The talk that Apple will abandon Intel processors in favor of solutions of its own design has been going on for a long time. Earlier this year, the Cupertino-based company distributed test systems with a mobile A14 chip on board to select partners to prepare macOS software developers to migrate to the new architecture, and now it has finally made a life-changing move. Apple’s M1 System-On-Chip, which powers the next-generation Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and 13-inch MacBook Pro, should change everything – dramatically increase performance, extend battery life, and bring a host of features that add up to a user’s overall picture. experience running the new version of macOS, because now Apple controls the hardware and software of its products inside and out.
Moreover, if you believe the manufacturer’s promises, the M1 not only corrects the shortcomings of the previous “Maubuk”, which weighs on the gluttonous and hot Intel silicon, but is simply the most productive chip among notebook CPUs. Let’s take a look at what Apple has done to back up such high-profile claims, and how true they are.
⇡#Goodbye x86. Hello ARM
The Apple M1 crystal replaced both Intel processors and several auxiliary discrete components on the motherboard, such as an SSD controller and a T2 security chip. Unlike Intel and AMD products that dominate ultrabooks today, the M1 CPU section is driven by the ARM instruction set, or more specifically, the very latest ISA iteration called ARMv8.6-A with 64-bit AArch64 extensions. The M1 central processing unit consists of two blocks of cores – four high-performance Firestorm cores and four energy-efficient Icestorm cores. The operating system distributes the load between the cores of both types in accordance with the nature of the task, but note that when the computer needs to give its best (for example, in rendering 3D graphics or video encoding), all eight cores work equally, so M1 is quite can be considered as an eight-core CPU, but adjusted for the limited capabilities of an energy-efficient cluster.
The Firestorm and Icestorm cores share the M1 with the A14 Bionic chip used in the latest generation iPhones, but Apple has strengthened the design to meet the more demanding desktop environment. In particular, the high-speed Firestorm cores got an impressive amount of cache: L1 of each core contains 192 KB of data and 128 KB of instructions, and the total L2 – 12 MB. For smaller Icestorm cores, these figures are 128KB, 64KB and 4MB, respectively.
The fundamental differences between Apple’s proprietary systems-on-a-chip from x86-compatible CPUs are not limited to a different set of instructions and asymmetric clusters of cores. Firestorm cores feature the widest pipeline of any commercially available processor and can decode eight instructions per clock cycle. For comparison, current solutions from Intel and AMD are limited to four instructions due to the peculiarities of the x86 instruction set (uneven instruction length). And further down the Firestorm pipeline, a high processing rate is supported by a mass of execution units working in parallel.
As a consequence of the wide architecture, the M1 CPU boasts significant IPC gains (instructions per clock) over x86 hardware and, as a result, advanced single-threaded performance without the need for the clock speeds that Intel and AMD are aiming for. Apple, as usual, does not declare such parameters as the power consumption of the crystal. But judging by our own measurements (which confirm data from other reliable sources), the Firestorm core frequency in an active cooling device (MacBook Pro or related Mac Mini) does not exceed 3.2 GHz, and the Icestorm ceiling is around 2 GHz.
The TDP of the M1 chip on the MacBook Pro platform is 20-21W, which is in line with typical power targets for mid-range notebook chips. But according to the component budget, this is a real giant: the crystal contains 16 billion transistors. In comparison, AMD’s eight-core Renoir chip is only 9.8 billion. Thanks to the advanced 5nm process technology that Apple has used at the facilities of Taiwan’s TSMC.
An impressive share of the M1’s area is taken up by an integrated graphics processor. The GPU consists of eight cores, each of which integrates 128 shader ALUs. The M1-based MacBook Air has one core deactivated, but the MacBook Pro and Mac Mini have a chip with a fully functional graphics pipeline. In total, the GPU contains 1,024 shader ALUs, 64 texture mapping units, and 32 rasterization operations (ROPs). It is simply pointless to compare this configuration with the video adapters built into the central processors of Intel and AMD. Suffice it to say that according to the ALU, TMU and ROP formula, it completely coincides with the mobile version of the GeForce GTX 1650 from NVIDIA. Of course, this does not mean that the devices are equal in performance in real conditions. In particular, the CPU and GPU in the M1 share a common RAM bus, while the GTX 1650 has its own GDDR5 or GDDR6 array. Yet M1 integrated graphics are not only the most powerful solution in their class to date, but also a direct replacement for entry-level discrete GPUs.
