Apple M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max: today’s M1 Macbook Pro release

I don’t discuss computer tech a whole lot here, perhaps since it’s so large a part of my day job. I’ve been an Apple user for well over three decades: I can deal with Linux just fine (big part of my day job), but simply am much more productive on a Mac than on a Linux system. As historically, Hebrew [and right-to-left languages generally] were poorly supported if at all under Mac OS, Israel is nearly 100% Windows outside STEM academia and the “creative” professions — this has changed in recent years though, as Unicode has eliminated the issue. (I could work on a Windows machine for about 15 minutes before I get irresistible defenestration urges.)

As I used to travel a lot before lockdown, my main work machine was always a maxed-out desktop replacement laptop that I would use with one or two external monitors at work. I got the present one, a 16″ Macbook Pro with an octacore CPU, shortly before the first lockdown. I loved the machine, but I never ceased to be amazed how it dissipated so much heat — especially with a 4K external display — that the fans were running full speed all the time. And katy bar the door if I dare shut off the air conditioning. (OK, running my office cold helps me stay focused.)

Then I got an early M1 to try out, about a year ago. I was skeptical — what, Apple is now putting souped-up cell phone CPUs in their laptops? — but was blown away once I actually started using it. A machine that has half the memory and cost one-third of my “Yamaha CS-80 beast” laptop can handle the same workload with one hand tied behind its back? And yes, I can still hear the fans if I shut off the A/C (I have very keen hearing), but they are running so slowly that I really have to pay attention.

And yes, I have been getting increasingly annoyed at Apple for combining sanctimonious virtue signaling with kowtowing to the CCP regime (lately, by removing religious scripture apps from the Chinese app store). Unfortunately, all major tech companies Hoover in that regard nowadays. And Mr. Garrisoner, Tim Cook, whatever his supply chain skillset, simply isn’t Steve Jobs where it comes to “the vision thing”.

But this new Apple Silicon is, well, something else — probably the most truly innovative thing Apple has done in many years. Custom-built for them by TSMC in Taiwan (the world’s largest fabber), this system-on-a-chip applies everything they’ve learned building iPhone and iPad CPUs to create an architecture that simply rewrites the rules of the game. Intel, as much as it pains me to say, simply has nothing that comes even close in the same thermal envelope. Coworkers with M1 MBPs tell me they don’t bother bringing their power bricks anymore, as they know their laptops can run all day without running the battery dry.

Intel (and AMD, which itself outsourced production to TSMC years ago) can still give Apple a run for their money in HPC servers — but that wasn’t a market segment Apple was still active in anymore.

So today I tuned in to Apple’s “Unleashed” presentation for the new Macbook Pros. CNET below summarizes it. M1 with four performance and four efficiency cores, eight graphics cores, and up to 16GB integrated memory, is now joined by the new M1 Pro and M1 Max CPUs: both eight performance and two efficiency cores, 16 to 32 graphics cores, and up to 32GB (Pro) or 64GB (Max) integrated memory. Both are now available in new 14″ and 16″ laptops — yes,, if you so desire, you can get the Max in the 14″ form factor or “just” the Pro in the 16″ form factor. The new XDR screen raises the bar too — I’m not sure I need XDR for what I do, and I often work on multiple external displays, but I’m sure video editors will appreciate it.

They also posted an “explainer” of the new architecture, which turns out to be just Johny Sruji’s own presentation at the apple event.

Imagine, if somebody were building a HPC system for simulations (earthquake, weather forecast, CFD aerodynamics, drug discovery,…) and they could get their grubby hands on a few hundred of these and put them in their own customized enclosures (with redundant power supplies etc.)… You could drastically save on cooling bills, space, or both, and still be ahead in performance.

Sadly, that will never happen — although count on AMD and even Intel to come with copycat designs quite soon…

ADDENDUM: in the “come on, Apple” department: you finally upgraded your webcam to 1080p (from, ugh, 720p)?

And good on finally getting religion and returning at least a built-in HDMI and bringing back MagSafe — but (I know the laptop is too thin for a port on the machine itself) why not put an Ethernet port on the power brick the way y’all do it for the new iMac 24? Boo, Apple, boo.

One thought on “Apple M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max: today’s M1 Macbook Pro release

  1. I wouldn’t be surprised if apple didn’t look at some server applications for the M1 chips. After all they have their own data centers to support Siri and the like

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