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Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors take its in-house Arm-based chips to new heights

Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors take its in-house Arm-based chips to new heights


The ‘first pro chip designed for the Mac’

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Apple has officially announced its most powerful chips ever: the M1 Pro and M1 Max, souped-up versions of the M1 chip that it debuted last fall and the heart of its new MacBook Pro models.

The original M1 chip was announced a little less than a year ago as Apple’s first in-house, Arm-based chip for laptops. At launch, it was featured in Apple’s revamped MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the entry-level Mac Mini, in addition to the 2021 iMac and iPad Pro refreshes.

But as good as the M1 chip was, it was only a solution for replacing Intel on Apple’s entry-to-mid level hardware, with its high-end MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Mini models (meant for developers, programmers, graphic designers, and other more demanding workloads) all notably still sticking with Intel’s chips for the last year.

The M1 Pro and M1 Max are Apple’s long-awaited answer to that issue: while both are built on the same 5nm process, Apple is promising big jumps in performance here.

For the M1 Pro, Apple promises 70 percent better CPU performance and twice the graphics performance compared to the M1. While the basic architecture is still the same on the M1 Pro, Apple is upping the hardware here in a big way, with a 10-core CPU that offers eight performance cores and two efficiency cores, along with a 16-core GPU with 2,048 execution units.

The new chip also supports more RAM, with configuration options up to 32GB (although, like the M1, memory is still integrated directly into the chip itself, instead of user-upgradable) with 200GB/s memory bandwidth. In total, the M1 Pro has 33.7 billion transistors, roughly twice the number of transistors that the M1 has.

But Apple isn’t stopping there: it also announced the even more powerful M1 Max, which has the same 10-core CPU configuration, with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores. But the M1 Max doubles the memory bandwidth (to 400GB/s), RAM (up to 64GB of memory) and GPU (with 32 cores, 4,096 execution units and four times the GPU performance of the original M1). The M1 Max features 57 billion transistors, making it the largest chip that Apple has made yet. The new chip also means that you can connect up to four external displays to a single device.

For comparison, the original M1 offered a classic Arm mix of eight CPU cores: four performance cores for more demanding tasks and four high-efficiency cores for extending battery life. The M1 also offered either a seven-core or eight-core GPU, depending on the computer model, and only allowed either 8GB or 16GB of RAM. 

Apple also promised that the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips offer up to 1.7 times better CPU performance per watt compared to both the regular M1 and unspecified four-core and eight-core PC laptop chips — although the company didn’t give hard numbers or identify what other chips it was comparing things to, making it difficult to ascertain just how the new chips will hold up in the real world.