Finally, another important component of the M1 is the 16 so-called Neural Engine cores, which serve to accelerate machine learning tasks. Along with macOS 11 (Big Sur), Apple released the ML Compute framework and TensorFlow framework files, compiled and optimized for its own architecture, so that M1 is able to take over the machine learning features for which NVIDIA silicon is famous.
But of course, all the promises of record M1 performance in the class of mobile SoCs will come true only if the application code, firstly, is compiled for the ARM ISA, and secondly, it contains specific optimizations for the M1 architecture. Therefore, Apple has timed to the release of the new “Macs” a full-scale update of the operating system, which was awarded the next non-fractional number in the name – macOS 11 – as much as 19 years after the debut of Mac OS 10.0. All OS binaries and Apple branded applications are adapted to work on the M1 processor. Most of the programs that come preinstalled on a laptop with macOS do not take more than one second to start, and the laptop itself wakes up almost instantly from sleep mode, just lift the screen lid. In general, the benefits of moving from x86 to ARM are felt immediately.
What about third party products? Known applications that have been ported to native M1 code or will be ported in the future include (but are not limited to) Google Chrome Browser, Adobe Professional Rendering Tools, DaVinci Resolve Video Editor, and Microsoft Office.
At the same time, any (at least in theory) program from an extensive library created for previous versions of macOS and x86 architecture works on M1 through the Rosetta 2 emulator. additional actions. Old and new apps run in the same way, and we have not encountered Rosetta 2 causing any glitches or noticeable loss of performance with the naked eye. And we still have time to measure the actual overhead from emulation in benchmarks.
At the same time, the migration of Apple computers to a new architecture does not mean that devices of the previous generation will immediately lose access to updated software. The upgrade to macOS 11 is not open to the most recent Mac models, and third-party programs compatible with M1 are distributed as universal binaries. By the way, this format allows you to run any application through Rosetta 2, if suddenly the native code causes any problems or you want, as in our case, to compare the performance of versions compiled for different architectures. It is enough to put a check mark in the properties of the package with the program, and the executable file itself can be launched in the terminal using the command:
Finally, you can now open apps from the App Store for iPhone and iPad in macOS if there is no desktop alternative. But what the buyers of the new “Macs” have irretrievably lost is the ability to install Windows on bare metal via Boot Camp, and virtual machines so far can only cope with an ARM-based assembly of Microsoft OS that is useless for most users. Parallels promises to soon solve the complexities of virtualization of x86 versions of Windows, which in this case will have to be combined with instruction emulations, and we can’t wait to see how much this will affect performance. But whatever one may say, the Mac has now undocked again from the world of personal computers in the strict sense of these words.
⇡#Other technical characteristics, prices
MacBook Pro RAM is soldered on a single substrate with an M1 crystal in the form of two high-density chips with a total volume of 8 or 16 GB. LPDDR4X chips are rated for a single channel of 4266 MT / s, which is the standard for many latest generation Ultrabooks on Intel Ice Lake or Ryzen 4000 chips. But the M1 has one important difference: while two LPDDR4X channels on a typical x86 platform form a 64-bit wide data transmission interface, Apple uses a wide 128-bit bus. As a consequence, the RAM bandwidth is actually doubled here, which is especially important for the integrated GPU. The M1 uses a unified system memory architecture where the CPU and GPU cores have equal access to external memory.
The only problem with the integrated design of the M1 is that the amount of RAM of 16 GB in modern conditions is the minimum for demanding professional applications, and for everyday work it no longer looks excessive. The RAM reserve for the future of the new MacBook Pro is questionable, but it’s better to forget about configurations with 8 GB of RAM right away: if you are not going to run work applications that require more RAM, or keep dozens of pages open in your browser, you should consider the cheaper MacBook Air of the latter generations.
