On Tuesday, Apple held yet another keynote address—the third major one in as many months. Titled "One More Thing" (after Steve Jobs' famous closing line in his keynotes), the event announced the new Apple-made "M1" chip, as well as the first several models of Apple Silicon-based Macs.
While I don't have an Apple Silicon-based Mac to use (and finances won't allow that for quite awhile), I've listed my initial impressions below.
Macworld has more details on the new models, but basically, they're as follows:
- The MacBook Air, starting at $999 for a model with 8GB of RAM (upgradeable at purchase to 16GB) and a 256GB SSD.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro, starting at $1299 for a model with 8GB of RAM (again, upgradeable at purchase to 16GB). There's also a higher-end model costing $1499. However, the two top-end Intel MacBook Pros (at $1799 and $1999 each, both introduced last May) will still be offered for now. Macworld feels Apple's holding off on switching these models for high-end users that can't make the jump to Apple Silicon just yet.
- The Mac mini, to everyone's surprise, is also getting an M1 processor. It's a surprise to me anyway, as the mini is often overlooked by Apple for updates. We're getting two models, at $699 (with a 256GB SSD) and $899 (with a 512GB SSD). Both come with 8GB of RAM, upgradeable at purchase to 16GB. A $1099 Intel-based Mac mini's also still being offered (for now).
Again, this is a pretty big shift for Apple, after years of Intel based Macs. Using what's basically the same processor/chip as in their iPads might raise a few questions of how well that'll translate to desktops/laptops. Apple claims performance will be increased multifold over Intel-based Macs, however.
While I'm glad the Mac mini got an upgrade, there's still no word on when the iMac line, or the Mac Pro, will see Apple Silicon.
My biggest concern (besides being first-generation hardware) is the lower maximum limit for upgrading RAM. 16GB seems oddly low, even if Apple claims better performance across the board from the nature of its new hardware. (The previous 2018 Mac mini model, for instance, could be preconfigured with up to 64GB of RAM.)
Finally there's the question for those looking for a new MacBook or Mac mini: whether to buy a first-generation Silicon Mac, buy an Intel Mac, or wait for the second generation Silicon Macs to come out? I wouldn't blame anyone for holding off on jumping into first generation technology. I can recall Apple's switchover from PowerPC to Intel processors in the mid-aughts, with the use of Rosetta (dual-binary software accommodating both processors) to smooth things over (somewhat).
That said, those with mundane computer uses (college students writing papers, etc.) will probably not have too many problems with Apple Silicon. Higher-end users (businesses, those with mission critical apps, etc.) might want to consider waiting until the second generation hardware comes out. If taking the plunge anyway, imagine such users will really want to make sure beforehand that everything they do is supported on the Silicon-based Macs.