Apple just announced the M1 Pro and M1 Max, its most powerful chips to date. While last year’s M1 chip gracefully replaced mid-level Intel processors in products like the iMac and MacBook Air, the M1 Pro and M1 Max take things to a whole new level, surpassing the CPU and GPU performance of high-end Intel Macs while improving thermals and battery life.
As expected, the M1 Pro and M1 Max will debut in Apple’s new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. Apple did not announce a Mac Mini Pro today, despite several rumors to the contrary.
The M1 Pro chipset is a major upgrade from Apple’s standard M1 system. Here’s the short of it—you get 70% faster CPU performance and double the graphics performance. That’s thanks to a new 10 core CPU system with eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores, plus a massive 16 core GPU setup.
Apple says that macOS can efficiently jump between these cores to ensure consistent performance without a major impact on battery life. Of course, the M1 Pro’s 200GBps of memory bandwidth helps here. Apple will offer M1 Pro Macs with up to 32GB of memory, a major boost for a system that already runs well with just 8GB of RAM.
And then there’s the new ProRes Acceleration engine, which lets you run or edit multiple streams of 4K video without straining your Mac. Altogether, the M1 Pro looks like a killer upgrade for professionals in the world of video editing, and it should offer noticeably better gaming performance than standard M1 systems (for the few games that actually run on macOS, of course).
But then there’s the M1 Max, which builds on the M1 Pro architecture to push performance even further. There’s 400GBps of memory bandwidth (six times that of M1) with support for up to 64GB of unified memory, just enough to run Google Chrome (that’s a joke).
And while M1 Max retains the same 10 core CPU setup of M1 Pro, it offers 32 GPU cores for four times faster GPU performance than the standard M1 chips. The M1 Pro’s media encoding engine also gets a good boost, providing two times faster rendering times in Adobe Premiere.
According to Apple’s confusing and vague graphs, the M1 Max offers seven times the performance of high-end Intel iGPUs. And while its performance is simply “comparable” to that of a laptop’s discreet GPU, there are incredible benefits in terms of power efficiency.
The M1 chip’s greatest benefit isn’t performance; it’s power consumption. And Apple pushed power performance even further with the M1 Pro and M1 Max—their CPU cores use 70% less power than comparable Intel chips. That translates to less heat, less fan noise, and of course, a much longer battery life.
And while the M1 Max’s GPU performance is “comparable” to that of a Windows laptop’s discreet GPU, it uses 70% less power when running the same games or rendering the same viedeo. More importantly, Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips don’t throttle graphics performance when running on battery life, so you don’t need to be tethered to a wall when working out your biggest projects.
For reference, the new 14-inch MacBook Pro can withstand 17 hours of video playback before its battery dies. The 16-inch model takes things even further, reaching 21 hours of video playback. That’s the longest battery life ever on a MacBook, though Apple hasn’t specified if this 16-inch MacBook is running the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip.
And while we’re on the topic of battery life, Apple says that the new MacBook Pros can fast charge to 50% in just half an hour. Apple didn’t specify if this is a benefit of the new M1 chips or the MacBook Pro’s new 3rd gen MagSafe charger, though.
One of my biggest problems with the M1 chip is its limited display support. There are workarounds, but the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro can only use one external display (the M1 Mac Mini supports two external displays because it doesn’t have a built-in screen).
That changes with the M1 Pro and M1 Max. The new M1 Pro supports two external 4K displays, while the new M1 Max can support four external 4K displays. You can finally get the crazy display setup of your dreams with Apple Silicon … and without using DisplayLink.
Apple made a crazy bet when it decided to make desktop-class chips using the mobile ARM architecture. The move clearly paid off, and now that we have the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, the future of Intel is cloudier than ever.
Yeah, Intel chips still have their place. There are a ton of benefits to buying an Intel desktop or laptop—especially if you’re a gamer or someone who wants just a little more than what Apple has to offer. But Apple has finally freed itself from Intel, and its computers have only grown more powerful and efficient because of the departure.
PC manufacturers that are struggling with performance and power efficiency because of their reliance on Intel chips want a piece of that M1 magic. That’s why Google is now developing its own in-house Tensor chips, and Microsoft is supposedly working on M1-inspired processors for future Surface devices. If Intel can’t read the room and release its own super-efficient ARM processor, it may suffer a larger fall from grace than IBM or any other chipmaker in computing history.