Here is a complete order with the storage capacity. The base configuration includes a 256 GB SSD, which, again, will only be enough for the most casual users, but there is an upgradeable option up to 2 TB. Only this, as well as RAM, needs to be taken care of at the purchase stage. None of the laptop components can be replaced by yourself.
Together with the M1 chip, Apple laptops gained support for the WiFi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax) network standard. However, the MacBook Pro’s wireless module is not designed for full bandwidth specifications. In fact, it has also dropped from the estimated 1.3 Gbps of the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro to 1.2 Gbps. However, the WiFi 6 standard is not only and not so much about data transfer speed, but about stability in busy networks and energy savings, which is one of the top priorities for Apple engineers.
On the wired side, the MacBook Pro boasts Thunderbolt 3, which – also a Mac’s first – is capable of USB 4 Alternate Mode. As you can see, Intel has been excommunicated from future Apple products, but Thunderbolt support hasn’t gone away with it. The M1 does not need a discrete controller from Intel, and all the necessary logic is built right into the SoC. However, the passport data does not say anything about USB speed. According to the standard, it should not be less than 20 Gb / s, which is the equivalent of USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2, but it also reaches 40 Gb / s (like Thunderbolt 3). In any case, this is an extremely fast interface for users of modern peripherals, which can saturate its bandwidth. It’s a pity that Apple had to take a step back in terms of connecting external monitors. The younger MacBook Pro on Intel platform can be connected with two additional screens, and the new model – with only one monitor (at resolutions up to 6K with a refresh rate of 60 Hz).
Apple did not raise the price of the base configuration for the 13-inch firmware. A build with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD can still be purchased in Apple’s home market for $ 299 (excluding taxes). Alas, in Russia the prices of new items start at an unaffordable amount of 129,990 rubles. The RAM and ROM specifications for that kind of money are, frankly, weak, but let’s not forget that outside of the apple ecosystem it is very difficult to find a laptop with a screen, keyboard and touchpad like the MacBook Pro, and even it probably won’t be cheaper. And that’s not counting the SoC M1 with potentially the best performance and energy efficiency in its class. A fully upgraded MacBook Pro model with 16 GB of RAM and a 2 terabyte drive already costs 299 or 229,990 rubles, of which the lion’s share falls on the SSD.
⇡#Appearance and ergonomics
On the surface, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is simply indistinguishable from its predecessors. Apple has built a computer based on the M1 chip in the exact same package. However, it cannot be said that the design of laptops, which was presented back in 2016, has since become outdated. It is still one of the thinnest 13 or 14 inch machines. However, it is not the lightest – it weighs 1.4 kg – which more than compensates for the rigidity of the milled aluminum body panels. The MacBook Pro feels like a one-piece product, with no flex or squeaks, and a solid foundation under the keyboard.
Actually, the keyboard is one of the main advantages of all Apple mobile computers. Ever since the problematic butterfly mechanism became a thing of the past, the MacBook Pro keyboard has been immune to premature failure. The tactile response of the membranes is clear and even, the return of the key to the neutral position is quick. However, this is still not the best keyboard Apple makes. The 16-inch MacBook Pro, which appears to be queuing up for the M1 processors, has longer key travel and greater pressure resistance. Some users, including the reviewer, may find the 13-inch Mac’s keyboard too soft.
But the touchpad is still beyond praise. Firstly, it’s huge, and secondly, there are no mechanical switches under it. The tactile feedback is convincingly simulated by a magnetic hammer, and the panel registers pressure equally well at any point.
Instead of a row of function keys, the laptop has a responsive OLED Touch Bar. And even if you don’t like this innovation, you have to put up with it. MacBook Pro variants with function keys are no longer available. The Touch Bar did not absorb only the Escape key and the power switch combined with the biometric sensor. What the new product does not have yet is a pair of additional Thunderbolt / USB Type-C connectors. Yes, yes, in any laptop configuration, regardless of the main components, there are now only two connectors for connecting peripherals (not counting the mini jack for analog audio), one of which will be occupied by the power cable.
