Apple Silicon

  • Apple event: ♫ "The chime is back!"
    • Reasonably good summary of the new chips, and how Big Sur works with your old Intel applications.
    • Device coverage is very superficial, "it runs X specific app in Y time!" Well, if I haven't used Logic, is that good?
    • I know Apple will never show real benchmarks where they might not be best in everything, but I want to see real benchmarks.
    • I know Apple will never show real device teardowns, only silly 3D animations of flying parts, but I want to see real device teardowns.
    • ONE MORE THING! (Why is only John Hodgman back, but Justin Long was too good to be a Mac again?)
  • AnandTech review of A14, estimates of M1 covers some of what I want to see.

In short, the A14 in the latest iThings is just barely short in power of the best AMD CPUs, and beats all the Intel CPUs, at half the power consumption. M1 ("Apple Silicon") is apparently much faster, Apple claims the fastest CPU in the world, which may be true enough.

Intel is, to be really technical here, fucked. They're facing Apple and AMD on the high end, and ARM below (you couldn't make an Intel RasPi 400!) There's no space for Intel now except corporate garbage Windows desktops, and many of those can be replaced at a fraction of the cost with ARM computers. What happens when every IT department decides to halve their parts and power costs, and high end users already buy Apple?

So my thoughts on Apple's new M1 lineup. Obviously, I don't have one yet, haven't seen real benchmarks, forward-looking statements require use of the Spice Mélange, expands consciousness, etc. etc.:

  • MacBook air: With 8-core, 16GB RAM (maximum), 1TB SSD, price is $1649. But uses passive cooling, do not buy this. I love the MBA form, I love hard function keys, and probably this is perfectly fine for casual use. But the second you try to do demanding tasks, it's going to be heat-constrained.
  • Mac mini: With 8-core, 16BB RAM (maximum), 1TB SSD, price is $1299. This has active cooling. Of course it has no keyboard, mouse, or monitor.
  • MacBook pro 13": With 8-core, 16BB RAM (maximum), 1TB SSD, price is $1899. Active cooling. Only has 2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, it really needs at least 3: Power, external drive, external monitor, but you can buy a hub to dongle-book all your drives & monitors, and power in on the other. It does have a good old fashioned 3.5mm audio jack; I'm surprised they haven't put a lightning port there.

All have "integrated graphics", which in the Intel days meant crappy video performance, but Apple's on-board GPUs aren't bad (not new AMD or Nvidia level, but tolerable). However, they are "unified memory", which means the GPU is going to take 2-4GB of system RAM away from you.

The problem here is that 16GB RAM limit, which is really 12-14GB. I regularly run up against my old iMac's 16GB limit in development with a virtual machine (and that has 2GB dedicated video RAM). 3D modelling or high-end games, video editing, and many other problems are going to be crippled. Apple needs to make 16GB the minimum casual level, and 32-128 GB for serious users.

So, I'm probably waiting for the next batch of Macs; I may get the MBP 13" with an eye to selling it & replacing it with a better machine ASAP. If you're casual, that's probably a perfectly nice machine, it's only $250 more than the MBA.