.

      Certain apps (Youtube for some bizarre reason?) are already disabled on macOS.

      1. Companies like YouTube, Google and Facebook want you to use the web, not apps, because it allows them to track you across multiple web sites and learn about your interests, which makes you more valuable to them to sell to marketers.

        1. > Companies like YouTube, Google and Facebook want you to use the web, not apps, because it allows them to track you

          That might be backwards actually; apps are better for tracking because they do not necessarily support the anti-tracking and content blocking features that web browsers do.

  5. Um. 16GB RAM *max!* Current (former?) model went up to 64. My current MBP has 16, and when I have my three main music apps open with songs loaded (Ableton, RX, Ozone), it’s already swapping memory contents to disk which has a big impact on performance.

    1. This is because the ram seems to be integrated into the design, (from all reports) and not replaceable or separate on the board. This isn’t your MBP, you have a high end model. This is the one they used to call a MacBook before they decided to make all of them ‘Pro’ … it’s the entry level version. I’m sure we’ll see higher end ones later, with a M1Pro (or M2?) chipset with more cores, faster clocking, etc. Note that they didn’t do an iMac yet either which probably will have the next tier of Apple Silicon as well.

  6. I’m in a good iMac condition right now and glad of it. Once the initial bugs/upgrades shake out, it’ll be close to conversion time here. I keep looking at iPads, but Apple “upgrades” them so quickly, I could only see one as as a synth module that stops advancing when the next gen appears. Z is right; their money is in the hardware. iPads all but print their own money for the company. If you like $5-10 apps well enough to buy new hardware that often, okay. I prefer a desktop because the ‘abandonware’ rate is a lot lower. Of course, my SOP and yours may just differ a bit.:P

    No serious complaint, since I choose the Apple environment for its big pluses, like Logic Pro. I’ve appreciated the improvements, such as bundling Alchemy with it. The OS and Logic are all but seamlessly integrated. I can just grab and go readily. Everything else is minor.

  7. Although the new Mac mini is 3X faster than previous, you can only increase the ram up to 16GB, whereas the previous model you had 64GB. Not sure, but this might have some impact in music making, specially working with soft samplers. Really looking forward to seeing comparisons of both topped up models.

    1. While definitely a concern, likely only because the processor is much less of a bottleneck. But I’ve never found 16 GB to be much of an issue unless depending solely upon multiple instances of multi-sampled instruments.

      Of course, I’m also an ageing producer who remembers the days of freezing every track and bouncing to new tracks every 30 minutes to free up additional space so, it may just be past experience making the present seem “good enough.”

  8. Bought the entry-level MBAM1. My most expensive purchase this millennium, so far.
    Part of the reason is the support for iPadOS/iOS apps. As much of my #musicking setup is on iPad Pro, this gives me an incentive to start developing my own tools, leveraging AudioKit Pro.

    Sure, it’ll take a while for major devs to release M1-optimized apps and plugins. At some point, though, I don’t want to rely too much on third-party software.

    For the past few years, I’ve been able to get by with a severely-outdated 2012 MacBook Pro, that I bought through eBay from money I’ve made recording a couple of tracks. This new fanless powerful machine with long battery life is likely to bring me somewhere else.

  9. 2 ports only!!
    This is not a laptop for people that use gear its more suited for software users.
    This trend of having less and less io is a pain for music makers.

    1. Apple Hub! I’m sure its in the queue. I have a hub that has 4 usb ports, hdmi, a usb-c charging port, sd and micro sd ports. My laptop is going to explode. All that data juice going into a single port.

    2. This is a restriction of the M1 chip. I’m sure that the next Apple Silicon release will support 4 USB-C ports. In the meantime, buy a $39 USB-C hub and you’ll be fine.

      1. One of the ports will definitely be used for power for convenance.
        I prefer at least 4 ports that support full bandwidth like on the previous models, i think it’s likely it will be available on the next models too.
        I doubt that having like 24 audio channels, 8 midi ports, other peripherals over a single port using a hub will not cause problems.

        1. I don’t know… a majority of my gear was developed during the USB 2.0 spec, which had a bandwidth of ~500Mbps. USB 3 is, what 5Gbps? If these devices were able to send 24 multi-tracks of audio over USB 2.0 while also routing midi data from multiple controllers in and out, keyboard, mouse, etc. I doubt there will be much of an issue over 3.0 spec.

          But still, I don’t know. There are much smarter people than me here.

  10. Exciting times. I was also imagining how incredible it would be to use all of my auv3 plugins from the ipad on such a machine, especially the Moog synths. However, as it currently seems many companies refuse to give us this option. Most likely there is just too much money to be earned so we won’t get them for free. I’m still super curious how the performance will look like in daily audio scenarios. At the same time I’m a little bit disappointed that the new Macbooks still don’t have a touchscreen. The alterations in the Big Sur GUI suggest that this step might come in the near future. For now they put new whine into old hoses (german saying ;)). The Mac Mini could be way smaller as almost everything is integrated on the Soc and there is less heat to be gotten rid of. The same applies to the Macbooks. But obviously it is more cost-effective to introduce the new architecture step wise. I’m sure there will be a huge overhaul of the designs next year, with slimmer cases, slimmer borders, face id, better speakers and everything else.

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