The machine is charged with the same compact 61W voltage regulator as the previous Intel-based model.
⇡#Internal design and upgrade options
When it comes to modern Apple laptops, the words “upgradeable” in the headline are perhaps inappropriate. Not a single component of the system, including the RAM and, most importantly, the SSD, here cannot be replaced by users – as, in fact, in the MacBook Pro of several previous generations.
In addition, we draw attention to the fact that Apple has not made significant changes to the SoC cooling system compared to Intel’s version of the machine, which, to put it mildly, cannot be called the standard of silence during intensive work. All hope is that the noise problem was solved on the part of the processor’s energy efficiency (you will find out whether this is true or not on the next page of the review).
Display testing is performed using the Datacolor Spyder4 Elite colorimeter in ArgyllCMS and DisplayCAL 3 applications.
Notebook battery life is measured at 200 cd / m2 display brightness in the following usage scenarios:
- Web surfing: alternate opening and closing of the tabs of the sites 3DNews.ru, Computeruniverse.ru and Unsplash.com with an interval of 25 seconds in the Google Chrome browser (cache and cookies are disabled);
- Continuous playback of 4K video in HEVC format (H.265).
The following devices took part in testing:
We’re already accustomed to Apple installing reference-quality display matrices in its devices, and the Late 2020 MacBook Pro is no exception. It has the highest brightness (394 cd / m2) of all 13- and 14-inch notebooks we tested in a year, and in terms of contrast ratio of 1458: 1, the screen is second only to OLED panels and some particularly outstanding IPS varieties.
The display is calibrated for the DCI-P3 (or Display P3) color space and covers the entire display with high base color accuracy. Because most macOS applications use color grading, the gamut is compressed when playing sRGB content, preventing oversaturation.
Gamma correction strictly obeys the 2.2 power function, which distinguishes Display P3 from DCI-P3. The base color curves are almost perfectly matched.
But the white point, which was supposed to be in the D65 position according to Display P3 specifications, is shifted towards cold shades. As a consequence, the grayscale color temperature is around 7200-7300K.
The DisplayCAL program, which we usually use to measure color deviation, cannot yet directly access the screen of the laptop on the M1 platform, so we had to take measurements through Safari and the application’s web server. The browser interprets DisplayCAL samples as sRGB, and the test results do not give an idea of the color rendering in the extended gamut. But we can assure you that in sRGB mode, factory calibration guarantees excellent Delta E (corrected for white point) ratings for consumer and pro-sumer devices.
Finally, one cannot fail to note another advantage of the MacBook Pro display. Apple uses what is arguably the best anti-reflective coating we’ve seen on a laptop. Glossy glass reflects a minimum of external light and does not become a mirror even on a bright sunny day.
⇡#Clock frequencies, temperature and noise level
The M1 chip is based on an architecture whose main benefit is pipeline width rather than high clock speeds. Nevertheless, thanks to the progressive 5 nm process technology, a cluster of high-performance cores M1 (Firestorm) at full load clocks at a significantly higher level compared to all analogues that can be found in modern ultrabooks – six-core Comet Lake chips, quad-core Ice Lake and even the latest Tiger Lake – at comparable TDP. Even the Ryzen 4000 series processors were no exception, but in their regard it is worth making an allowance for the fact that all eight Zen cores develop the same performance, in contrast to the asymmetric architecture of the M1.
In the multi-threaded Cinebench test, the powerful Firestorm cores hover around 3 GHz, while the energy-efficient Icestorm cores are fixed at 2 GHz. The Firestorm clock ceiling that can be observed in single-threaded operation is around 3.2 GHz, which is in line with other independent researchers. Thus, the M1 can maintain frequencies close to peak values, regardless of the nature of the load.
