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Apple’s M-series Silicon Chips: What options do we have?

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Apple’s Processor Change: What’s in it for you?

Are you curious about the recent excitement surrounding “Apple Silicon” and the M-series processors in the latest Mac desktops, MacBook laptops, iPad and iPad Pro devices? Allow us to provide you with more information: Apple has chosen to use its chips, which were designed by its engineers, in these products instead of Intel processors. Let’s see what this hype is all about.

Unravelling the Power of Apple Silicon and M-series Chips: What You Need to Know

Apple has transitioned from using Intel chips in its Mac computers to using its own “Apple Silicon,” or Arm-based custom chips, since 2006. In November 2020, the company released the first Mac models powered by Apple Silicon, and this transition continued into 2021 with the release of additional Apple Silicon-powered Macs. The fifth-generation iPad Pro, announced in April 2021, features an M1 chip, making it the first iPad model to not use an A-series chip.

The M1 chip is part of the “M-series,” which also includes the M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra, and M2 processors and is reserved for use in Apple’s most powerful Mac desktops and laptops as well as certain high-end iPads. In contrast, A-series chips are commonly found in iPhones and lower-end iPads.

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Apple’s M-azing Array of Chips: How Many Options Do They Have?

Starting in 2020, Apple began replacing Intel processors with its own M-series Apple Silicon chips. The latest addition to this series is the M2 processor, which offers improved performance. Currently, the M-series lineup includes the M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra, and M2 chips. These processors can be found in a variety of Apple products, such as the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, Mac Studio, iMac, iPad, and iPad Pro. In addition, several models within these product lines feature M-series chips.

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The M-Factor: What Makes Apple Silicon’s M-series Chips Stand Out?

Apple has developed its own “System on a Chip” for the M-series, which combines various components such as the CPU, GPU, RAM, Neural Engine, Secure Enclave, SSD controller, image signal processor, encode/decode engines, Thunderbolt controller with USB 4 support, and more. This powers the various features of the Mac. The M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra are the most powerful chips that Apple has ever created, and they outperform higher-end Intel chips.

The latest M2 processor is based on the second-generation 5nm architecture and includes 20 billion transistors, 4 billion more than the previous M1 chip.
It has 8 CPU cores, consisting of 4 performance cores and 4 enhanced efficiency cores, and an integrated GPU with 2 additional GPU cores.
The M2 also boasts 100GB/s memory bandwidth and up to 24GB of LPDDR5 memory.

In the past three years, Apple has also released the following M-series processors:

  • the M1 with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU,
  • the M1 Pro with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU (an entry-level version has an 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU),
  • the M1 Max with a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU,
  • and the M1 Ultra with a 20-core CPU and up to a 64-core GPU.

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M-powered Devices: Which Apple Products Have M-series Apple Silicon Chips?

Apple’s first Macs with M-series Apple Silicon chips include:

  • MacBook Air (M2, 2022)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022)
  • Mac Studio (2022)
  • MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021)
  • MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2021)
  • iMac (24-inch, M1, 2021)
  • Mac mini (M1, 2020)
  • MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020)

Apple’s first iPads with M-series Apple Silicon chips include:

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th-gen, M1, 2022)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd-gen, M1, 2022)
  • iPad Air (5th-gen, M1, 2020)

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Apple Silicon Sleuthing: How to Determine if Your Device is M-powered

Macs

To check if your Mac runs on Apple Silicon, go to the “About This Mac” menu. If the menu lists an item labelled “Chip,” followed by the name of an M-series chip, then your device is powered by Apple Silicon. On the other hand, if the menu shows an item labelled “Processor,” followed by the name of an Intel processor, then your device is an Intel-based Mac.

iPad

To determine if an iPad is an M-series model, follow these steps:

  1. Turn on the iPad and unlock it.
  2. Navigate to the “Settings” app.
  3. Tap on the “General” option.
  4. Scroll down and tap on the “About” option.
  5. Look for the “Model” entry. If the model number starts with “M,” it is an M-series iPad.

For example, an iPad with a model number of “M1J2H3L4” is an M-series model.

The Great Apple Silicon Switcharoo: Why M-Series is the New Norm

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Apple is using its expertise in power-efficient chip design to create more powerful and energy-efficient Macs and iPads. Apple Silicon chips offer enhanced security and high-performance graphics capabilities, as well as Neural Engines and Machine Learning Accelerators.

Additionally, by designing its own chips, Apple gains greater control over its products and reduces reliance on third parties like Intel. These custom chips allow for deeper integration of software and hardware, setting Apple’s devices apart from the competition.

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