Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices have long been powered by a variety of processors. The two main series of chips used in Apple’s mobile devices are the A-series and M-series chips, with each family offering distinct advantages to users. Understanding the differences between these two types of processors is key to getting the most out of your device.
The term Apple Silicon pertains to the processors and chipsets created by Apple specifically for their products. The A-series processors are used in iPhones and low-end iPads, while the M-series are utilized in Apple Macs and various mid-to-high tier iPads. Additionally, other processors such as S8 for the Apple Watch series 4, S5P for AirTag accessories, and U1 for the latest iPods touch have been created. Beyond just creating custom hardware components that surpass those from third party vendors like Intel, Apple has made a big step forward with their own home-grown silicon.
The most notable achievement of this is the new M1 processor released in November 2020 to power Macs alongside custom chips like Max and M1 Ultra. All of these processors cost substantially less than what you’d pay for an Intel equivalent, but grant better performance and battery life due to improved chip design. While some have questioned the longevity of Apple’s investment in ARM chipsets, more up to date releases continue to prove why they should be taken seriously as a leading innovator in modern computing technology.
Apple Silicon Ecosystem
The success of the iPhone and its associated A-series chipsets changed the landscape of mobile computing and forced Apple to design their own custom processors. The Cupertino based tech giant initially began this exercise out of necessity, since Intel could not or did not want to build a processor for the iPhone. Apple’s move was a calculated risk which in hindsight paid off spectacularly, as the mobile chipset performance that could be achieved with A-series chipsets became second to none. Not even Qualcomm, king of mobile chipsets at the time, nor Intel could manage to keep up with the Apple juggernaut in terms of efficiency and power usage characteristics.
And now MacOS is running on ARM M-series chips based on Apple’s own designs. These chips offer performance leaps when compared to Intel-based machines which are seen clearly in tasks such as photo editing and video encoding workflows. Beyond just performance though, these custom processors also bring features that were previously only possible with mobile platforms such as audio processing via machine learning algorithms. The ARM ecosystem is becoming more complete by the day, making it an attractive technology for developers looking to target both iOS and macOS while still being able to use shared codebase components between both platforms.
M1 Pro and M1 Max
Apple’s introduction of the M1 Pro and M1 Max to its MacBook Pro lineup has been nothing short of revolutionary. These new chipsets are designed to provide up to three times the CPU performance, thirteen times the GPU performance, and eleven times the machine learning performance when compared to same-class Intel models. As if this level of performance wasn’t remarkable enough, such efficiency translates into considerably longer battery life for these machines – up to 21 hours in some configurations!
The technical specifications for the M1 Pro indicate that it includes a 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, and can hold up to 32GB of RAM. It represents a significant jump from Apple’s previous offerings, while at the same time saving energy which leads directly to increased battery life. The M1 Max processor has the capability to be configured with a maximum of 64GB RAM and a 32-core GPU, resulting in a significant amount of power. It’s clear Apple has set out on a path to exceed even their own record-high benchmarks when it comes to effective chip design.
The new A-series processor from Apple is the latest addition to their chip-building expertise, as showcased during WWDC 2020. Apple’s custom chipsets have resulted in a significant increase in CPU performance by a hundred times and GPU performance by a thousand times in the last decade.
This power consumption-performance ratio strikes the perfect balance for users getting the best of both worlds – high performance while remaining efficient when it comes to energy consumption. Not only that, but they’ve also integrated newly developed systems architectures and technologies such as their own neural engine for machine learning and secure enclave for encryption. Apple can enhance the capabilities of its custom chipsets by incorporating already established mobile software implementations such as Metal and Swift, surpassing the functionality of Intel processors on their own.