When the integrated GPU is resting, the power consumption of the entire system-on-a-chip does not exceed 18W. On the other hand, rendering with integrated graphics with low CPU load costs only 8-9 watts. The GPU itself runs at moderate clock speeds of around 1.3 GHz. Judging by our measurements, the SoC of the new MacBook has a total power reserve of 20-21 W, so the simultaneous operation of the CPU and GPU does not cause significant drops in the clock frequencies of both components: the Firestorm cores stabilize at 2.7 GHz, and at frequencies The GPU transition to a combined load was not reflected at all.
Also worth noting is the extremely low idle power consumption of the M1 chip. When the computer is in active mode, but no resource-intensive processes are running in the operating system, the SoC power drops to 0.02–0.08 W!
Approx. The measurement is performed after warming up the device and stabilizing all parameters.
As a consequence of the SoC’s superior power management at low load, the laptop’s cooling system spends most of its time in passive mode. Surfing the web, watching movies – for such tasks, the computer does not need to turn on the fan at all. Therefore, it is not in the related version of the MacBook Air on the M1 chip. When the load is predominantly on the integrated graphics, the fan starts up at low speeds and makes almost no noise. When the bulk of the task falls on the CPU cores, the machine is also extremely quiet. But under combined load, the new MacBook Pro, alas, makes as loud noise as the MacBook Air or the 16-inch Proshka on Intel chips.
The cooler of the 13-inch MacBook Pro does not offer satisfactory cooling results either. For demanding work applications, CPU cores can reach temperatures as high as 97 ° C. Fortunately, such conditions arise only under intense continuous load – such as ray tracing in 3D modeling programs or video encoding.
⇡#Synthetic performance tests
It is still very difficult to give an adequate assessment of the performance of the M1 chip, because most of the synthetic benchmarks and real applications that we use for ultrabook tests have not yet been transferred to the ARM architecture with all the optimizations for Apple silicon. The lion’s share of programs will initially be forced to work through the Rosetta 2 emulator, which provides excellent compatibility with the existing software library, but entails quite predictable performance costs. Fortunately, we managed to compile a good selection of benchmarks to compare the new MacBook Pro with modern systems based on Intel and AMD chips, both in x86 code emulation and in native mode.
So, even with the encumbrance in the form of an emulator, the M1 defeated all rivals in single-threaded and multi-threaded CPU performance in the synthetic Geekbench test, with the exception of the 16-inch MacBook Pro with an eight-core Intel processor on board. In Cinebench R20, the Apple processor stopped at the level of Intel’s quad-core Ice Lake chips and six-core Comet Lake chips (and there can be no talk of competing with the Ryzen 4000 series). But such a result will appear in a completely different light if we take into account that we conduct benchmarks of Windows laptops in the mode of maximum CPU power consumption, which sometimes doubles the power of the M1.
But the most interesting thing happens when ARM code is running on the M1, compiled and optimized for the SoC architecture. Unfortunately, we no longer had access to all the systems, the results of which we attracted for comparison with the new MacBook Pro, but we have a machine on the eight-core Ryzen 7 4700U chip at hand, a full review of which we will publish shortly, and this, by and large account, one of the best mobile CPUs in the world of Windows and x86 architecture. Recent versions of Geekbench tests and, especially, Cinebench illustrate well that the performance drop under the influence of the emulator is really large. But when apps are running natively on the M1, Apple’s silicon confidently outperforms the Ryzen 7 4700U in single-threaded and multi-threaded performance, even though both processors are in the same power class.
But on the performance of the integrated GPU, emulation did not have a practically significant effect. M1 graphics compete on equal terms with the entry-level discrete video adapters – NVIDIA GeForce MX350 and MX450 and several times outperform any integrated solutions in terms of frame rate. Of course, the MacBook Pro is not a gaming system or a 3D rendering farm at all, but when you consider that the 13-inch models of the previous generation were content with integrated Intel graphics, the new product now lives up to the claims for mobile workstation status much better. Luckily, we have a battery of professional software to make sure of this.
