Design

Apple officially divorces Intel with new MacBooks and Mac Mini

There's a new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, and none of them have Intel processors inside.

Apple is closing out the year with a bang! At a special virtual event, the tech giant announced two new MacBooks and a Mac Mini, all of which are powered by its own M1 chip. The new laptops are the first step toward moving away from using processors made by Intel.

Replacing Intel's processors is the new M1 chip. Apple says the CPU is 2x more powerful than the "latest PC laptop chip" (hi Intel!), while consuming 1/4th of the power.

16B

There are 16 billion transistors packed into the M1 chip.

The M1's CPU has 8 cores and up to 8 cores for the GPU. Apple says the M1 chip has the most powerful integrated graphics. Hopefully, this means you can game on a Mac now (heh).

MacBook Air

The new MacBook Air has a 13.3-inch display with an M1 chip, up to 8-cores in the GPU, up to 15 hours of battery life (for wireless web browsing), and two Thunderbolt USB-C ports. The most insane part? It's fanless. That's right, it's the first fanless MacBook since the 12-inch MacBook.

Tech specs:

• Price: Starting at $999

• Finish: Silver, Space Gray, or Gold

• Display: 13.3-inch Retina display (2,560 x 1,600)

• Processor: M1 chip with 8-core CPU (up to 3.5x faster than previous gen) or

• GPU: 7-core or 8-cores (up to 5x faster than previous gen)

• Storage: Up to 2TB

• RAM: Up to 16GB

• Wi-Fi 6

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98%

Apple says its MacBook Air is now faster than 98 percent of all laptops sold in the last year.

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Mac Mini

The new Mac Mini features up to 3x faster CPU performance and up to 6x faster GPU performance compared to the previous generation.

60%

Apple's chips also helps make the new Mac Mini 60 percent more energy efficient.

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Tech specs:

• Price: Starting at $699

• Finish: Silver

• Processor: M1 with 8-core CPU

• GPU: 8-core

• Storage: Up to 2TB

• RAM: Up to 16GB

• Wi-Fi 6

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MacBook Pro

The new 13-inch Macbook Pro looks identical to the old MacBook Pro. It's got the new M1 chip, up to 17 hours of battery life (wireless web browsing), studio-quality microphones, and two Thunderbolt USB-C ports (there's no longer a 4-port version). Unfortunately, unlike the MacBook Air, it's not fanless. It's also still got a Touch Bar. Boo!

20 hours

The new MacBook Pro with Apple silicon now has 17 hours of wireless web battery life (and 20 hours video playback).

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Tech specs:

• Price: Starting at $1,299

• Finish: Silver or Space Gray

• Display: 13.3-inch Retina display (2,560 x 1,600)

• Processor: M1 chip

• Storage: Up to 2TB of SSD

• RAM: Up to 16GB

• Wi-Fi 6

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11/17

Units are on sale today and will start shipping next week.

What is Apple silicon?

Apple silicon is the company's own custom-designed processor and graphics system-on-a-chip (SoC). It's based on ARM architecture. If you use an iPhone or Android device, you've been running on ARM.

JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

Why is Apple ditching Intel?

Simple: vertical integration. Apple has long touted the secret to its success is that it "makes the whole widget" as Steve Jobs famously said. That is, it designs the hardware and software together. Until now, Apple has designed the aesthetic of MacBooks and relied on third-party companies like Intel and AMD to supply the processors and graphics chips.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Apple is now dropping Intel for various reasons. One: Apple designing its own chips, like it has been doing for 10 years for iPhones and iPads, means any production delays from Intel won't create a delay for Macs. Apple gets to control its own production roadmap, which should mean more frequent refreshes to specs. No more waiting years for an update!

The second key reason: performance and features. The silicon that powers the iPhone 12, iPad Air 4, and iPad Pro is not only more powerful than the Intel chips inside current MacBooks, but it's also more power-efficient.

Superior battery life

According to Apple, its new chips really do vastly increase the battery life of the new MacBooks. The new MacBook Air touts up to 15 hours for wireless web and up to 18 hours for “Apple TV app movie playback” while the MacBook Pro gets 17 hours and 20 hours respectively in those categories. The previous iteration of MacBook Pros with Intel chips could only muster 10 hours of battery life in both use cases.

What about my old apps?

Traditionally, apps that run on x86 architecture (laptops and desktops) are not compatible with ARM architecture (phones and tablets). Developers need to rewrite them for ARM. But Apple has a secret weapon to make apps that were designed for x86 Intel chips run on its own ARM-based silicon: Rosetta 2. The emulation app built into macOS Big Sur translates x86 apps into an executable form on the new MacBooks.

Why it matters

Apple said at WWDC that switching to its own silicon for Macs will "establish a common architecture across all Apple products." This unified architecture will make it easier for developers to create apps that work on both iOS and Macs. It's also, of course, a big middle finger to Intel, who's now losing business from the largest tech company on the planet. In two years, the transition will be complete and the divorce complete.

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