Apple’s new MacBook Pros use new fast big chips

At its launch event on Oct. 18, Apple announced two new MacBook models based on two new laptop system-on-chips (SoCs).

With their introduction, Apple has effectively pushed Intel out of its laptops and has taken another major step in further vertically integrating its hardware. Intel isn’t the only one who’s suffered a blow, however, the AMD graphics in previous MacBook Pros have also been dumped in favour of the integrated GPU in the new MacBooks.

The new M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs scale Apple’s laptop processor designs into the higher-performance range. The M1 Pro consists of 33.7 billion transistors built on the 5nm node, a 16-core GPU, and a 10-core CPU comprising eight performance cores and two efficiency cores.

architecture chart M1 Pro processor
Source: Apple

While the original M1 carried just 16GB of memory, the M1 Pro can have up to 32GB of LPDDR5 unified memory. And instead of stacking the memory chips atop the SoC package, they’re now placed around it. The CPU and GPU share the memory pool with the division controlled automatically by the SoC. The M1 Pro also comes with a revamped media engine that adds ProRes codec acceleration along with H.264 and HEVC.

For even higher-end systems, Apple announced the M1 Max. Like the M1 Pro, the M1 Max also features a 10-core CPU, but doubles the graphics cores to 32-cores. Boasting a 400GB/s memory interface, the M1 Max supports up to 64GB of unified memory. It also features double the video encode engines of the M1 Pro and two ProRes encode/decode engines.

graph of power vs performance for M1 CPUs
Source: Apple

Apple says that the M1 Max is 70 per cent faster than the original M1 in CPU processing speed and twice as fast in graphics. The M1 Max has four times the graphics performance as the M1 thanks to its extra graphics cores.

Apple claims that the new chips are up to 1.7 times faster than its competitor’s 8-core PC laptop chip in the same power envelope and matches its performance while using 70 per cent less power. The company also says that the GPU delivers faster performance than high-end PC laptop graphics and can match their performance while consuming 100W less power.

These chips will debut in Apple’s newly announced MacBook Pro 14 and MacBook Pro 16. The new devices are crafted from 100 per cent recycled aluminum and sports a new thermal system that moves 50 per cent more air than the previous generation.

Users will immediately notice the absence of the Touch Bar and the return of a physical function row on the keyboard. The backlit Magic keyboard is nested within an anodized black well.

photo of new MacBook Pros
Apple MacBook Pro 16 and 14 inch models
Source: Apple

Surprisingly, Apple revived the MagSafe charging connector and tacked a full-sized HDMI port onto the new MacBook Pros. Complementing them is an SDXC card reader, three Thunderbolt 4 ports and a high-impedance audio jack for high-end earphones. And while Apple has improved the MagSafe charger to be able to deliver more power, users can still charge via the Thunderbolt ports with a USB-C charger as well. The 14-inch model gets a 67W charger, while the 16-inch model gets a 140W unit. Interestingly, they’re both USB-C chargers. To use MagSafe, Apple includes a USB-C to MagSafe 3 conversion cable in the box.

The display on the new MacBook Pros has been updated to 120Hz MiniLED panel–the same technology as the recently-announced iPad Pro–with support for HDR. The display can sustain a brightness of 1000 nits or reach a peak of 1,600nits. And like the iPad Pro, the MacBook Pro’s new display can dynamically lower the refresh rate if the display content is static. Apple has also reduced the bezel width around the display to just 3.5mm, although there’s now a notch for the webcam.

With so much of the world now set on remote and hybrid work, Apple has finally decided to upgrade the webcams on the MacBook Pros. They now use an advanced 1080p sensor with a wider aperture that captures more light. The images are further enhanced with AI processing thanks to the M1 chips’ speedy Neural Engine. However the webcam does not support Face ID.

Storage-wise, the new MacBook Pros can contain up to a 4TB SSD with 7.4GB/s sequential read speeds.

Battery life has been extended as well. Apple quotes 17 hours of video playback for the 14-inch model and 21 hours for the 16-inch model. To reduce downtime, the MacBook Pros now support fast charging capable of charging up to 50 per cent in 30 minutes.

The new Apple MacBook Pros are available for pre-order now. The 14-inch model starts at CA$2,499, and the 16-inch at CA$3,149. Note that the 14-inch base configuration comes with a slightly cut-down M1 Pro that has an 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU. To get the “full” M1 Pro with the 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, buyers need to pay at least CA$3,149 for a setup that includes a 1TB SSD. All 16-inch models come with the fully-fledged M1 Max SoC regardless of price point.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT World Canada. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at [email protected].

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