⇡#Performance in production applications
Unlike synthetic tests, we had to run most of the production applications on the new MacBook Pro in emulation of the x86 architecture, which, as we managed to find out, seriously burdens the M1 chip. Fortunately, in most cases, SoC overcomes the limitations that emulation imposes on program performance. So, the rendering in Blender by the Cycles engine was already performed by the machine faster than all competitors, with the exception of a laptop on an eight-core Ryzen and a 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Unfortunately, it is still impossible to involve the M1 chart in this task. At least in Cycles. In the ProRender benchmark, the integrated GPU outperforms all entry-level discrete solutions, including the new Turing-based GeForce MX450, and comes pretty close to the power-saving version of the GeForce GTX 1650 in the Max-Q thermal pack.
By the way, note that we collected the results of Apple laptops on the Intel platform under macOS 10.15 (Catalina), while the next generation model already has macOS 11 (Big Sur) installed – this may have some effect on performance, but, from what we know, it is small in third party applications.
We are forced to skip the MacBook Pro test in Lightroom because the PugetBench test suite only works on Windows. And it can no longer be installed on Apple’s bare metal, so at the moment only an ARM build of Microsoft’s operating system can be run on the M1. So let’s go straight to the tests in the “large” version of Photoshop. Here, according to the final score of the complex benchmark, the equivalent of the MacBook Pro is a system with a six-core Intel processor, discrete graphics GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q and corresponding power consumption. A 16-inch MacBook Pro and a laptop powered by Intel’s fresh quad-core Tiger Lake are already out of reach for a MacBook Pro.
However, we do not exclude that if it were not for emulation, the layout of the results could be completely different. In future versions of Photoshop 2021, native support for M1 is coming, and a public beta is already underway. Alas, the beta version is still devoid of many functions and, in particular, the PugetBench test package does not run on it, which means that there will be no benchmark results either.
Approx. Points are calculated as a percentage of the performance of a reference workstation with an Intel Core i9-9900K, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 and 64GB of RAM multiplied by 10.
Approx. Points are calculated as a percentage of the performance of a reference workstation with Intel Core i9-9900K, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 and 64GB RAM.
Not all ultrabooks are fast enough to pass the entire set of tests in the Premier Pro video editor and get the final score. The 13-inch MacBook Pro had no problem with this. Moreover, according to the overall assessment of the playback speed during the editing process, the laptop on the M1 is practically not inferior to the 16-inch MacBook Pro with an eight-core Intel CPU. In the task of exporting projects, the result is completely different. However, it is enough that here the novelty is not inferior to computers with discrete graphics GeForce MX450 and GTX 1650 Max-Q.
Approx. Points are calculated as a percentage of the frame rate of the source or target format (for example, playing a video at full frame rate gives 100 points). Unlike playback, when rendering video, the frame rate can exceed the target, which means the score will be above 100.
In the task of video editing, the M1 chip manifests itself best when the load falls mainly on the CPU cores, rather than on the integrated graphics. The frame rate of the video in the viewport was not much lower than on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, not to mention all other test participants. Premiere Pro users will still have to use a proxy when working with 4K files, but a ½ of the original resolution is enough to get the frame rate close to 24 FPS. The new MacBook Pro’s CPU project export is as fast as the Ryzen 7 4700U, despite emulation.
But if you overload editing with GPU-dependent effects, you can’t do without powerful discrete graphics. Here, the eight-core GPU in the M1 is inferior to solutions of the GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q class, and sometimes to entry-level chips like the GeForce MX450.
Until Adobe adapts its applications to the ARM architecture, owners of new Apple machines are better off using the native Final Cut Pro X video editor, which is already unleashing the full potential of the M1 chip. The only pity is that the tests that we could run in Final Cut Pro X, there would simply be nothing to compare with. in the editorial office there are no modern “Macs” on Intel CPUs.
Among the ultrabooks that passed through the 3DNews laboratory in the last year, there are only two compact machines that mastered the test sequence in DaVinci Resolve – a 16-inch MacBook Pro, as well as an MSI laptop with Intel six-core and GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics. On the graph of the results, the next-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro is ranked in between. But as for the Fusion effects, here the M1 silicon showed a huge advantage over its competitors in the test, which contains object tracking and a chroma key cut.
