everything you need to know about Apple Silicon

During the WWDC 2020 opening speech, Apple has officially confirmed its move from Intel chips to its Apple Silicon for Mac. 

Apple Silicon
Apple Silicon M1

In addition to developer details, Tim Cook announced that the first Mac with Apple Silicon will be shipped to consumers by the end of this year.

What is Apple Silicon? - Apple M1

At the "One More Thing" event in November, Apple officially announced the first Apple Silicon processor designed specifically for the Mac operating system, called the M1. 

The M1 chip features an octa-core design along with a powerful Neural Engine and graphics processor, providing massive improvements in efficiency and performance for the Mac.

With Mac processor dominated by Apple, it could offer better software optimization compared to others like Intel. In the case of the Mac, that means macOS 11 Big Sur is optimized specifically for the M1 processor. 

By creating silicon themselves, Apple has more control over how macOS and Macs work together. Even without touching the technical specifications of the new M1 chip, improved macOS optimization can be expected to lead to massive improvements in performance and reliability.

Using Apple Silicon in the Mac also means that the Mac can now run iPhone and iPad apps. Although developers can turn off this option, it means that for the first time you will be able to find iPhone and iPad apps in the Mac App Store.

  • iPhone and iPad apps on Mac via the Mac App Store
  • The Rosetta 2 translation lets you run applications designed for Intel Macs on an Apple Silicon, and sometimes applications work better in Rosetta with the Apple Silicon M1 compared to Intel, Apple explains.
  • Universal apps are apps designed for Apple Silicon and Intel processors and can be downloaded from the Mac App Store or the web.

When Apple announced the new M1 processor at Apple Park's “One More Thing” event, it described Apple as “the first chip designed specifically for the Mac”. It's built at a 5nm scale with 16 billion transistors, and Apple says it was designed "for Mac systems where compact size and power efficiency are most important."

As such, the M1 exhibits peak performance per watt. This is why the early Apple Silicon MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models were able to offer such noticeable improvements in battery life over their Intel predecessors.

The Apple Silicon M1 chip is a high-performance, four-core, high-performance, eight-core processor. Both high-performance cores provide superior performance for single-threaded tasks, and Apple claims it is "the world's fastest low-power silicon processor".

Apple M1
Macos M1

Apple also claims that the four highly efficient cores offer "exceptional performance one-tenth of the power". In fact, the high-efficiency cores themselves are so powerful that they deliver performance comparable to that of Intel's dual-core MacBook Air while being more efficient.

Altogether, Apple says the eight cores work together to deliver "incredible computing power for the most demanding tasks and deliver the world's best processor performance per watt."


But the M1 doesn't stop there: it also has an eight-core GPU, which can run 25,000 threads simultaneously. Apple says this means the M1 can handle "extremely difficult tasks with ease". According to Apple data, the M1 has the "world's fastest integrated graphics in a PC" with a transfer speed of 2.6 teraflops.

Apple Silicon Neural Engine

The M1 also brings Apple's industry-leading Neural Engine to the Mac for the first time. The M1 Neural Engine has a 16-core design that can perform 11 trillion operations per second. 

Apple has used the Neural Engine in iPhones and iPads since the introduction of the A11 processor in 2017. The Neural Engine is designed specifically for machine learning tasks such as video analysis and speech recognition, artificial intelligence, image scanning, and more.

What's next for Apple Silicon?

The M1 is just the start of a new family of chips designed specifically for the Mac. Once again, the new M1 processor is designed specifically for low-power devices where efficiency is especially important. Over the next two years, Apple will likely release new Apple Silicon chipsets for high-end iMac, Mac Pro, and MacBook Pro devices.

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