What is the difference between the M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max from Apple?





Apple M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max chips side by side
Apple

As of October 2021, Apple now produces three ARM-based Apple Silicon chips for use in its iPad and Mac desktops and laptops: the M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max. Here’s a look at the differences between each.

Understanding Apple Silicon

The M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max all belong to the Apple Silicon family of chips. These chips use a ARM-based architecture (as opposed to the x86-64 architecture used in non-Apple Silicon Macs) placed in a system on a chip box (SoC) with specialized silicon for other tasks such as graphics and machine learning. This makes M1 chips extremely fast for the amount of power they use.

Apple iPhone, iPad, Watch, and Apple TV products have used Apple-designed ARM chips for years. So, with Apple Silicon, Apple is building on more than a decade of expertise in designing native hardware and software around the ARM architecture, and the company can now bring that expertise to Macs. But that’s not a Mac exclusive, as some iPads also use M1 chips, proving that Apple now shares its ARM-based expertise in most of its products.

The ARM (Acorn Risc Machine) architecture was born in 1985 with the ARM1 chip, which consisted of just 25,000 transistors using a 3 micron (3,000 nanometer) process. Today, the M1 Max contains 57,000,000,000 transistors in a similarly sized piece of silicon using a 5-nanometer process. Now it’s progress!

The M1: the first Apple Silicon Chip

The specifications of the Apple M1 chip

The The Apple M1 System on a Chip (Soc) was Apple’s first entry in the Apple Silicon series of chips, introduced in November 2020. It combines CPU and GPU cores with a unified memory architecture for faster performance. The same SoC includes special neural engine cores for machine learning acceleration, media encoder and decoder engines, a Thunderbolt 4 controller, and a secure enclave.

As of October 2021, Apple is currently using the M1 chip in MacBook Air, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro (13 inch), iMac (24 inch), iPad Pro (11 inch) and iPad Pro (12.9 inch).

  • Introduced: November 10, 2020
  • Processor cores: 8
  • GPU cores: Up to 8
  • Unified memory: Up to 16 GB
  • Neural Motor Cores: 16
  • # of transistors: 16 billion
  • To treat: 5 nm

RELATED: What is Apple’s M1 Chip for Mac?

The M1 Pro: a powerful mid-range chip

The specifications of the Apple M1 Pro chip

Without the M1 Max, the mid-range M1 Pro would likely be hailed as the king of laptop chips. It notably improves on the M1 by adding support for more CPU cores, more GPU cores, up to 32 GB of unified memory and faster memory bandwidth. It also supports two external displays and includes a ProRes encoder and decoder, which is important for video production professionals. Basically, it’s faster than the M1 (and better), but slower than the M1 Max.

As of October 2021, Apple is currently using the M1 Pro chip in the 14-inch and 16-inch models of the MacBook Pro. It will likely come to desktop Macs (and maybe even iPads) in the future.

  • Introduced: October 18, 2021
  • Processor cores: Up to 10
  • GPU cores: Up to 16
  • Unified memory: Up to 32 GB
  • Neural Motor Cores: 16
  • # of transistors: 33.7 billion
  • To treat: 5 nm

RELATED: How “unified memory” speeds up Apple’s M1 ARM Macs

The M1 Max: a silicon beast

The specifications of the Apple M1 Max chip

As of October 2021, M1 Max is the most powerful SoC ever built by Apple. It doubles the memory bandwidth and maximum unified memory of the M1 Pro and allows up to 32 GPU cores with advanced graphics quality for a laptop chip that Apple claims to be similar to high-end discrete laptop GPUs, while using less power. It supports four external displays, includes a built-in ProRes encoder and decoder, as well as built-in neural motor cores, a Thunderbolt 4 controller, and a Secure Enclave.

Like the M1 Pro, as of October 2021, Apple is currently using the M1 Pro chip in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. Expect this chip to come to Mac desktops in the future.

  • Introduced: October 18, 2021
  • Processor cores: Up to 10
  • GPU cores: Up to 32
  • Unified memory: Up to 64 GB
  • Neural Motor Cores: 16
  • # of transistors: 57 billion
  • To treat: 5 nm

RELATED: Apple’s new Macbook Pro are definitely for the pros this time around

Which one should you choose?

Now that you’ve seen all three Apple M1 chips, if you’re buying a new Mac, which one should you choose? At the end of the day, it all depends on what you can afford to spend. In general, we don’t mind getting a Mac with as much power as possible (in this case a high-end M1 Max chip) if money isn’t an issue.

But if you have a budget, don’t despair. From October 2021, even the “low-end” M1 chip Outperforms most Intel and AMD processors in raw single-core performance and likely outperforms them significantly in performance per watt. So you can’t go wrong with any of the M1 based Macs. The M1 Mac Mini in particular is excellent value for money.

Professionals in machine learning or in graphics, film, television or music production should probably upgrade to the high-end M1 Pro or M1 Max chips if they want the most power. Previous high-end Macs were beasts in terms of extreme price, extreme heat, or extreme noise, but we assume that the more high-end Macs based on M1 Max won’t come with these compromises (although reviewers don’t. are not yet published).

For everyone else, with an M1 based Mac you still get a very powerful and capable machine, especially if you have native Apple Silicon software to run it. Whichever way you decide to go, it almost feels like you can’t lose – as long as you can afford it – which is a rare thing in technology these days. Now is a good time to be an Apple fan.

RELATED: How to check which apps are optimized for M1 Macs





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