In addition to DaVinci Resolve 16, which runs on the M1 in x86 emulation mode, we ran the same tests using beta 17.1 compiled to native code. Judging by the main block of tasks, either emulation does not cause a significant performance loss in DaVinci Resolve, or the beta is not yet fully optimized for Apple architecture. In addition, the Optimized Media function, which is analogous to proxy in this video editor, does not work in native mode yet. On the contrary, the Fusion effects, which the M1 already handles well, received an impressive increase in speed.
Unlike “Macs” on the Intel platform, the SSD of the new MacBook Pro is tied to the SoC by the proprietary Apple Fabric bus, and not PCI Express, although it also works over the NVMe protocol. This drive outperforms most if not all OEM models found in Windows laptops in maximum performance. In addition, the APFS file system (or the entire macOS software stack) allows for more efficient handling of ROM. Nevertheless, in comparison with the “old” SSD from Apple, the new one added only in sequential data write speed, and in sequential and random reading the ratio is opposite. In addition, the SSD of previous MacBooks has such a feature that the throughput gradually decreases after the start of the load, even before the SLC cache reserve is exhausted. The recession area is cut off in the test logs, and this should also be taken into account when comparing drives in Intel’s MacBook Pro and new ones on M1.
In addition, there are a number of nuances that may be associated with the organization in the macOS environment of asynchronous I / O through the POSIX AIO interface, which provides direct unbuffered access to storage and, in general, extremely high throughput. So, the MacBook Pro drive was distinguished by an unsatisfactory linear write speed with a single command queue (like the SSD in the previous generation models, by the way) and generally slow random write. However, it is possible that in the case of machines based on the M1 chip, part of the blame lies with the test tool: the fio program also works through the Rosetta 2 emulator.
Be that as it may, the speed of the ROM has made a major leap, if you take as a starting point not the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but, for example, the MacBook Air of early 2020. And the point here is not in the SSD itself, but in the fact that the M1 central processor copes much better with processing a huge number of requests than Intel’s low-watt counterpart. To remove the limitation on the number of threads and processes that can run concurrently through POSIXAIO, we use the following command:
Sudo sysctl -w kern.aiomax=2048 kern.aioprocmax=1024 kern.aiothreads=16
As a result, the Ice Lake quad-core chip reaches full load and becomes the bottleneck of the entire system, and this does not happen with the M1.
The strength of the new MacBook Pro is not only the best performance in its class, but also the record battery life. Firstly, it simply has the most capacious battery among all 13-14-inch laptops that we have drawn for comparison. And secondly, the M1 chip has excellent energy efficiency, and at low load, the SoC’s power consumption drops to 20-80 mW.
As a result, while some machines on Intel CPUs have to reset the screen brightness to 165 or even 100 cd / m2 to last longer on a single charge, the Apple laptop can play HEVC video for 13 hours in a row with a screen brightness of 200 cd / m2 … We could not repeat this result during continuous web surfing – again, because of the emulation of the x86 architecture. The fact is that the Google Chrome browser, which we use in the autonomy test, is already compiled in a universal binary format, but the chromedriver program, which flips through the pages, is not. As a result, Chrome itself runs under the emulator, which causes additional power consumption. In addition, Apple says that the new version of Safari in macOS Big Sur is specially optimized to save battery power, so in real-world conditions a MacBook Pro on the M1 platform will likely run a longer marathon than the modest 5 hours and 14 minutes.
