M1 Apple silicon Mac: Everything you need to know

Mac mini (late 2020)
Mac mini (late 2020) (Image credit: Apple)

The first three Apple silicon Macs are now available to order. Each will include the all-new Apple M1 chip.

The short list

  • Release date: The first three silicon Macs arrive the week of November 16, 2020
  • Models: You can purchase an Apple silicon MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini right now from the Apple online store and other retail outlets
  • Price: The new Macs start at $699

About the M1 chip

The first Apple silicon for Mac, the M1 chip, is optimized for computer systems where small size and power efficiency are most important. As a system on a chip (SoC), M1 combines numerous powerful technologies into a single chip and features a unified memory architecture for dramatically improved performance and efficiency.

M1 is the first personal computer chip that uses 5-nanometer process technology, and it's packed with 16 billion transistors. It features the world's fastest CPU core in low-power silicon, the world's best CPU performance per watt, the world's fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer, and breakthrough machine learning performance with the Apple Neural Engine.

M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning, all while enabling battery life up to 2x longer than previous-generation Macs. With its profound increase in performance and efficiency, M1 delivers the biggest leap ever for the Mac.

The first three

On November 10, Apple announced the first three Apple silicon Macs would be an all-new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini.

The first Apple silicon MacBook Air

MacBook Air (late 2020)

MacBook Air (late 2020) (Image credit: Apple)

The latest 13-inch MacBook Air features many performance improvements over the previous version. These include:

  • iMovie project exporting, up to 3x faster
  • Final Cut Pro integration of 3D effects into video, up to 5x faster
  • The ability (for the first time) to edit playback and edit multiple streams of full-quality, 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro without dropping frames
  • Double the speed of exporting photos from Adobe Lightroom
  • Using Smart Conform and other ML-based features in Final Cut Pro up to 4.3x faster
  • Watch movies and TV shows with up to 18 hours of battery life, the longest ever on MacBook Air
  • Extend FaceTime and other video calls for up to twice as long on a single charge

Price: The MacBook Air (late 2020) starts at $999 and is available in silver, space gray, and gold. Apple has retired the last Intel-based MacBook Air.

The first Apple silicon Apple MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro (late 2020)

MacBook Pro (late 2020) (Image credit: Apple)

Undoubtedly, professionals and others will be looking at the first MacBook Pro that features Apple silicon. The 13-inch MacBook Pro (late 2020) includes significant improvements over the previous models. These include:

  • The ability to code in Xcode up to 2.8x faster
  • Using Final Cut Pro to render a complex 3D title, up to 5.9x faster
  • Integrate game scenes into Unity Editor, 3.5x faster
  • In Create ML, perform ML tests up to 11x faster
  • Separate beats, instrumentals, and vocal tracks from a recording in real-time in djay Pro AI, thanks to the performance of the Neural Engine -Achieve 8K ProRes video playback in DaVinci Resolve without dropping a single frame
  • Compile four times the code on a single charge, thanks to the impressive performance per watt of the M1 chip
  • It delivers up to 17 hours of wireless web browsing and up to 20 hours of video playback. Delivers up to twice the battery life of the previous generation and the longest battery life ever on a Mac

Price: The least expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro (late 2020) is $1,299. The previous version with 10th-generation Intel processors remains available.

The first Apple silicon Mac mini (late 2020)

Finally, there's the latest Mac mini, which starts at $100 less than the previous Intel model. Compared to that model, the Apple M1 version offers:

  • Compile code in Xcode up to 3x faster
  • Play a graphics-intensive game with up to 4x higher frame rates
  • Render a complex timeline in Final Cut Pro up to 6x faster
  • Use real-time plug-ins in Logic Pro up to 3x quicker
  • Increase the resolution of a photo up to 15x faster in Pixelmator Pro.

Price: The Mac mini (late 2020) starts at $699. An Intel version remains on the market.

What about other Apple silicon Macs

We probably won't see any more Apple silicon Macs arrive until the first half of 2021. These should include next-generation iMacs, 16-inch MacBook Pro, and eventually, Mac Pro. Look for Mac deals at any time at iMore!

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.