The system-on-a-chip, based on the ARM architecture with a mass of proprietary blocks and optimizations brought by Apple engineers, stands head and shoulders above all analogues from the x86 world in terms of performance per watt. Even Ryzen 4000 series mobile processors do not make as strong an impression as they used to be against the backdrop of the M1 system-on-chip. However, the energy efficiency advantage characteristic of Apple silicon has been well illustrated by the A-series processors in the iPhone and iPad, and for a long time. More importantly, the M1 easily outperforms all competitors in its class, including the eight-core Ryzen, in absolute performance metrics in both single-threaded and multi-threaded tasks. Provided that the application code is compiled for the ARM instruction set and contains all the necessary optimizations. Otherwise, when macOS has to run code through the Rosetta 2 emulator, Ryzen 4000 and, in exceptional cases, Intel’s latest Tiger Lake chips have a chance to win. But only at the cost of power consumption, which is 1.5 to 2 times the power budget of the M1 in the 13-inch MacBook Pro chassis. No doubt about the technologicalApple’s leadership cannot be here, and as more applications migrate to the ARM architecture, it will only intensify. Whether it will still be when Apple scales the M1 logic to 16 processor cores and more, and this will also happen sooner or later.
In addition to the champion CPU, the new MacBook Pro boasts a fully unlocked integrated graphics configuration with eight processing cores. Thanks to M1, the machine no longer needs a discrete GPU, because the integrated solution is not inferior in speed to discrete entry-level chips like the GeForce MX450, and in some tasks it approaches the GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q. This is especially important for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, since Apple has long deprived them of discrete graphics.
Throw in an extremely fast SSD and you have one of the most powerful 13-14-inch ultrabooks, but unlike its x86-bound competitors, Apple doesn’t have to sacrifice battery life for performance. The new MacBook Pro has been living unplugged for a phenomenal long time. But, and this is an important condition, third-party applications launched through the emulator can drain the battery much earlier than the “native” Apple programs.
Perhaps the only complaint that can be made about the main components of the novelty is the amount of RAM, limited to 16 GB. It’s better not to think about configurations with 8 GB of RAM if you are going to run more or less demanding applications on a laptop, but 16 GB is still not enough to call a MacBook Pro a full-fledged workstation, albeit a mobile one.
But Apple still does not skimp on the quality of screen matrices. We constantly criticize the screens of ultrabooks, which sometimes cost no less money than the MacBook Pro, but we have no serious complaints about this matrix. It has a huge margin of brightness and contrast, P3 color gamut, and thanks to the pass-through color correction in macOS and pre-calibration, the computer can be used immediately for professional rendering. All that is needed is for the hardware profiling software to learn to work with the M1 platform without existing restrictions in order to compensate for the overestimated color temperature.
The chassis of the 13-inch MacBook Pro has undergone minimal changes from the previous generation, which is both good and bad. The MacBook Pro is one of the thinnest machines in its class, and the keyboard and touchpad mechanics are beyond praise. However, wide frames around the screen are beginning to look out of date, and most importantly, along with the transition to proprietary silicon, the shortage of cable interfaces only worsened. Apple doesn’t have M1 laptop configurations with four Thunderbolt / USB ports, and the chip doesn’t allow for more than one external display. If you remember the limitation on the amount of RAM, the word Pro in the name of the device is no longer quite appropriate. Another problematic point: both the RAM and the SSD are all soldered on the laptop motherboard and cannot be upgraded. It’s best to choose the configuration of your MacBook Pro for the future, and then not neglect the regular data backups. Finally, Apple should have strengthened the cooling system. In most tasks, the machine runs extremely quietly or is completely cooled in passive mode, but when the CPU and GPU are fully loaded at the same time, it still makes noise and is loud.
However, despite the limitations of Apple’s first desktop silicon and some shortcomings of the MacBook Pro chassis, we have a very serious prosumer machine adjusted for the form factor, and for undemanding activities and work on the road, its capabilities are enough for the eyes. Not taking into account the operating system macOS, which does not suit everyone, MacBooks are bought for the sake of a win-win combination of a screen, controls, long battery life and, to be honest, Apple aesthetics. This 13-inch MacBook Pro from the end of 2020 is still unmatched, but now it also runs much faster and lasts longer on a single charge. Finally, Apple’s success with the ARM-based M1 chip is an important signal for the entire IT industry that we are sure will not go unnoticed.